3 Sales Lessons from “It’s a Wonderful Life”

wonderful life
Photo Credit: Liberty Films II

During the winter holiday season, “It’s a Wonderful Life” airs frequently on major and local TV stations. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a synopsis [Warning: There are spoiler alerts]:

From childhood until adulthood, the movie follows George Bailey, who dreams of leaving the small town of Bedford Falls to see the world. Through a series of selfless acts he ends up taking over his family business, the Bailey Building and Loan Association, and he remains in Bedford Falls…just in time for the Stock Market Crash of 1929. His loan company ends up $8,000 short on deposits through a mistake made by his uncle. With his life in shambles, George contemplates suicide until his guardian angel comes to change his mind and save his life.

There’s some great entertainment in this story, but there are also a few great sales lessons. Here are three of them:

1. Be clear in your customer communications.

Scene(s): Right before the 1929 crash there was a run on the banks, and all of George’s customers came at once to withdraw their entire accounts, in fear of never getting their money back otherwise. But George explained to them their money wasn’t in a safe in the back — it was in their homes and in their companies. Then he resolved it by ensuring customers took just what they needed. This kept money going back into the community and kept his business alive.

Sales Lesson: George clearly explained his position, helping customers achieve what they were ultimately looking for and keeping his business alive. You might not have a business on the line in real life, but clear communications can still help you to produce favorable outcomes when an issue’s at hand.

2. Believe in what you do.

Scene(s): When George was talking to Potter — the town’s richest man, who was also trying to shut the bank down — he explains the value of his business to the community: “You know how long it takes a working man to save $5,000? [Quick reminder: This is 1929.] Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble [George’s customers ] you’re talking about…they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath?”

Sale Lesson: George woke up each day thinking he wanted his customers to have better lives from his service. As a result, his business flourished. When you attach a purpose to your days in the sales office, it can do more than simply boost your morale — it can impact your bottom line.

3. Be open about your intentions.

George seldom had ulterior motives. Throughout the entire movie he openly vocalized what he wanted, whether that meant explaining why he didn’t deliver a package of medicine that he believed would have harmed a patient, telling those customers that they shouldn’t take all of their money out of the Building and Loan or speaking with Potter about how bad of an idea it was for him to try and shut the bank down.

Sales Lesson: Mean what you say, and say what you mean. This is a key takeaway of the Sandler sales methodology, and it makes sense. Being transparent and genuine will help you to develop strong relationships, which we all know is the key to successful selling.

Next time “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes on we hope you take a few minutes to watch it. It may be a classic, but its lessons about life […and sales?] never get old.


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