The following ideas excerpted from our interview with Zig Ziglar on the subject of motivation are destined to “make your day.” Zig, who is famous for his high intensity speaking style as well as his vast knowledge of selling skills, is the author of numerous best selling books as well as record breaking audio tape programs. His energy today is, if possible, even more intense than it was 20 years ago, and he still maintains a rigorous speaking schedule that would exhaust a less dedicated professional. He is the prefect example of the old adage, “Practice what you preach.”
PSP: Do you feel it is possible to motivate someone from the outside?
Zig Ziglar: Absolutely – someone else can dramatically impact your life. There are even new studies that show this to be true. Dr. Forest Tennant at UCLA says that when an individual hears a powerful motivating speaker either in person or on tape, the speaker’s words actually activate the pituitary gland which floods the system with endorphins. As you know, endorphins are 200 times more powerful than morphine and the individual actually gets on a natural chemical high, so it is a physiological as well as a psychological factor.
PSP: In the sales field who was a major motivator in your life?
Zig Ziglar: My good friend and first sales trainer Bill Cranford.
PSP: How did he motivate you?
Zig Ziglar: His patience and the time he spent with me when I was a little discouraged were motivating. He was willing to work with me and to encourage me and lift my spirits. He demonstrated this not only with professional knowledge and teaching but also with human interest in what I was doing. He took a personal interest in helping me.
PSP: Do you remember some of the skills you learned from him?
Zig Ziglar: He taught me how to have the right appearance, how to demonstrate and present the product, how to persuade people to take action, and how to choose the right words to use to make a sale. In those days I was selling a product that required me to knock on doors and he taught me the correct way to knock on a door, then back away about four steps so that the prospect could see that the salesman was not going to threaten or go bounding through the door. Then he taught me to courteously smile and pleasantly say, “Good afternoon,” and then to introduce myself. After that, I had to state, in one sentence, the purpose of my call and in those days it was always a service call. For instance, “I am with the Everwear Aluminum Company and we are making service calls on those customers who have any of our old equipment. Do you by chance own any Everwear Aluminum?” Now that got the prospect immediately involved in a discussion.
PSP. What motivates you now?
Zig Ziglar: The excitement and the feedback I get from people who call or write – I get letters every day or sometimes I encounter someone who’ll say that they have read my books or listened to my tapes and these things have made a dramatic difference in their lives. It’s very motivating to see your own seeds grow for others.
PSP: What suggestions do you have for sales managers who must motivate a sales team?
Zig Ziglar: First of all, sales managers must begin with a conviction that they have the ability and the capacity to inspire others. That in itself is tremendously important. Next they must have a tremendous belief in the opportunity their product offers. Some people think that a good salesperson can sell anything, but in my judgment that simply is not true. A con man can sell anything to anybody, but a truly great professional salesperson can and will sell only those products in which he or she believes. That means he believes the product is good, believes it performs a service, and believes the prospects will benefit from what they are buying. The sales manager who has that conviction can transfer it to the sales team giving them a much better shot at selling successfully.
PSP: It sounds like you’re saying that a sales manager must practice what he or she preaches.
Zig Ziglar: That’s right. He must be a professional. He needs to feel compassion and concern for his salespeople. He can empathize with their situation, their doubts and fears. And their inhibitions. No, some sales managers believe that if the salesperson gets hungry enough, he or she will go out and work hard. Historically that is simply not so.
PSP: Zig, you have talked for many, many years on the subject of motivation. What are the three best techniques people can use to motivate themselves?
Zig Ziglar: The first is to have regular positive input into your mind. I can’t conceive of a sales person who is in the business as a professional who does not have a cassette player and his or her own set of sales training and motivational tapes. I think the most important thing is to read and listen to something of a powerful and motivating nature every day. As regularly as you feed your body, you should be feeding your mind. The second is to work at your own growth with personal encounters with people in the same profession. You need to seek advice, counsel, fellowship, and association with those people who are succeeding at what you want to do. It does rub off. You are going to benefit by being around other people who are succeeding. And last, you must take care of yourself physically. If you are one hundred pounds overweight or only got three hours sleep the night before or are hungover from boozing or strung out from cigarettes or drugs and not getting regular exercise, there is no way that your body can be at its effective best when you go out on calls.
PSP: Weren’t you once a little overweight?
Zig Ziglar: I was anywhere between thirty-five and seventy pounds overweight for twenty-four years of my adult life. But at age forty-two I decided to change all that. That’s when I decided I could run as far as the next mailbox every day. And every day I went one mailbox further and finally I was able to run for twenty minutes five times a week. And I still do that. If your physical condition is good and you feel good about it, your emotional health, your mental health, your toughness are all going to be a lot better and you’re going to have a lot more interest in other things.
PSP: What was the most demotivating experience in you life?
Zig Ziglar: A number of years ago, I was working in Atlanta and I managed to build a pretty successful sales organization selling educational equipment. We even survived a strike where we couldn’t get any product. I had a beautiful office in Atlanta and had a sales group in Jacksonville, one in Pensacola, and one in Mobile. The owner of the business had assured me that these territories were mine, but one day I went out to lunch and came back to find a telegram slipped under the locked door. I can still vividly recall what it said: “You will be pleased to know that we have permanently assigned to you all of Georgia and Florida east of the Apalachicola River.” That meant that I had just lost two-thirds of my sales organization. At the same time, I totally lost faith in the man who owned the business. That was the lowest point in my life. As a matter of fact for a few weeks there, I was unable to do anything at all and it took me six months to fully rebound from it because I had put so much faith and confidence in this man’s word and I had worked so hard to get the business to that point even with the strike. At the point when I got that telegram, I was flat broke, all set to make some money and recoup my losses.
PSP: How old were you at the time?
Zig Ziglar: Oh, I must have been around thirty-two. And at that time I did not have all the motivational techniques that I have since learned to put into practice.
PSP: It sounds like you have learned a lot from you disappointments.
Zig Ziglar: I think all of us do. We also learn that those disappointments are what make us grow. It is only when we have obstacles to overcome that we grow and mature.
PSP: Thank you.