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  • Writer's pictureJames Purvis

3 Sales Tips Matthew McConaughey Taught Me

"Alright, alright, alright." Did you know those were Matthew McConaughey's first words on the big screen? I didn't know that either until I read his critically acclaimed book, Greenlights which is an ever so entertaining biography of the first 50 years of this Hollywood legend's life.

A few days after I finished the book, the company I work for (Rubrik) ironically hired Mr. McConaughey for an interview with one of our top and most respected executives, Mike Tornincasa. Couldn't have been happier as the timing was impeccable and Matthew happens to be one of my favorite actors like many of us. Mr. Tornincasa said it best as he kicked off the interview with Matthew, "You're the person every guy wants to be and who every girl wants to be with."

Although Matthew is known worldwide for his acting ability, he is also an amazing sales talent. The guy just gets it. He knows that everyone is in sales and that selling skills and "story telling" are crucial for all of us to learn, no matter the profession.

To help demonstrate this, here is a 4 minute video McConaughey put together for students at the University of Texas on Crafting a Personal Story to Sell Your Product.

Here are the key points from the video that all of us sellers should be reminded of:

  • You got to get out in front of a product but your product should always precede you.

  • Your product, your idea - you must own it and be the master of it.

  • Know your audience. Sell it the best way THEY understand it.

Example: Matt states how he pitches his movies different to his family than he does to a studio.

  • The Why. This is the most important element of any sales pitch. It's about supply and demand. How do you make their life better. If you answer the why, you have purpose.

If you create all the above, you have a story.

"To get to the head, you have to go through the heart." - Matthew McConaughey

Matthew's final three key points:

1. Know what you know. Know what you don't.

2. There is more than one way to be right.

3. Amendments are not always improvements.

"Create and build a story that you love to tell. If you believe in your product, you will sell it."

These were all great reminders for me as I watched his short video on selling but the majority of his pearls of sales wisdom come from his book and interview. In fact, there were too many to put into one post so I narrowed it down to the three that stuck out the most which I'm sharing below:

1. Never Say "I Can't." Don't Lie. Don't Hate.

Matthew's parents taught their kids at a very young age not to lie, never say the words "I can't, and to remove feelings of hatred. These principles have been distilled within him and are fundamentals he's passed onto his own family. Matthew's parents didn't hope that he would follow these principles, they expected it. Like his parents, he demands the same respect and trust within his household.

I Can't

Those two words get you into "big trouble" Matthew exclaims in the interview. Instead, he teaches his kids to have the mindset that they will "always try." In the book, he defines that "words are momentary; intent is momentous." How true is that in selling?

Your customers, partners, peers, superiors and everyone in between don't want to hear the words, "I can't." For example, you think your customer wants to hear that response when they ask you if you can give them a discount? Or do you think your boss wants to hear that you "can't" close a particular deal?

Even worse, an "I can't" attitude leads to a "fixed mindset" which according to well-known Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, PH.D., can be a huge deterrent to an individuals success.

After decades of research, Carol discovered how the power of mindset truly affects us. In her book, Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, she talks about how success can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities.

Dr. Dweck defines the two different mindsets by the following:

"People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed."

Dweck explains throughout the book how a growth mindset can be used to foster "outstanding accomplishment" and she backs it all up with science.

Don't Lie

This is a cardinal rule in life, a crux to McConaughey's teachings, and one that can't be overstated in life and in business. If you ask any customer, they will tell you that trust is the most important thing when dealing with salespeople. If the customer can't trust you, your chances of closing a deal are about as good as the New York Jets winning the Super Bowl this year.

"Knowing the truth, seeing the truth and telling the truth are all different experiences." - Matthew McConaughey

One of the best ways to build trust with your customers is to always do what you say you're going to do. A tip I use that I've mentioned in a previous post is something I got from the real estate sales mogul Ryan Serhant. In his book, "Sell it Like Serhant" he talks about what he refers to as "the 3 F's."

  1. Follow Up - Never expect people to get in touch with you. Instead, get in touch with them. Being proactive will help build the rapport you need to start earning trust.

  2. Follow Through - If you told a customer you are going to do something, DO IT! Every time. And as quick as humanly possible. Nothing hurts trust more than broken promises.

