Oct 06, 2022

Put that coffee down...Coffee's for Closers only.

Everybody who's ever sold for any meaningful period of time knows this line. It epitomizes the message from the powerful film adaptation of David Mamet's stage production, "Glengarry Glen Ross". It so clearly articulates the hardline philosophy regarding selling that persists even today in many industries. His original play debuted back in 1984 based on his own experience in sales. The decade of the 80s was a time of transformative renaissance for American society and almost every business and industry. It was undeniably, a time of enormous economic growth after a tumultuous period of economic, social and political strife during the late 60s and the entire decade of the 70s. Sound familiar? Are there lessons to be learned and applied to the profession of selling today? Hell yes! But my perspective may surprise you a bit.

In 1980, I was a hungry, wide-eyed13-year old kid working for my family's single point Pontiac dealership in Paramus, NJ. I spent almost all of my days after school from eighth grade and throughout high school working virtually every support position from Porter to Car Jockey (Today we call that a Lot or Lane Attendant!) to Undercoating Tech to Shipping/Receiving in Parts to New Vehicle Get Ready Tech. Later, I had the invaluable opportunity to move into the Service Drive and learn the critical positions of Dispatcher and Service Advisor.

My father knew that I always had a fascination with the more glamorous showroom environment and the "stars" of the dealership in the Sales Department, but he knew better and started me out serving others from day one.

My very first task was cleaning each and every bathroom in the building and the Technician locker room. I did that every shift for months, and I loathed it, but it taught me lessons that serve and guide my philosophy to this very day. I am eternally appreciative and grateful for his wisdom in doing that. He wanted me to recognize the immutable power of service to others. Those roles, and the experiences they provided me, left an indelible impression upon me that continues to shape me even today more than 40 years later. I witnessed what people truly valued in terms of how they were treated and how they responded to being thoughtfully and sincerely served in their best interest.

So how does this tie back to Alec Baldwin's epic scene in Glengarry Glen Ross you ask? Here is where "the rubber meets the road" for me, and the contrast in my personal philosophy is basically a complete departure from Baldwin's character, Blake, and his philosophy. He delivers a zero-option ultimatum to the 4 salespeople in the office and says, "You can’t close the leads you’re given, you can’t close sh*t, you are sh*t, hit the bricks, pal, and beat it, ’cause you are going out." He delivers his lines with such steely, soulless resolve that it leaves his audience demoralized, angry and disillusioned. This is what a culture that focuses to heavily on "closing the deal" can spiral into. Dramatic? Maybe a little, but essential for the sake of making my point.

There is the myth in our profession about the over-hyped skill of "closing" and I am here to call bullsh*t on almost all of it. Of course, we have to know how to "close the deal". And about this, there is no doubt. But don't misunderstand my message. I am not saying that closing skills aren't essential to our success in selling. They most obviously are. However, it isn't the most important part of the process, not by a long shot. Closing is not about some magical line, some series of words we string together that seem to magically convince a prospect to say yes. The "magic" is in building real trust with people. It is so much more than just selling. In a world dominated by the cell phones text messaging and social media, it very often begins long before we ever meet a new prospect.

ABC...Always Be Curious!
ABC...Always Be Connecting!
ABC...Always Be Caring!

I am a proponent of clearly differentiating business development skills from traditional skills. Why? Because Business Development is all about opening up exponential opportunities by connecting with people every chance we get throughout our daily life. It's about building real relationships that lead to sustainable, long-term success by being the authentic, best version of yourself and serving people. Knowing how to easily and effortlessly create client opportunities out of everyday conversations requires the commitment to being empathetic, honing our listening and communication skills and committing to serving people above all else. As a rule, my goal is simple and unwavering.

My goal is to serve as their most trusted resource, gather and share all of the information needed to help each of them make the very best decision possible for them. Period.

There are more than a few people out there pedaling the message that we need to be more like them and project some cartoonish self-promotion in order to attract attention to ourselves or break down the sales process into some type of CIA intel psy-ops mission to outwit or out-strategize our prospects. Some have achieved financial success as a result, and I am not saying that they aren't smart, successful and talented. Quite the opposite, in some cases, they've experienced exceptional financial success as a byproduct of their self-confidence, and for some people their strategies do work.

That said, most people don't possess their personality or their natural ability to persuade others in nearly the same capacity. And in today's world, most people don't want to be sold per se any way. What people really want is help from a trusted authority in helping them to make the best decision available to them. They want to deal with an honest, sincere authority in the area that they need help. Whether it is buying a vehicle, a house, technology, insurance or a B2B product or service, people want to know that the guidance they get comes from a perspective of helping them "solve for X" from someone they know, like and trust...not simply to be sold.

To be clear, selling success requires additional skills to achieve big results including high-value differentiation, personal branding, prospecting, social media marketing, personal development and yes...closing! We need a strategy, system and the dedication to continually learn and improve, but the the foundation should always be to do it in the vein of becoming the best version of ourselves in service to our clients, not someone else's caricature of the oft-romanticized "Closer".