Death Of A Salesman The Movie And It’s Underlying Lessons


Death of A Salesman

The movie Death of a Salesman, starring Dustin Hoffman is a dark portrayal of the end of Willy Loman’s life.  He was once an accomplished salesperson but refused to recognize he is no longer on top of his game.   The movie provides flashbacks to an earlier time, which is where we will focus most of our attention, pulling the positive messages that are hidden within the story line.

Willy Loman always enjoyed trying to make his sons think big.  He wanted them to be important figures within the business community.  The following quotes are examples.

“The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest is a man who gets ahead.  Be liked, you will never want.”  Willy was trying to teach his sons the skill of building rapport and how important it is in a sales career.  It is often said that the size of the sale will only be as large as the relationship.  Top sales professionals are always working to strengthen relationships.

“Start big and you’ll end big” This quote is an example of how Willy thought his life would turn out.  Ending big turned out to be his biggest area of regret because he passed on an opportunity with his brother that in the rearview mirror would have had him end big.  Thinking big is important in sales.  Never let your personal financial comfort levels stop you from trying to increase the size of a sale.  Think about people buying cars, some people can only afford a used car; some a new compact car, midsized car, full sized luxury car while others can afford an exotic sports car.  If your current state is a used car, you need to push your sales comfort level to the exotic sports car or the top end of your product line, so you are comfortable selling the product your prospects and customers want and need whether you personally can afford them or not.   

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it, because personality always wins the day.”  As a closer, Willy knew you had to believe in what you sell.  Nothing can hurt a sale more than a salesperson whose body language and nonverbal signals don’t match what you are telling their prospect.    

In another scene, his neighbor Charley is speaking with Willy after being let go by his boss’s son.  “Willy, when are you going to realize that them things don’t mean anything.  You named him Howard, but you can’t sell that.  The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell.  The funny thing is I thought you were a salesman and you don’t know that.”  Willy felt entitled to his job, and felt he could just get by on his history with the company alone.  To avoid situations like this in your career, focus on a balanced portfolio of customers.  Don’t fall into the trap many salespeople do.  They stop prospecting and try to get by on existing customers and eventually they become little more than order takers.

“I’ve got to get some seeds, I’ve go to get some seeds, right away, Nothing’s planted.  I don’t have a thing in the ground.”   Though Willy was talking about actual seeds that he wanted to plant in his yard, this line in the movie serves as a metaphor about the profession of selling.  In sales, you have to have seeds planted or prospects in your pipeline.  Getting seeds is the equivalent of targeting new prospects.  To be successful in sales, we need to always be planting new seeds.

I wish I could write an alternative ending to the story.  One in which Willy would have accepted help.  One in which he held onto his earlier beliefs and positive outlook.  One in which he focuses on the future and not on his regrets. 

Please share your thoughts about the impact this movie had on you.


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David Domos developed to provide content to help small businesses develop their branding, marketing and sales systems. In the past he held key leadership positions for a fortune 500 company. That company led the market in both sales and brand awareness and David was a significant contributor to its growth. David has been on the best seller list in their Direct Marketing, Communications and Entrepreneurship categories. He is a student of sales, marketing, branding & small business growth, continually focusing on the reasons people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou or visit

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