Here’s how avoiding this popular catchphrase can be a powerful fraud prevention tool.
The ABC of sales arrived somewhere in the late fifties with the arrival of washing machines and new types of consumer finance. Every (sales) person worth a grain of salt has applied this ideology at some point in their lives. Highlighted in the film adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross, “Always Be Closing”, it quickly became the official mantra in all types of hard selling. (Those of us who transitioned early into the art of the soft sell in those days were a gifted breed!).
The movie centers around four really desperate real estate salesmen who resort to all kinds of trickery and deception to make a sale. They are informed from “uptown” by a riveting Alex Baldwin that their jobs are gone. This is how the pep talk starts. The only way they can save them is by closing deals. Baldwin’s delivery of this now famous “Always Be Closing, (ABC)” monologue relives the boiler room environment perfectly—right down to “second prize is a set of steak knives”.
The movie’s message is that making money by any means trumps everything in this, our capitalistic economy. This is where focusing on quick profits is hotly pursued in a positive light. Material wealth is the highest measure of personal success. This notion is supported by themes in education, politics, television, and music. There’s no shortage of music videos or Instagram profiles promoting luxurious lifestyles as something to be coveted. It is no wonder that the “Always Be Closing” catchphrase has been adopted by marketing and sales teams across the globe. More recently, the motto has been trending among youth. It makes appearances in memes and videos throughout social media to describe someone who is persistent, successful, and knows how to get the job done. These are all admirable qualities if they’re achieved through honest means. However, this is precisely what the ABC phrase doesn’t define.
In the film, the salesmen follow this mantra through an “any means necessary” approach. Their tunnel vision was to make money even if they had to lie, cheat, and steal to do it—which they did. They did not consider how their actions harmed the lives of their victims. Begging the question, how could a motto that drove men to fraud in fiction become the catchphrase for success in real-life? Could this phrase’s warm reception in our society be a symptom of internalized fraud culture?
When someone internalizes ABC as a guiding mantra, it puts money over everything. There is little room for genuine relationship building and connection. A person with an ABC perspective would use a relationship as a means to an end. In other words, a person uses someone else to reach a goal whether it is to make a sale, get a job, or any other idea of success. This mirrors the mindset of a fraudster. Building false relationships to earn trust is a common tactic for fraudsters. Once your trust is earned, they can go for the close and scam you before you even realized what happened.
The money-driven, pressure-to-close culture in Glengarry Glen Ross did not turn out well. It resulted in stress, betrayal, embarrassment, and verbal and emotional abuse. In real-life, adopting an ABC motto is to align one’s mindset very closely to that of a fraudster. This is not to say that all those who apply this motto are scammers. Rather, it is to show that a certain pattern of thinking may lead to toxic behavior in certain circumstances. For example, imagine that two individuals suddenly found themselves jobless with no prospects in sight. The person with an ABC mindset might be more susceptible to commit fraud out of desperation than the person who does not hold that mindset.
Some sales and marketing teams have begun to shift away from the motto. Hubspot, a marketing and sales software company has opted for the newer and gentler “Always Be Helping” approach. This shifts most of the power back to the buyer. Despite Google Trends still showing a clear advantage for “Always Be Closing,” it gives a hopeful outlook. Perhaps as more marketing and sales teams move away from their ABC ideologies, it’ll also lose is prevalence in our workaday culture and return to its rightful place as just an entertaining scene in a movie.