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Coffee’s For Closers: The ABC(V)’s of Customer Experience

In the iconic film (and play) Glengarry Glen Ross written by David Mamet, the character Blake, played by Alec Baldwin in the movie, is a “hard case” sent to motivate a small real estate sales team. His message is clear—sell or leave. And, his motivational approach is intimidation. In his now famous line from the movie, Blake tells Jack Lemon’s character, Shelley Levine, to stop pouring himself a cup of coffee and sit down. “Coffee’s for closers only,” he said.

Blake then outlines a weeklong sales contest involving a Cadillac, Ginsu knives and pink slips. Basically, the top two salesmen get to stay and the others get fired. It is quite the sales contest, wouldn’t you say?

(In my opinion, it is one of the most intense and powerful scenes ever put to film. Just a warning if you intend to look it up on YouTube: the language and content is salty.)

Like many motivational speakers, Blake breaks his message down into a simple acronym: ABC… Always. Be. Closing. Easy to remember, right? This sequence in the film is the catalyst to the dialogue-heavy plot about the world of high-pressure real estate sales. The rest of the movie entails humans behaving badly as they often do under extreme stress. And, that is no way to sell.

ABC is good advice because the point of a sales job is to close deals. If your sales person is always closing she must also have a full pipeline of business to close in the near future. Always be closing.

I have a better approach using a similar acronym: ABC + V = Always. Be. Creating. Value. Here’s how that looks in the real world:

My wife drives a red Jeep Wrangler. She absolutely loves it. When we purchased the car our dealer threw in five free oil changes at the dealer’s service center. They obviously wanted us in the habit of getting our car serviced at the dealership, but, hey, free is free, right? In between our fourth and fifth oil change, my thirteen-year-old son ripped two rubber pieces off of the back of the Jeep in an attempt to take the top down. Not only did my son pry these permanent pieces off the car, he bent the metal on which they were attached.

When I took the car in for our last free oil change, I showed the technician the damage to the Jeep and asked for an estimate to repair it. It should be noted that he was a huge, body-builder-type. He took a look at the back and said, “How in the world did he do that? I’ve never seen that before.”

The body-builder called over another technician to show him the damage. That guy said, “I’ve either owned or worked on Jeeps since the late 1980’s and I’ve never seen this before.” The body-builder added, “I wouldn’t want to meet your son in a dark alley.” We all had a good laugh, but I couldn’t help feeling this this was going to cost me big bucks to repair.

They sent me off to the waiting area to have a cup of coffee while they performed the regular service on the Jeep and they promised to get an estimate from their body shop. About forty-minutes later, I heard my name called over the intercom. I made my way back to the service department and found the body-builder.

“You are all set,” he said.

“Did you get an estimate to repair those two pieces in the back?” I asked.

“We took care of it, sir,” he said. Then he showed me the two pieces back in place and explained the steps they took to repair the damage.

“Thanks,” I said, wondering how much this would cost me. We walked back to his desk and he handed me the invoice totaling $0. It was my last free oil change and there was no charge for repairing the Jeep.

That repair took a little time, effort and expertise. The dealer didn’t make any money off of that job, but I valued what they did for me. They created value by taking care of me and my problem without me asking or even paying for it. That small action built trust, credibility and a feeling of reciprocity in my heart. I felt like I owed them my business and I was happy to give it to them.

“I’ll take another five-oil-change package,” I said. Why would I get my car serviced or repaired anywhere else?

That’s how you add value. That’s how you deliver a winning customer experience. And, ultimately, that’s how you close a deal. You simply have to demonstrate that you truly care about the customer.

So, if you’re in the sales game (and we’re all selling something), forget the high-pressure tactics. Intimidation is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Coffee isn’t only for closers.


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