Our special guest on this week’s episode of Conversational Selling is Tommy Hilcken, Founder and Speaker at Tommy Hilcken Productions. Tommy helps a broad range of clients, including several celebrities and professional athletes, believe in their unlimited potential, define their goals, and take the steps that will bring them there. He’s also a member and past President of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Speakers Association, a Toastmasters Humorous Speech Champion, and a certified life success consultant. 

“We help people step up, we help people stand out, and we help you sell more,” says Tommy.

We chat about adapting to remote sales when your strengths lie in live interaction, as well as:

  • Learning and studying from Zig Ziglar
  • The role of your own self-image in your success
  • The practical tools required to shine and build a strong business
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to the Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hi it’s Nancy Calabrese, and it’s time for Conversational Selling the podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it always starts with the human conversation. Today we speak with my friend, Tommy Hilcken of Tommy Hilcken Productions. Tommy helps people believe in their unlimited potential to find their goals and take the steps that will bring them there. He’s worked with individuals from every walk of life, including celebrities, and professional athletes, and has been featured at more than 6000 engagements. He is a Toast Masters humorous speech champion. That’s a tough one to say Tommy, a member and past president of the New Jersey chapter of the National Speakers Association, and a certified life success consultant. Simply put, Tommy brings an exciting, funny perspective to today’s challenges in the workplace. And Tommy, you and I both know that we all need some humor right now. Welcome to the show.

Tommy Hilcken: Glad to be on the show and glad to be with you. I don’t even know if one person can bring enough humor to the world right now. So let’s try it all do it together.

Nancy: Yeah. And any dose of it is great, you know, before the show that you and I go back a long way. And I walked away from any conversation with you with a smile. What your secret? 

Tommy: Truly what my secret is, is I think it’s where I grew up. And I grew up I grew up in Guttenberg, New Jersey, in Hudson County. And it was a great community. And I tell everybody that we always connected on the sidewalks or to stoops, or the schoolyard steps. You know, where we grew up in the city. And we hung out, we met and we talked and you know, you just bonded with people, people meant a lot to us growing up in my community. So to me today, I always say this. You know, I love people. I’m a people person. You know, and with that, you’ll love this, Nancy, I always remind everybody every one says, so so you love everybody? I always say, yeah, I love everybody. But there’s some people I just don’t like. We all know that.

Nancy: Yeah, but where do you get your humor from? I mean, I’ve listened to you. I’ve watched you in performances never disappoint. Where does that come from?

Tommy: I’ve always been quick witted. I think that’s what the best part of my humor is. I’m not somebody who can sit down and really write out a joke, but live and on the spot. My wit has always been. And I don’t know, if it’s sometimes we consider it wit? Sometimes we can consider it sarcasm. You know, because where I grew up, you had an answer to everything somebody said, even my father would always look at me go, you have an answer for everything, don’t you? That that phrase still rings in my head. I have an answer for everything.

Nancy: So basically fast on your feet.

Tommy: Yeah, you know what? It’s, I wouldn’t say it’s a learned skill. Most things you can learn. I often say to people, if nobody’s ever told you, you’re funny, chances are you’re not. That’s the way I look at it. So I guess it’s my blessing. You know, the gift I was given, you know, and I like to make people smile. And I like to make people laugh. That’s always been my, my way of going through life.

Nancy: So, you know, we both believe in the power of human conversation, we’ve had multiple talks about that. And we both know to really connect to a person or prospects, friends, family, ready to use our voice? What why is that so important today, with all of the technology and with all of the human with a lack of human interaction online that we’re seeing?

Tommy: Well, right now, it’s all we’ve got so it’s like second best, but it’s all we’ve got connecting online and using all this virtual stuff that’s going on. But connecting on a human being to human being basis has always been the way to sell or communicate or connect with people. So using our voice is important, it really is to learn how to do that. But he was talking about communicating and how important it is to communicate, communicating and you know it as well as I we’ve known each other a long time. It’s not so much How much are you talking. It’s also a good portion of how much are you listening? That’s what makes communication work. We both know that right? It’s, even if you’re having a conversation with someone, you try to make it at least 50-50. What are they doing? What are you doing back and forth? That’s how I get to know and build relationships with people.

Nancy: Yeah. The art of listening for many is a challenge, because of all of the distractions, and we really have to zero in on what that other person is saying and forget about us in the moment, right?

