June 16

3 Sales Tips from the Movies for Engaging Buyers


Holy Hollywood Batman!

We lost another film icon this week – the first Batman, Adam West.  It got me thinking about the lasting power of the movies.  Even today, busy executives who can’t sit still for a ten minute meeting will carve out the time to watch a two-hour plus movie.  Movies have honed the secret to engaging audiences from years of practice and experimentation.  While your presentation doesn’t have to be worthy of an Oscar nod, it pays to leverage techniques and tips from the movies for engaging buyers and standing out from the competition.

3 Sales Tips from the Movies for Engaging Buyers in your Presentation:

1. Cut to the chase

Movies don’t start with the director giving his resume or telling the audience what they’re going to be seeing, or why he made the movie. No! Movies are much more likely to start with a car chase, a bomb threat in an action movie, or lover’s meeting cute in a Rom-com.  In other words, they cut to the chase by starting with the most interesting part.  Hollywood knows that people have increasingly short attention spans and little patience for a lot of introductory fluff.

The same holds true with buyers.  You have a precious few seconds during your presentation to grab your buyer’s attention and draw them in.  Don’t waste it setting up your story with a lot of prologue. Give your prospect an immediate and compelling reason to pay attention by cutting to the chase.  What’s the chase in your presentation?  It could be a key issue, an insight or expected value – something that is of most interest to your prospect.  Frame it in a unique and relevant way that intrigues your audience without giving away the entire plot, and you’re off to the movies!

TIP:  Read more about Cutting to the Chase in your openings here

2. Raise the stakes

Movies sell tickets by placing characters in high stakes situations. For example, if the hero doesn’t find the bomb by midnight, the city will be destroyed.  If the city is destroyed, the country will go to war.  If the country goes to war… You’ve seen this movie, right? The stakes keep getting higher until the hero employs every trick he knows until he finds that bomb!

You also need to make sure the stakes are as high as possible when you present your business case to your prospect.  If the stakes aren’t high enough, doing nothing remains a viable option.  Longer sales cycles and busier prospects dealing with multiple priorities make the need to create urgency during your presentation, dare I say, “urgent?”  I am not referring to the manufactured “This is the last one we have left!” type of urgency.  I am talking about authentic urgency:  the desire to solve a problem that a customer has perhaps dismissed or put off because other issues are competing for his or her attention.

Raise the Stakes in your presentation by determining what’s really at stake for your prospect.  Dig deeper by asking yourself (or your prospect during discovery) with the question “and then what happens?” This helps to highlight the importance of making a decision and the consequences of either indecision or a poor decision.

3.  Show don’t tell

This technique applies to a wide range of written and filmed works.  Showing, rather than telling an audience what’s happening allows the audience to experience the story themselves. Interpreting meaning through actions, words, and senses, rather than a narrator’s description, creates a much more powerful effect.

Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, is a big proponent of the “Show don’t tell” technique.  In fact, can you imagine how different the movie would be if the narrator had told you all along that (spoiler alert ahead!) Tyler (Brad Pitt) was a figment of Edward Norton’s imagination?!

Prospects are told things all day long:  “We’re the best… We reach more customers… etc.” Try doing a little more showing in your presentation.  Showing your message, solution or results in action through a story or illustration and letting your prospect reach the desired conclusion has greater lasting power than hitting them over the head with a list of facts.

Use these 3 Sales tips from the movies to keep busy buyers engaged and ensure they remember your message when buying decisions are made!


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  1. It is great! The relationship between movies and a sales pitch is really interesting. In my opinion it would be nice to have more detailed real life examples for the reader to feel identified.

    1. Thanks for sharing Juan and appreciate your suggestion about including some examples. I use a lot of examples in both of my books, but in an effort to keep blog posts succinct and on-point, I often end up cutting them out. Will look at adding some examples in future articles however. Thanks!

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