Get your popcorn and buckle up. Frank and Ian are going back to the movies! This time, we talk about the five movies that had the biggest impacts on our sales careers.
In this episode:
- Likable people tend to win in sales
- How to “act as if”
- Why you won’t get a second chance when it comes to trust
- There are those who sell and those who make excuses
- Lead with the most contentious point in any meeting
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Our Top 5 Favorite “Sales Movies”
We are back talking about movies. This time, it won’t be The Godfather. In this episode, we choose five of our favorites all-time movies that are centered around the occupation of sales. No, we do not choose Death of a Salesman, which is a crappy movie. We choose five of our favorites which are anti-hero types of movies. Hope you liked some of the ones as much as we did. If you are new, please hit subscribe and if you are a longtime reader, it would be cool if you went and gave us a five-star review.
Frankie, how’s it going?
I’m good. How are you?
I’m doing fantastic.
How’s Abe Froman?
The Sausage King of Chicago.
For our loyal readers out there, Ian and I go back and forth on different ‘80s t-shirts. In the last episode, I was in Evel Knievel. In this episode, Ian is in the Abe Froman shirt. It’s classic.
We are talking about our favorite sales movies. Ferris Bueller could be on this list. He is one of the all-time cinematic salespeople in the history of cinema. It’s pretty fantastic.We live in a capitalistic society. Everything has to do with sales. Click To Tweet
We are going to talk about five other movies.
We could do an entire series on these. We’ve already done The Godfather. It is not going to make our list but it could make any genre of business movies for Frank and me. In the same vein, we’re going to go through five movies that we chose that are either quotable, had a scene or multiple scenes that have made a big impact on how we think about business. Movies influenced me about as much as books do. I’ve certainly taken bits and pieces of a lot of movies. Both Frank and I started our careers in sales. I started a little more directly in sales than Frank but he was in it in no time after being a construction.
When you’re out selling and commissioned, you try to pull bits and pieces from anything you can because it’s a complicated, convoluted, no one size fits all process and you have to tailor it all the time. Sales is like art. Everyone does it a little bit differently. Everyone has a different approach. You can be an introvert, extrovert and do it you can. You can be loud and obnoxious. You can be quiet and do it. There are a lot of common themes in it but I’ve never found one size fits all with anything related to sales.
What I hated about sales is you’re constantly in a quota. You had some metrics you’re chasing and it wasn’t iterative. You had to start fresh every month, year or quarter. It’s tiring but the thing that’s incredible about sales is for the first time in my life, when I mastered sales, I felt as if I had a real voice. I felt like when I went in somewhere, I wasn’t going to get screwed. I felt like I could argue and protect myself. I fell into sales in a way that as a young kid, I realized that it made me different and special but as a professional and someone who has real skills, I thought it made me unique. I embraced it and the reason I bring it up is this, I think sales permeates everything.
Everything in my life has to do with sales. When I see something, for me, what that is, is there’s always something that has to do with sales in my life no matter where it is. If it’s Movies, books, relationships or the pamphlets you read. I’ve got this cool thing in the mail from the University of Florida. They didn’t forget to put in there, “You come back and go to grad school,” which is their way of saying, “Come spend more money in sales.” We live in a capitalistic society. Everything has to do with sales.
I relate to something you said there where you feel a little more powerful in the organization. I was 22 and I was a commissioned salesperson. Within months, I was on conference calls with people four and five levels up the chain for me at GE because I was the point of contact on a million-dollar deal that was high margin and we were trying to win it. There were approvals needed from senior executives, people knew my name quickly. The power aspect you bring up, even though I wasn’t a highly paid kid, right out of the gate when I was starting, I owned the relationship with the CFO of a steel mill. That new guy liked me. I took him to some games.
I remember thinking, “I have some legitimate voice here. They’re listening.” I remember this guy on the call saying, “It matters what a bunch of people are weighing in on how to price it.” I remember the highest-ranking guy in the call said, “It doesn’t matter what you all think. What do you think you can sell? What do you think they’re willing to pay?” I remember thinking, “I have a real voice in how this proposal is going to get made.” That resonates with me when you say that there’s some power that comes with being in sales.In every single business, there’s a customer, and that customer needs to be sold something. Click To Tweet
What you’re talking about with big organizations. If you’re not at least some a manager, the only time anybody ever pulls you aside and asks you a question in almost every big company is in sales. Even if you’re the best at building something in the business, they’re not going to come to you. They’re going to go to your production manager. If you’re the one physically in the meeting with the people and you’re doing the sales, that is a transferable skill that even the CEO wants to hear about. They want to hear directly from you unvarnished with no other BS or crap coming in. They don’t want anybody else to varnish your opinion, which is neat.
In a small company, an owner is talking to their sales force by the minute. It’s all day. Your whole lifeblood, you’re worried about paying off debt, “How do I make my cashflow work?” Everything your salesforce says to you is gold. You need that information and you feel reliant on your salesforce.
The other thing I was about to say with this, the second part was, every business involves a sale. Every business has a customer. In every single business, there’s a customer and that customer needs to be sold something. If your product is so good, it doesn’t be sold at all like the iPhone, there are no salespeople. There have been competent people making $14 an hour because the product is good. In most instances, there is a salesperson or somebody. One of the things that we have in our mission statement as a business, we have core values and stuff like this. One of the things that we have written and posted on our board is we always sell all the time. We’re selling the vision of the company and selling to future employees or customers.
As an example, I had some food catered for the big weekend we had. I went to pick up my food. I walked into the woman working there and raved about the woman who ordered it. She goes, “I was so impressed by her. Can you help me sell my house?” That’s indirect sales. The reason why Ian and I can see sales so many things that may be normal people don’t see is part of our everyday life and our being is to be in sales.
