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The Coffee Is For Closers

I’m not sure how I missed the movie Glengarry Glen Ross during its original release but I did. This could possibly be because John and I virtually never go to the movies, but that’s another story.

The characters in the movie are obsessed with sales leads. These leads are handed out on index cards, two per day. They pay $15 to $20 per card. The leads given to them by Kevin Spacey aren’t very valuable and rarely result in a sale. The leads they want were brought into the building by Alec Baldwin on fancy red cards and are called the Glengarry leads.

This movie is only 20 years old, and yet, it is extraordinarily dated.

We don’t buy sales leads on index cards any longer, and we don’t pay $20 each for them. Some people might pay as much as $.20 for them, and they might buy them in bulk of 1000 cards or more.

Successful people these days (with legitimate products) build their leads through social networking. They spend time cultivating relationships and making their living on referrals. They help people. They pay it forward. They understand the impact of virality. Fortunately, much of the HR industry is built on this philosophy.

I am a LinkedIn nut. I’ve been using it for more than six years. I have been fascinated by its power. I consider it a tool for my business, but the greatest satisfaction I derive from it is the relationships that I’ve been able to build and sustain using it.

Because I am “out there”, I get a lot of LinkedIn requests. Lately, I have to admit that I get annoyed by some of the requests. It is because the request doesn’t say anything, just “I’d like to add you to my professional network”. If I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know why you want to connect, then why would I want to connect with you? I’m not a baseball card. I’m not here to be collected (nor are you!).

In LinkedIn there are people who have chosen to be LinkedIn Open Networkers (LION). If they have, it will say it on their profile. I am not a LION. I suppose a LION will not object to the generic invitation. When you are trying to reach someone you don’t know, you should custom-tailor a note (and better yet, get to know them BEFORE you ask them to connect with you). I know this sounds harsh, but asking a stranger to connect on LinkedIn is like sleeping with someone you just met at a bar.

But once again, I digress.

Getting back to the subject of leads, because my e-mail address gets circulated around, I get a lot of junk mail. I get so much junk mail that I’ve had to invest in several layers of filters in order to create sanity within my inbox.

People who send e-mail in bulk are merely playing a viral form of the lead game using social media. I suppose if you e-mail a million people about your product, that if .05% bite, then the campaign is successful. I don’t think this is the case in HR (although that $1M from a relative of mine that hid it in an Ivory Coast bank sounds awfully tempting).

In the movie, I have great sympathy for Jack Lemmon’s character. He’s just an older guy who is having a much more difficult time connecting with his leads. I understand that it is hard to sell worthless scrub brush in Arizona. In similar businesses, they rely upon people who can do it, and are prepared to reward them handsomely. . .including providing fancy cars and coffee to closers.

As a final thought, I want you think about the human resources implications of “the coffee is for closers” philosophy. From an incentive design perspective, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Will it work for all products and services? Will it work for all generations?

I am often reminded of how quickly things can change. This movie was released on the cusp of the internet, and now seems to be caught in the era of rotary dial phones and carbon copies.

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