Small Time The Movie Shows The Power of Sales Psychology

Small Time The 2014 Sales Movie Small

The 2014 independent movie “Small Time” is not your common sales story.  The film is really a coming of age movie that takes place on a used car lot.   The plot revolves around a summer a father spends teaching his son how to sell used cars.  The movie also focuses on the family dynamics of divorced parents trying to deal with the fact their son wants to sell used cars for his dad instead of following the plan of going to college. 

In the opening scene some high school students pull into the car lot after hours in a BMW.  One of the kids gets caught trying to steal a used Mustang.   The owners of the lot Martini and Al Klien display a unique approach on handling the situation.  Instead of calling the police, Al realizes that it’s a rich kid following through on a dare from his friends.    Al asks the kid for his wallet, the kid refuses so Al tells Martini to call the police.  All of a sudden, the kid hands him his wallet.  As suspected the kid had one of his dad’s credit cards and the owner proceeds to write up a contract for the car.  He said it’s this or he calls the police.   As the scene closes Al tells Martini “Good Sale”, which he replied, “yes it was”.  This interaction gives you insight into the way they run their operations.

Though there are many questionable sales techniques throughout the movie, it is very evident that both Martini and Al understand the psychology of closing the sale.  The following are samples of their deep understanding.

The Scarcity Close

In another scene you see how the partners Al and Martini use a scarcity close.  A couple is looking at cars on the lot.  As Al walks them from car to car, Martini plants the scarcity seed. 

Martini: “Al, Al, Al, hey, what you doing?”

AL: “I’m showing these nice people this car” 

Martini: “No, no, no, I got someone coming in today to buy it”

Al: “Who?”

Martini: “It’s a doctor from Beverly Hills; he wants it for his kid”

Al: “I’m sorry folks I can’t sell you the car”

Prospect: “Why not?” 

Al: “Did he leave a deposit? Did this doctor sign anything?  I’m sorry?”

They ended up selling the car to the couple for cash.  Though the way they use the scarcity close is despicable, we as sales professionals do need to understand when and how to use this close and just how powerful it is.  Whenever there is true scarcity in product availability, capacity, time, raw materials, etc… We need to make sure we point out the scarcity.  If they really need the product or service, you will be doing them a disservice if you don’t inform them about true scarcity issues.

Selling stories and a better life

When Freddie, Al’s son is on the lot for day one of his sales journey, his dad and Martini start his training in front of a used car.  They focus on having Freddie understand that stories and the promise of a better life help close more sales.

Al:  “What is that?”

Freddie:  “It’s a Chevy Impala with a 350 small block”

Martini:  “Wrong”

Freddie: “What is it a smaller engine”

Al: “No it’s a 350 small block”

Freddie: “It’s definitely an Impala”

Al: “Then why you wrong?”

Freddie: “I don’t know”

Martini:  “Come on buddy boy, what is that?” 

Freddie: “It’s a car; I don’t know what you want me to say?”

Al:  “Yes it’s a car, but what else it?”

Freddie: “What else”

Al: “It’s a story”

 Al and Martini begin trading lines to show Freddie the type of answers they were looking for.

Martini: “It’s got 4 doors, great for car pools”

Al: “2,000 Pounds of metal surrounding you, very safe for the little ones”

Martini:  “It’s made in America”

Al: “Buy this car, be a Patriot”

Martini: “It’s made in Japan”

Al: “More bang for your buck”

Freddie: “O.K., Alright, I get it”

Al: “So tell us, what is it?”

Freddie: “It’s a place to take a girl if you live with your parents”

Al:  “Were not selling valves and pistons, were selling better lives”

Al:  “At a price you can afford”

Martini: “What if I can’t afford it?”

Al: “Sir, I’m glad you asked me that.  With no money down you can drive it off the lot today”

Martini: “No money down”

Al: “You don’t pay a penny till January”

Martini: “Wow, I’ll take it.  You getting this kid”

Freddie:  “I think so”

The above lesson on selling stories and a better life ties in with the FAB model (Features, Advantages & Benefits).  Freddie was just stating what the product was, not what it would mean to the prospect if they bought a vehicle from him.  Al and Martini wanted Freddie to paint a picture for his prospects.  If you learn to paint a picture with true meaning to the prospect your win rate will increase dramatically. 

