The GlenGarry Guide: Is Coffee Truly For Closers Only?

by Michael Catarevas, RISMedia | Published September 2022 Real Estate Magazine

Above: From left, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino and Jack Lemmon

It was originally just another snarky line in a movie jam-packed with them. But somehow it became an American catchphrase, and a quasi-truism, so to speak, in the real estate industry.

“Coffee’s for closers only!” barks Alec Baldwin in his all-time hunkiest role as Blake, the super-slick, uber-successful salesman in the 1992 real estate-themed movie “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

His elderly target, Shelley Levine, played to the believable hilt by Jack Lemmon, retreats fearfully back to his desk, empty mug in hand.

The scene, in which Baldwin lambasts “a buncha losers” in the drab Premiere Properties office during a hilariously profane ‘pep talk,’ wasn’t even in David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Thankfully he added it to the screenplay and it became legendary.

The salesmen depend on leads provided by the company owners, desperate for the more promising ones…in this case potential buyers interested in Glengarry Highlands in Florida. They’d previously done well selling Glen Ross Farms, thus the play and movie title.

“I know every line of that film,” says Jeff Bailey, owner and COO of United Real Estate – North Jersey, and overseer of 500-plus agents. “Any salesperson knows that movie for sure.”

The salesmen, all smarmy in their own unique, cringeworthy ways, have varying degrees of success pitching unappealing, sight-unseen plots of land in faraway places via brochures and the hard sell.

Al Pacino’s style as Ricky Roma is to befriend those he’s working. His mark in the film, timid and befuddled James Lingk, played by Jonathan Pryce, is won over via a non-stop spiel about how buying land will boost his sense of self. It’s helped along by Roma’s buying him drink after drink in the bar of a restaurant.

A washed-up Lemmon as Levene tries valiantly to promote his history as a wizened old pro, imploring that it’s buy now or miss out. Even the one sale he manages to make turns out to be bupkis.

Blake showcases his buff physique in an expensive, V-tapered suit, drives an $80,000 BMW, wears a gold watch and boasts of earning close to a million dollars the previous year. He’s an impressive and imposing figure.

Dave Moss is aggressive like Blake, but without the charm. Played with vigor and intensity by Ed Harris, the big-mouthed salesman tries to be calm with clients but is easily frustrated. His desperation to sell is a turnoff, but his hope is that there may be someone who can be bullied into buying.

So can any of the selling strategies of the staff translate in real life?

“Not really, because the story was more of a con, selling those properties,” says Bailey. “But being aggressive and being sharp and knowing what the ‘shot’ is before opening your mouth is  very important. If you don’t know the answer to something then don’t say anything. Find out the answer. Be honest.”

Bailey’s mention of ‘the shot’ refers to the climax of the film when the office manager, played by Kevin Spacey, blunders verbally trying to back up Roma’s bluster, causing a lost sale and an all-time explosion from Pacino.

As for agent style, Bailey says a couple of them could succeed in real life. In fact, he’s seen the Lemmon role firsthand.

“We have an agent who is 87 years old and very successful,” he shares. “She has more energy than all of us put together. She’s got a motor that you wouldn’t believe. Older people like to work with older people. That’s how it usually works.

“It’s a little tricky with the millennials. We have some training that shrinks those gaps.”

Bailey surely would have impressed Blake had he been at the Premiere Properties sales meeting.

“We’re very successful presenting to agents,” he proudly exclaims. “There’s no reason not to join our company unless you don’t like us personally. We close at a 90% clip.”

That’s a closer worthy of coffee anytime.


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