“Always be closing” is one of the iconic lines uttered by Alec Baldwin in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” one of the most iconic sales films of all times. Sales professionals have seen a massive shift in their industry – gone are the door-do-door salesmen and here are the people who need to remain on the cutting edge of what customers need in order to provide the best product or service possible.

With the industry shifts comes a change in strategy and those who don’t (or won’t) adapt will be left behind – like Jack Lemmon’s character in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” Failure to adapt will hands down make you the dinosaur in the room.

What other things can Hollywood teach salespeople about their industry? Plenty. Here are a few lessons movies can teach us about selling:

Steamrolling your obstacles – The Pursuit of Happyness

In this widely popular film, Will Smith plays unemployed Chris Gardner, who finds himself and his 5-year old son homeless after a series of bad breaks. He lands an unpaid internship at a brokerage firm and works tirelessly to change his circumstances. Throughout the movie, the character faces a number of constant setbacks, but he decides to steamroll his obstacles as they come, rather than wallow in how unfair life can be.

Sales professionals are adept at rolling with the punches and dealing with unpredictable moments – whether with customers or industry changes. But that doesn’t mean they can (or will) steamroll every obstacle they face. If at first you don’t succeed, try again seems to be one of the most repeated mantras. In my book, Think Big, Act Bigger, I talk about steamrolling obstacles that will come at you – and they will. We’ve all overcome obstacles to get to where we are but what takes us to the next level is putting those obstacles front and center, or addressing the elephant in the room. Ignorance is not bliss. Face the obstacles, overcome them and persevere – just like Chris Gardner did.

Adapt, Change or Die – Death of a Salesman

We’re all familiar with Willy Loman – a down on his luck salesman who grows bitter and resentful about the world around him. Loman’s inability to change proves to be his undoing. He never listened and never changed.

In any part of life, you must adapt, change or die. If you refuse to change, you will lose your business, your customers and even a few friends. The sales industry has changed; the customer service industry has changed. With social media opening new avenues to reach customers and get new leads, staying in the past isn’t an option. You have to adapt in order to respond to change otherwise, you’re won’t have a business to call your own. Basically, don’t be like Willy!

“It ain’t about how hard you hit…” – Rocky

If anyone knows how to get up after being knocked down it’s Rocky Balboa. In the 2008 film, Rocky tries to impart a lesson to his son – life will knock you down and throw punches. It’s not about how hard life hits you, but how you take the hits, get up and move forward.

It’s the same in sales – and in business. How many times have you tried to sell something to a customer and have been shut down right on the spot? It hurts, but as a sales professional, you have to work around that. You’ll even face hostile customers from time to time and often feel like the stakes keep getting higher and higher. If you’re to be a successful sales person, you must learn how to bob and weave the constant challenges being hurled at you and move forward. You must constantly be learning and adjusting your approach as the end goal will remain the same: close more deals, improve customer satisfaction and meet the allotted quotas.

“Helen, we’re both in sales. Let me tell you why I SUCK as a salesman.” – Tommy Boy

In this classic scene from the 1995 film, Chris Farley’s character “Tommy” convinces their waitress to serve them chicken wings. Seems innocuous enough, but their policy is ‘no wings after hours.’ By talking to the waitress in a language she understands, Tommy manages to have her bring out some chicken wings and earns praise from David Spade’s “Richard” for his ability to read people, get inside their heads and tell them what they want (and/or need) to hear.

In today’s sales environment in order to succeed you must dig a little deeper into your customers’ wants and needs. You need to get inside their heads and resort to using methods like big data and predictive analytics to better help target and upsell customers at the moment of purchase. Analytics can also help sales pros look at all the different variables that can help generate the desired engagement from customers – newsletters, clicks on a promotion or any other type of engagement. Use every possible tool at your disposal to find out what your customers wants and get that deal done!

“Coffee is for closers” – Glengarry Glen Ross

The ‘granddaddy’ of all sales films delivers one of the most classic, yet unconventional and at times inappropriate, sales speeches of all time by Alec Baldwin. The film deals with the constant pressure of “always be closing” and the salesmens’ complaints about potential customers and leads they’ve been getting from the sales company.

While the film hints at salespeople having to lose their souls and doing anything to ‘always be closing,’ real life isn’t as dire. While the goal is to close deals, the tactics are a bit more…humane. The movie does show a concept that any sales professional can learn from – AIDA, which stands for Attention, Interest, Decision and Action. If you’re to be successful, you must capture your prospects’ attention, keep their interest, convince them they desire what you’re offering and lead your prospect to take action – whether it’s buying, sharing, following or trying something.

There are plenty of other movies that would get a notable mention – Any Given Sunday, Boiler Room, Jerry Maguire, Wall Street and Trading Places, to name a few. Whatever your motivation is, the goal remains the same: close the deal. How you close the deal is entirely up to you, but if you want to achieve a modicum of success in the ever-changing sales industry, you must stay on top of the latest trends and tools in order to reach your customers. The time invested in doing the legwork will pay off in the end when you’ve closed on a bunch of sales leads and surpass your quota.

What is your favorite sales film?

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