The first movie that we’re going to talk about on this list, personally, was the inspiration for wanting to be in sales. It’s one of our favorite actors of all time. It’s Tommy Boy with Chris Farley. This movie came out in 1995. I was in the second semester, freshman year, summertime. I remember watching this. Tommy Boy is a story about a small business in Ohio that loses its owner to a heart attack. The whole company is now reliant on a bumbling fool of a son who has to go out on the road and sell these new brake pads to be able to pay off a big loan to a bank.
It’s a comedy. It’s Chris Farley. He’s a physical actor. He’s hilarious. David Spade is in it as well but it’s a business movie. It is about a small business trying to survive. For me, one of the things that I love about it is the hero’s journey is prevalent in this movie where you’ve got this dope who takes for granted that his dad gives them everything. It takes him 7 or 8 years to graduate college. He has to go out on the road and find himself as a salesperson.
I remembered watching that and putting myself in his shoes of never having sold. What would that be like where there are hundreds of workers in a factory whose livelihood depends on my ability to convince this person across the desk to say yes? For me, that was an exciting movie and premise. At the time, I was going from my Engineering degree, but that movie which I’ve watched hundreds of times is one of the most quotable movies of all time. It made me want to be Tommy Boy. I wanted to be on the road. I wanted a company to rely on me to sell to be that person that you could trust to go out on the road and keep people busy.
I have a different relationship with this movie than you. It’s funny because we are going through this and there’s a couple of movies that I love that you either not seeing or maybe seen once. Tommy Boy for me is one of those movies that I’ve seen one time. I know that it’s larger than life. It’s like the Adam Sandler movies in the ‘90s, Billy Madison. They permeate pop culture. Chris Farley’s done that skit Fat Guy in a Little Coat. I’ve said that a bunch of times in my life. We did the whole podcast with Jeff Paxson. The place in life where the oddball or the goofball can sometimes be the most powerful is in the role of a salesman because sales have everything to do with likability.
What I’m guessing is, you were drawn to is this magnetic character and he was wrong with almost everything that came out of his mouth but he delivered it with flair and panache. He was memorable. He made people feel good or elicited something in them. Because of that, he became a good salesman. He wasn’t the leader that his dad was. He was still a goofball in a bunch of ways but he was a successful salesman. Successful salespeople are three things. They add value, are likable and relatable. The people in my business who are the best salespeople I’ve ever seen get people to like and relate to them. It’s the reason why when you’re in a sales environment and a lot of instances, you don’t stare at someone or look down at them. You might sit. You welcome someone in. You want to be encouraging. If your personality can’t do it the way Chris Farley can, you have to use skills like that.
Tommy’s superpower in this movie is likability. They establish that early. They show him at college. He’s got all these friends and everyone loves them. He comes back to the factory and everyone knows him in the factory. Everyone that’s making the brake pads love Tommy. They’ve known him forever. His counterpart in the movie is David Spade, who’s the nerdy, technical accounting, being the accountant that knows everything about the specs of these brake pads but he has no personality and no one likes him. He’s a negative, nerdy kid.Successful salespeople are three things. They add value, are likable, and relatable. Click To Tweet
It’s also a story of a relationship between those two where there’s a little bit of resentment from David Spade throughout the movie because he’s a hard worker, serious and takes his job to the utmost seriousness and Tommy doesn’t but there’s also the resentment that everyone likes Tommy and he doesn’t have a lot of friends. It’s neat to watch the two of them fail together. On a few sales calls, David Spades’ character is all about features and getting into specs. Multiple customers say, “I don’t like you. You’re a smug and unhappy little man. What you’re saying makes sense but I’m not buying from you.”
Tommy will screw it up by getting overly excited and there are a whole bunch of scenes where every time a customer says no, Chris Farley can’t wait to get out of the room. I’d be like, “Okay then. Thank you.” He’d be out of the room before they can even do anything which is hilarious because that’s what new salespeople do. They hear no and they panic. They don’t know how to ask a question. They run. You flee and want to get out of there. He tries to parrot what his dad said. His dad was an incredible salesperson. His dad has this great line where he says, “You can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking your head up a bull’s ass but I’d rather take the butcher’s word for it.” Tommy screws it up by saying, “You can get a good look at a butcher’s ass by sticking your head up there.” The customer says, “I’m not following you here.” It’s fantastic.
We use that clip too in some of our stuff.
They suck for 2/3 of the movie. The whole movie changes when a waitress tells Tommy he can’t have wings. Tommy is 300 pounds and wants wings. He starts asking open-ended questions of the waitress, “We’re both in sales. Let me tell you why I suck at sales.” Here’s where we got to power through it. He goes through this whole long convoluted, feel bad for me story and at the end, she’s like, “You’re pathetic. I’m going to go see if I can get him to turn the fryer on.” David Spade looks up, “What happened? You convinced her after she said no to you three times.”
He shows Tommy that this is what makes you who you are. He’s like, “You have that thing your dad had. You can connect with people.” The whole rest of the movie is about Tommy finding his footing and sales. He’s the hero in the end because he sells 500,000 brake pads, keeps the factory open and pays off the loan. For me, I loved the movie, because I loved Chris Farley but it made me want to switch from being an engineer and sitting in an office to being the guy that everyone relied on to close business.
I’ve trained a lot of salespeople in my day and the hardest thing is channeling your special gift, talent and showing people that you’re likable, fun and putting into a work environment. Most of the people that work here are in jeans, untuck polo shirts and sneakers because you’re going into houses and they’re not always that incredible. When I was at NVR, I remember there was a young woman who we were training and she was fresh at JMU. We had a happy hour as a company. She was fun and laughing. The way I looked at her, I was like, “We need Happy Hour Kara. Happy Hour Kara needs to be in the model. Happy Hour Kara is going to be someone who’s going to sell a lot of houses.” Once she was able to embrace that she got it. She was never Tommy Boy but the thing is you have got to embrace those special gifts and likability is a huge part of it.