  3. Follow Back - Keep in touch with past clients on a consistent basis. The relationship does not end at the closing of sale. Help continue to foster the trust you've built and expand on it.

Don't Hate.

Lastly, Matthew talks about how the word "hate" should just be removed from everyone's vocabulary. There is no place for it in life or in business. Hate also falls into the "fixed mindset" category and feeling hate won't take you anywhere in life. Try and shift whatever it is you think you hate into a challenge that you can try and overcome, an opportunity to make better, or something you just need to avoid altogether.

2. The Sweat is in the Preparation

Mr. McConaughey is big on preparation. He attributes his success to preparedness, discipline, and dedication. In his interview with Mike T, he emphasizes, "My game is the pre-game. The sweat is in the preparation not in the game itself. The actual game is the time for me to play and dance." he states.

"Preparation is fundamental to all success. Preparation provides us with the confidence required to perform well. This confidence allows us to impress others. Finally, impressing others bestows us with fantastic opportunities to obtain success. This loop then keeps going as long as we remain prepared." - Matthew McConaughey

In essence, his entire book directly relates to preparation. "The work you do today will shape the outcomes of tomorrow and create more 'Greenlights' for your future." But, what exactly are 'Greenlights?'


Matthew refers to Greenlights as a "state of success." By making the right choices on a daily basis, we can catch more Greenlights in our life. Furthermore, by identifying the red lights and taking the proper course of action, we can hit fewer of them and "catch more yes's in the world of no's."

In order to accomplish these "states of successes," it all starts with your preparation. McConaughey expresses that, "DNA and work, genetics and willpower, life is a combination of the two. You need to both utilize your genes and have an incredible work ethic." Boy does this guy have both. Remember what he looked like in Dallas Buyer's Club? He lost 50 pounds for that role.

The movie came out 18 months later and he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for that performance. He told his kids the night of winning the award, "Remember a year and a half ago when I looked like a giraffe? My peers have now deemed that this was my best work today and it is the result of that preparation and hard work I put in not too long ago."

It's all about being disciplined and accepting "delayed gratification" he references in Greenlights.

This should be a big reminder for all of us, especially those of us in the field of sales. Delayed gratification is something all sales professionals have to get accustomed to and understand. Our "Academy Awards" don't come easy and like any professional takes a lot of discipline and preparedness. In sales, I think the best way to create more 'Greenlights' for our future is to fanatically prospect and build pipeline. The larger the net, the more fish we will catch.

"We get too focused on the outcome and we miss the doing of the deed. If we stay in process and within the joy of the doing, we will never choke at the finish line. Why? Because we aren’t thinking of the finish line, we are performing in real-time where the approach is the destination. There is no goal line because we are never finished." - Matthew McConaughey

3. The Greatest Salesman in the World

When Matthew first saw the book The Greatest Salesman in the World by Og Mandino in his college dorm room at the bottom of a stack of Playboy magazines, he looked at this little white book with the title in red and said, "Who is that?"

Matthew was aspiring to be a lawyer at the time and after finishing this book, he decided to go into storytelling which lead him directly towards his acting career. McConaughey has publicly stated many times over the years that this is the book that changed his life as it gave him the courage to chase his dream.

The book serves as a guide to a philosophy of salesmanship and success through the story of Hafid, a poor camel boy who achieves a life of abundance.

Although the book is only 111 pages and could be read over a weekend, if you follow the author's suggested reading structure, the book will take you 10 months to read.

How is that? Mandino composed The Legend of the Ten Scrolls which he advises to read each scroll, three times a day for 30 days each. As a highly disciplined individual, Matthew to no surprise followed the recommended reading system of Mandino and the result shaped his future forever.

After listening to McConaughey heavily tout this book in the Mike T. interview, I had no choice but to pick up the book again myself. I must say, if sales had a bible, this would be it. It's so impactful that I've dedicated a section of my website to this book and have each of the ten scrolls written out.

Like Mr. McConaughey, I'm taking on "The Legend of the Ten Scrolls Challenge" (as I call it) and staying disciplined by reading each scroll three times a day for 30 days each. I'm bullish on what the future will bring by accomplishing this. I may not win an Academy Award, but I know something great will become of it and I can't wait to share it with all of you someday.

"It is not about whether you win or lose, it’s about accepting the challenge. When you accept the challenge you have already won." - Matthew McConaughey


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