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Great sales pitch in "Jaws"

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There are a surprising number of moving parts in an effective sales pitch. Doing this right is like a master presentation in itself.

I recently re-watched Jaws, the summer action movie about a rogue shark off the New England coast. It’s the 45th anniversary of this classic Steven Spielberg 1975 film and it was just as fun this time around.

Jaws is extremely well-crafted, especially when you consider that it was made before computer generated imagery (CGI) was the rage. Even the musical instruments in the score are real, courtesy of the always amazing, John Williams.

The movie stars Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss, but it’s Robert Shaw’s, Captain Quint that steals the show.

Shaw’s first appearance in the film is the quintessential (see what I did there?) combination elevator speech and sales pitch because it has:

  • A strong opening

  • Marriage of verbal and non-verbals signals

  • Fabulous eye contact and persuasion skills

  • A remarkable value proposition

  • A compelling call-to-action

Watch Robert Shaw capture the scene--and his fellow actors--as he delivers one of the greatest opening salvos of all time.

Let's break it down

The scene is a frantic town hall meeting with the mayor, city workers and citizens. The townspeople are in a panic due to a shark attack, when Captain Quint makes his first appearance in the movie.

Strong opening

The Mayor loses control of the meeting and everyone is talking at once. You hear Quint before you see him. He runs his fingernails down a chalkboard until the room is silent. He begins his powerful elevator speech with three words: "Y'all know me.."

Marriage of verbal and non-verbal signals

All the authority figures in the room are standing before the assemblage. But Quint sits confident and cross-legged in a folding chair in the back of the room. The captain is the only person in the room who seems to know exactly what to do. He speaks directly and can't be bothered with proper punctuation, diction or even complete sentences. The actors in the movie may recognize this character, but at this point, viewers have no idea who this compelling character is. He munches on a soda cracker as he talks about how a shark eats.

"...know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycocks. This shark, swallow you whole. No shakin’, no tenderizin’, down you go."

Fabulous eye contact and persuasion skills

Shaw's piercing blue eyes serve the scene well. He glances around the room to be sure his message is landing, but his eyes always return to police Chief Brody. Captain Quint knows that the Chief is the ultimate decision maker. Scheider's Brody reports to the Mayor, but it will be the Chief's job to take care of this situation.

Good salespeople properly define the problem. Quint addresses urgency, the ultimate goal and the difficulty of attaining the solution--all in two sentences. No PowerPoint needed.

"And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant."

Remarkable value proposition

Quint cleverly employs a technique called "the relative number" and uses direct, even graphic language to explain why the cheaper solution is not better.

"I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Compelling call to action

Many sales people save the "call-to-action" for the end of the presentation, but Quint embeds his close in the body of his 163-word presentation. The sense of urgency is conveyed at least five times in rapid succession:

"...gotta do it quick...bring back your tourists...put all your businesses on a payin’’ve gotta make up your minds...if you want to stay alive, then ante up."

A now subdued Mayor answers for the stunned audience and says, "Thank you very much, Mr. Quint. We'll take it under advisement" and Quint shuffles out.

The town, of course, decides to hire the salty sea Captain to kill the shark and the rest is summer movie history.


Sadly, Shaw died of a heart attack at age 51, only three years after making Jaws. But his amazing elevator speech remains one of those most compelling sales pitches ever filmed.

[Learn more about persuasion and amp up your sales career with online sales coaching with Michael Angelo Caruso.

Book your free Breakthrough consult here.]

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