Glengarry Glen Ross

Glengarry Glen Ross

Study Guide 14: Sales

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A wise man once said, “If we’re all going to eat, somebody has got to sell.” It’s the kind of statement that belongs with the other truisms that hang on the walls of Mitch and Murray’s real estate office in Glengarry Glen Ross. It may hang on yours. But if your sales force is as dysfunctional as Mitch and Murray’s, you’ve got problems – big ones. Glengarry Glen Ross is based on David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same title. The movie illustrates many tricks of the salesman’s trade (including some highly illegal ones). Glengarry Glen Ross presents, for the most part, outstanding examples of how not to sell, how not to motivate salespeople, how not to compensate them and how not to treat your customers. As such, it is an excellent launching point for discussions of the role of sales and appropriate approaches to the critical function of getting people to buy your product or service.

Guide opening:

You’re having a tough month. Orders have dried up and you’re overdrawn on your commission. You know there are some great leads out there, but the sales manager won’t release them to you until you’ve worked the current lists – filled with dead prospects – to exhaustion. You need some help, but your colleagues on the sales staff are also your competitors for the new leads. Everyone has a slump; but if you’re going to stay motivated, you’ve got to have some decent prospects to call on. To survive, you’re thinking you may have to break a few rules – maybe even a few laws. Real estate agent Sheldon “The Machine” Levene is facing that dilemma. You don’t want to do what Shelley does, but watching him and his colleagues may help you think your way to better solutions.

An excerpt from the plot summary:

Shelley rushes back to the office for the 7:30 p.m. meeting. There’s a stranger (Alec Baldwin) in Williamson’s office. Nobody knows who the guy is, but he’s moving around Williamson’s office like he owns the place. The stranger moves into the sales room, where only Roma is missing. He’s wearing the most powerful of power suits. He tells Williamson he’s not going to wait, then turns to the salesmen and abruptly launches into a diatribe. It is, perhaps, the most belittling speech in cinema. He starts by yelling at the men to get their minds off unimportant things like family and supper and the weekend.

“Instead, let’s talk about something important,” he says. He notices that Shelley is getting himself a cup of coffee. “Put the coffee down,” he orders. “Coffee is for closers!” Shelley looks at him, incredulous. “You think I’m f…ing with you?” he asks Shelley. “Well, I am not f. . .ing with you. Put the coffee down!” Shelley does. The man continues: “I’m here from downtown. I’m here from Mitch & Murray, and I’m here on a mission of mercy.” He asks if Levene calls himself a salesman. He berates the men and tells them he’s got good news: they are all fired.

“The bad news is you’ve all got one week to redeem yourselves.” He explains that the company has added something new to the monthly sales contest: “First prize is a new Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is. . . your fired!.” He tells the men that Mitch and Murray paid good money for good leads – leads the salesmen can’t close. Shelley says the leads are weak. The man says it’s Shelley that’s weak. “[If] you can’t close the leads you’re given, hit the bricks!” Moss asks the man his name. “F.. you, that’s my name.” He goes on, pounding on the men, demeaning them. He tells Moss, “You drove a Hyundai to get here tonight; I drove here in an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name!”

He tells the men that only one thing counts in life: “Get the name on the line which is dotted!” He moves to a portable blackboard on which he has written two columns of letters. The first column is ABC. The second AIDA.

He explains them. A is for Always. B for Be. C for Closing. “Always Be Closing.” That’s their marching order. In the second column A stands for Attention, I for Interest, D for Decision and the second A for Action: “Attention, Interest, Decision, Action.” It’s a process many salesmen use with clients.

Summary of the commentary:

Glengarry Glen Ross is a salesman’s nightmare come to the screen. The commentary examines the function of sales, reviews the basics of sales-force psychology (there are distinct selling personalities), and presents an overview of sales compensation systems.

The commentary also looks at harassment in the workplace. Is Alec Baldwin’s character setting the company up for a sexual harassment suit when he calls the salesmen “faggots?” asks Shelley Levene. “If he’s man enough” to close and calls Ed Moss an SOB? You bet he is. It’s unusual to find harassment suits filed in all-male environments, but it does happen; and it can be costly to companies on the losing end of those suits.

Additional commentary looks at the disconnects that often occur between the sales force and senior management. These involve Sales’ tendency to focus on gross revenue when the rest of the company is focused on net revenue, as well as the tendency of Sales and Marketing departments to view each other as superfluous or subordinate. Keeping the Sales team’s goals and practices in line with company goals and practices is a critical issue with which every company must eventually come to grips.

The commentary is supplemented by Breakout Boxes dealing with these topics:

  • The Writing on the Wall: Motivational Epigrams
  • Sales Are for Closers: The Mitch and Murray Philosophy
  • Rick Roma on the Salesman’s Life
  • Sales Compensation Systems: A Checklist
  • Six Rules for Avoiding Harassment Suits

THE GUIDE also includes an essay that looks at business as depicted in the movies. For an introductory section on how to use the Management Goes to the Movies™ program, click through to Using The MGTTM Training Program.

This guide will soon be available for purchase as an instant download for $5.95.