The “Real Lessons” in These Sales Movies

May 14, 2019

A couple of classics, no doubt! Tommy Boy, the all-out goofy comedy, keeps you laughing from start to finish (what movie starring Chris Farley doesn’t?) Glengarry Glen Ross takes you on a different kind of ride. Star-studded for sure, this dark drama draws you in & has you feeling for all of the characters in one way or another.

They’re sales movies. No question about that. Sales movies that are (or at least were) popular for the masses. They hit home on many levels. As salespeople, we don’t get many movies about our profession. So, when they come out, we watch ‘em! We watch for context. We make comparisons. We relate. We don’t relate. It’s fun.

Now, the masses (the non-salespeople of the world) take these 2 movies for what they are – good entertainment. They hear & see the messages & go on their merry way. All good.

The rest of us (sales pros of the world unite) had better read between the lines while watching these two flicks. Can’t take them on the surface – or we’ll starve.

Example #1:

Much of the Tommy Boy narrative spoke of, “Not taking NO for an answer.” Makes sense. Most people think that’s what salespeople do. That’s how salespeople behave. Keep pushing & pushing until they say YES. Convince people with features & benefits & all that other garbage. The stereotypical pushy salesperson. NOT! 

The Real Lesson:

Spend a day or two in the profession & you’ll realize those tactics don’t work. Nobody likes a pushy salesperson. You can’t convince anyone of anything  – people buy for their reasons, not yours.

The real lesson: Be comfortable with the word NO. Be comfortable with a decision – & it might be NO.

Only when Tommy relaxed & was himself did he find success. He loosened up, lighted up & gave it his best shot & people were comfortable with him. It was a great example of how to “behave” in sales (& a ginormous contrast to the rest of the movie).

Example #2:

On that rainy evening, when Alec Baldwin came to the Real Estate office from “Downtown”, he had one message for the agents: Always Be Closing. This is just another brutal stereotype of salespeople. Salespeople are always closing business. Always ask for the order. Never miss out on a chance to ask for the business. We need to close more business!


The Real Lesson:

It might take more than a day or two to learn this one but professional sales (done correctly) is not about closing at all. It’s about opening. It’s about asking the right questions (even the tough ones). It’s about setting  & managing expectations & moving things forward with clarity. It’s about understanding your prospect’s problems & motivations – & that only comes by asking questions & being a very good listener.

Al Pacino, Jack Lemon, Alan Arkin & Ed Harris could never grasp that concept. They were under too much pressure. Sure, corporate put pressure on them, but ultimately, they put pressure on themselves. Pressure to close business.

When you’re under that much pressure you act out of desperation. We all know how that ends up.

So, now what:

Ok, but we live in reality, Tear – these are movies. Yes, they are. So, ask yourself, How comfortable am I with the word no? Do I do anything in my power to avoid hearing no? Do I discount? Do I follow up incessantly? Do I ask management to “help me out”?

How much time do you spend qualifying opportunities? Do you set strong expectations (Ground Rules) & get to reality? Do you “quote & hope?” Do you look at your problem as a “closing problem”?

Watch ‘em again.

Dave Tear