February 2, 2010

Zig Ziglar

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

During our extensive interview, I realized that Zig Ziglar is more than simply a motivator. He is a person with a strong, well-established guiding philosophy, one that has something of enduring value for everyone. He expresses it with the words, “You can get everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

This maxim is certainly true in selling, but it is equally true in any other field. By helping others, you help yourself. Zig realizes that it is not his responsibility to change other people’s attitudes. He can only present the tools; it’s up to his audience to use them.

If one is to learn from Zig about becoming a Superachiever, one must listen to him intently and then put into practice what he presents. Knowledge increases with repeated practice. Many people have turned their lives around because they decided to apply Zig’s principles.

Ziglar is his own best success story. It began in Yazoo City, Mississippi. He was born one of twelve children. His father died when he was five, leaving his mother with five kids too young to work.

He became one of the most successful cookware salesmen of all time but quit knocking on doors when he recognized his ability to motivate others.

Although Zig has been interviewed by many reporters (including Morley Safer of “60 Minutes”), Personal Selling Power felt a need to explore new answers to the familiar question facing salespeople, “What can I do to motivate myself?”

PSP: In one of your speeches you mentioned that negative thinking is as common as the cold. Did you find a cure for negative thinking?

Ziglar: If you feed your mind with positive thoughts, if you are selective about the things that you choose to read, look at, or listen to, then you are taking effective action against negative thinking.

PSP: So you are saying that there is a direct link between negative thinking and negative input and that people can become more selective about the input?

Ziglar: Absolutely.

PSP: What is your definition of success?

Ziglar: I believe that you’re successful when you’ve dealt with the physical, the mental and the spiritual man successfully. If I made millions and destroyed my health in the process, or if I become the best at what I do but neglect my family, I wouldn’t call that success.

PSP: One of your claims is that your attitudes in life determine ultimately how successful you become.

Ziglar: Yes. Dr. William James said the most important discovery of our time is the realization that by altering our attitudes we can alter our lives. There is also a Harvard University study that points out that 85 percent of the reason people are hired or get ahead in their jobs is directly related to their attitudes.

PSP: I once read a magazine article about motivational speakers that stated, “Speakers are superficial on the subject of motivation – like cheerleaders at a high school rally. Thin on content, heavy on performance.” How do you respond to that?

Ziglar: I think they are right on the button. A lot of people do leave without any real meat. Excitement, yes, but nothing they can chew on the next day.

As you know, the Bible is my great source, because God’s plan deals with this dilemma: He never makes a promise unless he gives you a plan. This translates into the principle that motivation without direction is very frustrating. You need to have a plan in addition to the motivation. Motivation without a goal doesn’t get you anywhere. Personally, I never make a promise in a book, a speech or a recording unless I give a plan so my reader or listener can achieve the promise.

PSP: What is your theory of self-motivation? How do you develop it?

Ziglar: When I build a fire in my fireplace, it will burn for a while. Then I notice that there are no flames. It has died down. I get up and take my poker and shake up those logs. All of a sudden, we’ve got bright flames. Now, all I did was just poke them, which created some motion. The motion creates a partial vacuum and new air is pulled into the fireplace. With an additional supply of oxygen, the fire ignites, and now we’ve got a flame. If I hadn’t done some poking, there would have been no flame.

Now, this business about all motivation being self-motivation is only partially true. You can choose among many different sources to rekindle your motivation. In other words, the environment you select and the people you associate with become large contributing factors.

PSP: Do positive input and the positive attitude need to be supplemented with a sound business plan and professional skills?

Ziglar: Absolutely. Positive thinking is an optimistic hope, not necessarily based on any facts. Positive believing is the same optimistic hope, but this time based on a sound reason. Here is an example. It would be positive thinking if I said I could whip George Foreman. It would be an idiotic action if I tried to do it.

PSP: I’ve heard many sales managers express doubts about the lasting value of a motivational seminar.

Ziglar: They’re absolutely right! Motivation is not permanent. Neither is bathing. But if you bathe every day, you’re going to smell good. Fifteen minutes a day of motivation from a good audiocassette or a book can make a tremendous difference in your life and give you a motivational lift every day.

PSP: You said once that life is simple but not easy, and that too many people are looking for quick and easy solutions.

Ziglar: Right. I firmly believe that the best work is often done by people who don’t feel like doing it.

PSP: Why do you recommend that salespeople listen to your tapes 16 times to completely absorb the full message?

Ziglar: There are several university studies revealing that two weeks after you’ve learned anything new, unless it’s reinforced, you only remember about 4 percent of it. That’s the first reason. The second reason is that while we are listening we may experience a certain mood, and our minds will seek out messages that relate to that particular mood. On another day, let’s say you just made a sale; you’ll be in a different mood, and a whole new range of messages of the same recording will become clear in your mind. So by listening 16 times, the odds are that you will have absorbed the entire content.

PSP: Let’s say I’ve listened 16 times to your tapes on motivation. Do I know then how to motivate myself?

Ziglar: Yes.

PSP: Do I master the skills sufficiently so that I become independent of your cassette?

