A Beginner’s Guide to Selling Anything

Updated: Aug 28

Written by Divyaditya Singh


This article is based mostly on sale tips and techniques compiled by Tom Hopkins. Hopkins started off with a mere income of $43 a month at the age of nineteen. After investing his last bit of savings to attend a seminar by J. Douglas Edwards, he was so inspired that he then went on to become a millionaire at the age of 27. He holds many records in the real estate industry, one of them being selling 365 homes in 2016 – an equivalent of a home a day. He trains young people in the art of selling and provides courses on how to get started in this business.


Mr. Edwards went on to become his mentor and Hopkins emphasizes the importance of listening to people who are experienced, who know what they’re doing, to listen intently, and take home the advice they give. According to him, selling is basically the application of these ideas and concepts that have delivered results in the past under similar circumstances. His training also employs a very entertaining and humourous method of parting the knowledge that makes him come across as a – excuse the pun, but – a homey person.


The next question: When it comes to the idea of making a successful sale by painting a pretty picture of our product in the minds of the prospects, what separate the winners from the losers.


1. You gotta buy what you sell, if you have true integrity


Everything we do as humans has a motive behind it. A drive, a force, that justifies our efforts. And when we’re trying to convince our customers to get involved in our products, we absolutely must keep in mind that people will say yes to our beliefs and convictions more than to our technical skills. If they are reassured that you yourself are using and believe in that product, they are more likely to say yes. Therefore, when you enter the arena of persuasion, you must be so confident in your product that you can say your customer will come back and thank you in the years ahead.


2. Make people like you


We have to help people believe that the decisions they make are good for them. So you must not come across as a salesperson, rather, an expert advisor. So when they know that you’re not here to only sell them, they trust you, and when they trust you, they open up to you. They become more receptive and ask for more information. And that is your moment to explain to them your product. According to many sales pundits, the art of selling is done primarily emotionally and then justified by the buyer to themselves logically!


3. Have a strong work ethic


The primary reason many people do not go ahead with a sale of any kind of product is because they’re afraid of being lied to, basing this fear on past experiences where this was the case. However, a strong business is built on customer loyalty and many new customers are referrals by the loyal ones who’re happy with your product or the service. So it’s important to build your reputation on a strong foundation of honesty and integrity, which eventually builds long term customers for you.

Concepts and ethics are boring. Let’s get to the fun part. Mentioned below are a few techniques and pointers that act as NOS to your sale racecar.


4. Tie Downs


We humans are skeptical and doubtful creatures, so when we see someone offering us a service or sometimes even basic help, we tend to doubt it and presume there is a selfish motive behind it. When a salesman comes up to us with a statement praising his product we doubt it. But logically enough, we all believe what we say to ourselves, is true. The next key to selling a product is getting subconscious approval for the outcome that your product offers. We basically want our customers to – subconsciously – say yes. This technique is called a Tie Down. The aim is to try and manoeuvre all your important statements of fact about the product into a question that demands yes as an answer. Now we all want our customers to say yes, don’t we? Investing in quality products makes sense, doesn’t it?

And when a person answers this question, her/his psyche automatically reaffirms that the product or the service offered actually makes sense and is a good investment.


For instance, a person looking forward to selling a fitness based dietary shake to Level 5 University student can ask the following question: So, would you like to make an investment that would satisfy you while viewing your graduation ceremony pictures down the years, right?


No one’s going to tell you “No! We want a rotten product that keeps breaking down!”

But remember to never over use it! Because then you’re getting pushy. The general advice is to not use more than two Tie Downs per presentation.


5. The Alternative Question


The next technique is called the Alternative Question. This isn’t very widely used but may come in handy more often than you think. How many times have we asked for a meeting with a client and they say “Umm…next week maybe .. “ or “Let me fix an appointment next month .. “

All you have to say is “Alex, I’m available to meet with you today at 2 p.m., or would 9 tomorrow evening be better?” So now they have an option but either way you get to meet them. For their convenience, you can make it about the location “James, would you like to meet me at my facility or would you prefer I come to your office?” Either way, you get to meet them.


