I like to joke that everything in life is tied to LBM. Now it has even changed how I view one of my favorite movies.

Excellence Personified: Judging this year's ProSales Excellence Awards were, clockwise from top left, Holly Ruether, Mathew Hall Lumber, St. Cloud, Minn.; Bill Hayward, Hayward Lumber, Monterey, Calif.; Chris Rader, Rader Solutions, Lafayette, La.; and Rick Davis, Building Leaders, Chicago
Craig Webb Excellence Personified: Judging this year's ProSales Excellence Awards were, clockwise from top left, Holly Ruether, Mathew Hall Lumber, St. Cloud, Minn.; Bill Hayward, Hayward Lumber, Monterey, Calif.; Chris Rader, Rader Solutions, Lafayette, La.; and Rick Davis, Building Leaders, Chicago

That film is "Glengarry Glen Ross," which since its debut in 1992 has reigned as the most memorable portrait of the sales process ever put to celluloid. If you haven't heard of it, ask your sales reps. More than one of them probably can quote from memory Alec Baldwin's searingly profane monologue in which he, as the sales warrior sent from the home office, declares that a salesman's sole task boils down to ABC: Always Be Closing.

If you can close the sale, Baldwin bellows, then you'll keep your job. If not, management won't even give you a cup of coffee. Coffee is for closers.

I used to enjoy the film simply for David Mamet's scorching dialogue and the brilliance of a cast that includes Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, and Alan Arkin. But recently, I began to see the movie in a new light.

It happened not long after I noticed just how often our Sell Sheet columnist, Rick Davis, was urging reps to work harder at prospecting, not closing. Soon after, I read Ruth Kellick-Grubbs' white paper for ProSales in which she tells LBM executives to track not just a rep's sales but also the effort being put in to turn up new business. And then I realized that most of the achievements by this year's Excellence Awards winners involved finding ways–through marketing, technology, old-school advertising, and new-school social media–to generate new leads.

Those lessons reminded me that while watching sales reps close deals provided much of Glengarry Glen Ross' entertainment, what actually drove the movie's plot was the reps' desperation to get leads. These people were masters at selling stuff to a name that somebody else finds. But without leads, they're useless.

"Always Be Closing" might have been a suitable mantra for construction supply salesmen back in the day when there was no problem finding customers. Now that tens of thousands of contractors have left the business, sales reps and their parent companies are realizing that before they can sell to prospects, they need to find them.

But where are those customers? This issue is full of ideas on ways that dealers are filling prospect lists, expanding markets, spotting previously overlooked sales opportunities, and ensuring that current customers return. And if you've missed the advice of Davis and Kellick-Grubbs, e-mail me and I'll send you some of their tips.

It's time to relearn the ABCs of sales. Now it's ABP–Always Be Prospecting.

Craig Webb, editor
202.736.3307
cwebb@hanleywood.com