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Selling Styles from Horror Movie Classics... Don't Be a Monster!

It starts in an idyllic setting of serenity and smiles. But you know there is something lurking, something sinister, something terrifying just around the corner. Cue the music, note the change in mood lighting, and look out! The monster is just about to emerge from the shadows.

The horror movie classics all follow this formula. The main difference in each is simply the monster whether it be Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf, Freddy Krueger. They all play their villainous roles a little differently, but they all end up with the same results. In their wake, the townspeople live in fear. Protective measures are taken because no one wants to be the next victim.

Considering each of these infamous monsters gives us some clues about why people often avoid salespeople or put up protective barriers as if they are afraid of being victimized. Note the parallels in style between these monsters and the salespeople you avoid:


During the day, everyone is safe. But as soon as the sun sets, Dracula and the other vampires creep among the people and seduce them with their charm, beauty and sophistication. They infect their prey and steal their “life force.” And when they have taken all they can, they move on in search of their next victims.

You know this type of salesperson who “churns and burns” customers. The initial charisma they display is their strongest weapon to lower buyers’ defenses. But all too often, this smooth seller is relying on style to extract what they want from the buyer, without regard to what the buyer really needs. In time, the buyer becomes immune to those charms. But, by then, they have often lost something of value – time, money, opportunity, competitive advantage – as well as losing faith in everyone who sells.


Dr. Frankenstein cobbled together the best parts he could find and created a monster that repulsed others because of the first impression he made. The monster is an outcast, no matter how hard he tries to belong because people fear him and how different he is. His initial interactions with humans are kind and unselfish, but these acts are misunderstood and rejected. The monster responds by becoming bitter and vengeful, wreaking havoc everywhere he goes.

Some sellers just don’t understand that the most effective way to sell is by being yourself. They put on masks and act a part, emulating managers or stereotypes of sellers, delivering lines that don’t ring true. This lack of authenticity comes across as cheesy and is repulsive to buyers. All too often, these sellers respond by kicking into even more exaggerated acting. When that doesn’t work, they become jaded and angry. Those emotions overshadow their best intentions as they push harder to make a sale. Out of the field, in a non-selling situation, they may be delightful people. But as soon as they go into sales mode, their mask causes people to back away.

The Werewolf

By day, the Werewolf is unrecognizable. He goes about his daily routines just like everyone else. But he is unable to control his transformation into a bloodthirsty beast when there is a full moon. That’s when he savagely attacks anyone he encounters, seeming to have lost not just his humanity but also his integrity and connections with those who have trusted him.

Early in the sales cycle and early in the quota period, many sales reps display the best of intentions. But as soon as the pressure is amped up, the full moon effect can transform them into savages who go after the kill. At this point, for them, any sale is a good sale no matter what damage they leave in their wake. These sellers become singularly focused on the short-term, driven by commissions or incentives or quotas that take their focus off the preservation of customers.

Freddy Krueger

The fiend from A Nightmare on Elm Street attacks people while they sleep and dream, using their own fears and vulnerabilities to entrap them. The background music, a familiar child’s song, lulls victims into a false sense of security. As they fall asleep and begin to dream, Freddy ensnares them.

Sometimes, I encounter sales reps who have interpreted consultative selling, solution selling or S.P.I.N. selling this way. They see it as their primary job to identify and exploit their prospects’ fears without balancing this with a healthy attention on customer needs and goals. Like Freddy’s victims, though, the customers who have been sold exclusively on their fears can’t be sustained. The negative associations with these sellers cause a backlash because no one wants to focus only on the worst case scenarios.

When sellers become monstrous, we do avoid them. But do we carefully, consistently avoid becoming these monsters, too? None of these classic horror monsters chose to be a monster. They were the victims of circumstance. Some don’t even know about their own nefarious tendencies.

As professional sellers, we owe it to ourselves, our customers, and our profession not to lapse into these monstrous behaviors no matter what external pressures we face. It’s behaviors like these that give selling a bad name. When done right, selling is a noble profession, the very backbone of our economy. It’s our job to showcase it that way by keeping the monsters at bay.

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