Sales Motivation – The Metaphor of “Jerry Maguire”


Sales performance and Jerry Magure - "Help me help you.". Image courtesy of and Columbia-TriStar PicturesEvery semester for two years while teaching college composition, I used an excerpt from the movie script for Jerry Maguire to emphasize the key point of writer ethos.

Classically defined, ethos is the persona, or appearance, of a writer or orator to their audience—the words they chose, the emotional voice and tone, the sense of authority the speaker projects.

Parts of the film haven’t aged well since the mid-’90s, but there’s an essential essence that still resonates, a part of the human experience that it manages to capture. The movie at its heart wasn’t a story about sports, or even love; it was a story about a human being coming to realize the power of humility, self-actualization, and integrity.

The metaphor for the entire film becomes Jerry’s journey to Kinkos at 3:00 AM to make a hundred copies of a mission statement he had just written because he knew, KNEW that it was that damn important, and that he’d never be able to look himself in the mirror again if he didn’t do something about it.

The story rings true because we recognize something about the character in ourselves; the person who sees that the real path to success lies in everything that they aren’t.

And for some reason, even in the midst of the Digital Age Sales 2.0 world, we still haven’t gotten the message.

If the metaphor for Jerry Maguire is a 3 AM trip to Kinkos to save our souls, then the metaphor for the public’s perception of the professional sales industry is a used car lot huckster.

Why do we struggle so badly at implementing the customer-centric changes we know are vital and necessary to getting the results we want?

The evidence is real and compelling that frankly, we’re still not “getting it.”

The Bridge Group states that barely 50 percent of professional sales reps are meeting their quotas, while quotas continue to go up.

Sales cycles are lengthening. Buyers take more time to decide.

The number of “touches” to reach and close a sale are up.

Propelling Brands says that less than 10 percent of companies have the right people and processes in place to make the changes Sales 2.0 requires.

We all know the drill: “Sales 2.0” means that the power within the sales cycle has fundamentally shifted from the seller to the buyer.

Yet we’re lagging to implement the needed changes. Clearly, Houston, we have a problem, yet “we the collective sales industry” still have our thumbs up our . . . well, you get the picture.

I work for a company that makes sales software tools to improve rep performance. And having worked here as long as I have, I’ve seen first hand the impact they can have on company’s bottom line.

Yet more than anything this industry still needs a massive shot of its most essential ingredient:


It’s time to stop playing the game.

We can’t change every snake oil salesperson on the planet—but we can convince our own clients that we have their best interests at heart, and more importantly, we can believe it ourselves.

Our prospects are watching our every move. Our ethos. How we talk to them. Our attitudes toward them and our work.

How do they see us? How do we see ourselves? And how do they think we see ourselves?

Hero or villain? Confidant or rogue? Self-interested power broker or trusted advisor?

Trust-based selling is a two-way street. It means means the buyer trusts us to act in their interests, and the seller trusts that the buyer is going to respect the seller’s product and process.

As The Trusted Advisor’s Charles Green states, prospects don’t need us to help them make a “rational decision”—they need to feel comfortable with the rational decision they have to make. A buyer doesn’t want to “know everything” about our product or industry, they want to trust that we know enough to have their best interests at heart.

When our message and our ethos align, closes happen.

If we’re going to improve sales performance, create better management strategies and sales processes, it has to start with managers and reps recognizing that the goal is no longer to provide information (and subtle pressure to close). It’s to provide knowledge, insight, and understanding.

And until we get that and implement it, we might as well all be selling used cars.

Heaven knows General Motors has a lot of them to go around these days.

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