Great Selling Lessons in The Martian – But Should You See the Movie?

Most of the great books I read are disappointing, at best, when they become movies.  The Davinci Code, Gone Girl, Absolute Power, Lone Survivor, Hunger Games, The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, The Lincoln Lawyer, 127 Hours, and Heaven is for Real are just some of my recent disappointments.  Unbroken, The Blind Side and Moneyball didn’t get botched up too badly.  So it was with great anticipation, but limited expectations, that we went to see The Martian this weekend.  Not only was it the first book that I read where the movie was even better than the book, but there were some great, important lessons on selling to large organizations too!

Two of the great lessons occurred when the director of the Mars program tried to get the Director of NASA (played by Jeff Daniels in a role 180 degrees opposite Dumb and Dumber) to approve what needed to be done.  In the first instance, it was to get some satellite time so they could take a look at Mars where their mission had been aborted.  Later in the movie, after it was determined that Astronaut Watney (Matt Damon) was still alive, he made another attempt to convince the Director to rescue Watney.  In both cases, the Director said “No” because it was the safe decision, wouldn’t jeopardize NASA’s funding, and wouldn’t cause any additional scrutiny of him personally.  Isn’t that just like selling to the government?  Oh yeah, NASA is the government!  Isn’t that just like selling to a major public corporation?

So how did they eventually get the idea sold?  In the most unconventional of ways – but not inconsistent with what salespeople must do when they need to differentiate themselves in a large organization, with lots of options, limited budget and executives that are predisposed to maintaining the status quo.

:In this case, Vincent, the young scientist, made his case to the Director of NASA by walking into the conference room, and saying something along the lines of:

“You, stand right there.  And you, move over here.”  Then he asked the Director, “Who are you?”

The Director said, “I’m Teddy – I’m the Director of NASA.”

The kid said, “Cool.”

Then, getting both executives to pretend to be planets, he used a stapler and sound effects to mimic a spaceship and demonstrated the ship accelerating toward Earth, looping around Earth instead of landing, returning to Mars, intercepting and rescuing Watney, looping around Mars and returning back to Earth.

Most differentiation takes place in the field, not on websites!  Some of the things that are important when it comes to differentiating in the field are whether or not the salesperson:

  • Was Memorable
  • Taught Them Something They Didn’t Know
  • Got the Prospects Engaged
  • Got them to Share Information Freely
  • Cared
  • Listened
  • Had the Conversation Nobody Else Would Have
  • Developed a Relationship
  • Pushed Back or Challenged

In addition to Vincent, who convinced them that this approach would work, it would take the work of another NASA executive.  After the convincing demonstration, when the Director still said “No” to a rescue mission, Mitch (Sean Bean), covertly sends the Mars crew a maneuver that convinces them to commit mutiny and begin the rescue mission against the Director’s orders.

When selling to large organizations, you need more than a champion.  You need a chauffeur like Mitch, who forced the Director’s hands.

So there you have it.  Good movie, great selling lessons, and since it’s a new movie and there aren’t any online scenes available that I can link to, you’ll have to go see it.