Bad Movie Offers Great Sales Tips (Sorry, Burt Reynolds)

As a salesperson, I seem to take quite a few lessons from movies and some of the best lessons are in some of the worst movies. Most people think Burt Reynolds played only tough guy roles and the occasional slapstick comedy role. But one of the best sales lessons I have ever learned was from the movie “The End.” If you have not seen “The End,” do not rush out to rent it. I am about to spoil the plot for you. This is kind of a cute movie starring Dom DeLuise and Burt Reynolds. The plotline is simple – Burt Reynolds spends the entire movie trying to commit suicide and cannot do it successfully.

At the end of the movie, he finds himself swimming out, seemingly, to the middle of the ocean. He’s going to drown himself. As he’s in the middle of the ocean, starting to believe he’s going to drown, he realizes he doesn’t want to kill himself, so he says, “Dear God, please save me, save me. I don’t want to die. If you save me, I’ll give you everything, one hundred percent, everything that I own. Save me!” And he starts swimming toward the shore, and he is exhausted, not so sure he’s going to make it. He looks up, sees the palm trees way out in the distance and says, “Please God, save me, save me. I don’t know if I’m going to make it. Save me! If I make it, fifty percent of everything I got is yours.” And he starts swimming and he’s exhausted, not sure he’s going to make it. He sees the trees cresting the horizon. He says, “Please God, get me the last 20 yards, I don’t know if I’m going to make it. Save me! If you save me, ten percent of everything I got is yours.” And he swims and swims and finally he makes it to shore, turns over, spits out the water, looks up at the sky and says, “You know, God, you got some nerve, asking for everything I got.”

I always think of that story as I listen to my clients debrief calls. Before they start to change their selling process, they spend an awful lot of time getting their prospects to shore–helping them fix the issues and correct inefficiencies and waste. Of course they do all of this before their prospects have committed to doing business with them or before they have a signed contract. Then the salesperson is stunned that the prospect no longer sees the full value of the solution they have been offered. After all, much of the problem is already fixed.

If you find yourself spending too much time fighting with prospects to get full price, you may want to think about where you are having the discussion. Amateur salespeople drag the prospect to the shore, show them the solution and make sure they have done a great presentation before they start to negotiate price. Great salespeople get the contract and commitment while the prospect is floundering in the open water, still desperate to find any way to fix the issues and looking for help.