Retail Sales Training Lessons: 25 Movie Scenes You Can Learn From

By Bob Phibbs

retail sales training pretty womanMovies provide some of the best training and reminders for retailers of all sizes. Here are 25 scenes that showcase over 30 lessons you can draw on to reinforce good retail management and retail sales practices.

See how many you remember…

Timing

The Truman Show with Jim Carrey. The scene where Laura Linney starts selling her product in the middle of an argument.

  • Lesson: Timing and the context of your retail sales training is as important as the content.

Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. Bill Murray revisits the town he grew up in, as a middle aged adult. A forgotten classmate Ned tries to sell him insurance daily, in the middle of the road.

  • Lesson: Never try too hard, people smell it on you.

Confidence

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The Weasley twins open up their new shop.

  • Lessons: Be proud and passionate about your product.
  • Enthusiasm is contagious.

Glengarry Glen Ross with Alec Baldwin. The scene where Baldwin comes into the room and introduces himself to his sales reps with a pushy speech.

  • Lesson: Coming off like a pit bull may feed your ego but often demoralizes your employees.
Learn how to give feedback to employees.

Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. If you have a great product you're selling and you get turned down, keep trying to sell it.

  • Lessons: You never know when someone will take you up on your retail sales pitch.
  • Keep believing in yourself.

Boiler Room with Giovanni Ribisi. A telemarketer calls to sell the Daily News. His pitch is apathetic and weak. The customer (Ribisi) goes so far as to correct the telemarketer’s retail sales pitch.

  • Lesson: If you don't care and know about your product, you won't make your customer interested. Model your interest in the product and customers will pick up on it.

The Shop Around the Corner with James Steward and Margaret Sullivan. Two employees at a gift shop who can barely stand each other fall in love. The scene where Margaret is selling the music box, even though she was brand new and it was not on sale she made the sale and came up with compelling reasons to buy it.

  • Lesson: When good salespeople don’t have all the baggage about why something won’t sell, they often can sell it easily at full price.

Customer Service

Analyze That with Robert De Niro. Foul-mouthed De Niro is trying to sell a car to a married couple in his showroom. De Niro is rude which guarantees they won't buy the car.

  • Lessons: Respect and be patient with your customers.
  • Customers won't return to a store when they've been treated badly.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Matthew Broderick. Ferris enters a posh restaurant and impersonates Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago. Apparently this is the only way for him to gain entrance.

  • Lesson: Treat ALL customers with respect; not just some.

Cemetery Junction with Christian Cooke and Matthew Goode. Two salesmen visit a home to sell insurance to a middle aged couple. Cooke reads from a textbook which only encourages the couple to express their want of a vacation instead. Goode has a compelling retail sales pitch which wins over the couple.

  • Lesson: Connect with customers.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding with Nia Vardalos. In the Greek restaurant, Vardalos freezes and spills the customers’ coffee because she is distracted by her new crush.

  • Lesson: Stay focused on the customer in front of you.

Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts. The legendary scene when she enters the dress shop. They won't assist her because of her appearance, but comes back the next day with the famous line, “Big mistake. HUGE.”

  • Lesson: Customers never forget how you make them feel.

Work Hard

Pursuit of Happiness with Will Smith. The cold calling scene, in which Smith competes with all the other telemarketers to sell the most. He ends up with the opportunity to meet with a CEO.

  • Lesson: Hard work pays off and leads to better opportunities.

Angel with Romola Garai. In this farce, Garai is an aspiring novelist who is snobby and lazy. However a publishing contract falls into her lap, even though she did nothing to acquire it.

  • Lessons: Work hard for your money. Introduce yourself to customers and ask if they need anything.
  • Sales opportunities won't pursue you.

Understanding

Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon. The scene where Reese is shopping with her girlfriends and the clerk tries to pass of last year's item as brand new. The clerk makes assumptions about the customer ultimately showing the customer knew more than the clerk thought.

  • Lesson: Making assumptions can cost you the sale.

Back to the Future with Michael J Fox. When Fox first shows up in the 1950's downtown, then enters the cafe. He asks for a 'Pepsi Free'. The chef/cashier pesters him.

  • Lessons: Not everyone talks the same way.
  • Ask customers to explain when you don’t understand them, so you can meet their needs.

Tommy Boy with Chris Farley: The restaurant scene where Farley shows his flamboyant retail sales technique, by using a food prop to demonstrate a model/example customer.

  • Lesson: If you're new and nervous, don't say that to a customer. Ask for help.

Bride and Prejudice with Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson. He is looking to invest in India, but because of his argument with Rai at the pool, he decides he won't.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A pizza man has to deliver a pizza to an unknown address. It is pouring rain, and it turns out the address is a sewer grate. He complains.

  • Lesson: If you can accommodate a customer's unique request, do so gladly.

Cooperation

Boiler Room with Ben Affleck. In a conference room, Affleck is giving a speech to potential employees about how to make money at the business.

  • Lessons: Managers and trainers should set expectations.
  • Set concise clear goals.

Working Girl with Harrison Ford. His secretary hits on him, in his office.

  • Lesson: Keep a line between work and personal life.

Miracle on 34th Street with Maureen O’Hara and Edmund Gwenn. Macy’s hires a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus and a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is Santa. The scene showing how Macy’s and Gimbel’s worked together to cross-promote each other.

  • Lesson: Growing the whole pie helped everyone.

Marketing

You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. A small children’s bookstore is threatened by a big box opening close by.

  • Lesson: Pulling out the pity party with PR did nothing to turn the shop around; you want to stay open, give customers more reasons to come back.

Discounting

Ruthless People with Danny DeVito and Bette Midler. A businessman has his wife kidnapped so when he doesn’t pay the ransom he can knock her off. The scene where DeVito is explaining what poor salespeople do and the kidnappers call to offer a discounted ransom.

  • Lesson: Giving in to haggling makes you look weak.
Learn the Five Parts to a Successful Sale

Merchandising

Little Shop of Horrors with Jack Nicholson. A geeky florist finds his chance for success with the help of a big man-eating plant who demands to be fed humans.

  • Lesson: Having the wrong merchandise can come back and eat you.

Summary

When you're trying to learn about retail sales training, look to the movies, real life and your own experiences to help crystalize what both good - and bad - behaviors look like.

What movie scenes would you include and what would the lesson be?

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