Let’s say you had promised to meet your girlfriend the present evening but also want to watch the newly released movie. This is where you ask “Honey, which movie do you prefer we watch together, Deadpool or Hail Caesar?” Either way you get to watch your movie while keeping your word. One can teach their younger sibling to ask for an ice cream like this after a family dinner. “Dad, which ice cream would you prefer I have today, a Twister or a popsicle?”


6. The Porcupine


The Porcupine lets you answer a question, with a question that allows you to “close in” on the deal. As a simple example, if a prospect asks you, “Can I make an EMI payment for this product?” In this situation if you answer in a yes or a no it gives a stop to the conversation and gives the prospect a chance to change his mind down the conversation.


Instead when he asks if he can make an EMI payment, you ask, “Would you like to make an EMI payment?” And when they say yes, in essence they’ve closed the transaction.

Hopkins named this technique the porcupine based on the logic: What would you do if someone tossed a porcupine at you? You would toss it back. Using this technique gives you a conducive direction to the meeting.


For instance, a prospect may ask a shopkeeper, “Do you have one in red?” Answering yes will give him a chance to reconsider. Instead if the shopkeeper asks, “Would you like one in red?” And when they say yes, you say “Sure I’ll bring one for you !”

Porcupine is a fun technique and should be used to slot the ball home i.e. wrap up the transaction as many salespeople lose interested customers because they don’t ask the right questions.


Apart from these techniques, there are a few pointers that should be kept in mind while trying to sell a product. Primarily these are words. Words are powerful forces that can be used to heal, destroy, convince and humiliate a person, among many. There are a few words a person looking to sell a product or service should keep in mind while dealing with a prospect.

  1. Buy: Buying something means spending out of your pocket. Meaning you’ll have more month at the end of your money. Especially in these times of financial indebtedness, when people put up their defenses when asked to pay, a question like “Maria, would you like to buy this dress?” will stimulate the person to consider other options before spending. Humans like to own things, but are not ready to buy them. A helpful habit would be to ask the following alternate question: “Maria, would you like to own this dress?” See the change for yourself.

  2. Pay: This bring us to the other member of the family of related words. Similar psychological defenses go up in the prospects’ mind when they hear the word ‘Pay’. Again, paying means their pockets emptying. What they need is something that will reassure them the return on their money. And that is why we must use the word “invest” instead of “pay”. Following up with the previous example, it would be suggested we ask “Maria, can you invest £45 in this dress?” That will surely make her think about it as opposed to “Maria, you’ll have to pay £45 for that dress.” Almost sounds like a penalty for choosing that dress..

  3. Contract: Many people hear the word contract and they remember their mom and dad telling them not to go near a contract, and if they do, to remember to read the small print and if they’re confused, to get an attorney involved. Since childhood, many kids grow up thinking contracts and booby traps are synonymous. A less threatening term is ‘paperwork’, or just a ‘form’. Form reminds them of high school and how they could manage that on their own and you know how the psyche gets them all reassured of the simplicities.

  4. Sell/Sold: These small yet terrifying words can put you on a back foot. Whenever you tell someone you’re here to sell them a product they say “Yeah we’re not here to buy anything, so you’re not selling anything. We’re only here to look.” The defenses come up. Instead, try and replace it with the phrase “get them involved” or “helped acquire”.

When you say, I sold this furniture to your friends the prospects go like “Yeah you pushed him into it.” Instead say “I have helped a number of your friends acquire this amazing piece of furniture.” It’s amazing how they’ll let you “help them acquire it.”

  1. Deal: This little word can throw whole meetings off the tracks. Mostly because many people have been duped into putting all their money in a bad deal they were told is a good deal. Cautious people all think, “No, we don’t want another one of those.” The right word to use here is ‘opportunity’ or a ‘transaction’. “Joe, I’m sure you know this is an excellent opportunity for you.” The motive behind these guidelines and pointers is to prevent the stimulators from activating the psychological defenses that come up when hearing these words.

Even after all this, if the sale still does not take place don’t worry we all have those days when the best part of the work is that chair that swivels, and I know that on that day when someone asks you “How do you do?” and you can’t say this is the worst day of your life, use the word “unbelievable”.

“How’s your day going?”

“Unbelievable.”

“How’re your in-laws?”

“Unbelievable.”

Either way you mean it, at least it answers the question.


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