Everything I learned about business I learned at the movies: selling the bottom-feeder way

I get two or three broker calls per month trying to sell me stock. If you’re successful as an entrepreneur, your phone will be ringing off the hook two or three times a week from broker “chop shops.” So you might want to check out the new blog, They Madoff With Your Money, dedicated to flogging the fraudsters and funsters in the investment underworld. And, for an incredibly insightful look into the chop shop world — what it looks like from the other side of that phone call, Nicky Papers gives us two articles, one on the basics of chop shops and one on the anatomy of a sales call.

Money quote:

Everything I did was fake. I used a fake name. I pretended I was a senior broker. I held conversations in topics I knew nothing about. (Fishing and hunting?) I told prospects I would call them back “later on down the road”, in-turn I passing them off to a British guy (heavy accent) where he’d read my notes and open the account. The client was none-the-wiser.

You may have seen this before, of course, in the stunning, bullseye 2000 movie, Boiler Room. And if you haven’t, get out your Netflix card because you’re in for a treat. Here’s Ben Affleck with a dead-on, straight-to-the-target accuracy explaining the Zen of brokerage life and sales (warning: SERIOUS BAD LANGUAGE HERE!!!). This is seedy stuff (with decidely R-rated language), but if you need a crash course in selling, this two minute clip does it all. Paste this into every molecule of your body and, well, there’s nothing you can’t do (again: there’s some NASTY LANGUAGE HERE — BE WARNED:


If that doesn’t convince you to hang up the phone on these losers, I don’t know what will. Thomas Lickona once said to me that performance character without moral character harms rather than helps the world. And if you want to know what the psychology of financial firms are — all the way to the top — this two-minute video is about as accurate a picture of what the high-performance-zero-morals world of finance is really like.

As unpleasant as this harangue is, this is a great little lesson on how to sell. That last bit is the cardinal rule of selling and one you should memorize. There’s no such thing as a no-sale call — or presentation. Either you sell the customer or the customer sells you. Either you close the customer, or the customer closes you. It may be distasteful, but practically everything we do in life is a sale — including and especially job interviews. (If you’re on the job market, remember what Affleck says about asking questions? I learned sales from one of the masters of the discipline and that, in a nutshell, was the core of what he taught — nonstop questions moving to a close).

So, be moral (unlike these guys). Have values, integrity, and decency. But if you have something valuable, be relentless. If you have something your customer (or job interviewer) would really benefit from, don’t stop at no. You’re doing the customer a disfavor by not selling. And, yes, that includes a job interview. Whenever you go to a job interview, remember that you’re doing that interviewer and that company a major disservice by not convincing them to hire you. That’s the selling attitude. Mix it in with genuine sincerity, integrity, and honesty, and you’re an unstoppable force. Ask questions, move to the close. Ask more questions, move to the close. And I don’t mean questions like, “Do you have daycare?” I mean questions like, “are their problems with projects being completed?” “Do you believe that employees should always be accountable?” “What kind of team attitude do you maintain?” Look for problems and convince them you can help. (I love that bit about throwing a lifeline to a drowning man. Try that in your next job interview and see what happens.)

I have always said that anyone who goes into business needs to spend at least one year as a salesperson. Now, selling can be pretty seamy (it doesn’t have to be), but it’s where the rubber meets the road. If you’re convinced that you’ve got something valuable to offer — and you don’t know the basics of convincing other people of the same thing — then you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

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