The Heisenberg Guide To Sales: 5 Lessons From Breaking Bad’s Anti-Hero


Well Breaking Bad fans, it’s all over. Last night, we said goodbye to Walter White; the best meth-dealing, murdering, sociopathic friend we’ve ever had. Since I’m not ready to say goodbye to Heisenberg, I thought I’d explore some valuable sales lessons we can glean from the show. Hey, I wanted to give you something else to take away besides an existential crisis about your own moral fabric. You’re welcome.

Warning: A few spoilers may be included.

1. He knew he wasn’t in the meth business. He was in the empire business.

“You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” We all remember this chilling line from season 5, episode 5.

When someone asks what business you’re in, how do you answer?

Walter White recognized that he was at the epicenter of something that was greater than meth and money – he was building an empire. When you stop and think about your role, think about what you really do. At Base for example, our sales team sells our CRM software. But is that really it? I don’t think so. What we’re selling is the future of software. With better software, our customers see substantial productivity gains and have the ability to make more money for their companies and for themselves. With these productivity gains, they can advance their careers and build their empires. Take the time to think about what business you’re really in.

2. He built and leveraged his network.

In sales, the ability to network effectively is crucial. Heisenberg had a very powerful network. When he needed to launder his drug money, he called Saul. When he needed to blow up the face of a fast food restaurant owner? Ding ding ding. He had an old man in a wheelchair for that, too. How does this apply to sales?

These days, it’s not who you know, it’s what you know about who you know. Walter was a master at this. Sometimes, your prospect may not be a good fit for your solution – not yet anyways.  If you have relationships with others in your industry, you can occasionally connect them with a prospect. Not only will you gain future referrals from these partners, but you’ll earn a positive reputation as a helpful resource instead of a pushy sales guy.

3. He believed in his product because it was the best.

“Blue Sky” (also known as Big Blue, Blue Magic, or Fring’s Blue) is the street name which has been coined for the notoriously potent and 99.1% chemically pure crystal methamphetamine manufactured by Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. It’s the best out there – and he knew how to create demand for it. Do you believe in the product or service you’re selling? You should be able to articulate all of the benefits and why it is better than your competitors’ products. If you can’t, it’s time to learn why your product is better or have a serious conversation with your company about how to actually make it better. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, it will be very difficult to sell it.

4. He took his own advice to tread lightly.

Too bad Hank didn’t take him seriously. In sales, it’s important to tread lightly and genuinely listen. Don’t push your demo or trial on someone who isn’t ready. They may still be in the information-gathering phase.  Take interest in your prospect by connecting with them on LinkedIn or Twitter before you push your product or service. Be a resource for them, not a bully. Confidence is typically a good quality in sales, but there is a fine line between confident and cocky. Actively listen to your prospect and answer accordingly.

5. He was always the one who knocked.

A big part of being in sales is initiating the conversation. Your website and inbound marketing strategy are great for getting prospective customers to come to you, but eventually you’re going to need to “knock”. Part of the job of the sales and marketing teams is to identify prospects that are ready to have a conversation. Whether that’s marketing passing along qualified leads to the sales team, or the sales team identifying qualified prospects to reach out to, don’t forget the importance of initiating the conversation.

As we bid farewell to our favorite show, what sales lessons will you take away from Walter White?

Image Credit

Thanks to the kind folks over at DemandDrive for inspiring this post! They also make some killer Saul references here.

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  • Arka Der Stepanian

    I think your first point is probably the most important take-away from the show for any sales or marketing team. SaaS companies need to realize that they’re not in the business of selling software, but clear and measurable gains (e.g. time savings, increased conversion, etc.). As much as I loved the show, I can’t think of any other sales lessons from Breaking Bad now. If I could leave one piece of advice, however, I’d say that businesses should adjust their messaging to reflect these gains rather than describe what they do. How often do we come across tag lines like “The Most Powerful Software in the Universe” that are void of any benefit or value whatsoever?

  • MeliLovesCards

    Guess I can’t miss what I never saw, however, I do like the 5 lessons!

  • Jakob

    One share coming up! (Too bad I didn’t write this article… )

  • SteveVV

    One more lesson. Stick-to-it-vinesse. “It’s not over til I say it’s over!” Never give up.

    • Lauren Licata

      Great one! I should have included it!

  • benjaminwinokur

    Love the analogy to a great show. Point number 1 is the most poignant, look at McDonald’s… He wasn’t in the hamburger business, he was in the real estate business yet built an effective enterprise that sits on top of some of the most sought after real estate in the world.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Lauren Licata

      Love the McDonald’s example, Benjamin. Thanks for chiming in!

  • Cristian Tala S.

    Good article! but I still dont see the last season :P.

    • Lauren Licata

      Better get on that, Cristian! Best series of all time – in my humble opinion :)

      • Cristian Tala S.

        On this weekend I will finish it :).

  • Angela

    Great article! I will definitely share :)

    • Lauren Licata

      Thank you, Angela!