When Ari Gold Sells “Silo” – A Sales Lesson From Entourage

solution selling, decision makers, sales tacticsI took a break this weekend. I don’t watch movies that much anymore. I am one of those people that when I have time, I binge watch TV. So this weekend I watched some Entourage on HBOgo.

There was a scene (Season 4, Episode 10) that caught my eye where Ari Gold, the agent for the star of the show, Vincent Chase, has to go sell a movie to the studio boss where he has absolutely no chance in hell. I don’t want to bore you on too much background. Just focus in on how he sells the movie.

Warning:  There is cursing in this scene so if you are cool with that, wear headphones. If you aren’t, please don’t watch.

There were a number of interesting elements to the scene, but let me point out the ones that stood out:

1. He Sold A Solution to the Decision Maker’s Business Problem

This script he was selling sounds terrible: “The story of a group of non-unionized farmhands that survive a nuclear attack after discovering an underground society”. But Ari focuses his pitch on the decision maker’s issues and create’s urgency: “You and your fading stock prices and your 3 quarters in the red are dead if you have to go to your board of directors and tell them that this will be your worst summer yet”. Everything is put in the context of what the decision maker needs. He doesn’t walk in and say: “I have the best script I have read in 20 years”. As a matter of fact, if held up to other potential blockbusters, this movie would not get chosen. Oh and as you can tell the decision maker hates him. This isn’t his golf buddy. He sold in the face of an extremely agitated buyer.

2. He Exposed a Challenge to the Decision Maker That He Didn’t Realize He Even Had

“You don’t have a summer movie. A tentpole..you don’t have one.” In this use case, Ari does risk getting the champion fired because he exposing a problem she is responsible for. Try not to do that. But this is a major issue, that requires a solution immediately and the decision maker had no idea. In selling, not every problem is revealed in your “What would you like to do improve?” question. Research, needs assessment, and an understanding of best practices are necessary to identify the issues your client doesn’t realize they even have. Help expose them, help them understand the business implication, and then sell them a solution.

3. He Sold High

His champion (Dana Gordon who is introduced in the scene) was a road block. Again I don’t suggest you lock the champion out of the office like Ari did. On the other hand, he didn’t let one roadblock deter him from selling to the organization. The truth is no one really wants that particular movie, but they needed it. Ari went to the person who has the most at stake and can move the mountain to make it happen. In b2b selling, we often can’t get to the decision maker and I understand that. But as one VP of Sales said to his sales rep in a meeting I was in: “If they need our solution, then don’t quit till everyone in the company tells you no.”

4. He Knew the Market, He Knew the Prospect’s Organization, and He Knew the Prospect

All in all, Ari got the deal because he knew enough about the prospect’s business and what they care about to sell a solution to a business problem. I know this point is very similar to #1 but I have to mention it again because it is the key. None of this would have happened if Ari wasn’t able to craft the message he did. He didn’t whip out a power point projector. As a matter of fact, he got buy-off in a couple minutes in the face of an angry and uninterested buyer. If you want to sell big opportunities (aka big solutions to big business problems), you have to be an expert in the market and an expert in the customer.

Just some Fourth of July fun…and a bit of stretch of the imagination. There are probably more cool observations but it’s a holiday and I just had a spurt of inspiration. If you got more, give me a comment below.

Craig Rosenberg is the Funnelholic and a co-founder of Topo. He loves sales, marketing, and things that drive revenue. Follow him on Google+ or Twitter

  • http://www.linchpin.net/ Damian Thompson

    I understand Jeremy Piven is pretty difficult in real lfe, but dang if I wouldn’t watch an entire TV show just about Ari!

    Great article.

    • http://www.funnelholic.com/ Craig Rosenberg

      I just typed in “Is Jeremy Piven a pain in the ass” into Google after your comment. It seems he is…but I would watch an Ari only spinoff in a heartbeat.

      • http://leadmd.com/ Justin Gray

        The movie comes out next year… finally! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1674771/

      • http://www.linchpin.net/ Damian Thompson

        Just goes to show you don’t have to be “the good guy” to sell a performance. ;)

  • Mark Brace

    loved the article because you combined entourage and sales advice. I think Ari was little more negative than you should be, but had some greater pointers in there.

  • http://www.getlift.com MaryFirme

    This is a perfect case in point for the benefits of customer centric selling vs old school product oriented selling, and artfully shows the power of this approach. Selling a script or software – no. It’s always about solving problems. Being nice while doing it is preferable than acting like Ari, and probably less cussing is a better in the B2B world, too.