This week continues our Unfocused Friday posts, which can encompass any and all topics. We continue with our 5-part series on the best business movie clips of all time.
To qualify as a business movie the plot must focus primarily on a business enterprise, and the story must pivot around what goes on in that business. There may be murder and mayhem, but it centers around the operations of the business being featured.
#4 Glengarry Glen Ross: Sales Motivation Scene
#4 on our countdown of best business movie clips is the iconic “sales motivational speech” delivered by Alec Baldwin in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross. The film is the tale of a group of sleazy, high-pressure real estate salesmen who are under extreme pressure to close some sales (by any means) or be fired. The crew is complaining that they need better leads than the ones they are working. They need the “Glengarry” leads, presumably made up of fresher prospects who are more likely to buy.
As a part of the attempt by management to get this crew in gear and make some sales they are bringing in a top sales rep in the person of Alec Baldwin. In his time on camera Baldwin, whose character is listed as Blake but who famously tells someone who asks that his name is “fuck you”, proceeds to humiliate this crew and give them the basics of what he thinks they need to do. He makes clear that there will be no “Glengarry leads” until the crew makes some sales with the leads they have. This leads into the main drama moment, as a plot is hatched to steal the Glengarry leads.
This movie is based off a play by David Mamet, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. I don’t know if Mamet ever sold anything in his life, but as someone who has, I think so much of this movie rings true. There is no doubt that there are boiler room operations of sleazy salespeople pitching crappy products. If Mamet is suggesting that all salespeople are like this, then I disagree. I have seen too many honorable people who do sales in the right way. The best indicator of the right way is to sell in such a way that the buyer will want to do business with you again. That aside, sales are a numbers game. You must make call after call, dial after dial, just to get an appointment. Then you must make your pitch, overcome any objections, then ask for the business (close). Let’s say you make 100 calls, that might turn into 20 appointments, which gets you perhaps 10 full pitches, which might get you 2 sales. It ain’t easy, and Mamet captures that perfectly.
The role played by Alec Baldwin was also true to life. Not all managers or sales motivators are as coarse, but one as brutally honest as this character would be refreshing. He is true to life in that it is a pressure business. There is great clarity about sales. You either make sales or you don’t. There is no subjectivity to evaluating a salesperson’s performance. It is all black and white. A sales manager can be as polite as Betty Crocker but if you don’t sell enough, you will be fired.
Overall this is an excellent character study of people under pressure, making moral compromises. It is a dark tale of human endeavor with many darkly funny moments, including this clip. It has become so iconic that Baldwin put on another iconic performance in spoofing this scene on Saturday Night Live The writing is sharp, the dialogue engrossing and even though a business movie it does not drag. It helps to have assembled some of the finest practitioners of the acting craft. Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, and Kevin Spacey (also in last week’s clip), are as star studded a lineup as you will see in one movie. Enjoy!