Tommy: Well, you know, you and I, you and I both had some great mentors, when it came to that who taught us these kind of things like you were talking about? You know, I’m a talker. So I always thought I’d win people over by talking. But really, when you’re in a business situation, people want you to know about them. They’re there too. You got to acknowledge them. You know, like you said, I’m funny. I’m going to tell jokes. We’ll go. And 30 minutes later, we’re walking out and business didn’t get done. But we had a good time.

Nancy: Right? Well, good times don’t pay the bills, though, right?

Tommy: This is true. Good times, don’t pay the bills, you could ask my wife, she’ll tell you that.

Nancy: So that’s great. For those of you that know what I do, I make my living, One of a Kind Sales primarily over the phone and using Zoom, certainly, as a tool nowadays. Tommy, in all the years that I’ve known you, your your gift is public speaking, which I’m sure has been impacted to some degree, you know, through this time, but I just want to get your opinion. I shouldn’t say he. Tommy is excellent. On the stage. Very natural. I’m excellent over the phone. Very natural. I like to think I’m excellent. What, how are they different? How are they the same? You know, we really have some synergy between our companies.

Tommy: Yeah, well, you know, it’s a great, it’s a great point now, of being a live. Or being on the telephone, or now, even with the Zoom platform. Let’s face it, it’s part of our lives now. So you know, I always complained, and when this all first hit, and everybody started doing virtual, I kept I had my stinking thinking going through my head that I am, I’m a live guy, I’m a live guy, I connect with people live and all that stuff. I don’t use the phone like you. I don’t use the platforms like this. And then I realized that the reality is, this is all we got right now. 

So it’s the same thing as presenting right now, to tell you the truth, one of the secrets I do, and I’m right now talking to you, and I’m standing and I’m walking around, you know, to keep my energy level up. So it sounds like we’re having a connection here. You know, so I’m up, I’m walking around, I’m actually like I’m presenting. And that’s really works. Well, when you’re on the phone, I had to teach myself that, that every time I’m up and I’m on the phone, or if it’s a presentation, you know, you’re presenting yourself you’re presenting your people tend to forget about that when you say presentation. But you need to do a phone presentation. It’s the same as being on stage. So imagination, make believe whatever it takes. But you can be powerful on the phone as much as you can be powerful from the stage.

Nancy: Yep, yeah. You’ve had the good fortune of having a working relationship with the famous Zig Ziglar. And for those of you may not recognize the name. He’s a very famous author, a salesman and motivational speaker, can you tell us a little bit about your relationship? I mean, how you met them and how it benefited you?

Tommy: Well, it put a shift in my life. It’s kind of interesting. I’ll give you the story real quick in a nutshell, because it’s so important. I’m going to share it. I had just opened up my business. I was running an entertainment company, and I decided to move into a storefront and have people see me on Main Street and Little Falls. I was so excited. And here I was taking this challenge of opening up a business three kids, a wife and I opened up the paper. And I looked and it was a program called success 96. And I don’t know what drew me to it, but I signed up for it. It was down in the Meadowlands at the Meadowlands arena. And throughout the day, there was speakers throughout the whole day. And then about the eighth speaker. I heard this guy just saying you can be, do and have all that life has to offer. 

And I just sat down and said, this guy’s talking to me. He’s talking to me, you know, and this was 1996. And I listened and I learned that I went to Toastmasters and once I went to Toastmasters and I said I want to take this to the next level. I really reached out. And I went and started to study with Zig Ziglar. I went down to his barn to when I met him in person. And this was one of the greatest speakers in the world. And I looked at him and I said, I feel like I know you will forever. I want to thank you for changing my life. And Zig looked at me and said, I didn’t change your life. I just laid out some principles that you applied, and those principles changed your life. So here’s a man full of humility. That’s the number one thing he taught me was humility, that it wasn’t about him. He was just there to deliver the message. And it was a beautiful moment for me. 

So I connected with them. I’m still great friends with his number one man, Brian Flanagan. We’re best friends today. So it was meant to be I was meant to hear him. I was meant to hear his message. And he truly shaped me into the person I am today, which thank you God.

Nancy: What an awesome opportunity you had. You know, speaking of stories, that was a great story. I know you were a storyteller. Is there another story you would want to share with the audience that they might find interesting?

