On The Passing Of Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar passed away recently, and I was struck by how much his writing and thinking has influenced some of the people I respect the most. If you simply dipped randomly into Ziglar's writings, you could be tempted to dismiss his books as trite, aphoristic claptrap--a collection of cliches about the sales process. You'd be wrong, for two reasons.

First, if there is any kind of received wisdom about sales and the selling process, Zig fathered most of it.

Second--and most important for an introvert like me--Ziglar recognized the most important limiting factor in the success of any salesperson (and, whether or not you embrace the title, we are all salespeople): psychology. Not the psychology of the prospect, because that's all tactics. No, what Ziglar taught so many of us was this: it's hard to be in sales. There's a psychological toll. The real key to mastering sales has nothing to do with countering objections, or effective messaging, or your value proposition.

It's this: countering negative self-talk when most of your efforts, statistically, will fall upon deaf ears.

I don't have "sales" in my title at work, but my primary responsibility, one way or another, is to drive sales for a company that sells the invisible--our intellect. Most of the time, those efforts don't result in sales. If your "close rate" is higher than 50%, you either work for Apple or you don't take enough risks. What Zig Ziglar's writing gave me--an introvert tasked with driving revenue--was not a set of tools to convert prospects.

What I learned from Zig Ziglar was how to train my thoughts. The only thing I can ever control, in the words of the late David Foster Wallace, is this: my default thinking. And if your lot as a salesperson is to fail more often than you succeed, your default thinking can become poisonous.

So, I mourn your passing, Zig Ziglar, not for your tips and tactics for salespeople, but for your acknowledgement of this basic fact: in sales, your *only* enemy is how you think about yourself.

Turns out, that's true in life, as well.