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Learn essential lessons from the silver screen with these A-list sales movies.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the September 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Despite her gaudy clothes, big hair and address, Tess McGill's perseverance in 1988's Working Girl earns my vote for the best -related film. Using pure smarts, Tess closes the deal, bests her duplicitous boss, filches the boss's hunky boyfriend and plants her fanny in a corner office. Tess understands the need for creative career planning: "You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you're trying to get there. And if you're someone like me, you can't get there without bending the rules."

Recommend the following movies to your sales staff for a cinematic celebration of all things sales:

  • Boiler Room (2000)
    Plot: Young man drops out of college, hawks worthless stocks and learns that regulations are really just suggestions.
    Sales lesson: If it seems too good to be true, it is.
    Why salespeople relate: We've all hoped for a shortcut to riches and wanted to believe the shysters who offered to show us the way.
    Words of wisdom: "Money can't buy happiness? Look at the smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby."
  • Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
    Plot: Celluloid combination of David Mamet's words and the acting of greats. These hard-core salesmen cheat, wheedle and conspire to get leads.
    Sales lesson: If you let it, your job will eat up your life.
    Why salespeople relate: The leads, man, are weak.
    Words of wisdom: "Coffee is for closers!"
  • Jerry Maguire (1996)
    Plot: Sports agent has revelation about all that's wrong with his profession. Fired, he falls for the woman who's stood by him, and must now show his one remaining client the money.
    Sales lesson: Loyalty and love matter.
    Why salespeople relate: If you challenge the status quo, be prepared to land on your bum. Hard.
    Words of wisdom: "Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren't completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow's embarrassment?"
  • Tommy Boy (1995)
    Plot: Good-hearted doofus inherits after Dad drops dead. He must save it from financial ruin and his evil stepmother. Clueless, he goes on a road trip to save the brake-pad empire.
    Sales lesson: Sincerity will always beat smarminess.
    Why salespeople relate: We face impossible sales challenges daily.
    Words of wisdom: "What if the Guarantee Fairy's a crazy glue-sniffer? Next thing you know, there's change missing from your dresser and your daughter's knocked up. I've seen it a hundred times."
  • (1987)
    Plot: Newbie broker supplies Trump-esque idol with insider scoop, gets a fabulous apartment and lands a hot girlfriend--only to realize that really isn't good.
    Sales lesson: Swim with sharks, and you're gonna get munched on.
    Why salespeople relate: Ever sucked up to the wrong boss?
    Words of wisdom: "Greed captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit."

Kimberly L. Mccall is president of McCall Media & Marketing Inc. (, a business communications company in Freeport, Maine.


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