In honour of last month's Academy Awards, here are some great sales lessons from my favorite movies in which sales is a central theme: Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, and Tommy Boy. I'll highlight some of the things that are wrong and right with some of the best sales-focused scenes. Unfortunately, this also highlights why people have a bad perception of sales people.

Glenngarry Glen Ross


This is probably one of the best movies with sales as the central theme. It is also sales lessons centering on sales leadership and ethical sales issues.

    • There is the constant battle between HQ saying the leads are good and the local sales team saying they are not. Top down communication doesn't work. Two way communication is the key to a successful sales team.

    • Competition is often a good thing between sales people. But when it results in someone getting fired, it's probably time to dial it back.

    • The pressure for sales results in the sales team lying to, and then avoiding, customers. A high performance sales culture doesn't have to be a high pressure one. Spoiler Alert: The immense pressure to perform leads to one of the sales people defrauding the company.

Boiler Room


Another great ensemble cast using some questionable and dubious sales practices.

    • Again, down right lying to a customer is never a good idea. It's hard to build a long-term relationship that isn't based upon mutual trust.

    • Later in the movie as the shady investment firm dumps stock, they avoid their customers like the plague. Not a good idea. Openness and accessibility are crucial components of customer service.

    • However, Vin Diesel does do a good job of pausing when making his cold call, allowing the customer time to talk.

Tommy Boy


There are a couple positives amongst the larger negatives in this comedy.

    • Storytelling is great as part of a sales call, except when the story does not make sense. Tell engaging stories, but don't scare the living daylights out of your customers by going too far.

    • As you can see, talking about features of the product leads to a loss of interest. Speak your customers' language and stick with the benefits of your product or service.

    • A plus? They tried to work on strategy before the meeting and they worked on delivery through the film, which is good.

Ultimately, these movies are very entertaining, but not necessarily a great way to learn the fundamentals of sales. If you are looking for some more effective tips on B2B sales, feel free to contact me.