Selling 101: What Every Successful Sales Professional Needs to Know

Selling 101: What Every Successful Sales Professional Needs to Know

by Zig Ziglar

ISBN: 9780785264811

Publisher Thomas Nelson

Published in Business & Investing/Economics, Religion & Spirituality, Business & Investing/Management & Leadership

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

You Made the Right Choice

Attitude is always a "player" on your team.

Welcome to Selling 101! I would like to begin in a somewhat unusual manner. Let me encourage you to leave the sales profession if you can. Yes, you read it properly. Zig Ziglar is encouraging you to quit selling-if you can. Those last three words are the most important words you can face at this point in your sales career: if you can. Those who get into sales because they might make a little more money or might even help other people are "short-termers." You need to get into selling because your heart and your head won't allow you to do anything else!

In sales, you will be treated rudely. People will, on occasion, even slam doors in your face. They will hang up on you for no obvious reason. Some will avoid you at social gatherings. Your family (and even you) will question your sanity. As humorist and speaker Dr. Charles Jarvis says, "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you!" Yes, paranoia can be a side effect of the sales profession.

Are You In?

My good friend Walter Hailey is one of the most successful men in the world. Walter is a salesman par excellence (that means he's gooood!) and a winner who has spent his life helping others win.

Despite Walter's success, he had a rocky start in the world of selling. He faced frustration, anxiety, closed doors, low sales, nervous stomach, and virtually every other symptom associated with an individual who is uncertain of how he is going to survive in the sales world. As a matter of fact, his discouragement was so bad, Walter went to his manager and told him he was quitting, getting out of the business. To this his manager responded, "You can't."

Walter dogmatically stated again that he was quitting. His manager replied, "Walter, you can't get out of the insurance business because you have never really gotten into the insurance business."

Walter said the words hit him like the proverbial "ton of bricks." As he reflected on the truth of what his manager said, he realized for possibly the first time in his life that you cannot get out of something you have never been in. There are many people who "join" a sales organization but never get in the business of selling. Please understand that you may have been presenting your product or service for years and still not have been "in the profession" of selling.

Lack of commitment is a primary reason that the sales profession has earned the reputation for having a high turnover rate. Fortunately, this is changing, and the public is rapidly gaining respect for the true sales professional.

My Journey to Sales Success

I have a deep love for the sales profession and the selling professional, a sincere belief in the value of our profession, and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about becoming even more professional.

My sales career didn't begin in 1947 with my first "official" sales call. It actually started in childhood when I sold vegetables on the streets of Yazoo City, Mississippi. I also had a paper route, and early in my sales career it was my good fortune to work in a grocery store for several years.

At the University of South Carolina I sold sandwiches at the dormitory in the evenings to finance my marriage and education. I later moved into direct sales that have included stints in the securities business, life insurance, and home care products. I entered the world of personal growth and corporate development in 1964 and have been selling training and motivation since then.

The Benefits Are for You!

Let me encourage you to begin each day with this statement: "Today I will be a successful sales professional, and I will learn something today that will make me even more professional tomorrow." If you remind yourself of this commitment daily, then many benefits await you as a successful sales professional!


One of the many great benefits about our profession is that you are truly your own boss. You are in business, as the saying goes, "for yourself but not by yourself." When you stand in front of the mirror each morning, you can look yourself right in the eye and say, "My goodness, you're such a nice, efficient, effective, hardworking, and professional person-you deserve a raise!" and the board just met. I might add that the raise will become effective as soon as you do.


In short, with the independence of being your own boss comes a tremendous responsibility, and this is the exciting part of the profession! Opportunity is born of independence handled in a responsible manner, and in the sales profession, your opportunities are unparalleled.

Problem Solving

With the possible exceptions of medicine and the ministry, no one is in as good a position to solve problems as you, the professional persuader. There is virtually nothing on earth that brings as much personal satisfaction and gratification as being able to save another human being a considerable amount of time, money, frustration, and/or anxiety because of the goods, products, or services you have to offer.


Of course, I'd be less than honest if I didn't confess that the high-income potential offered in the profession of selling is a tremendous lure. Both money and advancement are attractive to those who are ambitiously dissatisfied with having low ceilings established on their worth and activities, and for those who are tired of being dependent on the whims of other people incapable of making objective evaluations about their worth. But security is an "inside" job. In sales you don't have to wait for things to happen; you can make things happen. When business is slow, you can go out and stir the marketplace and get it into action. You can have greater control of your life and your future, and THAT is a secure feeling, especially for your family!