He’s a caricature in the movie and it makes it funny. That’s not exactly how everyone sells but I’ve known few salespeople that weren’t likable in their way. If you can’t be likable, you can’t win in sales, all technical and all rational. People buy emotionally and subjectively. They buy from people they trust and like. If you can’t find a way to build rapport with someone in your own way, you’re not going to do it the way Tommy does like a buffoon but if you can’t find a way to get people to like you, you won’t make it in sales.
The Boiler Room
We’re going to transition into The Boiler Room, which is a completely different type of sales. There’s no buffoonery. It’s not the likable stuff that you saw with Tommy Boy instead, it’s acting like sharks trying to eat you. For those of you that haven’t seen it, it’s a ‘90s movie with a young Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi in it. It’s a bunch of dudes that are out on Staten Island or Long Island. They’re not at in Wall Street. They want you to think they’re in Wall Street and they act like they are Bear Stearns or Goldman Sachs.
They have a shyster type of a business model. It’s a chop shop. It’s not a moral compass but what the movie is incredible at is showing you in an eat or be eaten type of a world, how you need to act, how you need to assume a sale and certain ways you act. The scene that we’ll get to that both of us love is the scene where Ben Affleck is in there. There is a lot of other good stuff. Ben Affleck comes in and he’s the sales trainer on steroids that’s in your face. That’s an intro to the movie. Where do you want to go that, Ian?
I saw this movie when it came out in 2000. This movie is heavily influenced by two other movies that are on our list, by Wall Street, which came out in the ‘80s and by Glengarry Glen Ross. There are different scenes where you can see where they riff off. You take themes away, whereas in Tommy Boy was the role of likability. Boiler Room was the role of it’s okay to want to strive for money. That’s what I took away from it. Take all of the business off. They have an illegal business. They’re hyping, pumping and dumping penny stocks but at the core of it is an ethos and sales of it’s okay to want to make as much as you want.
Sales draw a certain person. It draws a person who’s a little more risk-tolerant than the average person and it draws in typically a person who doesn’t want a cap on their effort. Boiler Room is all about pushing as much as you possibly can to make as much money as you possibly can and there’s nothing wrong with wanting more money and striving for more. To me, it’s a testosterone ego-driven movie about going out in there and getting yours and in a funny way the way they do it. What I took away from it is the importance of aggressiveness in business and willingness to make more calls, be more aggressive, not letting a customer off the phone and not accepting it.
From what Frank said, there are three classic scenes with Ben Affleck where he’s training salespeople. I have used so many of his quotes over and over again in leading and talking to salespeople. They’re a hyped-up way of saying things that Dale Carnegie and Zig Ziglar said years ago. A lot of the things that are used there, they took from other things and Ben Affleck saying it in a funnier way. Some of the quotes we can get through some of it. Ben Affleck’s quotes are awesome in this movie.
“Ian, if I threw you a life preserver, would you grab it?” “Yes, buy 100 shares.”
He goes into one of his speeches, “People are going to tell you, you’re making too much money and that’s not good. If anybody who tells you money is the root of all evil, doesn’t fucking have any. They said money can’t buy happiness, look at the smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby.” He’s out there. He’s in the face. He throws his keys to his Ferrari across the desk and says, “This is real. If you put in the work here, you’re going to make more money than you have any idea what to do with.” To an extent, you can find jobs like this. You can find sales roles that reward hard work, closers and the reason why they reward so well, someone who’s good at that job is making the company money every time they make themselves money whereas in someone may be in a desk job or in a salary job, is not scalable to the business.
There are some tasks you have to complete but a salesperson who has 3X better than the other salesperson next to them is making 3X more for the company. It stands to reason that they would make a lot more than the person sitting next to them. In sales, the discrepancy from the lowest-paid salesperson to the highest is always dramatic in a well-run company because they set up a commission plan that incense that person. They can go close as humanly possible.Whether you think you’re a salesperson or not, if you’re asking someone for something, someone wins. It is a zero-sum game. Click To Tweet
I want to get into pivoting off what you said and get into something. What they do on the sales floor is an alpha culture. This is an alpha company if you watch the movie. Some salesforce runs that way but many aren’t. What I thought was interesting is most of the humor and accolades are given around things that are derogatory in many ways. It’s gym locker room-esque but there’s something hysterical they say in there. “You produce more wood than Ron and Jeremy. Instead of yelling, ‘Reco,’ you should yell, ‘Timber,’” which is a hysterical line.
Whenever somebody says, “Reco,” there’s going to be a deal. People are going to run across the desks and get on the phone as soon as humanly possible to get a whale on the other end. What’s neat about this movie, in my sales team, we don’t do unethical shit like pitch businesses that they’re illegal but we use some of the terms. We’re not Ben Affleck but we use reco, rip, whale and wood. Those are four terms that are directly out of this movie that all have meanings. A reco is you got somebody on the line who’s ready to go. A rip is your commission. A whale is someone who’s a big deal, either the deals or the person who’s buying it is a whale. “We need to take care of this person Frankie. He’s a whale.” These are little terminologies that became part of the pop culture that we use. Wood is crap. It’s a dog do. It’s a tree that is going to fall over. What’s funny is, they’re transferable there. There are things you can take from this. In our business, we use some of the same terms.
There’s a line in there that I’ve used in every sales class I’ve ever taught which is, “There is no such thing as a no sales call. A sale is made in every call you make either you sell to client or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way, a sale is made.” Whether you think you’re a salesperson or not, if you’re asking someone for something, someone wins. It is a zero-sum game. It’s a yes or no when that happens. Another big one that resonated with me is this line. This was 2000, so this is a year into my career and I had imposter syndrome at the time. I would go to sales meetings and everyone else around me was all in their 50s and I was 22. I would be like, “How did I get this job? Someone’s going to find out that I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about?” Technically, I didn’t understand a lot of the things I was being asked to do. There’s a line that Ben Affleck has all the time which is, “Act as if.”
