When talking about movies around sales and selling, most people I know remember sales folks as ruthless, passionate, aggressive sons of guns. As people that are tough, strong, and able to face anything from rejections to getting that girl. Plus confidence, which they seem to drip bucket loads of.
While we all might want to be a cool, suave salesperson Timothy Olyphant or Anne Hathaway, let’s face it, we’re all just normal people. Yes, I’m looking at you: sitting in your (home) offices, trying to get meetings, talking to our peers, and figuring out closing strategies.
But even though actual salespeople don’t look like that, honestly, their glamorous portrayals on screen is what we are in for. Would you rather see a movie about a 25 year old fighting with her colleagues for that incoming lead, or the hustle, bustle, cheating and scams of The Wolf Of Wall Street?
In one of our recent (online) snack-and-learn sessions, we were discussing the best movies to watch that involve selling, marketing, and just basically overall business. We discovered some old hidden gems, and some that everyone must have had time to watch.
So putting all stereotypes aside, we rounded up 5 movies: One from our CEO, another from our sales director, and 3 others from our current account executives on our team, that might awaken your inner cinephile.
#1 The Pursuit of Happyness
What To Expect: The Pursuit of Happyness is a must-watch film not only for salespeople but for everyone. Just be sure to have a box of tissues by your side, because this movie really pulls at your heartstrings. Based on a true story, The Pursuit of Happyness follows the journey of a struggling salesman, Christopher Gardner, played brilliantly by Will Smith. The trials and tribulations faced by Chris when he loses his job, his wife, his house, and is forced to raise his son homeless accounts for an absolutely heartbreaking but inspirational story.
Why Deepak Likes This: This is a story about grit, perseverance and never giving up. Even though Christopher had to sleep on a bus with his kid with no money and no stability, he still carried on. This is what Deepak believes in, through and through. Starting a company from scratch and still going strong, perseverance is what keeps you motivated and going, even on the bad days!
#2 Glengarry Glen Ross
What To Expect: When an office full of New York City real estate salesmen is given the news that all but the top two will be fired at the end of the week, the atmosphere begins to heat up. Shelley Levene, who has a sick daughter, does everything in his power to get better leads from his boss, John Williamson, but to no avail. When his coworker Dave Moss comes up with a plan to steal the leads, things get complicated for the tough-talking salesmen. The ultimate ABC movie. You’ll be glad you’re not working in that office.
Why Anupreet Likes This: First, stars like Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce, and Bruce Altman actually make the movie. And if that isn’t enough, the story deals with potentially real people, in what could be real situations in sales, on a subject most people are ignorant of. Life is tough, but so are we. Also, one thing you learn from the movie is when to keep your mouth shut, and when to speak. A lot of good sales lessons to take from here.
#3 Thank You For Smoking
What To Expect: The movie is about Nick Naylor, who is a lobbyist for the tobacco industry whose job is to promote cigarette smoking in a time when the health problems related to cigarettes are obvious to most people. Naylor’s friends are a pair of lobbyists (Maria Bello and David Koechner) who represent alcohol and firearms. The three call themselves the “MOD Squad,” short for “Merchants of Death,” and almost as a point of pride, brag about how many deaths the products they so expertly promote and defend are responsible for every year.
Why Rakesh Likes This: It is a really fun satirical comedy about Big Tobacco, and to sell something as addictive and harmful as cigarettes Naylor himself admits that you need a “certain moral flexibility”. While watching the movie, you might shake your head at the immorality of the characters, but that is what sales construes of. In the end, in a role like this, its ultimately up to you. This breaks the illusion that you don’t have a say in what you are selling, and its always you who needs to make that choice.
#4 Seize the Day
What To Expect: After he loses his job, breaks up with his girlfriend, and has a nervous breakdown, salesman Tommy Wilhelm is certainly down on his luck. Played by the late, great Robin Williams, Wilhelm moves to New York for a fresh start and attempts to balance personal issues with his desire for success.
Why Sanjana Likes This: Admittedly, this is a sad movie with a depressing theme, but who said life is gotta be happy all the time? There is pain, suffering, alienation, anger, resentment, love, melancholy, drunken crazed ramblings, and more in this movie. But this movie also gives you hope (a sliver of it, but we’ll take it). Just like the world of selling, sometimes even if you are the best, your skills might fail you, or your life may fall apart. What keeps you going is hope, and that is all you need sometimes to just keep going.
#5 The Big Short
What To Expect: In 2008, Wall Street guru Michael Burry realized that a number of subprime home loans are in danger of defaulting. Burry bets against the housing market by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors’ money into credit default swaps. His actions attract the attention of banker Jared Vennett, hedge-fund specialist Mark Baum, and other greedy opportunists. Together, these men make a fortune by taking full advantage of the impending economic collapse in America.
Why Abhishek Likes This: The best part of this movie is how they keep breaking the fourth wall to introduce characters like Margot Robbie sipping champagne in a bathtub to explain complicated mortgage bonds. There are so many lessons about sales to takeaway from this movie too. Like how analogies, props and quotes could be powerful and useful tools in your demos. Creating visuals to maintain the attention of an audience, even when explaining something mundane as mortgage laws is what keeps this movie interesting and a great resource to learn from.
Which Movie Would You Choose?
Did you like our list of movies about sales? What are some of your favourite movies? Have you watched all of the movies on the list or did we just give you some good recommendations? Let us know in the comments section below. And also let us know what your favourite movies about sales are, we would love to know!
Let us know what you think and if we missed out on a big one!