David Mamet and the Art of the Closer

“When Greg Mosher directed Glengarry we had a lot of salesmen come in to talk to the cast, guys who were making five million dollars a year selling airplanes or industrial equipment. These people were super closers. There’s a whole substratum of people who are the closer, like the Alec Baldwin character in the movie of Glengarry. But the most impressive salesman was a saleswoman, a Fuller Brush lady, who came in and showed us how to do the Fuller Brush spiel. It was great. The first thing they do is offer you a choice of two free gifts, and they make sure you take one in your hand. So it’s not, Do you want one? It’s, Which would you rather have? And now that you’ve got one of their free gifts in your hand, how could you not answer their next question, which is also going to be answered—it’s going to be yes, and the next question’s going to be yes, and the next … .

“The idea was you’ve absolutely got to stick to the pitch. Have to stick with it. There was a great book called In Search of Myself by Frederick Grove, a Canadian novelist, a great writer. Nobody’s ever heard of him, but it’s a great book. It’s about the immigrant experience: coming here with nothing and what America does to that person. And one of the things he becomes is a book salesman who goes from door to door having to sell phony books. Heartbreaking, you know, that he has to do this. Heartbreaking.”

David Mamet, in the Paris Review, on salespeople and the making of Glengarry Glen Ross.

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