Al Pacino starred in both movie and recent theater version of "Glengarry Glen Ross." Great movie, but does it send the wrong sales message?

One of the greatest sales movies of all time is the 1992 “Glengarry Glen Ross” classic starring Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris and Kevin Spacey. If you have been so fortunate to have seen this flick, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t ever seen this movie or have no clue what I am talking about, then stop reading this article immediately, and go find and watch it now. I’m serious! Go!

OK, now that you have seen the movie and hopefully purchased it for your personal viewing collection, the premise of the plot is the grotesque closing-at-all-costs environment that most sales offices still embrace. ABC: “Always Be Closing.” Most of us grew up in the world of sales, and can remember that ridiculously cheesy manager who always told you to always be in full closing mode. Close everything, and everybody. Never shut it down. Heck, I’m sure that we’ve all embraced this sales stupidity for a moment in time only to find out that it made our stomach’s turn as much or even more than the people we were trying to close. We all know that it’s just not natural to implement this dated ABC mentality.

Therefore, I think the new ABC of sales should be “Always Be Considerate.” That’s the sales mantra I wish the annuity world (and the entire sales world for that matter) would accept en masse. I know that I’m a dreamer and could be classified as an idealist, but let’s continue with the “Always Be Considerate” thought and why the time for this incantation is now.

There’s always a story

I have to frequently remind myself of this because many times things don’t go as planned during the selling process. We all know that. The cases that you think are going to close sometimes don’t, and vice versa. Instead of killing yourself trying to guess why sales happen or don’t, it’s better to just chalk up any sales results to the “story” the client or prospect decided not to share with you. 

I recently wrote an article about always being on the client’s time frame because of the unknown details that usually determine whether someone moves forward with the recommendation or not. It’s imperative to be considerate to the “unknown story” and to let the sales process take its own course and its own time frame.

Forced sales violation

Without using the horrible “R” word to describe forcing your “sales will” upon someone, we all know that there is a line that too often is crossed to get the paperwork signed. I call this a “forced sales violation.” I know this happens way too much with indexed and variable annuities because of the barrage of monthly calls I get from people that think their income rider is yield, or that the “hybrid” nonsense dream they bought from an Internet ad or video will never do what they were convinced it would. Whether it’s someone selling cars, houses or annuities, pressuring someone to cross the sales finish line before they want to seems to never work out in the long run. 

Constant emailing or calling seems to be the preferred method of “persistency selling” I hear about in the Wild Wild West of annuity sales. I have been told that if you sign up with some Internet annuity sites, you will receive two to five emails or calls a week until you either buy the annuity of choice or opt out. No one on the planet likes to be marketed to like that, and this type of contact volume can never be classified as considerate.

I personally think that I reflex so much to the “non-forced” side that I leave a ton of business on the table, but that’s my own demon I guess. I also suffer from the fact that I really like writing, creating, and all of my other artistic endeavors much more than selling. With that being said, there is really nothing to be gained in the long run by forcing the sale in any fashion. An annuity agent’s (or any salesperson’s) job is to provide complete information for the client to make their buying decision on their terms. That’s hard to do when selling is how you pay the bills, but we all need to remember that financial decisions are always very tough decisions, regardless of the dollar amount. 

Alec Baldwin played the arrogant narcissist manager in the “Glengarry Glen Ross” movie and prophetically yelled at the salesmen, “Coffee is for closers,” to deter them from walking toward the coffee machine if they haven’t sold anything. Classic stuff. The other line that I love is when he explained the prizes of the internal sales contest between the agents: “First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize is a set a steak knives, third prize is YOU’RE FIRED!” As we can all laugh at this, most of us grizzled old sales veterans know that this hits too close to home in a lot of sales environments. Unfortunately, I think too many still hang on to the archaic “Always Be Closing” bull-in-the-china shop mentality because that’s considered to be the norm. I’m finding that the older I get, the more I run as fast as I can away from the old school ABC thought process.

This “Always Be Closing” mentality needs to be buried in 1992 with this fantastic movie, and the new ABC sales mantra of “Always Be Considerate” should be the new credo. The clients will love the change, but I’m not sure that it’s good movie material. Oh well! You can’t have it all.

For more from Stan Haithcock, see: