My thanks to Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar speaks at the Get Motivated Seminar...

Zig Ziglar speaks at the Get Motivated Seminar at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

Zig Ziglar died this week. He was described in a report in his local Dallas newspaper as a motivational speaker. Yes, he was that, but to most of us who have read his books he was the guy who taught us how to sell in a nice way.

Seth Godin  as always puts his message over succinctly and well. Of course I never met Zig and cannot remember how I stumbled upon him, but I keep a copy of his “Selling 101” (not an affiliate link) on my bedside table (or night stand to North Americans).

When I left employment, or it left me, I had little idea of sales technique. The every expression sounds clinical. I had been expected in my employment to sell money-saving schemes to potential clients. I had a strike rate of one-in-three or one-in-four, which wasn’t bad, but let us remember that the prospects had already been warmed by their introducers. I really didn’t know how to deal with objections.

When I became an independent business person I did an intensive sales course which was based on a hard sell to prospects who were found through cold-calling from specialist appointment makers. Many had probably agreed to an appointment to get rid of the caller. They felt no obligation to even be at their premises when we arrived, on at least one occasion I was greeted with two words, the second of which was “off”, and if we did get to have any sort of interview it was going through the motions with little prospect of business being done.

The course I had been on and another I drove a long way to do focused on practically grabbing the prospect by the throat at the end of a very structured interview (from our side) and saying “sign here”. Of course they didn’t, and I wouldn’t have in their position.

I thought I was a hopeless salesman, but then I found Zig and read “I’ll see you at the top”. He with his tales of selling demonstrated how to befriend the prospect, not in a dishonest way, but how to establish a rapport and find out what she or he really wanted. As Zig said, it is about being brief, warm, sincere and friendly. The last three seem obvious now, especially having only later read Dale Carnegie, but the “brief” bit was also important; knowing when to be quiet, but sharing just a little personal information to build the relationship. It all works for me.

No one buys what they don’t want, and I know now that selling can only be done through genuine relationships of mutual respect. I don’t doubt that Zig appreciated “How to Win Friends and Influence People (a volume also beside my bed) but he himself was a giant on the shoulders of giants.

Thank you, Zig.

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Getting on the customer’s wavelength

Poor reception

One of the most difficult obstacles I had when starting in business on my own was in persuading my prospects to listen to what I had to offer. Often they were just not tuned in to listen to me, and I guess what was worse was that I was not tuned in to listen to them first.

I thought that in my “brave new world” of being a business owner I should at least get some idea about selling. Unfortunately all the courses I went on at the outset were for the hard sell. The training was to pressure the prospect into realizing the pain they would suffer if they did not buy from me. There were structured scripts and I was expected to “close” the prospect within an hour and not come away before two hours had passed if I had not actually had the unfortunate person sign on the dotted line. I often got thrown out long before.

I didn’t get a single sale that way, and looking back I am not surprised. Firstly, most prospects (if we must call them that):

  • do not necessarily think they have a problem, or
  • think they have a problem but reckon they can solve it themselves or
  • think that some outsider wouldn’t understand the problem.

None of these mindsets will lead them to listen to someone such as myself, or you or anyone unless we have listened to the prospect first and got in tune with their way of thinking.


Our potential clients, who will very likely be business owners themselves, often feel insulted by anyone who gives them unsolicited advice and suggests how they might do things better; or in my case would offer hand-on help when they don’t think they need it. When we think about it, most people feel insulted when they get any sort of unsolicited advice concerning who they should go out with or what colour best suits them.

My sister, who never reads this blog, as a teenager took any sort of advice as a personal insult even if she had asked for it in the first place. She is not unique.


I learned a lesson about selling by telling people they are wrong quite a long time ago, but the other day had a sharp reminder when I made the mistake of offering a new Twitter follower some advice on basic strategy. He didn’t take it well, and although what I said was sound advice he insists he knows better. I should have shut up but if I had not being trying to help I would probably have not followed him back as I do not like his approach to Twitter.

I guess that I could be quite insulted too in certain circumstances. I entirely understand Nancy feeling hurt with the unsolicited advice she received. I might have taken it the same way. (Nancy is a good read so why not subscribe?).

Tune in

It had been said so often that we should listen. We should listen to our family and we should listen to our networking friends, and we should certainly listen to our potential customers before opening our big mouths. Otherwise they may hear us when we speak but they won’t listen. That is because if we haven’t listened then what we say will not be of value to them. Hearing is not listening.

In order to help anyone whether they are our potential client or our on-line or off-line friend we need to know how they feel and what they believe they need. Then we will have something to offer whether it is a business proposition, practical help or a shoulder to cry on. Any of those offerings will go towards building relationships and will help those in need.

From the sales point of view it is always worth re-reading How to Win Friends…  and checking in with Zig Ziglar (not affiliate links) but I expect you have these books already. I have both on my bedside table or night stand. Always listen!

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“Show me the money” and Giver’s Gain

I alluded a month or so back to my early steps in referral networking and my experience with BNI.

I wonder if I am going soft though. What always made me happiest in BNI was the concept of Giver’s Gain. In other words, if you help others they will help you; the logic of that is one will prosper from referred business which stems from the referrals one hands out. So why is it that at an open meeting put on by BNI the other day (which was otherwise very enjoyable – thank you BNI) I cringed when someone yelled out the slogan “show me the money” and went on to explain how rich he was getting?

I have been around the networking circuit for over six years now, since not long after starting working for myself. We would all like more income, especially in these difficult trading conditions, but I have become more circumspect in talking about my financial needs, especially in the environment of the wider world of social and business networking, online and offline. The funny thing is I have no problem in asking for a sale in getting a new prospect’s business, but boasting about how much money I am making as the BNI guy did would make me uncomfortable as did my hearing it from someone else. That is not to say I am a great salesman, or at least not with the hard sell.

I suppose hard selling was what the BNI stooge, for that is what he was, had been put up to do for the event. Maybe it worked for the newbie start-up businesses, but I am more into soft selling and referral by recommendation rather than because I belong to a certain group. Talking about money sounds like greed or avarice, one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Yes, I know “show me the money” is popular in demonstrating the success of a Chapter but it gives me the shivers. If we realise that the more we have, the more we can give there is value in the statement as well as the money. Charity is what we should all have at heart when doing business; that is why I always loved the philanthropy of Zig Ziglar as well as his wonderful books about sales and motivation.

Despite all this, I am considering returning to the BNI fold, though not giving up any of my present local networking including my current breakfast meeting. I enjoyed the old camaraderie and togetherness of BNI, and whilst I think some BNI members including Assistant Directors don’t quite understand what Giver’s Gain really means, the lure of the old tribe may be hard to resist.

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