8 Post Modern Lessons You Should Have Learned from Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross gets all of the press when people talk about movies that depict a real sales environment. And with good reason, those scenes ring true for anyone who’s ever been in a high pressure sales team. But those techniques may not be the most effective in a Post Modern Sales world, as evidenced by this tweet:

Sunny’s opinion is tough to argue against. What he’s railing on is the “if I could… would you…” and “what will it take to do it right now” style of sales that you see from Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris and Alan Arkin’s characters. Does anyone like to be sold to that way?

But there are still tons of educational opportunities for budding salespeople if you can get past the aggressiveness of the surface view:

  1. Coffee is for Closers: From the most well known scene – Alec Baldwin’s epic monologue to the sales team above. What Baldwin is doing beyond the insulting is setting up competition. Both within the team and with the world at large. Competition is a good thing, not everyone works well under pressure, but in my experience the best salespeople can take a “me against the world” mentality to get through the inevitable rejection in the world of sales. Be a Closer – get that Coffee.
  2. The Leads are weak: Why do you think the leads are bad? Is it because your marketing is off? You aren’t identifying your targets well? Are you just playing the “spray and pray” game or are you going out to find your leads? Go make the leads good, don’t complain about what you have.
  3. The Patels: Know the wrong customers. Know what doesn’t work for you. But be sure that you’re not having false positives here, keep your “wrong” list as narrowly defined as you can.
  4. Salesmen are what they see: See Alec Baldwin above. Then watch how Shelly Levine and the others sell. See a pattern? The same high pressure tactics are put from Management to the sales guys and from the sales guys to their leads. How you treat your salesmen will be how they treat their customers. If you go with the hard push, your sales guys will drop the “I’m only in town for the next three hours….” stuff with similar results. The fear of scarcity is harder to apply in a Post Modern Sales world.
  5. Sales is Problem Solving: The one salesman who seems to be routinely successful is Ricky Roma, Al Pacino’s character. What does he do differently than the other three? He’s not going on script with the pushy stuff, he’s asking questions and seeking to understand how to approach for a close. In his own words: “You never open your mouth unless you know what the shot is”
  6. Excuses: The Baldwin speech again – Look at Ed Harris’s character. Coming up with all sorts of reasons not to be successful. I’ve watched many a salesman do the same thing. You can find reasons to fail any direction you look – or you can take the same bad leads and go make $150,000 like Alec Baldwin claims. It is all in your head.
  7. A Man is his Job: So says Shelly Levine. What you do all day defines you in ways that go beyond a job title or business card tagline. Define yourself how you want to be defined.
  8. ABC: Everyone knows that acronym by now. But let’s go beyond the obvious. Every time you talk to someone, or step into a meeting, you have an opportunity to close – to advance your cause in one way or another. Know your goal before stepping into any meeting so you can measure your success towards that goal. Make sure you leave every meeting with a take away – either an actionable task or a piece of information that can help you moving forward. Close yourself first, then the customer.

This movie could be dissected down line by line and more details would appear, this is quite obviously the type of movie that has many layers. Get beyond the f-bombs, the aggression, and the dreary tone to find more of your own truths here. Which ones did I miss?