“Fake it until you make it,” is another way to say it.
Those three words mattered to me. It was like, “Quit feeling sorry for yourself. A lot of these guys probably are faking certain things too. Puff your chest out and act like you belong in that sales meeting with the customer, in meetings with executives and to be able to pitch why you should price it at a lower margin to go get the deal.” I act as if it resonated with me. I needed a movie like this because I had confidence issues when I started. I was right out of college and never sold before. I needed a movie like this to come along and slap me in the face and say, “It doesn’t matter how old you are. Get out there and act like you belong. Go take what is yours.” It helped bolster my confidence. I watched it so many times on DVD. I went out and bought it and I would watch it over and over to give myself confidence.
It’s funny because when this movie came out, this was always in friends of ours as DVD players. It was on the countertop and you would see it because most of us were in sales during a stretch of time. This was a place we could go to for a friendly room reminder of how tough sales can be, how tough you had to be and what you had to deal with it. Tommy Boy stumbles ass-backward into using his skill and selling because of it. What I learned in this movie that is worthy of talking about is smart people who are crafty and quick on their feet can be incredible in sales. One of the main characters in this movie is a guy named Seth, Giovanni Ribisi and he runs illegal bookmaking. He’s basically a bookie. He’s playing cards and running a casino out of his house.
I said bookie but he’s a casino owner. If you’re going to run a casino, you need to be good with Math and you need to be able to think because people can steal from you or play all kinds of hustles. This guy is smart and understands this. He meets the whole crew because they’re junkies for action and they’re in his casino. What happens is, is he decides to take his smarts, intelligence and skill in being fast on his feet and pivots into stocks. He’s disappointed at the end of the movie when he realizes this is all a Ponzi scheme. What he is great at and what you see are two things. He comes in with his smarts and work his ass off. He works hard. He gets through things faster but he immerses himself in it while everybody else is being buffaloed along. He isn’t. He’s reading prospectuses and doing research.
My favorite scene to show you how all in he is. He’s sitting at home on an idle Saturday. He’s reading perspectives and this lazy ass salesman calls him up and tries to pitch him on his newspaper. It wasn’t the New York Times or The Post. It was a crappy paper and a guy’s trying to get him to buy it. He punches him in the face of the phone and he’s like, “That’s not a sales call.” He walked him through how to fundamentally make a sales call and it was awesome. The other person on the phone was excited and making good points.
What was hysterical he goes, “Are you going to buy it?” He goes, “No. I’ve got The Times,” and he hangs up on him, which was awesome. You can see how quickly, even as a beginner, because he fully embraced it, he turned into something awesome. I get a lot of phone calls about real estate. My company does outbound dial. We follow the rules but we do this all the time. Whenever I get a phone call that I don’t recognize the number, I yell at people. Usually, if it’s someone overseas, they immediately hang up and the call goes away. I’m sitting at dinner one night with my two-year-old and the phone rings. It’s one of these people and they don’t hang up. I go, “I’ll let you speak to one of my consultants.” I put him on speakerphone and Max started talking to this person. There’s this whole sales scene that he goes, “I eat cake,” and the lady starts asking questions about a house. He goes, “I have grapes.” He goes back and forth.
That’s amazing and she just kept going?
She kept going and said something else about, “I’m not wearing a shirt.” She said something to him and he goes, “Red button,” and hit the red button and hung up on her. She called back. I hand the phone to Max again and he goes, “I still eat grapes.” She’s talking to me and I’m like, “Max, red button.” She calls back a third time and I’m like, “Hello.” She’s like, “Don’t hang up on me. I need to ask you a question.”
I like the persistence.
No doubt but it reminds me of that scene in Boiler Room. It was some far side sketch of how to do a sales call.
I’m twisted on this thing when someone solicits or comes to my door and pitching something. I’m a little like Seth in that movie. I’ve taught sales so much that I like to hear what they have to say. My favorite story along this line is about these two teenage Mormon girls who came to my door. You can imagine how bad this was going to go for them. They get into their story about the Book of Mormon. I’m listening and I start asking questions. Instead of rudely saying, “Go away,” I’m like, “Tell me more about this. When did this religion start?” They started telling me about the gold tablets that were found in this guy’s backyard and Boston. I’m like, “This started with gold tablets?” They’re like, “We’ve got a chance with this guy here.” I asked questions for 45 minutes about the Mormon religion. I’m fascinated by how moronic all of this is. No offense to our Mormon readers.
They give me a Book of Mormon. I get the Book of Mormon and they say they’re going to come back and talk. I’m fascinated by this. I had them believe and I was bought in. This is the best part of the story. This is at a time where I was working eighteen-hour days at NVR and these two girls must have come back a dozen times. Jenny got stuck talking to him every time. She was so mad at me. Until finally one time Jenny was like, “My husband was messing with you. He has zero interest in religion of any kind, let alone yours. You got to quit coming over.” Every time she would text me and be like, “Mormon girls are here again today. Why did you do that?” “It was hilarious. I wanted to hear their pitch. It was too good.”
Number three on our list is Wall Street. There is no sales podcast without the movie Wall Street. A fascinating thing about Wall Street to me, Oliver Stone made this movie. He is an anti-capitalist guy. He made this movie to try to be a stinging critique on Wall Street and the go-go culture of the ‘80s. This is a time when there were lots of corporate raiders that would get lots of cheap money with junk bonds. They would go out and buy companies. Oliver Stone created this whole world to be this critique on Wall Street.
