The story of Zig Ziglar, the quintessential American salesman

The story of Zig Ziglar, the quintessential American salesman

"Be grateful. Believe. Try." A simple mantra but one that encapsulated the essence of Zig Ziglar's teachings. For more than four decades, Ziglar traveled the globe, spreading a message of positivity, faith, and motivation. His distinct style — blending sound-bite optimism with country wit — inspired countless individuals to pursue a better version of themselves.

He was more than just an American author, salesman, or motivational speaker. Zig Ziglar helped change the perception of salespeople in the eyes of the public through his positive demeanor and avoidance of high-pressure sales tactics. 

Early Life

Born prematurely as the tenth of twelve children, he faced adversity from an early age. When he was just five years old, his family relocated from Alabama to Yazoo City, Mississippi, due to his father's new job. Tragically, a year later, he lost his father to a stroke, followed by the death of his younger sister just two days later.

His youthful years saw him enrolling in the Navy V-12 Navy College Training Program at the University of South Carolina between 1943 and 1945. However, in 1947, he decided to drop out of college, marking the beginning of his journey into the world of sales.

The Salesman's Rise

After leaving college, Ziglar took up a sales position with the WearEver Cookware company in Lancaster, South Carolina. His drive and talent didn't go unnoticed, and by 1950 he was promoted to divisional supervisor. But selling cookware was just the beginning for Ziglar. His growing passion for motivational speaking began to manifest, leading him to deliver speeches that resonated deeply with his audience.

In 1963, along with Richard "Dick" Gardner and Hal Krause, Ziglar was instrumental in establishing American Salesmasters. The company's goal was noble: to uplift the image of salespeople across America. They organized seminars across various cities, with speakers like Norman Vincent Peale, Maxwell Maltz, and Ziglar himself. Their audiences ranged from real estate agents and car salesmen to entrepreneurs and those curious about the world of sales.

Ziglar's motivational journey continued as he became a significant sales trainer for Mary Kay Cosmetics. He also took on the role of vice president and training director for the Automotive Performance Company in 1968, moving to Dallas, Texas. Despite facing challenges, including the company's bankruptcy in 1970, Ziglar's spirit remained indomitable.

Ziglar's Legacy

Later, Ziglar founded the Zigmanship Institute, which evolved into Ziglar, Inc. Over the years, Ziglar's reputation as a motivational speaker grew exponentially. He collaborated with Peter Lowe on motivational seminars and authored over 30 books, leaving a lasting mark on the self-help industry.

Labeling his unique approach 'The Ziglar Way', he reached out to people from all walks of life. He shared his wisdom through books (selling millions of copies), cassette tapes, podcasts, and notably, his personal presentations. At the pinnacle of his career, Ziglar charged a whopping $50,000 per speech, speaking 150 times a year. Even in his 70s, he delivered 60 speeches a year.

Despite facing health challenges in 2007 after a fall, Ziglar's spirit remained unbroken. He continued with motivational seminars, inspiring audiences until his retirement in 2010. He passed away two years later at the age of 86.

To quote the late, great, sales trainer: “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

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