Coffee is for Closers!

Many of you will recognise the title of this post as one of the many famous lines uttered by Alec Baldwin’s character Blake in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross. In this classic scene Blake delivers a truly memorable ‘motivational’ speech to a group of underperforming sales people in a Chicago real-estate office, where he introduces a new sales contest that will see the first prize winner drive away in a new Cadillac, second prize walks away with a set of steak knives and third prize, well he just gets to walk away because he gets fired.

There’s plenty of colourful language used to emphasise the seriousness of the situation and for those of you that have watched the film you’ll know all about the unintended consequences this pep talk leads to.

Although 22 years have passed since its release a viewing of Glengarry Glen Ross recently got me thinking about some of the ‘unintended consequences’ of today’s sales practices. The sales language used in the movie also caused me to reflect on how many of the words and phrases we still use today are actually counterproductive or just downright destructive.

Take the title of this post for example, Coffee is for Closers, or the ABC - Always Be Closing technique that Blake proudly reveals on the flip side of his swivel chalk board. Is ‘closing’ the sale really what we’re all about. Is the very idea of closing anything a good idea anyway? Surely after working through an exhaustive sales process, over many weeks, months or even years with your prospective customer you want to stay open and receptive. Challenging to do if you have a mindset focused on closing.

The words we use have a powerful effect on how we think, how we feel and how we behave and the sales profession is chock full of words and phrases that continually lead us to those unintended consequences. Anthony Robbins wrote an excellent post on this recently. He said “Simply by changing your habitual vocabulary, the words you consistently use to describe emotions, you can instantaneously change how you think, how you feel, and how you live. This is the power of what I call Transformational Vocabulary, consciously using your words to improve the quality of your life today and for the rest of your life”. You can check out the full post here - Change Your Words Change Your Life.

If you think about it there are so many words and phrases we use that have no place in today’s customer centric, value driven sales environment. In Go-Givers Sell More written by our founder Bob Burg and his co-author John David Mann we highlight terms like prospect and pitch as examples of how words can point our thinking in the wrong direction.

Burg and Mann write “There’s no such thing as a ‘prospect’ in real life. It is a concept that exists only in the salesperson’s mind, and the more it exists in your mind, the more it can crowd out thoughts of the actual flesh and blood person standing in front of you” They continue “Traditional sales training often teaches the moment you've been waiting is when you get to launch into your ‘elevator pitch’. But great salespeople don’t pitch. We’re not going for a strikeout. What we’re doing here is having a natural, genuine conversation.”

Now there’s a revelation. Have real conversations. As real people rather than as sellers and prospects!

This idea of ‘being real’ brings me back to the unintended consequences I mentioned at the start of this post. Too many sales driven organisations create environments where sales people feel compelled to behave in ways that are far from real in order to succeed. For example a company may talk about the need for collaboration and teamwork but yet they have compensation systems that acknowledge only the individual and ignore the wider contributions of the many. Or they may talk about client centricity and customer value but turn a blind eye to contrary behaviours that bring in lots of money for the company at the expense of the customer.

Burg & Mann again address this issue in Go-Givers Sell More where they explain the traditional sales process is typically viewed as a sequence of specific controlled events:

Prospect – Qualify – Present – Overcome Objections – Close
Follow Up – Provide Customer Service

The Go-Giver philosophy offers a different approach. In our view, the sales process goes something like this:

Create Value – Touch People’s Lives – Build Networks – Be Real – Stay Open

It’s easy to see how unintended consequences can happen when you see the sales process as a ‘series of controlled events’ that your sales people robotically follow. But when you see your purpose as creating value, touching lives, building networks, being real and staying open you’re embracing the fact that sales at its core is about the forging of human connections.

In his book HumanSigma under the title The Terminator School of Management John H. Fleming Ph.D. Chief Scientist for Marketplace Consulting at Gallup likens the future of a corporate world bereft of human contact to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “war ravaged landscape where humans battle for survival against an onslaught of artificially intelligent machines”. He writes “We contend that a vision of sales and services organisations that emphasises automation and technology at the expense of human interaction does customers and shareholders alike a huge disservice by ripping the soul out of business.”

We Agree. Sales is and always has been about people.

How have unintended consequences impacted your sales career? What established sales terms and phrases would you like to consign to the history books?

Ian J Lowe is the CEO of Go-Givers Australia, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation offering a unique culture-defining philosophy and framework that makes giving value the cornerstone of a refreshingly open and authentic approach to selling.

Image Credit: Glengarry Glen Ross Movie, New Line Cinema 1992