How Not to Be a Modern Sales Leader (Courtesy of Alec Baldwin)

You’ve seen it. Or at least you’ve heard about it: Alec Baldwin’s epic 7-minute speech in the movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Put that coffee down

Let’s set the scene: Barely 10 minutes into the film, a cosmopolitan office full of real estate salesmen gets a rude awakening when big-shot salesman Alec Baldwin waltzes in (per the request of the firm’s owners) and explains that everyone except the top two salespeople will be fired in one week. He does this by yelling profanities, insults and acronyms. (If you haven’t yet, watch it here).

Baldwin’s brief appearance contains some of the most memorable quotes from the movie. But modern sales leaders should be wary of the way he tries to motivate the sales team. Here are five things Baldwin was wrong about in Glengarry Glen Ross:

How NOT to Be a Modern Sales Leader, Courtesy of Alec Baldwin: 

1. “Always Be Closing.”

The famous line.

Baldwin challenges the sales reps to up their game by constantly closing deals.

But recent data from CSO Insights show that a salesperson only spends about 35% of their time actually “selling.”

And sales funnels are comprised of myriad steps (prospecting, conversations, creating opportunities, advancing opportunities, closing, onboarding and so on), so it’s literally impossible for any salesperson to be focused on just one step of the process.

The real problem for sales teams isn’t that they aren’t spending enough time on closing deals. It’s that they aren’t sure where they should focus their time on any given day.

Thanks to technology, that shouldn’t be a problem today. Software solutions can now help keep sales teams on track and focused on the right activities that create predictable revenue. (Could this drive more sales for your team? Find out here).

2. “Third prize is: You’re fired.”

We all know this one. First prize for this month’s sales contest is a Cadillac Eldorado. Second prize is a nice set of steak knives.

Third prize? Start looking for a new job.

Baldwin tries to get the sales team motivated by threatening their job security (i.e. negative reinforcement). In this case, he’s trying to encourage a certain type of behavior (increasing sales and winning the contest) by removing an unfavorable outcome (being fired) for those who succeed.

But plenty of research shows that positive reinforcement is much more effective than negative reinforcement in increasing the frequency of desired behaviors. While fear of losing a job might motivate some more sales in the short-term, a better long-term solution would have been for Baldwin to encourage more selling behavior — like creating more opportunities or conversations with prospects — with positive outcomes.

What’s one great source of positive reinforcement for sales teams? Recognition. Try exploring leaderboards or other sources of visibility so that you can increase performance acknowledgement. (We came up with 102 fun and inexpensive incentive ideas).

Bottom line here is that there are plenty of ways to motivate your sales team without threats.

3. “The leads are weak? You’re weak.”

One salesman speaks up to say that the team’s leads are weak, to which Baldwin exclaims that the team is weak.

The thing is … that salesman might be right. We all know that not every lead is good for your sales team. The modern salesperson distinguishes between different types of leads, and brings them through vetting processes to make sure they’re the right person to pitch. They also stay closely aligned with marketing on what they figure out during that process.

In order to progress a lead, you need to make sure they’re qualified. But how do you do that? Some will swear by BANT as a good quality-check system, while others will argue for other systems  (think lead scores, company-specific qualification questions, etc.).

Remember: some leads ARE weak. So the process of determining which leads are strong is up to you and your sales team.

4. “Only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line that’s dotted.”

Similar to Baldwin’s assertion to “always be closing,” but this highlights a different problem: Closing deals is not the only important metric sales teams should track.

The modern sales team is driven by multiple key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics can be anything from the number of “qualified sales opportunities created” to “VP-level meetings” (depending on your individual sales team’s goals). Those KPIs can be either leading or lagging (learn about the difference here), and should be visible to all members of the sales team.

Sales leaders and sales teams need to focus on 3-4 KPIs that promote revenue-driving sales behavior, not just the one that measures ultimate output.

5. “A guy don’t walk on the lot unless he wants to buy.”

The basic premise here is that no person expresses interest in your product or service unless they want to buy.

While this may have been true for the 1980s consumer, it is certainly not the case for the modern buyer. To be a modern sales leader, you must understand this: the modern buyer likes to shop around and do their own research.

A prospect downloading your eBook doesn’t mean he or she is ready to buy. The modern buyer is skeptical of sales reps and wants helping learning, not being sold something.

That’s why it’s important to take each prospect through your lead qualification process and determine whether they’re ready to take the next step, instead of trying to force a sale on someone who isn’t ready.

Alec Baldwin’s character was clearly an old school sales leader, focused only on what’s closing this month and pushing his team to perform by threatening their job security. Modern sales leaders take an innovative, well-rounded approach to tracking key metrics for sales teams.

Want to learn more? Download our free report to learn how sales leaders are using KPIs.
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