On Wednesday, Zig Ziglar passed away at the age of 86. He was one of the all-time great speakers who changed the lives of many people. He was born in Alabama, but raised in Yazoo, Miss., a fact for which he frequently said, "A lot of people brag about that, but in my case it's true!"

I shared this news with my many clients and have been amazed by the number of people who write me back with specific quotes from Ziglar that they remember such as, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” One of my favorites is, “I was experiencing a case of stinkin’ thinkin’ and needed a checkup from the neck up before hardening of the attitudes set in.”  He had and amazing gift for words. 

You can google Zig Ziglar quotes and get a flavor of his charm and power. But there was nothing like hearing him live (a privilege I enjoyed on three occasions) or listening to his audio series, "See You at the Top." He illustrated the power of anchoring a concept to well-crafted story, one of many lessons from the master speaker.
My favorite was about the two railroad employees who were close friends, one of whom worked as a laborer for an hourly wage for more than 30 years, while the other rose to become the company president. When the laborer's puzzled co-workers saw the two socializing one day, they asked how it could happen. The laborer said, "We started on the same day pounding stakes and have known each other ever since." His co-workers mockingly asked how his friend managed to become the president while the laborer was still pounding nails. The thoughtful reply was, "Because thirty years ago, I went to work for $3.15 per hour and he went to work for the railroad."
Nobody had a better way of spinning a tale than Ziglar. During his legendary story of "the pump," in which he reminds us about the value of effort, two men are working an old fashioned water pump to earn a drink from a deep well. One gives up, believing the well to be dry. The other eagerly takes over to finish the job and earn a well deserved refreshment. Zig concludes by reminding us that, "the harder it is to pump...the deeper, the cooler, and better tasting that water will be." He ended every story with the tagline, "See you at the top," for particular emphasis and his belief that everyone could achieve greatness. He sometimes added, "And I do mean you." 
Ziglar also had a knack for making his audience laugh. I once heard him, during an interview, state that he intended to insert humor every seven minutes because he felt this was the average attention span of his listener. He emphasized the power of the "little things" by saying: "It's the two inches of sheet which hang over your bed at night that keep you warm. If you tell a woman that she has beauty that makes the hands of time stand still, that's poetry." He paused and then delivered with perfect timing, "But if you tell her she has a face that would stop a clock, well, that's a different thing all together."
It is even worth noting, for salespeople who believe they should "wing it" that Ziglar scripted every single word of his presentations. This discovery changed how I sold and presented products. I started to build chapters for all of the products and programs I provided. It's a practice that I continue in my lectures and sales efforts to this day, one I recommend highly for you.
I first heard Ziglar when I was thirty years old and, quite frankly, far off the path to success. My life changed then when I heard him say: "Do more than you're paid to do and soon you'll be paid more for what you do. Because if the people you work for won't pay you more, then soon somebody else will."  I started volunteering for tasks and developing programs (including some of the training I deliver today) for no extra money. I heeded his advice and lived his philosophy. For that, I thank you, Zig! 

In my profession where many claim to be motivational speakers, Ziglar was the real deal. I'm sure he's up there in heaven working on his golf game and swimming in his arrow-shaped pool. And I know that one day, I hope to see him up there—at the top!

Rick Davis is the contributing editor and regular sales columnist for ProSales Magazine. He is an international speaker and sales management trainer. His latest book, The Sales Secret, is now available for purchase. You can reach him at rickdavis@buildingleaders.com or 773-769-4409.