Glengarry Glen Ross is a “post classic” American play turned into a movie. You might otherwise call it “Cremation of a Salesman”. As the closing credits roll on this film you really feel like you have just spent a night at the theatre.
There’s all kinds of heavyweight actors crammed in to this movie. Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin.
There’s Al Pacino in scenery-eating form; who even has one of the movie’s best lines.
But it is Jack Lemmon who really shows ’em all how it’s done.
In this catalyst opening scene, Alec Baldwin drops by for a single scene to somewhat forcefully up-the-stakes to the sales incentive scheme by adding a new third prize.
The Always Be Closing scene has become somewhat of a pop culture touchpoint. Alec Baldwin playfully referenced the “coffee is for closers” meme 25 years later in the animated movie The Boss Baby.
Copywriters and producers don’t typically see themselves as salespeople, which is a shame really. This film probably won’t change their minds. But least this scene demonstrates the age-old structure behind any given persuasive communication. This actually is a gem of an insight into the structure of a sales pitch; be it on the shop floor; door-to-door; or even on television.
Baldwin’s character might be a schmuck, but he’d sure make a great copywriter; because this scene offers a template––albeit basic––for how all persuasive communications should be structured.
Always Be Closing… really?
However… is he right?
Should “Always Be Closing” be taken as commandment number 1 in the sales gospel?
To those ‘classically trained’ in salescraft, the ABC structure will be familiar to the point of cliché. My father spent a few years on the showroom floor of an appliance store, and he showed me a version of it that he had been taught.
Even though the formula is supposed to be a kind of insiders’ trade secret, you’ll find it in any book on selling techniques. It’s one of those hidden-in-plain-sight formulas that when you know about you start seeing everywhere.
Paradoxically, the most surprising thing (to me) about the whole ABC/AIDC thing is how rarely these days you encounter it in modern retailing… the very place:
a/. it was born
b/. has the capacity to do the most damage
c/. can offer something that the retail-killing internet cant.
As to whether a persuasive communicator should always be closing, that depends on what Alec actually means.
If he’s saying a salesman should always be closing sales; or in other words, always doing their job, then yes. But then he could have spared the “AB” part of the pep talk and just talked about “C” and saved a lot of time.
I’m guessing that he’s talking about the technique known as closing which is all about offering a customer a deal which is hard for them to say no to. This is often based on limiting the time in which the offer is available.
“If you buy this washing machine today, I’ll throw in a year’s supply of washing powder.”
“There’s only one of these machines left in stock. The price will be higher in the next shipment”
Closing the sale is not to be confused with the call to action which is telling the customer what they need to do make it a deal… the ‘sign on the line which is dotted’ part.
You can’t always be closing… because closing must always come after getting attention, and then developing interest. A salesperson who was always closing would simply weird people out.
Great salespeople will often use a technique known as the trial close, which is a way of testing a customer’s readiness to buy, using low priority questions:
“Would this colour fridge suit your kitchen, Mrs Jones?”
“What would your friends say if they saw you driving this car?”
Positive responses indicate a better chance of a successful close. Negative responses mean more pitching is required.