10 Best Lessons from Movie Salesmen

They may not always have high morals but they sure can sell. There have been some seriously strong salesmen and women to grace cinematic screens. You may not want to seek inspiration from everyone on this list, though they do deserve your admiration. Here are some of the best lessons you can grasp from movie salesmen. Oh, we also cheated and added a few entries from our favourite TV shows too – come on, this list wouldn’t be complete without Ari Gold or Don Draper.

10. See Things from The Client’s Perspective – The Internship


The Internship is a slightly cheesy, feel good comedy starring Vince Vaughan, Owen Wilson and a few too many 80s references. When faced with the opportunity of building a small pizza place’s online assets, they’re met with an ‘old school’ owner who’s content with their offline presence. Instead of bombarding the owner with data, figures and a robotic pitch, Vaughan and Wilson relate to the owner. They share their understanding of his concerns and open his eyes to the potential of their opportunity. The scene proves that sometimes you need to drop the hard sale and see things from the client’s side.

9. Consider Your Audience’s Tastes – Boogie Nights


There’s one lesson this scene teaches which should be remembered by all in sales. Country music will ruin your deal. In this movie, we see Buck Swope trying to sell a Hi-Fi stereo with ‘twice the bass’. He blags his way through the pitch and has his customer close to a deal. Then everything comes tumbling down. He offers a test of the stereo and blares out his favourite country music. It’s safe to say, it’s not ‘all about that bass’.

8. Go Bold and Get Noticed – Keeping the Faith


Movie salesmen are renowned for being captivating and few can do it better than Don in Ben Stiller and Edward Norton’s religious rom-com Keeping the Faith. Spotting a priest and rabbi browsing the karaoke machines in his shop (don’t ask), Don takes to the sales floor to perform on a machine. He grabs attention with quite possibly the best hook we’ve ever seen.

7. How to Cold Call – The Pursuit of Happiness


An absolute must for anyone working in recruitment. Cold calling is a part of our lives and this is a lesson in how it’s done. Will Smith’s character is unable to work the long hours of everyone else in his team, though he needs to sell more to secure a job. In this scene, he tells us about the small differences in his routine which allow him to make up more time. Despite this, he’s still unable to work his way up a call sheet. So he broke the mould and went straight for CEO. Speaking with polite confidence and an approachable tone, he managed to secure an all-important meeting.

6. Have a Discussion – Glengarry Glen Ross


Now this is a tough one to pull off but if you pull it off, you’re a genius salesperson. In his ‘you rent it’ monologue, Al Pacino’s character engages in a deep discussion with his associate. He begins talking about how no one truly owns anything in their life. The conversation is meaningful and friendly. When the rapport is high, Al Pacino goes into his pocket to pull out a flyer and pitch his opportunity – as a friend, not a salesman. The scene’s so clever in its design that even the audience are sold.

5. Sometimes the Hard Sale Works – Boiler Room


When Vin Diesel’s character takes over a call to close a deal for a junior rep he gives us the very definition of a hard sales pitch. It may not be the most legitimate of sales but it sure is effective. Vin Diesel verbally pushes his client into a sale stating that he simply hasn’t got the time to help. This is a master albeit ruthless salesman at work displaying many hard sale techniques executed with precision.

4. Confidence and Charisma is Key – Entourage


Pitching to a board of NFL chiefs can’t be easy. Ari Gold makes it look just that. He storms into the room, greets individuals uniquely and builds a jovial tone. He then goes on a tirade about how necessary his opportunity is. Objections are thrown at him and he belittles them with banter and a light-hearted tone. His charisma and confidence boosts as his pitch continues and his joking strikes a chord with the individuals he’s talking to. He leaves the proposition hanging in the air like an awkward silence.

3. Power of Persuasion – Wolf of Wall Street


This is pretty much the modern day pinnacle of sales films. We may not agree with his morals but there’s no denying the power of persuasion Jordan Belfort had. In this scene Leonardo DiCaprio is teaching his sales team about how convincing they can be at cold calling. To demonstrate this, he gathers the whole team around the phone and sells big to an unsuspecting customer. Whilst winning the customer’s trust and pushing him into the sale, DiCaprio’s character silently ridicules him in front of the team. Overall we wouldn’t recommend taking this approach though the skill DiCaprio employs to lead his customer to a deal can’t be ignored.

2. The Product Speaks for Itself – Iron Man


The faultless style and cool delivery of Robert Downey Jr.’s pitch is admirable though the real lesson to learn from this is to let your product speak for itself. If you’re selling something outstanding, like a cluster missile (you wish!), a short display is all you need to win interest. Oh, and throw in a drinks cabinet – that always helps to seal the deal.

1. Sell the Upside – Mad Men


Set at a time when cigarettes were first being discussed as unhealthy, Don Draper entered a meeting to pitch a new route of advertising to Lucky Strike. Everyone in the industry focussed on the issue of health, attempting to address the public’s concern. Don Draper opted to ignore this rhetoric and pitch an altogether different thought process.

Looking at the market, consumer’s health concerns and the negative connotations around the industry. Don Draper offered to market the upside of Lucky Strike’s tobacco, it’s toasted (like every other brand out there). Sometimes all you need is a positive spin and unique approach to make a difference.

So you’ve heard our top ten lessons from movie salesmen. Now it’s time to put them into practice. If you want to take your career to the next level, check out our job board for all the latest vacancies. Don’t forget to submit your CV.

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