Tommy: Well, you know, it’s an interesting, I always talk about, you know, Zig would always talk about success and the self image, right, Nancy, that the self image has a tremendous amount of how much success you’re going to have, we will only play up to the level of the image that we hold of ourselves, I love that phrase, we will only play up to the level of the image we hold of ourselves. So I used to think about that. And in my life growing up, I’m one of six kids, three girls, three boys. 

So one of the stories I always loved to tell is, both my brothers are cops. And I wanted to be a clown. So and I literally wanted to be on stage as an entertainer. So throughout life, my father used to always say, here’s my boys two cops and a clown. Right? I’d be like, Dad, can you stop everywhere we go two cops and a clown. Until I realized and he embraced it, he understood that I wasn’t cut out to be a cop. And I was different. And he embraced it. And we enjoyed it forever on till the day he passed. So I always share this when you have two brothers or a cop and you’re a clown. 

So when your dad passes, who do they ask to do the eulogy. And it always comes out of everybody always says the clown. Do I remember going up during my dad’s eulogy and saying, you know, I’d have my brothers up here with me, but the only words they know are license and registration. So there’s my whole story of that I talked about the image that I held of myself and feeling because I was different. And, you know, I didn’t want to be a cop. You know, so Zig taught me how to break through that, that, you know, being the individual that you are being the person that you are, is okay. And that’s if I can bring a message to the world. 

Everybody is just fine, where they are as a being. So people always say to me, oh, they’re broken, and they can’t be fixed, no one’s broken. Some people just needs to be improved. Right? That’s what it comes down to. It’s always just about improvement. It’s not about fixing anyone. It’s about improving someone. And that’s been my life. That’s the way I look at it.

Nancy: Yeah, you know, what I’m hearing you talk a lot about and this really, really resonates in sales is the mindset, right? You are who you think you are, right? You will, as you say, aspire to who you truly believe you can aspire to. And mindset is all about feeling good and strong and confident in your abilities, to whatever level they are. And as you say, you can always improve if you have that motivation. Wouldn’t you agree with that?

Tommy: You know, having the motivation. What fires you up? You know, purpose? What’s your purpose behind it to motivate you, you know, what’s the vision you have for your life? So I always talk about purpose and vision and goals. But what changed it for me was, I never realized Nancy, this blows my mind that through all my years, I’ve been doing what I’m doing 31 years. I’ve been on stage forever. It’s all I’ve ever done. And then one day, we were talking with a mutual friend. And I was discussing it with him. 

And he looked at me and said, you realize you’ve been a commissioned salesman your whole life? And I said, No, I’ve been an entertainer my whole life. And he said, Well, how did you get on stage? Right? I said, Well, that’s interesting. I had to sell myself. So I think that’s what they call an unconscious competent. I was a person who was didn’t even know they were doing it yet. I was doing it. So now I look at myself and people can think about this. The fact is that most people are commissioned salesman without even knowing it. Without even knowing it.

Nancy: I’m totally in your camp. People say to me, people that own businesses, I’m not a salesperson. Well, think about every aspect of your life. You tried it, you persuade your kids to do what you want them to do you have a spouse or a partner, right? Yeah. Want to go to a movie and you want to influence your friends, that’s all smelly, all our sales. But we’ll do it and live it. Anything in particular, you want me to spotlight?

Tommy: Well, you know what, I just want to leave one last thing, my friend Flanagan from Ziglar, who I always say, he’s another man that came into my life in 2004. And has been with me ever since. He always reminded me and if you’re in sales, keep this mantra in your head. He always said to me, sales isn’t something you do to someone. Sales is something you do for someone. Right? And I always love that it changed everything about it. I’m not doing anything, I want to do something for you. I want to change your environment, I want to improve your business. I want to have your family have a good time, whatever it might be, we’re doing it for them. So that’s the phrase that I always liked sales is not something you do to someone, it’s something you do for someone. What was your question?

Nancy: I asked you is there anything in particular you would like to spotlight?

Tommy: Well, you know what I always say, if anybody’s struggling right now giving virtual presentations, or even giving a presentation, sales presentation, whatever it might be, you know, the secret behind what I do is I’ve got on stage, scared, nervous. And I became more and more confident once I became more confident I became more competent. And when you can have confidence and competence, you’re going to be a good business owner. So most people are struggling with either one of those. It could be confidence, or it could be competence. 

