Let’s face it: Selling is hard.
Whether you’re a pro or you made your first pitch yesterday, you know that winning business doesn’t happen by itself. Every closed deal sits on a mountain of work.
When all that work is paying off, it’s easy to keep up the hustle. But the big question is, how does your sales team stay motivated when the going gets tough?
We’ve turned to some of history’s greatest salespeople, entrepreneurs, and thinkers for the answer. And it turns out that, even across many years and dozens of people, a few ideas come up again and again. We’ve pulled together a few of the best inspirational sales quotes to improve your sales habits and keep you moving forward.
There’s a reason that when you add someone on LinkedIn, the big blue button doesn’t say “Sell” or “Pitch”—it says “Connect.” As pioneering revenue growth strategist Lori Richardson tells us, sales is about connecting with someone well enough to understand how to make their life better.
With 830 million people available to connect with on LinkedIn, finding someone with a problem to solve isn’t hard. (And nowadays, reaching them isn’t hard, either.) As for what comes next—the big idea is human connection.
Beyond that, some of the best advice falls into four main categories.
Legendary salesperson and speaker Zig Ziglar wrote over 30 books in the course of his career. But one of his most important ideas boils down to those seven words.
If you’re in a slump, trying to make a sale can feel like running at a brick wall. But the reality isn’t that scary: Even the best sales strategy boils down to understanding how your leads think, what they care about, and what you can do to get them as excited about your solution as you are yourself.
And for that last piece, there’s nothing as powerful as a good story. In fact, research suggests that twelve times more people remember data shared through a story than data shared through a statistic.
But we don’t need the research to tell us that. Here are more great salespeople (and a great scientist) on the importance of connection and story:
“Before LinkedIn and other social networks, in the sales world, ABC stood for Always Be Closing. Now it means Always Be Connecting.” — Jill Rowley
“The story is the heart of the sale.” — Matthew Pollard
“A mediocre person tells. A good person explains. A superior person demonstrates. A great person inspires others to see for themselves.” — Harvey Mackay
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” — Albert Einstein
“Value the relationship more than the quota.” — Jeffrey Gitomer
“Buyers do business with YOU, not with your company and not with technology.” — Joanne Black
“Companies should be selling ideas more than benefits. Sell Ideas. Not stuff.” — Aaron Ross
This quote from the seventh richest person in the world boils down to one idea to drive sales: You have to care.
The experts below agree, and they describe what it looks like to build an attitude of caring in sales. Not just caring about your product, but caring enough to ask questions about the challenges your clients face, to put in the work to reach them, and especially to push through when it’s hardest.
That attitude might not buy you a private island—not that you need one, Warren Buffett lives in the same house he bought 60 years ago—but it’ll earn you the trust and connection you need to power a career’s worth of sales.
“Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, ‘Make me feel important.’ Not only will you succeed in sales, you will succeed in life.” — Mary Kay Ash
“Ninety percent of selling is conviction, and 10 percent is persuasion.” — Shiv Khera
“Start working with your prospects as if they’ve already hired you.” — Jill Konrath
“It’s not about having the right opportunities, it’s about handling the opportunities right.” — Mark Hunter
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” — Amelia Earhart
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” — Vince Lombardi
“Successful selling is not so much what you say, but what you prove.” — David Ogilvy
“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances, be more active, show up more often.” ― Brian Tracy
“The questions you ask are more important than the things you could ever say.” — Thomas Freese
“If you are not moving closer to what you want in sales (or in life), you probably aren’t doing enough asking.” — Jack Canfield
“Successful people ask a lot more questions during sales calls than do their less successful colleagues.”— Neil Rackham
“While luck may be more appealing than effort, you don’t get to choose luck. Effort, on the other hand, is totally available, all the time.” — Dan Waldschmidt
“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” — Ann Landers
“Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” — George Addair
If there’s anyone who knows about staying inspired when things are at their worst, it’s Oprah Winfrey. Before she became one of the richest self-made women in the world, Oprah was famously fired from her job as a TV reporter in Baltimore, Maryland. The reason why? She was “unfit for television news” for the emotion she put into her reporting.
Her attitude is a valuable one for any salesperson struggling with a slump, and it aligns with some of the best thinkers not just in sales, but in art, politics, and sports: The way through the toughest moments is persistence. It’s organization. And it’s seeing short-term losses as the fuel that powers long-term gains.
Here’s more motivation:
“Great things are done by a series of small things done together.” — Vincent van Gogh
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain
“It has been my observation that most people get ahead during the time that others waste.” — Henry Ford
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” — Jim Rohn
“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” — Zig Ziglar
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” — Henry Ford
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” — Michael Altshuler
What you plant now, you will harvest later.” — Og Mandino
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” — Napoleon Hill
“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”— Steve Jobs
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas Edison
“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” — Babe Ruth
“I hated every minute of training, but I thought to myself, ‘Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” — Muhammad Ali
“Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“Don’t watch the clock; do what it does. Keep going.” — Sam Levenson
“Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.” — James Baldwin
Here’s the good news: Slumps end. Sales pick up. And as all veteran salespeople know, the long-term question becomes “How do I keep up the success I’ve earned?”
Once again, from sales to politics to art, some of the greatest thinkers have a shockingly similar answer: The key to keeping up success is defining what it means to you and putting in the work to keep building on it.
The author Stephen Covey, in his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, explained this as the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important.
In the sales world, strengthening your pipeline this quarter is urgent. Understanding your prospects’ needs is important.
Touching leads is urgent. Forging a relationship is important.
Landing a follow-up call is urgent. Having something worthwhile to share is important.
Almost every time, investing in what’s important now helps you with what’s urgent tomorrow.
“Care enough to create value for customers. If you get that part right, selling is easy.” — Anthony Iannarino
“Don’t celebrate closing a sale, celebrate opening a relationship.” — Patricia Fripp
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in, and day-out.” — Robert Collier
“Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than you take in payment.” — Bob Burg
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” — Tony Robbins
“Think like the person you intend to become.” — Jim Cathcart
“Sales success comes from the right balance of quality human interaction as well as appropriate use of supplemental tools.” — Deb Calvert
“Whatever you are, be a good one.” — Abraham Lincoln
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” — Bruce Lee
“It’s no longer about interrupting, pitching, and closing. But it is about listening, diagnosing and prescribing.” — Mark Roberge
“My success is based on persistence, not luck.” — Estée Lauder
Selling is hard. But with a sales strategy based on advice from the greats—build relationships, solve problems, and tell stories—it can be inspirational, too.
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