The Single Word that Separates the Average from the Great is a short YouTube video by Tom Hopkins and it has an important message for all retail owners.

My friend Frank Furness rates Hopkins as one of the world’s top sales professionals and, as Frank is among the sharpest salespeople you could meet, that counts for something.

The video is only two minutes long and gripping from the start. A few seconds in, Hopkins says the ‘single word’ starts with a D, then pauses to tell you all the D-words that do not count, particularly desire.

Frank met Hopkins a few years ago when he paid $1,000 to go to a three-day sales refresher course in Houston, Texas. On top of the fee he had to pay for his flights and hotel.

When he got to the convention centre he was impressed. In the room, 999 other people had also paid $1,000 to attend the course. Frank spoke to the man next to him and asked if he was just starting out or what? The man smiled at him and said he flew to this event every year in his private jet to sharpen up his selling skills.

The key word is discipline. To be great you need discipline to learn everything about your profession or trade so you can be better than your competition

At the end of the first day, Frank was surprised that Hopkins handed out homework. It was a long list of questions about sales skills. Frank believed he knew a lot about sales and he had paid all this money to stay in a nice hotel and he was going to have a good time. He rushed through the questions.

At the start of the next day, everyone had their homework marked. Those who scored less than 70% were asked to put up their hands. Frank sheepishly did so. You guys should leave, Hopkins said. There is no point in staying and not doing the work.

No way, Frank said to himself. He had too much invested. That night he did his homework, which was to learn by heart all 27 sales closes. He did not even realise that there were that many closes.

Frank tells this story to advise sales people that they need to refresh their skills every year – even the most basic ones. It keeps you sharp.

Hopkins’ point, which he makes in the video, is that the desire to be successful is not enough. Plenty of people have the desire to be successful. The key word is discipline, he says.

To be great at what you do you need to have the discipline to learn everything about your profession or trade so you can be better than your competition.

I used this story in my opening remarks at the IAA retail study day in Peterborough last month because it illustrates what the benefit is to retailers of benchmarking their shops using the IAA toolkit (including regular Academy in Action features in this newspaper).

The IAA benchmarks cover 12 areas that every convenience store operator needs to pay attention to. They have been completely overhauled this year by Samantha Gunston, who heads up the IAA operations at Newtrade.

She has done this through spending hundreds of hours in-store with great convenience store operators who have shared their success secrets.

Benchmarking your shop takes a bit of time and attention. It requires discipline. It should be done at least yearly if not more frequently. Every time you do it you will find part of your business that can be improved that will benefit your customers, your staff and your bottom line.

Visit to get started today.