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5 Lessons I Learned from Zig Ziglar

by on November 29, 2012  

5 Lessons from Zig Ziglar - Sales StrategyYou don’t meet too many people who make an impact on your career and your life. It was sad to hear that sales legend and motivator to millions, Zig Ziglar, has passed on.  At the same time, thinking of Mr. Ziglar evokes all sorts of memories and lessons early in my sales career.

When I started out as a technology sales professional, I had little idea what I was doing – just the words of my grandmother, who was my mentor in business. She ran women’s apparel stores and I was her namesake. I learned so much from her, but it was all business-to-consumer, not B2B. It was the next group of influencers, the Zig Ziglars of the world who initially helped me build confidence as a professional.

I heard Zig Ziglar live at least 2 times, and met him ever so briefly once. I always felt like I related more to his struggles than his life – he was a very religious man, long time married, from Texas so he had that lovely twang in his voice. I was a struggling young single mom working in a male-dominated industry — yet Zig’s words rang true even for me. I’m sure that’s why so many loved and respected his speaking and the fantastic stories he told.

I had the pleasure to interview his son, Tom Ziglar, who has run the Ziglar business for some time now – we had a fun conversation at the beginning of the year. You can listen to it here, and what I learned from Zig Ziglar follows:

1. NEVER CONFUSE ACTIVITY WITH ACCOMPLISHMENT – I did not even know this was a “Zigism” until I saw the great little video Tom created about Zig Ziglar’s words applied to using Twitter (take a look, it is great, and so true). I googled my name and that expression and found that I’ve said it many times in blog posts – never knowing who to credit that to. NOW I do. Thanks, Zig, for this main driving force phrase in my life. This has helped me weigh decisions and take real action.

2. Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis. Zig often said this and I really believe I gleaned from him the need for offering (and receiving)  ongoing reinforcement and repetition of positive and inspirational ideas. You don’t just “get motivated” and build your sales career – instead you get reminded of inspiration and motivation every day – otherwise you won’t make it.

zig ziglar on building sales

Courtesy of


3. You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great – A famous quote of Zig’s – it really drives home the idea that we teach sales people – work on making a 1% improvement every day. Compounded, that is a big, big shift.  If you have an insurmountable project, what steps can you take today toward the finish line?


4. Zig traveled to audiences far and wide for years – he never lost his enthusiasm, drive, and passion. That is a lesson for all of us. If you are not inspired and jazzed about what you are working on, why do it? Thanks, Zig, for that most important lesson that shaped my life.

5. Things change but they stay the same. The ideas Zig talks about work on Twitter, in social media, and with all generations. The foundation is tried and true. While Zig’s lifestyle and quips may not resonate for everyone, his belief in himself, his attitude, and his mission to help others gain the same building blocks for life and business have broad appeal.

We wish Zig’s family all the best at this difficult time – having dealt with my dad’s passing just a year ago, I understand what they are dealing with now. As Zig would say to the rest of us, “See you at the top!”.

You can follow Tom Ziglar on Twitter. I understand Zig Ziglar was trending yesterday on Twitter – I think Zig would have loved that.


Lori Richardson - Score More SalesLori Richardson is recognized as one of the “Top 25 Sales Influencers for 2012″ and one of “20 Women to Watch in Sales Lead Management”. Lori speaks, writes, trains, and consults with inside and outbound sellers in technology and services companies. Subscribe to the award-winning blog and the “Sales Ideas In A Minute” newsletter for sales strategies, tactics, and tips in selling.

  • Robert Terson

    Lori, I’m going to write my own piece on Zig Ziglar, but I wanted to say this here: Other than my late father, no-one influenced me more than the Great Zig Ziglar. He was a One-of-a-Kind, the father of the sales training/speaking business; and we’ve all suffered a great loss. Nicki wanted to know why I was weeping. I explained and she said, “Wow, I didn’t realize that he meant that much to you.” And then she hugged me. Funny, I heard him speak more times than I can count, but I never met him; yet here I am all choked up, feeling a personal loss. *huge sigh*

  • Nancy Zare

    Well written, Lori. He was a remarkable man, touched so many lives, great humanitarian. He will be missed. I’m grateful I heard him speak in person several times.

  • Brandwise

    Lori, Great article. I too was sad to hear about Zig, was inspired by Zig and even wrote an article about Zig titled One thing I Learned from Zig Ziglar. Take a look if you like. Anyhow, I noticed we were in a linkedin group together “Inbound Networking” and I thought I’d check you out. I’m a marketing expert who is making a transition into the sales world. I really love reading your story and hearing about how you made it to where you are. Thanks for the great article!