Coffee is for Closers

In Glengarry, Glen Ross's most infamous scene, Alec Baldwin's character forcefully explains to a tired sales team that coffee is for closers and those who aren't closing, aren't doing their jobs. This same type of work culture is both glorified and indemnified in other films like Wallstreet and The Boiler Room where a cutthroat attitude will serve individuals well and make them rich, with those who can't take the heat falling by the wayside.

Sounds like a blast. 

How effective is a work culture based on total and complete competition, bordering on warfare? If your team can only succeed when they trick a customer or beat a colleague, your team is not meant for the long term. Teams like that fail for many reasons, including high turnover and dismal levels of morale. Knowing they have to meet certain metrics to succeed, a salesperson pushing you on a hard sale is a whole lot more likely to come off as Old Gil from the Simpsons than Don Draper.


If you only give the closers coffee, they closers will keep succeeding while those with potential will be sleepy and neglected. And if you aren't nurturing potential, you are wasting one of you biggest assets as an organization. So how do you avoid being the stereotypical desperate used car salesman?

First and foremost, it's important to lead a team that supports itself internally. If your team isn't learning from each other, they are doing their job, sales or otherwise, wrong. Your best teachers in life are experience and peers because both of them know exactly where you are and meet you on your own level. If you lead a group of isolated professionals who can only succeed when another one of the islands they work with fails, there will be no reason to help each other. Your organization will be pulled in every direction, incrementally moving forward like a cart with horses on all sides trying to pull it where it benefits them the most. If the horses know that the best food and the nicest stable is in one direction and that everyone can benefit by going in that direction, you can guide them together and move forward. Culture change isn't easy, but it is essential for growth.

Once your team is willing and able to work together, you have to make sure your product (or fundraising goal or whatever else you are promoting) is something they believe in enough to make other people believe too. If your team thinks your product is harmful, turnover is going to be high and morale will be low. If the only reason someone is working for you is a paycheck, then all you'll get is someone who sticks with you for as long as that paycheck is their main motivation. People want to feel fulfilled just as much as they want to pay rent and eat -- so make sure you can help them feel fulfilled or risk losing them when they find another income stream. 

So how do you make someone feel fulfilled? Well, your product should fill a real need and not harm anyone that uses it. Once you meet that threshold, you need to provide benefits (time to recharge, support for health and personal growth, etc.) and you need to have an ethical and moral backbone to your organization that every team member can (and should) follow. 

Essentially: treat your team well, don't sell toxic widgets, don't allow toxic work behavior and don't build an unethical culture. If you can do that, the positives will build and you'll find your team members innovating and growing with you and for you, while your customers trust you.