Plot: In 2018, the idea of door to door sales seems obsolete and antiquated, but at one time, it was a viable and thriving business. In Salesman, we are taken inside the lives of a small group of door to door salesmen in the 1960s, out in the field to sell bibles and other religious literature. The men are sometimes given leads by local churches, as displays are put up with cards for interested parties to list their information. But even when the client has shown interest, closing a sale can be an uphill battle and for many of these men, is an exhausting, never ending process. Some can sense this style of sales is on the way out, but they push on, with few other options available. This is a candid, in depth look at an interesting part of a bygone era.
Entertainment Value: Sales can be a daunting field to work in, but even within the profession, door to door is on another level. Salesman shows us the nuts & bolts of the salesman and his process, as experienced by a band of bible salesmen who try to earn a living on the road. This movie pulls back the curtain on the sales methods, as we watch actual sales calls and discussions. As you’d expect, not every visit yields the desired sell and some don’t even make it in the door, but being able to see the process and tactics used is very insightful. I mean, we have all dealt with tricky or pushy sales people, but cold calls and shaky leads like these drive these salesman to some wild ends, in search of the elusive sale. This is not a sanitized look at the business either, we see the tricks and manipulation tactics used, as well as just good old fashioned high pressure, these guys are serious about numbers.
The sales calls and struggles related to them are a big component of Salesman, but some time is also devoted to what happens when the routes are over. The men gather at the hotel and discuss the day’s results, the shape of the business, and banter with each other about victories and defeats. These conversations really shed some light on how bleak this line of work was at this point, with even the most dedicated salesmen starting to wane under the pressure. These are very candid, honest conversations and they’re the heart of the movie, in my opinion. I think these personal moments are crucial, as it shows why the men are so driven to sell and we’re able to see them as people, not the well trained smooth talkers we see during the sales calls. The tone here is dark and bleak, but it is a real, raw look at this unique field and the men who made a living on the road, having to sell to earn an income. If you appreciate documentaries and looks into interesting aspects of culture, don’t miss Salesman.