What ended up happening was Gordon Gekko, who’s supposed to be the villain of the movie became this anti-hero where people resonated with him. They liked what he was in the movie because he’s so brash and so out there. It’s such an interesting character. It’s a character that’s hard to dislike if you’re in the business world. There are so many great quotes but Gordon Gekko is an investment banker that is ruthless. He’s a corporate raider. He’s in on buying up shares and booting out the executives.
The most famous speech that he gives in the movie is when he goes to an investor quarterly board meeting. He gets up and he’s talking about how many vice presidents are in this company, Teldar Paper. He goes, “There are 33 vice presidents in this company and I’ve done the Math on what you’re paid. You are losing $10 million a year. I’ve got to imagine that the majority of that is the paper moving back and forth from these worthless executives.” In his speech, he gets into the story of greed, where someone accuses him of being greedy.
He says, “Greed for lack of a better word, is good, right, works and clarifies. Greed cuts through and captures the essence of the spirit. Greed in all its forms for life, money, love and knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. Greed, mark my words, will save Teldar Paper but all that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.” Everyone goes nuts in the room. It’s a famous cinematic speech of The Greed is Good that is perfectly delivered by Michael Douglas in this movie. It’s fantastic.
Michael Douglas won an Academy Award for this role. It was an incredible movie. This is one of the first characters that, at least, I’m aware of where the anti-hero became the hero. If you think of things that came after this, The Sopranos was an anti-hero that became the hero, James Gandolfini’s role. Walter White in Breaking Bad was an anti-hero who people rallied around and got interested in. It spoke to this counterculture and it was meant to pour kerosene on a bad person.
Michael Lewis wrote a book called Liar’s Poker. It is about the same era and time. He wrote this book, basically telling you how not to get into Wall Street and what not to do. It’s like what Gordon Gekko was supposed to. He wrote this book years ago. He’s at multiple interviews. You can go back and find the subject on this. He goes, “Once you write something and put it out there, people are going to do with it whatever they want.” There’s something on the jacket cover. He’s like, “I was giving speeches at Ohio State and kids were asking me how do I get into Wall Street. The whole point is you don’t want to get into Wall Street.” There’s this weird thing that happens.
Oliver Stone has talked about how he wanted this to be the stinging critique that destroyed Wall Street. Instead, what happened was there is this whole bunch of kids who watched this movie in the ‘80s that all they want to do is get a degree and go to Wall Street because it looks so sexy and exciting. The people that are supposed to be villains are also driving around in Ferraris, Porsches and eating in expensive restaurants and fine art.
It’s almost an expo saying what life looks like. People are like, “It doesn’t look so bad.” It’s this other cultural phenomenon. When the good movie Point Break came out with Keanu Reeves in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s was when surfing and sky diving got popular. The whole movie is about surfing. There’s this incredible scene about skydiving. It’s like one of these things that becomes cultural. Wall Street came out in 1984 or 1985.
I’m 9 or 10 years old. I remember seeing it, being intimidated by it and thinking I’m never going to be someone who controls the money, who’s in those meetings or rooms. What Ian and I are talking about the nature of this podcast is that it’s untrue. You can get into those rooms. It comes down to hard work, smarts, angling yourself right and getting into the right position. Ian and I both found that through sales or find leveraging our careers in ways.
One of the things that he says in this movie that was incredible, there are two lines I’m going to say here. The first one is this, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information. When I couldn’t corral things that I was a real pro at my job, I didn’t know how to connect the dots.” Ian and I were talking about a deal that we’re going to do. It’s a multimillion-dollar deal. It’s yet another multimillion-dollar deal. We did a whole podcast on the $10 million deal we did.
Here comes another one. When I was a kid, I would have thought that was never possible or attainable. Gekko was saying this. Here’s the line, “I made $800,000 on my real estate deal. At the time, I thought it was all the money in the world. Now, it’s just another day.” That’s what is part of this. If you learn sales and figure out sales, it can give you a leg into something else if you want it to be. That can then pivot into being someone who gets pretty far up in business, can connect dots through information, do bigger deals and you would have thought you were capable of doing. For me, that was the cool thing about Gekko. Bud Fox wanted to skip all the steps. That’s why he got in trouble. That was one of the cool things about that movie to me.A salesman has a little larceny in their heart, but they aren’t crooks. You know that you are a shark, and you must eat by closing. Click To Tweet
There are two things that Gekko says and there’s one that I quote all the time, which is, “Money never sleeps.” I love that. That’s fantastic. To anyone who’s talking about work-life balance, I say that to them and laugh. They can do whatever they want. I love the line that you said too of, “The older you get, the more experienced you get.” Things that you used to think were an ungodly sum of money, now you’re a little bit numb to it.
I texted Frank, “Just closed on my Collision Center. It’s a nice little deposit hit.” I’m there with my Yorkie, signed documents for fifteen minutes. Two days later, $4 million transfers to an LLC which I now have to distribute to a bunch of investors. I remember even when I bought that years ago, how nervous I was with that sum of money and now it’s like, “The wire hit. I’ve got practice,” and that was it. Add a few more zeros and I’d have been crapping my pants. As you move along, you start to get numb to some of the economics and business, especially if you’re doing well.
Frank and I are looking at a deal but we don’t do ten deals a month. If we’re going to get our friends involved and people that we trust and ask them to put money in, we’re going to pick the right ones. We’re careful about it. Gordon Gekko has a fantastic line in the movie where he says, “I look at 100 deals every day and I pick one.” I love that. You don’t have to do every deal that comes across your desk.
This deal, I’ve not read it yet, I haven’t gone through it. I trust it’s going to be pretty good but if I don’t like it, I can tell Frank, “I’m going to pass on this one Frankie.” That’s okay. It doesn’t mean he won’t call me on the next one. It means this one might not be for me. Frank says no to deals all the time. Being able to say no to the ones that don’t have a high percentage chance is what makes people able to keep the money that they go and build when they get wealth.
