Breaking Down Glengarry Glen Ross’s Negotiation and Communication Scenes


Levene and Moss making calls

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • So, we see the usual cold call dynamics here. We see Levene speaking with what I presume is the wife of a possible client who said “no”, and he’s trying to get to him, but he already left. Then him trying to reach a Doctor, and stating the topic is important;
    • I like the technique the second one, Moss, uses, of saying they have the company president in town for a few days, and limited units. Good. Fabricated scarcity. I also like how he says, “What is the best time?”, letting them choose. Implementation intention. But he seems a bit desperate, which hampers its effect. They both do;
    • Very realistic representation of how doing cold calling is. Even embellished. I’m surprised none of the leads told them to screw off;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Scarcity/limited access (President in town for only 48 hours);
    • Abundance (In this case lack of, by both – they both seem desperate);


Blake’s speech

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • I like how he uses contrast here and also discredits everyone to get attention. He’s saying they’re talking about irrelevant things, such as women or excuses for sales, and how he’s going to say something important in contrast to that. He even insults Levene, telling he can’t have the coffee to make him submit – rigidity. He also uses authority, saying, “I’m here from downtown, I’m here from Mitch and Murray”;
    • I also love how he uses loss aversion here. He switches the default. They’re not hired and may lose their jobs, they are now fired and have to regain them. Changing the standard;
    • We also see flipping here, in a very aggressive way. Moss challenges him, asking, “What’s your name?”, and the says, “Fuck you, that’s my name”. Not proving himself;
    • He also mentions some basic sales mantras here. I like the AIDA one, as it’s a known sales framework, and it includes action, which is what matters in the end, as he mentioned;
    • I also love how he closes with the potential. He says, “They are willing to give you their money. Are you willing to take it?”. Again, inverting the default. He’s not saying they have to take the money from people. He’s saying they’re willing to give it, and they just have to take it. It’s both standard manipulation again, but also using the potential and suggestion;
    • I also like how Moss challenges him again. “If you’re so good, why are you here with us bums?”, and Blake replies by again not proving himself and rubbing in his face how much money he makes. This is value, abundance, and grace under fire, but it’s a bit too aggressive here. He’s a bit too try-hard in showing off;
    • Then, pressure and intimidation. Pressuring them to close the sales;
    • We also have an interesting case of escalation of commitment here, with the Glengarry leads. That is, Blake says he will only give them the leads if the close the current ones. They don’t deserve them yet. But once they close a lot of people, they will deserve them;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Contrast (Saying they’re talking about useless things in contrast with what he’s going to say, which is important);
    • Image/authority (Attacking the authority of the salespeople to make them submit);
    • Rigidity (Telling Leven he can’t have the coffee – coffee’s for closers);
    • Displayed authority/credibility (Saying he’s here from downtown, from Mitch and Murray);
    • Standard manipulation (Changing the default – they’re fired and have to gain their jobs, not the opposite);
    • Flipping (Blake rejecting telling Moss his name when he challenges him);
    • Potential (“They’re willing to give you their money. Are you willing to take it”);
    • Grace under fire (Both times Moss challenges him, Blake never reacts);
    • Pressure/intimidation (Blake abusing them);
    • Escalation of commitment (They have to close bad leads before getting the good ones);


Salespeople calling after Blake leaves

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Reasonably);
  • Description:
    • I like how Leven switches gears here. Now he’s using scarcity in multiple ways. “I only have a moment of so”, “I can only speak with Mrs. Nyborg”, “You have been selected from thousands of people”. Although the prize thing is risky – he doesn’t seem to have a prize. This can create an anchoring effect in a bad way, where the person expects a prize and then is sold to. It’s paradox intention – framing a flaw as a benefit. Risky move, but these guys are desperate;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Scacity/limited access (Only have little time to speak, can only speak to a given person, and that person was selected for a unique prize);
    • Paradox intention (Framing a sale, which costs money, as a prize, which gives the person money);


Aaronow and Moss speaking, then in the car

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • We see Aaronow having a bit of an identity contradiction moment. “Sometimes I wonder if this is even for me”;
    • Then we also have what could be considered standard manipulation. That is, should good leads go the person who already closes them, or should they go to the others, to motivate them as well? The criteria for what decides who the leads go to are not transparent to the salespeople;
    • Moss makes the argument that the leads are the most important thing, and while I don’t agree they are the only thing, yes, they are important. Having quality prospects who are interested and are looking for what you sell in specific is crucial. Otherwise, you have to tailor your offer, to improvise, and sometimes even to lie, in the case of some people, to sell – which all have repercussions;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Identity contradiction (Aaronow doubting himself);
    • Standard manipulation (No transparency on the criteria for lead attribution);


