Put that coffee down!

Put that coffee down.jpg

If the headline caught your attention there are two possible explanations: #1 you are a coffee lover, or #2 you are a huge fan of Glengarry Glen Ross.

I am both, unapologetically.

This morning as I savored my cup-a-joe more than usual I started thinking about my evolution as a coffee drinker and how I got to this moment. Which then led to me thinking about that genius movie about sales, Glengarry Glen Ross, and of course the modern challenges of selling in the Information Age.

Stick with me a bit here...

About three years ago I went from drinking two to three cups of coffee a day to just one or two a week. I won’t plug the product but I replaced coffee with a more healthy drink that has about the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of joe, and a whole lot of other good stuff for my brain and body. Great decision by the way! Always learning. Always moving forward.

But being the coffee lover that I am, I could not get away completely from that wonderful aroma and flavor, so I became an irregular coffee drinker. My wife likes to point out the irregular part, even when I’m not drinking coffee! :-)

Then about a year ago I decided to go to the next level and I forced myself to forgo the heavy cream and gobs of sugar I usually added. I took the plunge into the dark and mysterious land of black coffee. Once I acclimated, a whole new world opened up. Much deeper, more intense and far more enjoyable than the "java milk shakes” of days gone by. Pushed through and found a new level.

Which brings me to this morning. 

I was really enjoying this morning’s cup. I mean REALLY enjoying it! - all the deep aroma and intensity obscured from previous cups - when my thoughts turned one of my favorite movies of all time, Glengarry Glen Ross, and specifically Alec Baldwin’s inspired performance (you know the one!) where he tells the gathered team…

“Put that coffee down! Coffee is for closers!”

The moment stops everyone in their tracks. Cold! Baldwin’s character, Blake, then goes on to recap the month’s sales contest where 1st place is a new Cadillac, 2nd place is a (very sad) set of steak knives and 3rd place is “you’re fired”. 

Ouch! Talk about pressure!

It got me thinking. Real life feels like that sometimes, doesn’t it? The pressure to perform can be intense, especially in this game we’ve chosen called SALES. There are times all we can think about is will we win, or will we lose? And 2nd place doesn’t even earn a set of steak knives when you’re competing to win a critical deal. These emotions and these fears can eat you up if you’re not careful.

These emotions can be so great in fact, that the fear of losing can be smelled. It can be sensed. (Blake knew this) Your customers know when you have this fear and that is NOT GOOD. It either turns them off completely, or it emboldens them in getting the price and terms for your product if they’ve decided its the best fit. In my career I’ve seen this from three different perspectives: as a buyer, as a salesperson and as a sales leader. It’s not pretty!

So what’s the answer? How do you control this fear so that it doesn’t hurt you? How do you stop caring so much about something that you care so much about?

Well in his own very caustic way Blake provides the answer:  ALWAYS BE CLOSING!

But what does this really mean? There’s been some confusion about this, especially in complex sales cycles that last months or even years. How can you be “closing” when you are on your first (or second or third) client meeting and months away from a final decision?

The key is to focus on your actions, not the result. True in just about any pursuit, by the way. Focus on what you’re trying to achieve NOW and make EVERY INTERACTION ACTIONABLE. Get a decision. A result. A commitment from your buyer that moves the deal forward. Think about where you want the client to progress to and make it your goal for the interaction. 

Set it in your mind. Make it part of your meeting plan. 

In my experience I’ve learned that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do this. The wrong way has about a 20% success rate - which can lead to success - but the right way is easily north of 80%. It’s the difference between Cadillacs and steak knives.

It’s simple, but it’s not always easy. Buyers are slippery. They will tell you they need to think about it, or confer with others in their organization. Neither is a real decision or a commitment to move forward. You need to set yourself up to leave the interaction with the firm commitment. With agreement on actions, dates, times, etc.   

Get good at this. Practice. Role play. Analyze every meeting and score yourself on how firm your buyer’s commitments really are. And be a hard judge. 

It will pay off by giving you confidence and removing some of the fear and uncertainty. Sharks are not afraid, unless of course they find that they can no longer move forward and breathe. Be a shark. Don’t let outcome fear impede your success. 

Wake up and smell the coffee! 

It’s for closers!