The other thing about it too and is worth saying. In my business, people pay for me to be a coach, show them how to do things and how to do business. The biggest struggle everyone has is getting leads. In the beginning, when you don’t know how to generate a lead, you’re desperate. I’m not desperate for deals because deals fall out of the sky. No, they don’t. I got seventeen people who work here who all go and get deals and they bring them. I know when another deal is around the corner but I didn’t used to feel that way. I used to feel like I had to do shady stuff, skip things or, “I have to take this deal that’s in a geographic area that I don’t want to be in.” That’s the only way to do it. Bud Fox in this movie doesn’t build the infrastructure. He’s trying to skip several steps. Because he’s skipping several steps, he takes a lot of swings. He hits a few but he misses a bunch.
When you skip steps, it’s important to say this, you have a lot of lead flow, spend a lot of money on it and build an organization. How much do you spend for marketing a month for leads?
For $60,000, you have seventeen salespeople and they’re not cheap. You’re talking about well North of six figures to get those leads. Bud Fox was trying to do it with none of that expense and the only way to do that is by breaking the law. In the movie, he breaks the law. His dad is an upstanding guy that works in his company. He used information. It’s insider trading. At the end of the day, he has to go to jail and so does Gordon. That’s the moral lesson of this movie but that there are no shortcuts to making this money. You have to grind and build your way up to those paydays.
The positive of this movie is it shows you that it’s possible. As a ten-year-old versus a 40-something-year-old watching the movie, I feel different about it because it was an outsider’s world and it’s a world that I now feel like I’m a part of in some way. You don’t get there overnight. It takes steps. You are asking the question about leads. My number one expense is interest because I own a bunch of properties, so I have a lot of interest.
My number two expense is employees and my number three is marketing. Most of the people who get a lot of money are in sales. That’s the only way to do it. In Wall Street, it’s a different scenario but you have to invest the time. I want to say, Ian, before we move on to the last two movies, because Glengarry Glen Ross doesn’t have his. Boiler Room and Wall Street both. There are a lot of cool lessons but there’s also a moral hazard with both of them. This is Hollywood. They don’t care about the business or the ethics. They care about selling tickets. They go into these negative stories. It’s good theater that you’ll show up. You’ll buy a ticket and popcorn. That’s their goal.
What I want to talk about quickly with both of these two is there are silver linings in both movies but there’s a lot of bad. That’s the cool thing about being in real business and not being in Hollywood business. You get to make those choices. If you realize this is a slog and utilize some of the skills that we talked about over again on this show and we talked about now. Tommy Boy got into it, honest and he used this skill that will serve you. Our friend Jeff Paxson who we talked about in one of our last podcasts, he did it honest and by being personable. You can do it honest. It’s a slower process. It doesn’t sell tickets in Hollywood but it’s worth talking about.
In Wall Street, the moral compass in the movie is Bud’s Dad. A blue-collar guy worked at the airline his whole life. He doesn’t care about making a lot of money. He has so many good quotes. He talks about, “The thing with money as it makes you do things you don’t want to do. Life comes down to a few moments. This is one of them. I don’t go to bed with horrors and I don’t wake up with them. That’s how I live with myself. What about you, Bud?” Bud has to make a choice of sacrificing his mentor, Gordon and himself and saving people in a company and doing what’s right.
Other than the fun parts of Gordon’s character, the thing that always sticks with me in this movie is the scene where the FBI shows up and walks Bud out in handcuffs in front of all of his teammates and he’s crying. He’s got the handcuffs on. They walk them out and it’s a quiet scene on purpose. Oliver Stone does that on purpose to hammer home how horrible that would be. What I’ve always thought about with that scene is, when you have an integrity breach, do something against the law or cut corners, you almost never get nailed right away. It normally comes up months or years down the road. If you sign for our customer, initial some things, you skip some steps.
Whenever I caught someone who did something against company policy that could get you fired, it was almost never the day after. It was months down the road and it will come out in the wash because it snowballed. I’m in your office saying, “Look at what I found. Here’s a box. Pack your stuff up. You got to go.” I never put handcuffs on anyone but I’ve had a lot of people break down and start crying, begging for the job and saying they made a mistake, “Give me one more chance.” There is no one more chance. Once you’ve done that, I can never trust you again and we have to separate. That, for Wall Street and me is by far my most powerful scene and one that all the jamming, “Let’s go sell, close and get information,” is great but that scene is a great reminder of, “But you better do it the right way.”
There was a show on CNBC. It was called American Greed. It’s got one of those guys that’s in those ‘80s mysteries shows with the deep voice when he talks about stuff. When I had more time on my hands, I didn’t have kids and wasn’t busy with work, I’d be watching CNBC a lot. American Greed would come on and I would start to watch it. I started to think about shortcuts and I stopped watching the show because everybody who ends up on American Greed took shortcuts. What I learned in watching that show is I don’t need to surround myself with even the slightest idea of that. That seems an easier way to go. You don’t even want to seed your brain with, “These are ways that I could mail it in or shortcuts I could take,” because you’re going to end up Bud Fox. You’re going to get dragged out of the office at some point.
There are no shortcuts.
You can’t do it. The only shortcut is a decade or two of grinding. That’s it.
Glengarry Glen Ross
Number four is Glengarry Glen Ross which I will go out there and say if you are thinking about going and seeing this movie I would pass. It’s a crappy movie. Coffee is for Closers is great. Before you go see the movie, go to YouTube, Alec Baldwin Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s a twelve-minute scene and that’s all you need to see from the movie.
I was not smart enough to do that. I watched it when I was in Detroit a day early for our fantasy draft because I couldn’t look at an itinerary properly. It was terrible but these twelve minutes are insane. This hangs in our kitchen at the office. It’s the poster it says, “Coffee’s for closers. Alec Baldwin.”
