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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Glengarry Glen Ross

On the tube right now, before my daily dose of the Late Show.

I was a rookie stockbroker in New York when this movie first came out, and what made it particularly compelling is how well it captured the atmosphere of a room full of desperate salesmen ... this group were supposed to be real-estate salesmen for a property development company trying to move vacation lots in the middle of the 1990's real-estate recession.

They were all hoping to get their hands on the golden sales leads that would guarantee them success ... lest you think this was just a movie thing, I was surrounded by other brokers who hoped the sales manager would come down from heaven with the golden leads of the day (every day he would come out and give a few cards to the star performers of the day, generally sales leads of people who had called the company's 800-#, so at least they were motivated prospects).

Other brokers spent inordinate amounts to get golden leads from "information brokers" who could give you lists of people who had $10,000 lines of credit in Atlantic City (makes sense, no?).

Still others simply used the White Pages, dialing Dentists and Doctors on Park Avenue.

Me ... I tried all of that, and I also called teachers, cops, and pig farmers in Iowa ... you would be surprised to hear it, but some of them actually had money to invest.

It was a numbers game ... you cold called 100+ people a day, hoped that 20 would actually talk to you, and that three would be "qualified leads" ... people with money who also had a need to do something with it.

A lot of us used canned sales pitches from time to time ... the firm we were at was generally low key, so we kept it calm and professional, but once in a while I would trot out one of the fabled "Lehman Brothers" cold-calling scripts (everybody on the Street had a copy of these things) when I wanted to simply ditch a call who wasn't going to buy (since you were never supposed to hang up on a live prospect) ...

"Come on Phil, reach down in your pocket, get a grip on that Louisville Slugger, and step up to the Plate!"


Never failed.


Blogger Claire said...

Interesting . . . were you successful? Why did you quit?

I am pretty sure my clients would hang up on me if I used the baseball analogy - but it may be worth a shot! LOL!

I am currently reading "Selling for Dummies." I need to work on my pitch :-)

8:33 AM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike B said...

Hi Claire: I was fair to middling, but the early '90s were a tough time to be a broker in NYC, as the go-go '80s, the crash of '87, and the real estate recession of the early '90s had burned a lot of the "players" out.

I was hired by one of my clients to be the CFO of his production company. I did that gig for a few years until we were bought out by a larger company, and then I pulled the golden parachute and went back to banking in a middle-office capacity.

A pitch is useful to open the door, but being your likeable self is what will help you make the sale. For some reason older people liked me ... maybe because I let them talk. I found the longer you let a prospect talk, the more they like you. But you still need to ask the right questions to keep the conversation going in the right direction.

I take it you are selling to corporate clients. Best thing I can tell you there is that they like to have their egos stroked. I also found that they like to be spoiled. Most companies have ban on gifts over a certain value, but I have seen only a few corporate types with the ethics to abide by that. Be careful though. A lot of business will be done over lunch or dinner, and you will probably be the one buying.

This being Europe, you might actually have prospects who outright will demand kickbacks from you (where you pump up the bill to the company and then kick much of the inflation back to the client). It happens in the US too, but not as often as here. I would avoid these people, regardless of how good their business might look.

9:52 AM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Hamish said...

ABC Mike, ABC.

I was shocked when I got my first taste of the world of people with expense accounts. But shocked in a, whoa this awesome, way. As far as gifts go, I've heard of companies over here (in Europe) being hesitant to go overboard on them because of possible tax implications to clients -- know anything about that?

P.S. Quite a resume you have there.

10:50 AM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike B said...

Hamish: The Germans laugh at the Italians for having such high tax rates, and the Italians laugh at the Germans for actually paying such high taxes.

Yep, the bank I used to work for went to great lengths to report any benefit or gift to employees with a value greater than EUR 35 as a taxable benefit. I forget what the cutoff for business meals was, but if it was exceeded the company would gross it up so that I didn't have to bear the tax costs myself.

The US has similar rules, but they are not nearly as stringently enforced.

Larger companies have a harder time dealing with these things not just because they are more closely scrutinized but also because their hundreds or thousands of cost controllers can't find creative ways to portray gifts and entertainment expenses in the income statement in ways that preserve their tax deductibility for the company as representation costs. I can tell you that smaller companies are far more creative about these things.

But you are right about the tax thing putting a damper on T&E practices here in Euro-land, which is probably why they engage in far more kickbacks on this side.

ABC ... Any Business Counts? No, there are limits.

Claire: Forgot to mention, but you might want to avoid the Baseball line ... the Louisville Slugger mentioned is a part of the male anatomy. But I can dig out other lines ;)

12:08 PM, April 27, 2006  
Anonymous Hamish said...

ABC = Always Be Closing -- great scene from Glengarry Glen Ross

The German/Italian thing was funny.

2:19 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Just another American Expat said...

You guys are over my head on this one. First, some how, I missed "Glengarry Glen Ross"

Second, I have no money, which makes getting involved in this discussion pointless.

Third, watching CNBC for me, is about as exciting as watching a parked car.;-)

3:10 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Mike B said...

Hamish: Always Be Closing ... great line. I came in too late last night, so I missed that line and didn't think of it. Dooh! Was that one of Alec Baldwin's lines?

Expat: IMHO, CNBC is somewhere above watching a parked car, which as you correctly pointed out earlier is somewhere above most German television ;) But not by much. At least it helps pay the rent.

4:16 PM, April 27, 2006  
Blogger Haddock said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:17 AM, April 28, 2006  
Blogger Haddock said...

Thats a great movie. I haven't watched it a long time :)

10:18 AM, April 28, 2006  

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