Let’s face it, if you have chosen a career in sales, you have probably had a certain stereotype associated with your given career choice. Those stereotypes comes from the media, aka sales movies especially.
Used car salesman, door to door snake oil salesmen, encyclopedia salesmen… The stereotypical sales jobs that anyone who has chosen a career in sales can be associated with is actually kind of sad. Hollywood definitely hasn’t done the sales world any favors with its portrayals of sales professionals.
That being said, one cannot argue that the stories told, and lessons learned, through these movies are much more important than the stories of the sales people themselves.
Let’s dive in to our top 6 sales movies!
1) Startup (On Netflix)
So, this isn’t actually a movie, but a Series on Netflix. But we’re still counting it as a sales movie.
It’s more about the scrappiness needed to start a company in the first place, along with the different skill sets needed to be successful early on.
A Cuban-American hacker, a desperate (and failed) banker, and Haitan-American drug lord try to change the financial system in a way that is very similar to the headlines we see today. They develop and launch GenCoin, a crypto-currency that is going to change the world.
The lessons learned in three seasons, there is no “rulebook” when it comes to starting a company. However, you might be thinking – we have a sales playbook? That’s different. In sales you need the freedom to go your own way, but have a guided playbook to follow. There are many sales tips in this show.
In the series Startup, the only thing you need is to be surrounded by a few folks who don’t quit and are willing to figure the rest of it out. In sales, you need to be surrounded by a few people who don’t quit – and they will push you to reach higher than you ever thought possible.
2) Lord of War
This one is definitely going to be controversial. Is this a “sales movie”? Most would argue probably not. However if you are willing to spend some time analyzing this movie there are some pretty significant lessons that can be learned.
First and foremost, Yuri Orlov (played by Nicolas Cage) acknowledges that every step of the way he needs to be conscious of “what’s in it for them?”.
Whether it is who he is buying the weapons from, who is helping him transport the weapons and ultimately the why behind who is acquiring them. Being deliberately conscious with the motivating factors of those in control of the supply chain is key to ensuring operational efficiency.
The final lesson learned from Lord of War could be one of simply being aware of market opportunities when they come your way, after all finding Product Market Fit is by and large dictated by the timing of the introduction of your service or product.
3) Wolf of Wall Street
I could not tell you the number of times I have referenced the line “sell me this pen” in the years following the first time I watched Wolf of Wall Street.
This simple scene serves to illustrate a couple key fundamental motivational aspects of the buying/selling dichotomy.
First off, a need (not to be confused with a want) has to be identified. This ties directly into the second point, urgency. How bad does this person need whatever it is you are selling? Raise the stakes, what happens (more pain, loss of opportunity) in the event the need is not addressed quickly?
In the case of penny stocks, Stratton Oakmont played on the fear of missing out on a huge pay day to sell (mostly) worthless stocks. You need this now, because if you don’t buy it today, tomorrow you won’t have your mortgage paid off.
Add this to your sales playbook.
4) Pursuit of Happiness
If you take away nothing from this amazing story of Will Smith, playing Chris Gardner, other than time management it will be time well spent. The ability to separate out urgent vs. important tasks is something everyone needs in their sales playbook.
When Gardner is tasked with a call sheet, he starts at the bottom (while everyone starts where they are told). He focuses his energy on the folks with the most money, not the least. He knows his ICP.
He doesn’t take time to get a drink of water and therefore doesn’t have to go to the bathroom. He is focused on his time and budget. He is not easily distracted, and extremely intentional with everything he does.
Besides the fact I simply love this movie for many reasons, it is always a good reminder to focus on the urgent tasks that move you one step closer to your goal everyday.
One of the top sales movies out there.
The original desktop demo scene. You could say you haven’t seen Tommy Boy but chances are every person reading this has watched the scene where Tommy Callahan (played by Chris Farley) is trying to sell Brake Pads in the office to a parts store owner.
Here is where Tommy made a mistake, he led with features first, emotion second. “…our new brake pads are really cool!” All it would have taken was for Tommy to swap the order of the delivery of his pitch. This would have likely not ended in a fiery crash!
Here is how it should’ve gone:
Tommy: “Have you ever had to lock up your brakes and come way too close to being in an accident?”
Tommy: Follow up with a story of ‘someone we know’ who was driving home, and came across a truck tire in the middle of the road. They had Callahan brake pads and were able to stop in time.
Tommy: Insert ‘daddy, daddy I need to go to the bathroom, crash, cliff, meatwagon…’ PAUSE. “Is that worth a couple extra pennies?”
Key here is, make it relevant. Lean on a group of people with shared experiences and then end with broken and melted, plastic model car pieces littering the desk before asking for the signature and pausing.
One of the biggest sales tips I wish I would have learned earlier on in my career.
6) Glengarry Glen Ross
“Always be closing”, “coffee’s for closers”, and my favorite “always tell the truth, George; it’s the easiest thing to remember.”
The last quote is probably the least quoted, least remembered but throughout my career in sales the most applicable and important.
In a day and age when buyers have more resources than ever to do their own research, and connect with other customers it does not make sense to try and hide a feature gap. The downstream impact of a churned customer is much more painful than not securing the sale in the first place. One of the best sales tips I ever received.
With review sites like G2Crowd or Capterra, buyers can easily share painful sales processes that cost them time, and money. This alerts potential customers to not do business with you. It is far easier to just say “no, we don’t have that feature”, and here’s why or here is when we commit to have it by.
Be truthful, and yes ABC!
Top Sales Movies
Do you have a different sales movie that should make this list? Let us know!
We believe that lessons can be taken from any movie, not just sales movies, which is why you can see our list is a little all over the place. Lessons in life and in sales, come from always wanting to learn and better yourself.
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