During the training session they see a customer walking the lot.  Martini runs back into the building to grab a hearing aid, while Al continues the training.  Al’s training focuses on sizing up the customer.    He goes into what he is wearing, what day of the month it is, how his hygiene is. 

Martini then runs out of the building and starts speaking with the prospect in the lot.  He pretends he is hard of hearing.  Al and Martini use the fact that Martini is wearing the hearing aid to make the customer think he is getting one over on the lot.  Martini tells the customer the price on the car is $2,200 right after Al told Martini in front of the customer it was $4,200.  The customer thinks Martini hears the wrong number and wants to skip the credit paperwork and pay the $2,200 in cash.  Their use of trickery is a key factor in their business model.  Obviously the pair is not worried about ethics.

Later that night, Freddie expresses concerns to his father about his ability to sell.

Al:  “What you reading”

Freddie:  “A car magazine, just trying to get a feel for everything”

Al: “What kind of feel”

Freddie:  “What if a customer asked me a question about the car I can’t answer?”

Al: “So you ask Barlow”

Freddie:  “I hope I can do this”

Al: “Trust me, you can, it’s not brain surgery.  You just small talk the customer; you get them to like you.  You ask them about their kids, their favorite sports team”

Freddie:  “I watch you and Martini out there the stuff you come up with, it’s like your speaking a foreign language”

Al: “I’ve been doing it a long time”

Freddie:  “It’s more than that, you guys are like geniuses”

Al:  “Trust me, were not, were hungry, we close deals or we don’t eat”

How Not To Build Rapport

Freddie’s first attempts to sell on his own are hard to watch.  He tries to build rapport in ways that are not congruent with his personality.  Instead of building rapport throughout the conversations, he blurts out whatever comes to mind even though they don’t have any meaning to the customer at that moment.

“It’s a cool hat”

“ do you have any children, kids”

“ I’m Freddie, I’m around if you need me, holler at me.”

“ Hey bro are we buying a car”

“Great shirt, Hawaiian? I got one too; I got mine at the mall”

“You two are meant for each other”

“Like the car”

“Can I get your number”

“Classic Ha”

“You hungry, we got the grill going”

Throwing In Something of Value Can Get Prospects To Take Action

Freddie finally closes his first sale when he has the idea of adding something of value with the sale. 

Freddie:  “Well, what do you think?”

Prospect:  “I like it, I’m just not”

Freddie:  “You’re just not what?”

Prospect:  “I just don’t think I’m ready to buy this truck today”

Freddie:  “Why not”

Prospect:  “I just think I need to think about it a little more”

Freddie:  “You know that’s probably a good idea, this is a big decision, you shouldn’t buy anything unless you’re absolutely ready”

Prospect:  “Thank you for your time young man”

Freddie:  “You’re welcome ma’am, it was very nice to meet you”

Freddie:  “It’s too bad you’re going to miss our offer though”

Prospect:  “What, what offer is that”

Freddie:  “Were giving away a free George Foreman Grill with every car we sell today”

Prospect:  “What model, black or platinum”

Freddie:  “Platinum of course”

Prospect:  After a long pause “Ok, ok, let’s do it”

Freddie:  “I’ll go start up the paper work”

Walking past Martini and Al on his way into the office.  Freddie Says, “I did it, I totally did it”

The next series of scenes show Freddie becoming very comfortable with the sales process.  It also shows his attitudes for prospects turning negative.  He feels he is better than them and is happy to get one over on a customer.

Check your ego at the door

Freddie’s ego gets so out of control, that his dad decides he has to fire Freddie for his own good.  He does not want him treating people the way he does.  They finally tell Freddie he is being downsized. 

Since his father fired him, Freddie decides to go to college after all.  After the first quarter Freddie sends Al a letter, thanking him for what he did for him.  He now understands that his father just wanted him to treat people better.  Like some sales professionals, Freddie had to learn the hard way to check his ego at the door.

The movie ends with the scarcity close “Al, Al, Al, I already have it sold”.

Small Time was a pleasant surprise.  The story line was well conceived and paints a realistic portrayal of a young man’s journey into a career in sales.  I recommend you watch it, you might find the movie enjoyable as well.   The movie is available at Redbox and several online digital movie sources.


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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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