Ziglar: Only if you’ve been practicing the things we’ve been advocating. It’s like driving a car. You don’t learn to drive a car by watching.

PSP: Can I graduate in self-motivation, ever?

Ziglar: I don’t think so, and I don’t think I’ve graduated, because I constantly read and constantly study. I think you could draw an analogy with eating. You can’t graduate in eating. You need to continue to make choices about your input. The same is true with self-motivation. You need to continue to make choices about what level of self-motivation you want to maintain.

PSP: Many salespeople have a tough time in this economy. What thoughts can you offer to approach these tough challenges more positively?

Ziglar: A good friend of mine, Calvin Hunt in Victoria, Texas, said, “You know, Zig, it’s an absolute fact that when we are in an economic slump, 50 percent of all salespeople literally slow down rather than speed up their efforts. They are not motivated to do something. They lose that enthusiasm.

“Now,” he continued, “when that happens, it simply means that if business is down 20 percent, but 50 percent of the salespeople are not nearly as active, your own personal prospect list is considerably higher than if there was no recession.”

PSP: And the winners still keep winning.

Ziglar: Absolutely. It’s their discipline, their commitment to maintain a high level of motivation and their sense of direction that gets them to the top. n

Zig’s Keys to Sales Success

– Have an absolute and total belief that what you’re selling is worth more than the price you ask for it. Your belief in your product should be so great that you ought to be using it.

– Mentally prepare yourself. Review your product knowledge and selling skills before every call. Try to write down your presentation, and you’ll discover that you are using too many words, that you drift away from the point, or that you are not specific enough. Writing will remind you of something you’ve forgotten and help you generate better selling ideas.

– Use emotion and logic in your presentation. Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act. For example, in selling cookware, we would take the logical approach and explain that, according to USDA, the average shrinkage of a four-pound roast in the oven or in the ordinary pot was one pound seven ounces. Cooking it in our method, you lost five ounces. Logically, you could say, “If you had a cook that stole one pound of your roast every time he cooked one, you’d fire him. No hesitation! Here, you’ve got this old, beat-up pot that’s been stealing from you for 20 years. I think it’s time you fired it. Fire that old pot and get a new one. And it’s not going to steal from you!” That would make sense logically.

– Then, we would say from a practical point of view, we are what we eat. If the food you put in your body is short on nutrition, then eventually you are going to pay for it. Sometimes I’d say, “Our set of cookware will help your baby grow up with a better chance at good health.”

– We combined the logic on the dollar and the emotion on the good health for better results. You need to balance these keys. If you use all logic, you end up with the best-educated prospect in town. If you use all emotion, you make the sale, but tomorrow you’ll have the buyer’s remorse and a canceled order.

Key Ideas to Remember

1. We can’t graduate in self-motivation. It’s like eating. We can’t graduate in eating. We need to continue to make choices about what level of self-motivation we want to maintain.

2. The likelihood of motivating yourself is greatly increased with positive relationships. Positive relationships create a feeling of closeness and become a source of strength.

3. To succeed in selling, use emotion and logic in your sales presentation. Logic makes people think; emotion makes them act. If you use only logic, you’ll end up with the best-educated prospect in town. If you use only emotion, you’ll end up with a canceled order. Balance these keys and you’ll sell more.

4. If you feed your mind with positive thoughts, if you are selective about the things that you choose to read, look at or listen to, then you are taking effective action against negative thinking.

5. Success is measured not by what you’ve done compared to others but by what you’re capable of doing.

Zig’s First Sale

It was on a hot August afternoon in 1947. It happened on Adelia Drive in Columbia, South Carolina. I’d been knocking on doors all afternoon, and nobody would let me in. I made a solemn vow that if I didn’t at least get into a house by the time I got to Devine Street, I was going to quit. I’d been working 10 days and had not sold anything.

I knocked on the door of Mrs. B. C. Dickert, and she said, “Well, you know, it sounds interesting, but my sister-in-law, Mrs. J. 0. Freeman, lives next door, and I know she’d be interested. Why don’t you go talk to her, and if she looks at it, just call me over.”

So, I literally ran next door – that was the first word of encouragement I’d heard all day – and I talked to Mrs. Freeman. She said, “Well, I’d want my husband to see it.”

So, I said, “Well, I’ll come back tonight.” So, I got back that night, and they invited Mrs. Dickert over. I finished the presentation and I can tell you that it was set number 541, that it cost $61.45, that the down payment was $16.45, and that when I sold the Freemans I was so enamored and excited that I just flat forgot that Mrs. Dickert even lived. I just ignored her. And finally, Mr. Freeman said, “Mr. Ziglar, I believe that if you were to talk to Mrs. Dickert, she might buy a set.”

And so, with considerable sales technique and skill, I said, “What about it, Mrs. Dickert?” She said, “Well, I don’t have my checkbook, even.” And again, with considerable diplomacy, I said, “Well, shoot, you just live next door. Go get it!” And she went next door, so I made two sales that night.

We lived in a little upstairs apartment, and I didn’t hit more than two steps on the way up that night. That redhead knew that something had happened. I tell you, we were just elated! We jumped up and down and laughed and celebrated by buying two quarts of ice cream.