I’ve always loved watching great films. And something that I’ve found about my favorite movies is that they aren’t just entertaining, they’ve also inspired me in countless ways. As an example, watching Jurassic Park inspired me to take a paleontology class in college. More recently, I started reading about astronomy after watching Interstellar. But when I see a great film about sales, it hits especially close to home. I began my career in sales. And the skills I learned as a sales rep (e.g. persuasion, attentive listening, thinking on my feet) have been integral to every position I have held since. There’s nothing quite like a great movie about sales to inspire me to up my professional game.
Are you looking for some inspiration? Whether you’re selling pens, real estate, stocks or SaaS, these seven awesome sales movies will get your fired up and ready to crush quota.
Martin Scorsese’s film The Wolf of Wall Street chronicles the rise and fall of real-life stock magnate Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). Belfort, now a sales trainer, is one of the more controversial figures in the game. And while some may dismiss The Wolf of Wall Street (and Belfort himself) as purely decadent, I think there is a lot for salespeople to glean from this film. In particular, it illustrates the power of using a sales playbook and effective sales scripts (tactics that Belfort strongly advocates as a coach). DiCaprio also masterfully uses vocal tonality in his sales pitch to effectively engage prospects. I freely admit that I’ve worked a few of Belfort’s techniques into my own sales emails and pitches.
The Big Kahuna, starring Kevin Spacey and Danny Devito (two of my favorite actors), follows three industrial lubricant salesmen on their stressful 6-hour quest to chase down a big lead at a trade show. In addition to being a fun comedy of morals, this film will remind you how much easier it is to sell using an inside sales model than trying to track down leads in person.
The Internship, which reunites Wedding Crashers‘ Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan, is the story of two old-school salesmen who, in an attempt to adjust to the changing business landscape, take on an internship at Google. While it may be lighter on laughs than Wedding Crashers, it does do a great job of showing that no matter how technology changes, relationship building will always be an integral part of the sales profession.
Boiler Room, inspired from the same source material as The Wolf of Wall Street, chronicles the story of Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), a 19-year-old college dropout who goes from running a casino out of his apartment to selling stocks at a crooked brokerage firm. This movie does a great job of illustrating the importance of selling with integrity. It shows the consequences of those who falls victim for effective—but highly unscrupulous—sales pitches. This movie not only amped me up to sell, but it also serves as a powerful reminder of how important honesty is in sales.
Someone once told me that watching Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman is enough to keep anyone from going into sales. I disagree. This is one of my favorite plays because it explores the cognitive dissonance between the American Dream and the American Reality. Or in other words: “life ain’t fair.” But even though this is the story of Willy Loman, a failed salesman, I’ve never found his tale discouraging. On the contrary, Death of a Salesman, has always reminded me that lofty goals are far more attainable with a realistic plan for attaining them. This film version of the famous play starring Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich is hard to beat.
The Pursuit of Happiness tells the true story of Chris Gardner (Will Smith), an ambitious salesman who, through ingenuity and talent, builds a better life for his family. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who does outbound prospecting. Chris exhibits many cold calling best practices including his energetic and positive-sounding vocal timbre. He also dials high, calling a CEO directly, and is rewarded for his efforts. I think my favorite part about Chris as a salesman is how focused he is on optimizing his process. He realizes that by not hanging up the phone, he’s able to save eight minutes a day. This struck a chord with me because here at RingDNA, we’re always trying to think of creative solutions to help salespeople save time. For example, our voicemail automation tool can save a single rep hours each month.
Glengarry Glen Ross, which follows a team of real estate salesmen through a high-stakes contest, is the be-all and end-all film about sales. Anyone who has worked in the same vicinity as a sales organization has probably heard this film quoted more times than they can count (“coffee is for closers only”). Alec Baldwin’s character only hangs around in this film for around ten minutes. But the speech he gives is one of the most infamous and polarizing in film history. By the time he drives off in his “$80,000 BMW,” you’ll be left either hating him or more inspired to sell than you’ve ever been in your life. If you’re with me in the latter camp, you’ll feel instantly vindicated in your decision to enter the sales profession.
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Jesse WestDirector of Lifecycle MarketingringDNA
Jesse Davis West is Director of Lifecycle Marketing at ringDNA, focusing on improving the experience and maximizing the lifetime value for customers across their entire journey. Drawing on 9 years of B2B marketing experience, Jesse is passionate about communication, branding and strategic marketing. He also plays a mean lead guitar and can throw down at karaoke.