In the mood for a laugh, I went back through my DVD collection and picked out the 1995 comedy classic Tommy Boy. The plights of a new sales person are one of the primary story lines in the movie. Many of the movies funniest moments develop, watching Tommy trying to learn to sell.
The late Chris Farley plays Tommy Callahan Jr. an immature, clumsy and irresponsible heir to his father’s auto parts factory which has been in the family for generations. The first lesson sales managers can learn from the movie are not accepting excuses. Richard Hayden played by David Spade is Tommy’s dad’s right hand man. When he goes to the local airport to pick up Tommy on his way back from college, in usual fashion Tommy arrives on an afternoon flight. The only problem was he was supposed to arrive in the morning. Richard walks Tommy through some questions that clearly show that Tommy was just making up excuses for missing the morning flight. Richard does a great job of holding Tommy responsible for his actions. As a sales manager you owe it to the company, your team and the people who make excuses to hold them accountable. Don’t accept excuses. When your employees try to make excuses, make sure you use the technique used by Richard on Tommy. Richard asks Tommy a series of specific situational questions so he can get at the truth. Richard’s actions show Tommy that he will not accept excuses. You need to hold people accountable. Sales people will make sure they have done their due diligence if they know you are going to ask thorough questions when performance is not meeting expectations.
Later in the movie, Tommy must learn how to sell after his father marries a con-artist. At the wedding reception Tommy’s dad dies. After his father’s death, the survival of the company and the town fall squarely on his shoulders. So Tommy must hit the road with Richard Hayden and sell over 500,000 brake pads in only two weeks. If he does not reach the numbers, the bank will take over the company and sell the Callahan brand to Zalinsky auto parts, which wants the brand only and plans to close down the Callahan factory.
On the trip we learn the second lesson of the movie. Richard uses the time in the car for Pre-call planning with Tommy. He starts the conversation by saying “let’s review”. He asks a series of questions to prepare for their calls that day. It is best practice to prepare a pre-call plan for every customer you are going to call on. Your pre-call plan should include your commitment objectives, review of customer and competition information, solutions to identified needs, questions you want to be sure to ask, agenda, presentation and collateral materials. Sales calls go much smoother when you take some time up front to plan for them.
The third lesson learned is no isn’t always a final, unless you let it. Just before they go into each call, Richard reminds Tommy “Remember it’s sale time, so we don’t take no for an answer.” On the first customer call, they get a “no” and Tommy instantly says “Okay Dokey!” gets up and leaves. The second customer call, they get another “no” and Tommy instantly says “Gotcha, Thanks!” again he gets up and leaves. The third call that day they get another “no”. Tommy’s response “Terrific, thanks for your time” and gets up and leaves. His action mirror that of many sales representatives who take an initial no as the final no and never call on a customer again or never delve a little deeper to see why they said no. We as sales managers need to train our sales representatives that no means we have not answered all their objections or concerns yet. We also need to teach our sales representatives about doing thorough need analysis to understand how and if the product or service fills the prospects or customer’s needs. And we also need to teach persistence. Statistics from the National Sales Executive Association show 2% of sales are made on the 1st contact, 3% of sales are made on the 2nd contact, 5% of sales are made on the 3rd contact, 10% of sales are made on the 4th contact and 80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th contact. Those are some pretty staggering numbers that show the importance of having pre-planned commitment objectives to continue to move the sales process forward.
Back to their day selling, on the fourth call the customer says “maybe” and Tommy gets overly excited and ruins the sale by destroying some of the purchaser’s model cars trying to show the difference of Callahan brakes versus the competition.
Later that day Tommy describes his failure as a sales representative to a waitress who told him the kitchen was closed. He says it in a way that connects with her. That connection gets her to make Tommy the wings he had wanted to order. That epiphany leads Richard to the fourth lesson of the movie. He performs a post call review with Tommy. “That 180 you just pulled with the waitress, why can’t you sell like that? You got the wings because you were relaxed, you had confidence and that’s what it takes to sell, confidence. Your dad had that. You have street smarts, the ability to read people and you know how to do that just like your dad. He was the best at knowing what people wanted to hear and what people needed to hear. That’s what selling is all about. In a way these people are buying you and not just brake pads.” Sales Managers should do post call reviews with their sales people. These can be done in person or over the phone. The goal of a post call review is to determine what went right and what went wrong on the sales call. Learn from these lessons and apply them to future calls. This is a great way to increase performance. This interaction leads Tommy to his first of many sales that eventually save the company.
If you have not seen the movie, I would recommend watching it. This blog post does not do the comic value of the movie any justice. It does however show valuable lessons that can be applied to real world sales.
What movie’s on the subject of sales are your favorite? Why is it your favorite? And what lessons have you learned by watching the movie? I look forward to reading your responses.
If you get inspiration from movies, I did write about the Sales Lessons From The Hunger Games in a previous blog.
David Domos developed WhyBuyFromYou.com 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 Amazon.com 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 reason people buy. Follow him on Twitter @WhyBuyFromYou or visit www.whybuyfromyou.com.