3 Films For New Salespeople To Avoid

By Jay Ludgrove Business, Lifestyle, Sales Comments Off on 3 Films For New Salespeople To Avoid

3 films

New to sales? Do NOT use these films as your professional template!

As exciting as sales can be, your most successful days wouldn’t make great cinema. Closing that big deal feels incredible – but chances are the climactic moment of that ‘close’ was receiving an email after months of correspondence.

So when Hollywood covers a sales environment, it typically focuses on adversity, focusing on how hard sales is and the toll it takes on all of us from time to time. Or they will tell a glamorous, often criminal, tale of money corrupting the purest of hearts.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these films as entertainment – they’re undeniably great fun to watch and could even get you super pumped to sell. Yet I have often heard them cited as examples to follow. To budding salespeople, I say: kidding yourself into thinking you can be like the characters in these three films is an awful idea in the long run.

Wall Street (1987)

On 1980s Wall Street, Bud Fox is a stockbroker full of ambition, doing whatever he can to make his way to the top. In admiration of his power, Fox entices unsparing corporate raider Gordon Gekko into mentoring him through insider trading.

As Fox becomes embroiled in greed and underhanded schemes, his decisions eventually threaten the livelihood of his scrupulous father. Faced with this dilemma, Fox starts questioning his loyalties.

More than 20 years later, many of the film’s lines stand the test of time: “Life all comes down to a few moments – this is one of them”, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” and “Money never sleeps”.

Why this film is not an example to follow

This film mostly exemplifies what not to do in business. Morality aside, insider trading and cold-heartedly destroying businesses – without a thought for the company’s employees and their families – is not a blueprint to a healthy professional and personal outlook. Gordon Gekko spawned an entire breed of slick nasty salespeople over the late 80s and early 90s. When I first started in sales, these people were the old guard – still dripping in Brylcreem and misery.

 Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

“Put that coffee down!” Alec Baldwin shouts at Jack Lemmon as he meekly tries to pour a mug. “Coffee’s for closers!”

It’s an unforgettable early scene in which Baldwin’s character, Blake, is dressing down a room of down-on-their-luck real estate salesmen. Profanity-laden from the start, much like the stage production on which it is based, Glengarry Glen Ross depicts some classic sales archetypes. Alongside the arrogant vitriol of Blake, we follow Lemmon’s character, Shelley Levene.

With Levene personifying the pressure and rejection that can be inherent to certain sales environments, this film also serves as something of a throwback to a bygone era, when sales calls were made from telephone booths.

Why this film is not an example to follow

This film depicts the worst aspects of sales management, with a singular emphasis on rewarding the best performers and abusing those who do not meet their target. Undeniably these sales environments exist – I’ve worked in them – but this not the right approach for getting the best out of your salespeople. I like to think that this film no longer reflects modern sales management, and will increasingly become an anachronism with time.

 The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort rises from humble beginnings to Wall Street kingpin thanks to his ability to execute and teach the hard sell. Once he gets on the phone, his persuasive abilities are divine as he convincingly paints worthless stocks as can’t-miss opportunities.

Belfort quickly climbs the ladder as he builds his company Stratton Oakmont into a powerhouse, all while he spirals out of control amidst drugs and debauchery, with things eventually unravelling in rather spectacular fashion.

Why this film is not an example to follow

If one more young salesperson tries to sell me a pen, I don’t know what I am going to do! Jordan Belfort had a CRAZY life full of massive highs – if you’ll pardon the pun – and huge lows, but it’s fair to say this is not a typical story and if you’re new to sales this is not the person to model yourself on. If you do, you are probably in for a massive shock – sales floors no longer resemble coke-fuelled brothels. And, in any case, if you’re drawing any lessons from this film, it’s that this lifestyle will leave you broke and broken in the end.


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