Your next great sales pitch is hiding on the big screen in unlikely places.
Think Legally Blond. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 12 Angry Men.
Forget the typical sales movies. Glengarry Glen Ross. Boiler Room. The Wolf of Wall Street.
Those classics (although great in their own right) aren’t on our list.
Instead, we’ve pulled together cinematic gems that “sold” something else – perhaps an unpopular idea, a change of heart or an unbelievable alternative.
These are the sales pitches that made everyone in the movie and audience want to rally behind the protagonist.
Braveheart: Capture emotion
In Braveheart, William Wallace (Mel Gibson) anchors his pitch to gain support for a fight against all odds on emotion. He’s funny. He’s honest and humble. Most importantly, he taps his audience’s deepest emotions of pride and honor.
Little Mermaid: Know the objections
Although the intentions are sinister, the pitch from Ursula (Pat Carroll) In The Little Mermaid is provocative and effective. She used flattery and stayed ahead of objections to win the deal. Gotta hand it to the wicked old witch.
Jerry Maguire: Offer relationship
Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) had a hard sell: He didn’t have a job, product, service – pretty much nothing – to offer. Except a relationship. He sets a vision for what the relationship will provide (in this case, “real and fun and inspiring”) – which is often one of the best things you can offer.
Footloose: Overcome resistance
In Footloose, Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) has an incredibly large group of decision-makers reluctant to his idea – practically an entire town that has forbidden the thing he wants them to buy. He wins them over with a passionate sales pitch that appeals to their greatest needs.
Harry Potter 5: Be a humble expert
In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is a modest hero. He’s smart, skilled and humble about what he’s accomplished, telling his peers that he – and they – have things to learn and risks to take. A great approach to winning sales.
Hoosiers: Believe in yourself first
In Hoosiers, very few people believed in Coach Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) or his team, so he had to pitch the idea of winning to himself, his team and everyone watching. That’s a lot of minds to change. The key: Believe in yourself and your solution first.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Show worth
In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Ferris (Matthew Broderick) pitches a bad idea to a good person. While we don’t condone guilting or nagging anyone into a deal, this proves the importance of persistence and showing customers the benefits of your solution.
Legally Blonde: Be prepared, versed
In this scene from Legally Blonde, Elle Wood (Reese Witherspoon) wins with unconventional thinking and off-the-cuff speaking. While those aren’t ideal situations in sales, they work when, like Wood, the salesperson is well-prepared and well-versed before meeting with prospects.
Dead Poets Society: Create a vision
In Dead Poets Society, John Keating (Robin Williams) shows the audience what they can be if they make a change. His solution: “Carpe diem – seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.” He makes them think by asking questions. If they don’t act now, when? And what are the consequences of not acting? Possibly never reaching their potential.
Animal House: Play on fears
In Animal House, Bluto (John Belushi) gains support for his solution once he gets his audience to see and admit to their fears. When you can help frat boys – or customers – open their eyes to their fears (in sales, that’s often change or failure), you can quickly get them to rally around your solution.
12 Angry Men: Change 1 mind
In 12 Angry Men, Juror #8 (Henry Fonda) manages to change the minds of his 11 counterparts. His strategy – intentional or not – is a powerful sales tool. Cast some doubt on what everyone thinks or “on the way they’ve always done things.” Plant a seed to help one person see things differently. Continue to keep changing minds.
A League of Their Own: What makes it great
In A League of Their Own, Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) needs to convince people to go against the grain, do something completely different than they’ve ever done. He does it in this scene by recognizing an unspoken desire and helping his “prospect” see it, too.
Field of Dreams: Make it reality
In Field of Dreams, Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) does the outstanding job of painting the picture of a new, better reality. You can try to do that with charts and data and PowerPoint. But the best sales pitches are built on stories filled with imagery, people and successes.
Independence Day: Build bridges
In Independence Day, President Thomas J. Whitmore (Bill Pullman) builds his pitch on common interests. He reminds them to put differences aside and move forward focused on things that everyone can agree on – the problem and the anticipated outcome. That’s often where salespeople can make progress, too: getting a group of decision-makers focused solely on a common interest and hope for success.
Avatar: Find a common language
In Avatar, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has to connect with and win over an audience that doesn’t even understand the language he’s speaking. Ever feel like that on a sales call: You and the prospects aren’t even speaking the same language? Don’t be afraid to get help – a translator. For you, maybe a CFO, engineer, technician, etc.