It is one of my favorite scenes of any movie. When you watch it, if you have any emotional intelligence at all, you know that you’re not going to emulate Alec Baldwin as a sales manager. He’s this crazy slicked-back hair guy in a suit who comes in and ravages a group of salespeople in a sales meeting about how bad they suck and how they go. I did take some powerful stuff away from this because it’s another movie that I saw when I started in sales. At the time, I wasn’t selling and I was feeling bad for myself. It’s like, “Before I took this, all the other Chicago sales rep snatched up all the good accounts. They left me with crumbs.” I would find myself complaining about these things, “Every time I get a good deal, they put the crappy engineer on it and I’d lose the customer.” I was always feeling bad for myself.
This scene is so good because there is some truth to it that if you’re in the game, you either sell or you don’t. People aren’t going to talk to you the way Alec Baldwin did because of lawsuits but they’re going to think about you the way Alec Baldwin thinks about salespeople who can’t sell which is, “They’re weak.” I watched that scene over again and it would make me laugh but it also would remind me that my managers thought the same way of people who couldn’t sell. That’s the truth. You either sell or you don’t if you’re being paid to do it.
One of the things I love about this movie is there’s a line and this is what he says, “First prize is a Cadillac. The second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize, you’re fired.” There’s a line in a Blues Traveler song that I love. It is from Run-Around. It’s like, “A game show contestant with a parting gift. I could not believe my eyes. First place is a trip to someone great and second place is like steak knives,” like in this example. That’s what sales is. Sales is either you’re a salesman, not a salesman or you’re going to go find a different job. I remember the go-go days of Ryan Homes.
In the last housing boom, they were like, “You’ve got to hire.” What’s funny is some of the people we hired are great and are still there. Some people have pivoted to different roles and some of the people are like school teachers like the least sales job in the world. You start to realize that, “We’re looking for warm bodies and we got the wrong people in here. If you find the right people in the sales culture, they’re typically money hungry. They want to grow, reward themselves through finance,” and that’s okay.
That’s what salespeople are but you want someone who says, “I didn’t get the Cadillac this month but I’m going to get it next month.” That’s what sales is all about. For Ian and me as career guys, we knew that sales were a temporary thing but I always wanted to win. Every contest I was up for, I wanted it or I was close to winning it. Those are the things that you chase in sales. It’s vanity because that distinguishes you. If you’re not at least in the conversation, you’re not getting promoted or nothing else is going to happen because that’s what you must do.
This scene hardened me. I was new and fresh-eyed. I thought I deserved a lot more than I did. I was entitled. It’s hard to watch because I’ve had people work for me like this. All of the sales guys who aren’t good spend the whole movie complaining that if they had better leads, they would be selling more. Let’s take Ryan Homes. As a great salesperson, you can put them in a crappy trailer with power lines and a train station in the back and they will find a way to get sales.
It doesn’t matter. If you put a gray one there, they will soon start selling and it will get better. They don’t complain and don’t find reasons why it didn’t happen. I know what happened to you, Frank. I know it happened to me in GE. I got a crappy account package and I was like, “F it. I’ve got to go.” They keep saying the leads are weak, so Alec Baldwin says, “The leads are weak. You’re weak. You drove a Hyundai to get here tonight. I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s who I am.” He’s in your face so much because he’s trying to shake them out of their victim mentality.A salesperson who has three times better sales than the other salesperson next to them is making three times more for the company. Click To Tweet
You can see them being victims. He has another line where he says, “You think this is abuse? You can’t take this. How can you take the abuse you get on a sit? If you can’t handle me, how are you going to handle a customer who’s saying no?” His last one that I love is, “Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you. Go home and play with your kids. If you want to work here, close.” That line resonates with me. I remember watching that and my eyes were big like saucers thinking like, “I’m not selling right now. I bet people are thinking about me like this.” The truth is they were. If I’d have gone another six months without selling people would have said, “Bad hire. Let’s find someone who can make us some money because we’re wasting it on this kid.”
In GE, you wouldn’t have been given six months. You would have been let go. What I hear when I hear that stuff is a lot of it’s dark. This is Hollywood. You can be a salesperson, have good morals and ethics. There’s a term that I like, “Having a little bit of larceny in your heart.” One of our sales managers used to say that. A salesman has a little larceny in our heart but they aren’t crooks. You know that you are a shark and you must eat by closing. We talked about honesty in past episodes that you’ve got to embrace. You must close.
If your company did have such amazing leads, why would they need to pay you? They wouldn’t need to pay you well. If you’re complaining about the leads then you should be also saying that your commission plan should be great. If you say you want amazing leads then you’re saying, “I don’t deserve to be paid much,” because any idiot could close a deal with an amazing lead. You’re paid to take weak leads and figure out how to get business for your company.
If you want an upward trajectory in your life and career, they’re going to find you, give you the crappy community in which I’ve been independent and you’re going to turn it into something. What’s going to happen is 6 to 12 months later, people are going to look and go, “That guy has got a candy shop. He’s got the easy stuff.” It isn’t easy but that’s how you get rewarded for grinding through.
I was going to kick it off and let you get into it. We both love the movie 8 Mile. It came out in the early 2000s. I was not an Eminem fan. I thought he was goofy. I didn’t like him. I thought he was an ass. I went and saw that movie and I was like, “That guy is incredibly talented.” For me, that’s when I became a huge Eminem fan. It’s autobiographical. He’s a white guy living in despair in Detroit. He’s in a lot of interracial stuff because he’s in the rap and where he grows up. It’s this incredible movie where he gets shit on over and over. What we’re going to focus on is the last scene. I’ll tee it up and I’ll let you knock it down because this is something that’s important to both of us. What happens in this scene is, if you haven’t seen it, there’s a rap battle.