Levene speaking with Williamson

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • So, a couple of great strategies here. First, effort manipulation. “Come have a drink with me, 5 minutes”. When he says no, he says, “Just 1 minute then”;
    • Then, he neutralises Williamson’s contextual power. Saying, “Don’t jump out of your manager bag. It’s just two guys talking”. Brilliant move here;
    • I also like how he uses context manipulation here. That is, historically, he seems like a great closer, but lately he hasn’t been one. So he’s focusing on the long-term historical performance to seem good, while Williamson is focusing on his short-term historical performance to make him seem bad. We also see Levene later minimise his bad streak, saying, “It’s just a streak, it will be over”;
    • Naturally, we see rigidity in Williamson too, saying things like, “It’s policy”, “They are assigned with a set of criteria”, “I don’t make the decision myself”, and so on;
    • Then, we have a good negotiation when Williamson finally accepts. See here how Levene is asking for a commission, which means he only pays when he gains money, and Williamson raises the commission and also asks for an upfront fee of $50, which means immediate money for him, regardless of what Levene makes. Unexpected rigidity, and blows the deal;
    • Then, Levene enters the car after him, uses his age as a way to give himself authority, and says that the $50 demand is one step too far, and says both parties must be satisfied. But then he immediately caves. Then we see Williamson demanding the payment as cash, right here and now, last-minute as well;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Effort manipulation (Asking Williamson to have a drink with him for 5 minutes, 1 minute);
    • Neutralising contextual power (Taking them out of the manager frame);
    • Context manipulation (Them considering two different timeframes, generating two different perceptions of Leven’s effort);
    • Rigidity (Williamson not being open to giving Leven the leads);
    • Unexpected rigidity (Williamson demanding the $50 bucks at the last minute. And then demanding it in cash at the last minute);


Levene visiting the prospect

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Extremely);
  • Description:
    • So, first he establishes common ground with the fishing, saying that he fishes as well. And then, he asks to call him “Larry” to bond with him, neutralising the status of being strangers, and being closer;
    • Naturally, as we previously mentioned, Larry immediately becomes hostile when he realised he’s not being given a gift, but instead is being asked to buy something. What else would Levene expect?
    • I also like how he draws the boundary here. He says he was not involved in the call with his wife, he is not part of this topic, and he asks him to leave. Great way to use a personal boundary;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Common ground/identity (Fishing commonality);
    • Neutralising contextual advantages (Asking to call him “Larry”);
    • Personal boundary (Larry removing himself from the situation);


Levene calling Nyborg

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • So, Levene didn’t learn his lesson and is using the prize framing here as well. He’s also pretending to have to make effort, and to have abundance, by pretending to ask for $10k and first-class plane ticket, and so on, and making it seem like his time is precious;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Scarcity/limited access (Making it seem his time is valuable, but he could drop by);
    • Abundance (1st-class ticket, $10,000 in cash);


Roma’s speech

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • First, we see Roma having zero morality, as he claims himself, which may be a clue as to why he’s such a good salesman – he will pretend, lie, cheat, steal, and do whatever it takes to close a client;
    • Despite pretty sexist and discriminatory, the part of his speech about sex is a good point. You don’t remember something due to it in general, you remember the specific details, the little things, the highlights. It is, in fact, a persuasion principle;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Details/specifics (Roma mentioning what he remembers most about sex is the details);


Aaronow and Moss at the bar

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Somewhat);
  • Description:
    • We see an interesting example of intent labeling here – or lack of it. Aaronow saying, “We’re discussing this as an idea, not talking about it as a robbery”. In other words, not saying anything explicitly. It’s also spinning – they’re not planning a robbery, they are just thinking out loud;
    • I also like how Moss is sneaky and says Aaronow is the one that has to go. He’s pretending to have given something which may as well be nothing, in return for Aaronow doing the robbery. He says, “Oh, I made the deal with Graff, I gave you this, so you have to give me this in return now”. In reality, maybe he didn’t do any deal at all, and gave Aaronow nothing. This is a great example of giving with a sacrifice – or making it seem like giving even when you have given nothing;
    • I also like how he finds a way to get Aaronow to prove himself. He says, “If they come for me, are you going to turn me in?”. It’s accusing him, in a lighthearted manner, and gauging what he says. It’s accelerating to a justification, but more than that, he’s putting Aaronow in a position of proving himself, which makes him more compliant;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Intent labeling (Lack of, not wanting to make anything explicit);
    • Spinning (Making this not seem like a robbery, just thinking out loud);
    • Giving/reciprocity (Moss saying he set up the Graff deal to buy the leads, and did it for Aaronow, so now he owes him);
    • Accelerating to a justification (Moss getting Aaronow to justify why he won’t turn him in);


Roma confronting Williamson on the robbery

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Extremely);
  • Description:
    • So, we see two interpretations here, and standard manipulation again. So, Roma is saying that the new sale puts him over the top and he wins the Cadillac, while Williamson is saying that, since some contracts are gone, they can’t calculate the sales totals. They are using two different sets of criteria to reach two different conclusions;
    • Also, something that I like is later, when Williamson asks Roma if he’s taking the day off, he replies, “They stole the phones and the leads, what can I do?”, and Williamson suggests a year-old lead file, the “nostalgia file”, but Roma says, “Bring it anyway, I’ll make it work”. He doesn’t balk at needing to do the necessary work, which shows initiative;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Standard manipulation (Roma and Williamson using two different sets of criteria to reach two different conclusions);
    • Initiative (Accepting lower-quality leads and being willing to do the work);


