Insightful Sales Quotes: The Customer Isn’t a Moron… and Other Sales Truisms

Witty sales quotes are a fun way to motivate your team, but have you ever stopped to ponder what they really mean?

The greats during and before our time leave behind valuable wisdom that is worth studying and contemplating, especially when it relates to successful business models and ideas.

In this article, we’ll examine five crucial business lessons fossilized in famous quotes from David Ogilvy, Zig Ziglar, Henry Ford, Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, and Bob Hooey.

Big ideas: 

  • Customers are not fools. They are rational, intelligent people and should be treated as such.
  • A positive attitude can be the difference between failure and success.
  • Without customers, a business cannot survive.
  • Advertising walks a tightrope between making people uncomfortable and offering comfort.
  • If you don’t treat your customers right, a competitor will.


5 Lessons to learn from the most insightful sales quotes

The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.

– David Ogilvy 

Advertising executive David Ogilvy coined this famous quote in 1955 before it appeared in his 1963 book, Confessions of an Advertising Man.

In the early 1950s, advertisements were loud and obnoxious. In many cases, they were downright misleading.

Ogilvy believed that customers should be treated as intelligent, rational people who were smart enough to see through the fake promises. You wouldn’t trick or lie to your wife, right? Customers are regular people—your spouse, neighbor, friend.

1955 advertisement for Carnation InstantIn short, don’t patronize your customers. Flashy techniques, noisy sales pitches, and misleading claims aren’t going to fool them. Treat each customer with the same respect you would show to your spouse or friend.


Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.

—Zig Ziglar 

American salesman, author, and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar believed that your aptitude—your natural abilities—would only take you so far in life if you didn’t have the right attitude to keep pushing forward.

Someone who may not have natural-born talent, but does have a positive attitude and a voracious drive to succeed, will be able to climb higher than someone who is talented but unmotivated to ascend.

Ziglar’s insights translate to business on every front. An unskilled employee who is willing to learn can be trained, unlike a talented but lazy employee with no ambition. A customer service rep who cheerfully answers questions with a smile will help more people than someone who is only interested in the paycheck. A sales rep who believes in the product and the company will sell more than the employee going through the motions.

Yes, skills are important. But the right attitude and willingness to learn make a world of difference and help you to uncover your true passion.


It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.

—Henry Ford 

Simply put, a business cannot survive without customers.

Henry Ford, the industrialist credited with developing assembly line production, understood that customers are the lifeblood of every business.

His advice should be taken to heart with every interaction between a business and customer. When phone calls aren’t answered, when cheap products break, when appointments are missed, when customer service fails to find a solution that pacifies the customer… the business bleeds money.

Without a steady flow of income from customers, it’s on a slow path toward demise.


Customer-centric strategy flow chart


A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.

—Bernice Fitz-Gibbon 

Bernice Fitz-Gibbon was a retail pioneer and advertising executive inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1982. She was known for bringing her wit, creativity, and intelligence onto the advertising scene and penning some of the most memorable ads in history, including Macy’s tagline, “It’s smart to be thrifty.”

Fitz-Gibbon, as demonstrated by her sermon quote, had a deep understanding of how to reach consumers. To those who have a problem that needs to be solved, an ad should offer a convenient solution.

But effective ads go even deeper. Everyone has problems, even if we aren’t aware of them, and the most impactful ads offer solutions to problems that customers didn’t realize they had.

Advertising walks a fine line between comfort and affliction.


If you are not taking care of your customer, your competitor will.

—Bob Hooey 

Bob “Idea Man” Hooey understood the role of a customer in the business model. He also fully comprehended the role that competition plays in the equation.

Customers today have a limitless supply of choices when it comes to brands and businesses. The secret to loyalty is treating your customers better than the competition would treat them.

While this is common business sense, there’s also data to back it up—90% of consumers consider customer service a primary factor when it comes to brand loyalty.

Hooey’s statement is a simple but powerful reminder of the stakes.


Successful businesses take these important lessons from famous sales quotes to heart

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that approximately 20% of small businesses fail within the first year, 50% within five years, and roughly 65% within ten.

Businesses fail for a wide variety of reasons, ranging from no market demand to financing issues, to a poor location, to a lack of marketing skills, and everything in between.


The successful ones learn from the great entrepreneurs that came before them. A witty quote by itself isn’t going to save a struggling business, but pulling the nuggets of wisdom out and studying their meaning and intent just might change your mindset and help you evaluate from a different perspective.

Even simple lessons can have profound effects.

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