Anything that could have negatively happened to this guy does. What he does is, this is Eminem’s character, shows up and he tells the entire audience all the bad things that have happened to him. One of his friends shot himself in the leg. He makes fun of one of his buddies. Someone slept with his girlfriend. There was nothing to be said about it because he led with that but then he pivots to, “Let me tell you who my competition is.” He tells you things in street cred. The guy’s name is Clarence. He went to a private school. Both his parents lived together and have a good relationship. In a street cred game, those are things that work against you. What he did was he talked about himself first and beat himself up. Because he’d already won some favor with the crowd and because he has credibility, he talks about his competitor and beats him up.
He turns to his competitor who’s supposed to rap against him and goes, “Tell these people something they don’t know about me.” What Ian and I both love about this is, that’s how you get ahead of stuff. You’re honest with yourself. You tell people, “This is what’s weak about us. These are our shortcomings. This is what I’m not good at. Our competition has these problems but these are the reasons you should choose us because we can overcome them.” It’s a way to get ahead in the sales call.
Before this rap battle, in the beginning of the movie, he panics and gets nervous. He’s worried about all the things they’re going to say about him. Before this rap battle, his buddy Chatter Bob says, “Are you worried about what they’re going to say?” He’s like, “What do you mean?” He’s like, “I shot myself. They’re screwing your girlfriend and they beat your ass.” He looked at them and he didn’t say anything. That’s the prelude to it. It reminds me of the first time I ever went to present in front of your group, Ryan Homes at an annual meeting. One of our branch managers was like, “What are you going to say?” At the time we sucked. Our customer service and processing times were terrible.
There was nothing positive to say. He was trying to give me a few nuggets of good things to say. I remember looking at him and like, “If I go up there and try to tell these people that we’re doing a good job, I might get dragged out of there and hung up on a tree outside the office like, ‘Are you out of your mind? They know we’re screwing up.’ What am I going to say? I’m going to go tell him how bad it is and I’m going to make it sound even worse than it is. I’m going to tell him where a damned disaster, a disgrace. We are embarrassed about what’s happening.” I’m surprised that they haven’t fired us yet. When I’m done hitting myself with the hammer, my hope is they’ll take the hammer out of my hand and say, “Enough. Quit hitting yourself. What’s next?” That’s what I did.
Whenever things weren’t going well in any sales call, I would take the most contentious point of the meeting and lead with it. I will come right out of the gate and say, “Let’s take this gorilla and put it right in the middle of the table. I always found that this gave me credibility. It took away all their prep because I knew you all were prepping to crush me with all this stuff.” Once I admit it all, it’s like, “Does anyone have anything to add? Was I fulsome enough in my critique of how bad we are?” People will be like, “That’s pretty wholesome. You’ve got it all.” To me, that approach for a decade has worked perfectly for me that I would lead with what wasn’t going well and finish with, “Tell me something I don’t already know and here’s what I’m going to do about it.”
What is important here is it’s not the circumstantial thing of getting in front of a crowd and telling them, “This is why we suck.” If you did that five years in a row, you wouldn’t be there. You tell them why you suck and control the narrative of the conversation. In year one, you probably don’t do it but in year two, you say, “This is what we’re doing about it.” As you can show an incremental gain, that’s how you get an audience to believe in you because it’s not only, “I’m self-aware and I’m good at making fun of myself,” because nobody gives a shit about you.
They all give a shit about themselves. As soon as you can show them, “We suck. I understand that but this is what we’re going to do and this is how your life will become better when I do it. Last year I got up here and made fun of myself. We’re still not where I want to be but we’re a lot better. Let me show you how and how we’ve done it.” The narrative starts to change. That’s why you go from a dude to do elbowing your way into the meeting to being someone who is invited and someone who runs the whole department because you get people to believe in you. “Let’s give this guy a little bit more of a chance. I’ve heard from the mortgage company for 30 years that they’re going to do this. They’ve never done shit. This guy’s the most honest I’ve ever heard. He’s put a real plan in place. He’s open to feedback.” That’s the stuff that starts to happen.
You can’t have that meeting or the rap battle twice. You have to show the progress the next time, so the next time you come in you say, “Last year we met here’s what I told you. I told you these are ten things we’re going to focus on. Let’s systematically go through all ten. I’m going to show you every one of them a green arrow going up that we’ve improved in all ten areas. Are we where we want to be? Not exactly. We still got a lot of work. Here are ten things I’m working on. When I’m in front of you again next year, you’re going to see more green arrows. That’s a promise.” You have to be able to show some progress. Out of the gate, when you know you’re going to have a contentious meeting with a customer do not bury it in a bunch of other bullet points. Deal with it. Don’t even put anything else on the agenda until you have fully covered what you know is a contentious issue with your customer.
This is a skill that you can always utilize to your advantage. You can’t use this a lot but if you are ahead of someone giving you a critique and you say, “I screwed up. These are things I screwed up. This is how I screwed it up. I’ve processed it. I know I screwed it up. This is how I won’t screw up again.” You come to me as your manager and say, “I know I screwed this up. Let me talk about it,” versus me finding it and coming and finding you it completely and totally changes the narrative of the story.
These five all impacted me. There’s a little bit of who I am when I come to work from all five of these movies. There are probably hundreds of movies that have influenced the person I am at work. These five, when it comes to sales and leadership, had a big impact on me wrong, right or indifferent. I learned some good things to take from and some things that I didn’t want to be a part of who I was. I learned like you can learn from any manager whether they’re good or bad, you can take some things away from them that you want to make a part of you or make sure are never a part of you. It’s the same thing with all five of these movies for me going through.
For me, it’s four great movies to watch and the one on YouTube. You want to watch Alec Baldwin.
You’ve got to watch that and probably watch it twice. It’s good and hilarious.
That’s a wrap.
It’s good talking to you.