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December 8, 2012

In memory of a sales icon whose message will live on forever

Zig Ziglar, the iconic motivational speaker of our time, passed away Nov. 28. In his honor, I am updating and annotating an article I wrote in 1992 after I had the privilege to meet him for the first time and interview him.

“I almost failed as a salesman,” said Zig as he stood beside me an hour before delivering his motivational message to 2,700 Ziglar disciples.

“I had struggled for 2 1/2 years. I was on a losing streak, but I never saw myself as a loser.” What verbal poetry. I was standing with the best motivational speaker of our time.

“I still had the fear of rejection,” Zig said. “I didn’t understand that prospects weren’t rejecting me; they were only rejecting the offer I was making them.”

Sales wisdom of the first order. If every salesperson could grasp that philosophy, problems like cold call reluctance and fear of closing would evaporate.

“If it wasn’t for some words of encouragement from my company president, P.C. Merrell, I would have probably found another job,” said Zig. “Merrell said, ‘Ziglar, you have real ability; you’re champion caliber, I’m looking at you as a future officer of this company.’ Those words inspired me to become the number two salesman in a company of 7,000 in one year,” said Zig with an intense yet peaceful look on his face. He says of his mentors, “Bill Cranford (the man credited with training Ziglar) got the salesman ready. P.C. Merrell got the man ready.”

That was a long time ago. It’s hard to count the years or the millions of dollars earned since then by this legendary salesman and speaker.

It’s Tuesday, and today he will deliver an inspirational message to a Charlotte audience he has delivered to 300 times before. He told me he had rehearsed in his room last night for three hours. Talk about practice what you preach!

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