My wife is a decided redhead, meaning one day she just "decided" to be a redhead, so when I talk about her, I call her "the Redhead" (and she enthusiastically encourages me to do so). When I'm talking to her, I call her Sugar Baby. Her name is Jean.

From the beginning of my marriage to the Redhead, through the rearing of our children-Suzan, Cindy, Julie, and Tom-each has been intimately involved in considerable detail in every aspect of my sales career. They have shared the excitement, the glory, the benefits, the fun, and yes, the frustrations and anxieties that come with the profession of selling. My family has been privileged to go on trips to beautiful convention areas and reap the benefits of sharing the limelight when trophies and awards were earned. They were also there when I was in a sales slump and needed their support and encouragement. Actually, those times drew us as close as (if not closer than) the times when things were going wonderfully well.

Be honest with the family. They want to "feel" and "be" a part of trials and triumphs. They can be a source of strength and encouragement, and in the process, their own growth into maturity will be enhanced. This great profession enabled us, as a family, to have more shared interests, develop more mutual friends, and broaden our scope of life and living by associating with other people who were excited about selling and the products and services they were able to offer.

Moving Up

Another benefit of being a sales professional is moving up. Salespeople consistently move into the executive suites because of the increasing depth and breadth of skills they must acquire. They must be creative and open as well as flexible in thinking. They have to come up with a creative way to solve problems almost as they make their presentation and while adapting to fit the prospect's needs and desires.

Salespeople also encounter people at every emotional level-when they're happy, excited, and enthusiastic; and when they're irritated and down in the dumps-which is tremendous preparation for a spot in the executive suite. The better we get at those "people skills," the more likely we are to move into the upper echelons of management.

Obviously, sales professionals also must know how to persuade others if they're going to convince people to buy, and these skills transfer to corporate headquarters. Considerable skill is required to encourage people to cooperate, to work with other people in the organization, and to persuade them that even when they feel their idea is best, once that idea has been rejected and someone else's inserted, the good, ambitious employee will lay aside personal whims and cooperate for the good of the team. And believe me when I say this task requires great persuasion skills, commitment, and discipline.

Are You with Me?

If you can't imagine living without the wonderful benefits our great profession offers, then congratulations! You just joined the profession that has the power to dramatically affect and empower our society in a way that many other professions cannot.

Chapter Two

Important Skills for Today's Sales Professional

A primary reason I have worked so hard to grow Ziglar Training Systems into an internationally respected training company is so that we can SELL each other on the importance of the foundation stones of honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty. In order to build on these foundations, we need to develop skills for learning, listening, communicating, and becoming dependable and credible. With these skills, we can build a business, a life, a family, a friendship, and a professional selling career while making a difference in the world in which we live.

Honesty and Integrity in Selling

Making a difference in the world depends upon honesty and integrity. Being ethical is not only the right way to live; it is also the most practical way to live. True selling professionals don't talk about ethics; they LIVE ethically!

Integrity, Honesty, and Ethics Pay Off

When Robert Davis was an outstanding salesman and sales manager for Terminix Pest Control in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, if you asked what he did for a living, he'd simply respond, "I kill bugs." His healthy self-esteem and belief in his company's services allowed him to excel personally and professionally.

At one point in his career with Terminix, Robert had a new salesman who got a little overzealous. Late one Friday afternoon, a client called with a serious problem. Bees were swarming around his home and placing the family in distress. Robert assigned his new man to the seemingly simple task, but as the salesman headed out the door, he called back, "Has anyone ever sold a $200 'bee job'?" The others smiled at his "bravado" and said, "No."

When the new man returned in less than thirty minutes with a check for $225, everyone was quite amazed. The telephone interrupted the excitement that bringing in a check for the largest "bee job" ever was generating. Robert answered, and the man who had signed the check was on the phone.

"I just wanted to call and thank you for responding so quickly and getting rid of my problem," the man began. "Those bees were a real concern, and your man certainly did the job."

"But I was wondering," he continued, "if $225 was normal for a fifteen-minute job."

"Are you going to be home for the next few minutes?" was Robert's immediate response. When he got an affirmative answer, Robert put the salesman and the check in his car. When they arrived at the man's home, Robert walked right up to the man and said, "Sir, I'm afraid we got a little carried away with our enthusiasm. Since I had not clearly explained the parameters of this job and how it should be billed to our new salesman, we overcharged you. (Notice that he did nothing to embarrass the salesman, though he had in fact explained exactly how to do the job and said that it was a $125 job at the most.) So this one's on us." With that, he handed the man his check.