So you know, we work on getting people to the platform that work their way and become better both of those things. That’s what I spotlight. That’s what I do. I really, I guess the greatest thing I do for people is I make them shine. I make them stand out in a very busy, noisy world. And that’s the most important thing. You had mentioned that earlier every time you see me. Let’s face it. I’m a guy who knows how to stand out.

Nancy: That’s right. 

Tommy: Yeah, for sure. 

Nancy: The squeaky wheel always gets the oil, right. And I think Coco Chanel quoted this. In order to get ahead, you must be different. 

Tommy: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, right. I agree with it. I agree with it.

Nancy: So I asked everyone to share something that is true that nobody agrees with you on.

Tommy: Hmm. Something that’s true that nobody agrees with me on. Okay, I’ll tell you what, it’s that fish is no good. No, some people agree with me. But I will say I eat zero seafood. And I’ll go out with people. I’ll go out with people and they’ll be enjoying their brandini. And it’s Chilean sea bass. And I’m sitting there could you put your napkin over that, please? So my wife loves it. We go out to eat. She’s like, oh, my God, this is horrible. So yeah, this is not too much about me that I’m kind of like an open book. So I hope I hit the message that you wanted.

Nancy: Yep. Yeah. And I keep hearing you. Speaking of is, no matter what your skills or talents are. You can use those to build whatever you want to build. If you desire to keep growing, right? 

Tommy: No doubt. No doubt. You know, the phrase I use is when you’re green you grow when you’re ripe, you rot. So, you know, most people get to a point and they stop. And when you stop, you start to rot. Yeah. And that’s what happens to people. They start looking around going What happened? Where was I? What went on? You stopped growing. You stopped growing. Yeah, so it’s a big helpful tip.

Nancy: Last two questions. Give the audience one takeaway.

Tommy: Okay. So the one takeaway you want to know is one of the greatest things I hear in every one of my sessions. Every one of my workshops is everybody looks at me, and they always talk about being unnatural and they always say they have a fear of public speaking. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that phrase before, but they have people have say they have a fear of public speaking. And I change that. 

And I make a mind shift right from the start right before my workshop starts, I say, there is no fear of public speaking. And really what it comes down to is people have a fear of being judged. So it’s not the public speaking, it’s the fear of being judged. So I remind everybody that as we go through life, get used to it. Everywhere we go, we’re being judged. So get over yourself, get over it. Just do it. We’re all being judged for everything we do. Every single day. Why are you wearing that? Right? Because I want to.

Nancy: That’s true. So we end it on the Nike note: Just Do It. Right? 

Tommy: Just do it. 

Nancy: How can my people find you? And what is it that you think you can bring to the table, especially right now, from a motivational point of view?

Tommy: Yeah, well, the motivational right now is to really as I say, if you know, if you think you’re feeling bad, one of the secrets to success, but not feeling bad is to go out and find somebody who’s feeling a little worse than you are, and go lift them up. When you lift them up, you lift yourself up. Right. So really, what’s going on now is, I always say one of the most destructive forces on the planet is self pity. 

And a lot of people are walking around in deep, deep self pity right now. Right? And the answer is to go help somebody else. There’s somebody doing worse than me no matter where I look. So it could be somebody who’s hungry, somebody hasn’t had a meal. So that’s what I would say to you is go help somebody else. If you want to feel better. What you put out, you get back. So if you put out help, you’ll get help back. That’s what I think Nancy.

Nancy: All right, and how can we reach you?

Tommy: Okay, so the best thing we can do is my website is Tommy Hilcken, which everybody never spells, right. But Tommy Hilcken productions, and it’s H I L C K E N, tommyhilcken.com, or tommyhilckenproductions.com. Either one will work just nicely. And that’s where I’m at all the information’s there. And the phrase we use is we help people step up, we help people stand out, and we help you sell more. That’s what we do.

Nancy: Love it. Love it. And I can guarantee if Tommy presents at any any organization or is asked to put on a show of whatever it may be, you will not be disappointed. Tommy, thank you so much for being on the show today. As usual, I’m ending this with a big smile.

Tommy: Oh, beautiful. Thank you, Nancy. Me too. I appreciate you.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads, or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at Nancy@oneofakindsales.com. To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at oneofakindsales.com/book