ABC – Always be closing
I was listening to the radio the other day and the host closed off his show with the phrase, “remember folks,
A…B…C… Always Be Closing.” It struck me, I am always thinking about ways to get ahead or more
accurately a way to get free. In a capitalist society that means to get more money. In any case, Always Be
Closing just stood out in my head. I had heard the phrase many times before though I couldn’t remember
where I first heard it. I tracked down the phrase online and remembered I had seen Glen Gary Glen Ross
and that vivid presentation that Alec Baldwin had made. He played Blake an alpha dog motivational
salesman that was brought in to motivate a group of failing salesmen. His speech was truly brutal. It was
also the kind of thing that people need to hear from time to time but don’t want. We all like to lull ourselves
into as comfortable a delusion of our current situation as possible. It helps us get by and cope with the
unpleasantries of life. Unpleasantries that those salesmen where having to face directly at that point.
Watch the movie or at least that scene and you’ll walk away thinking your life is not half bad. (Note: Seeing
that someone else has it worse then we do makes us appreciate our life more. The grass is always
greener until you see the other guy getting his ass handed to him then your lawn looks pretty green)
Always be closing, I thought and I remembered a job I worked back in college. I was a warehousemen for a
big retail electronics company that had just moved into the area. They were making a run against Circuit
City and a few others so they came in strong and were pushing their guys very hard. By guys, I mean
sales guy and yes there where females but the majority of them where guys so I will just say salesmen from
here out. The group was split pretty evenly between the older middle age salesmen who had been doing
this type of thing for most of there lives and young college aged guys who were fresh from the company
training and full of fire so to speak.
I want to take a minute here to express my admiration for and my loathing of salesmen. Real salesmen not
just those guys who are trying it out or doing anything to make money while they are looking for another
job. No, I men the real salesmen. The ones who by their very nature are salesmen. Normally “A” type
personality with a bad attitude and a great smile. The type of person that can tell you something in
complete certainty having no idea what they are talking about. The ones who can make your feel good
about anything and push you into something you don’t know. The type of person that will lord over others
their victories as they bask in the praises of the top performer award one month and suffer though the
ridicule of being the bottom performer the next. Salesmen exist in an insensitive and uncaring world were
praise and ridicule are accepted and terms like winner, the best, better then you, and loser, failure are real
and commonly used. It does not matter what they are selling it is the same. It is the same on the car lot,
retails electronics, business to business it is all the same. There is success and failure and in our ever
softening culture of equality and mediocrity. I must say, I am glad that we still have sales men whose whole
existence is based on making a buck. I am also equally glad not to be one. There were about forty of
these guys when the store opened and that number would rise and fall as some of them gave up and quit
but more likely just couldn’t produce and were fired. Fired is what they used to call being let go before we
cared about how people felt. Every couple of month’s management would bring in a new crop of fresh
meat to be put through the grinder. They’d get two weeks of training and then be thrown to the wolves
(the customers). After that they’d have maybe two months to make it; to produce some revenue or they’d
be out the door. That was the key, produce revenue, make the sale, and bring money into the company.
This is an important thing to know and understand in a company. It is all about making money. Nicely
said, producing revenue. Money is what we come here for… money makes it possible to do what we do…
money pays for the building… the advertising… the products… the company picnic… the bottled water…
and your salary. The salesmen make money and the do it by closing… always closing. They produce the
revenue and everyone and everything else is support. So when you want to produce more revenue you
hire more of the guys who make the money and when you want to watch your budget you cut your
expenses which means you fire everyone else as much as you can until it starts to impact the salesmen.
By the way the sales men make the money that’s why more often then not they make the money (Make
more then you). But remember it all depends on their ability to produce. Never begrudge a salesman the
money they make out on the edge of unhappiness. Because for every dollar they make it pays you three
cents in your comfortable delusion.
One Salesman in particular stood out to me. He was just about perfect for the retail electronics world in
which he existed. He was at the top of his game and as it turned out the high water mark in his career. He
was young but older then most of the new guys late twenties early thirties. He had been doing sales for
maybe eight years by that time and was good at it. He picked up quick on the new product info. He was
just over six foot and trim but not skinny. He had great hair and an appealing smile. His voice was strong
but not over bearing the kind of voice that inspired confidence in this case trust from a customer. He was
appealing and pleasant. Now at this pint you might be wondering why is he going on about all the physical
traits of this guy. The reason is simple people are attracted to active people. People trust attractive
people. Therefore active salesmen have more opportunity to close the sale and make money. Like it or
not that is the fact of the matter. The brutal truth is that looks matter, any one who tells you different is
either selling something or ugly.