"Well, that's mighty kind of you," the man said, "but I still have this problem with roaches and ants. Can you do that for me at no charge, too?"

They all laughed, even as Robert wrote out the contract for the $300 sale that resulted from his ethics, integrity, and honesty. Had they kept the check for the "record" (and unfair) bee job, they would have had a client who wondered if he had been "ripped off." By their returning the money and doing the right thing, Robert's company was rewarded with a larger sale and a long-term client.

When you are honest and ethical and live with integrity, your rewards are guaranteed. They may not happen as quickly as they did for Robert Davis, but just like putting money in the bank guarantees a return, demonstrating the qualities of honesty, integrity, and ethical behavior will guarantee a positive return in your career.


The one thing that customers have always rated highest in the sales world is trust, which is a direct reflection on the integrity of the individual. The primary reason people will choose not to buy from you is lack of trust. When you make a serious promise to the prospect or a "casual comment" involving a promise, the prospect takes both as gospel. This is especially true if there is any difficulty during the sales process and even after the sale. If the person has any trouble in any phase of the relationship or use of the product, there is the distinct possibility that any "lack of follow-through" will be blown completely out of proportion. Even the tiniest matters become "deal shattering."


All successful sales professionals utilize listening skills to their fullest. Thus far in my career, I have never heard of anyone missing a sale because of listening to the prospect's needs, wants, and desires. Interestingly enough, the more salespeople know about their prospects' needs, the better position they are in to meet those needs. Not only that, but the trust factor goes up when the prospects see salespeople intensely listening to their needs and desires.

Listening is just not as difficult as we make it. When we are not talking or preparing to talk, we can listen. There are many steps and even week-long courses in developing listening skills, but for our needs here we can use the old saying, "Talking is sharing, but listening is caring."


When we carefully "listen" to the prospect's elaborate interests, desires, hobbies, and other thoughts, we are putting them in debt to us. They then have a feeling they "owe" us something, and consequently, they are more willing to "listen" to our story since we have given them the courtesy of listening to them.

Communication Specifics

Most people like to listen at the same speed they speak, so whenever possible adjust your speech patterns to conform to those of the prospect. Some exceptions to this policy are the following:

1. The prospect "loses his cool" and gets loud and abusive. When anger enters the picture, lower your voice and slow your rate of speech.

2. The prospect uses crude or profane language. Keep your language clean and professional. Chances are excellent that the prospect will judge you by a higher standard than he judges himself. The higher the level of moral dignity and integrity, the higher the level of trust and respect. The higher the level of trust and respect, the better your chances of making the sale.

3. The prospect speaks so quietly you must strain to hear every word. Keep your voice level at a comfortable volume so you are certain you are being heard. The prospect will not work as hard to understand you as you will to understand him.

4. The prospect speaks so agonizingly slow or so incredibly fast that if you emulate him or her completely, the distraction would be obvious. You should make some adjustment in the direction of the prospect's speech pattern.

5. Never conform to speech accents, bad grammar, slang, or speech impediments.

Dependability and Credibility

Sheila West, author of Beyond Chaos, helped me understand the woman's perspective in sales when she said, "The most difficult part for a woman in sales (or many other fields) is to gain credibility. It is impossible for women to do this without being dependable. Therefore, the ones who do not have this trait are washed out of the field quickly. In other words, their dependability gives them credibility, and believability becomes confidence, and with confidence comes success!" This lesson is important for both men and women in the sales profession.


Excerpted from "Selling 101: What Every Successful Sales Professional Needs to Know" by Zig Ziglar. Copyright © 2003 by Zig Ziglar. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Author Profile

Zig Ziglar

Zig Ziglar

Motivational teacher Zig Ziglar, author of the "Message for Daily Living" column, has touched the lives of people all over the country for years. His humorous and enthusiastic approach to success has earned him recognition in many national newspapers, as well as on television shows including "20/20," "Hour of Power," and "The Today Show." Ziglar is the author of ten books, including "Confessions of a Happy Christian" and the best-selling "See You at the Top," and produces multimedia training tools for motivational classes and seminars. He has also been recognized for his work with youth in the war on drugs, and has appeared with presidents and politicians.

View full Profile of Zig Ziglar

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