Levene arrives, having closed the Nyborgs

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • We see, very quickly here, some flattery when Levene starts telling the story of how he closed the Nyborgs, saying, “I believe in you”. Flattery works, and it reinforces their identity;
    • We also see grace under fire by Roma. That is, some people like Moss, when faced with others’s successes, don’t want to hear about it, because it makes them feel bad about their own lack of success. Moss literally says, “I don’t want to hear war stories”. But Roma sits there and listens. Despite being the best closer, he wants to learn how Levene closed the leads. No reaction or defensiveness whatsoever;
    • Later on we see some identity planting by Levene. Him telling he said to the Nyborgs, “We are the type of people that see an opportunity, and we take it”;
    • We also have some good storytelling by Levene, with details and specifics. “Imagine a man entering the room with a suitcase full of money, and it’s all for you. You need to make the full investment, all 8 units”;
    • Then, Levene stating that he asked them to sign and didn’t say anything for 5 minutes until they signed. Good use of tension and pressure;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Flattery/identity (Levene telling the prospect he believes in them);
    • Grace under fire (Roma is willing to listen to Levene’s story, as he’s not affected, while Moss is the opposite);
    • Identity planting (Levene planting the identity of someone who grabs opportunity);
    • Details/specifics (Levene telling the story to the Nyborgs);
    • Tension/pressure manipulation (Levene not saying anything after asking them to sign);


Levene insulting Williamson

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • Then we see Levene destroying Williamson’s credibility. Saying he doesn’t know how to sell, he’s never been on a “sit”. That he’s just about numbers and figures, and doesn’t know what sales is, and that he only looks to the past and will be caught off-guard by someone new. Also says he doesn’t have sense or balls. He’s even a bit patronising, saying, “It’s called cold calling, John”. Also using a label to discredit him, saying, “You’re a secretary, John. Fuck you”;
    • Then he uses it to make a demand. “You’re going to give me 3 leads today, and you’re going to give me 3 good ones, because I’m a closer”;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Image/credibility (Levene destroying Williamson’s credibility);
    • Labeling manipulation (Levene calling Williamson a secretary to destroy his credibility);


Roma reassuring the flighty client + Williamson + Levene interrupting

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Somewhat);
  • Description:
    • So, Roma uses a pretty extreme technique here, but that works well, which is making Levene pretend he’s a client, and a wealthy one at that, VP-level at American Express. So, it’s social proof of him as a good salesperson, and on top of that from someone with (supposed) status;
    • Then, he tells the client his reaction is normal, and compliments his wife for being prudent. This is great, he’s accelerating the objection here, instead of going against it, which does not put him on the defensive, and says they will talk later;
    • Then, he loses some credibility when he tries to confuse the client about the 3 days. Come on, it’s pretty clear they want their money back. It would have been better to suggest a meeting with the wife, all of them, to discuss it, rather than trying to gaslight him on the 3 days he has available;
    • Then, the whole confusion at the office doesn’t help the situation, making it look like a low-quality shop;
    • I also really like how Roma is softening the client up, while he’s having cognitive dissonance. He has an extremely rigid order from his wife to get the money, period, but Roma is using empathy to get him to drop his guard, to say what’s on his mind, and so on. I also like how he uses contrast, saying that some things are of the couple, and some things are his own, and only his;
    • We also see spinning when Williamson interrupts them. Williamson hears the name Lingk and says, “Oh, Mr. Lingk, your contract went out already”. Naturally, he didn’t expect Roma to be lying to the client and telling him it wasn’t. But it’s not necessarily his fault. But it’s what Roma makes it seem – like he’s incompetent;
    • It’s also interesting that Levene then comes and insults Williamson too, also saying he doesn’t know he’s doing and he doesn’t belong there. It’s an interesting combination of social proof with an identity contradiction – multiple people saying “This is not who you are”;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Social proof (Levene pretending to be a client to give Roma positive social proof);
    • Empathy (Roma getting the client to drop his guard while he’s in cognitive dissonance);
    • Contrast (Roma saying that some things are the couple’s, and some things are only his);
    • Spinning/reframing (Roma lying to the client, and making Williamson seem like the guilty party on top of that);
    • Identity contradictions (Both Roma and Levene telling Williamson he’s not a salesperson, not even close);


Levene and Williamson speaking in private

  • Is It Realistic: Yes (Very);
  • Description:
    • OK, so despite being a pretty good salesperson, Levene is an idiot. He admitted to Williamson he stole the leads, despite knowing he’s not a straight shooter, and is now asking for mercy. He may as well have pretended he didn’t know about the contract and let him have his suspicions. Instead, he folded pretty much immediately;
    • Naturally, he’s asking Williamson to make things right. And he’s pretty much begging and asking whatever it takes. But this is the first rule of blackmail – once someone has something on you, there is zero guarantee they will stop at whatever they ask. They can keep on asking more and more. So this was all futile, and Williamson doesn’t even want his money, as we see;
  • Techniques Present:
    • Threats/intimidation (Levene reacting to Williamson’s threats);

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