Anyway, this salesman at the top of his game was always busy. He would see them come in the front door
and from the moment he set eyes on them he was closing. He would make eye contact with almost
everyone that came in the door. The look was I’ll be right there. I can help you. We have it and I’ll go get
it for you now. The handshake, the mannerism, every move, position, comment, or laugh real or otherwise
said lets do this. The moment the sale was complete he was on to the next one. At the time he was well
into the six figures and had won almost every sales award the company had over and over again. I would
wheel out a TV or Washing Machine watching in amazement as he worked the crowd and each person
individually all to make the sale. The thing about it was that he just did it. He didn’t think about it. He didn’
t try. It was how he was which made him that much more real and as a result, effective.
The sad commentary was that after about a year as the top salesmen management thought that they
could best use him as a sales manager instead of on the floor as a salesrep. His money would be based
on a consistent base and a small percentage of what the sales reps under him would produce. He was still
making good money but not as much as before. And worst of all it was based in part on what others did.
Logic contrary to his nature and competition. In addition he had to take on paperwork and employee
management tasks that where more fit for an administrator then a player. In time he grew bored and
somewhat disgruntled and with the extra time on his hands and losing his edge he ended up getting into a
car accident coming back from Vegas one weekend. He was never quit the same after that. But you know
even after the large amount of revenue he had produced as both a salerep and a sales manager, he was
only given a day or so to pull himself back together and get back into work. When he did come back his
face was cut up; He was recovering from injuries and popping pain pills which made him groggy. All the
management could say was that he was not on his game. They ended up letting him go a month or so
later because he was not producing.
Yes life is tough for salesmen but as it has been said before if you can’t take the heat get out of the
kitchen. Or as Robert Blake used to say when he played Baretta and before he killed his wife. Don’t do
the crime if you can’t do the time. Man, I love that saying.
There was one older and defiantly more grouchy salesmen that worked at the same store. He had been in
it long enough to realize he was not going to get rich doing it and to not care (young salesmen think they
are going to get rich). On one occasion I witnessed the ultimate in always be closing… it was right before
Christmas… the store was and had been a wash with endless customers buying everything. I spent all of
my time stocking shelves with everything. The warehouse was all but empty. It was so busy we didn’t
bother to stage items in the warehouse anymore we would just take them out of the back of the truck as it
arrive and go straight to the floor. Half the time the salesmen where taking things of the dolly as we
wheeled they out to the floor. This older salesman having well surpassed his sales goals already and
feeling a bit worn out had taken a few minute to step aside lean against a counter and share a few words
with another salesman doing the same. No sooner had they stopped moving then the sales manager on
duty walked by. He had just passed a crowd of customers all looking eager for help.
He walked up to the two salesmen and said, “Well who’s going to make some money and who’s going to go
The threat was real and so was the irritated contempt that it was met with. The sales manager said go
over close the deal with those people. The older salesmen said something profane in complaint and
walked over to the crowd standing in front of a wall of VCRs.
He stood behind the group and in a load clear voice said, “Who’s ready to buy?”
Four couples raised there hands or signaled they were. He said which one do you want, wrote down the
stock numbers, and minutes later he had a line at the register and a hand full of boxes. All I could think of
at that moment was ABC Always Be Closing.
Life is hard and only the strong will survive. It’s kind of a Darwinian concept but it is the way things are and
for good reason. Weakness breeds weakness while strength can breed either weakness or strength.
When things get hard only the strong will be able to make it. In this way the system continues. My mom
used to say tough tities make hard babies and hard babies get the job done. I am not advocating for rule
by the strong over the weak that would be tyranny, nor am I advocating rule of the weak over the strong
that would be social fascism. What I am saying, is to you specifically, not the world in general. Life is hard
and you have to accept that fact without reason or excuse. It just is. If you look for help or sympathy or a
break then you are setting yourself up for a fall. When it comes right down to it you have to be looking out
for you. You have to keep trying. You have to always be closing.
The Lesson to Learn:
It is the one who is not afraid to try that gets what he wants. If you want to succeed in life, in business, in
anything you have to try. Let go of your fear, your shyness, and your concern for what others will think
and do what it takes to make the deal.
The Brutal Truth:
It’s all on you win or loose it’s all on you. No one cares about your problem. So stop whining and make it