A Conversation with Jordan Belfort, The Wolf of Wall Street.

Without a shadow of a doubt, selling is one of the most important skills in business- without it, you don’t have one.  In my early career as an entrepreneur, hammering the phones selling web and graphic design, it was purely- and simply- my conviction as a salesperson that got me through those gatekeepers, and helped me to close deals.

As with so many aspects of business, perhaps the best way to learn key-skills is through understanding those that have been there and done that….

In the 1990s, Jordan Belfort built one of the most dynamic and successful sales organizations in Wall Street history. During that time, he soared to the highest financial heights, earning over $50 million a year, a feat that coined him the name “The Wolf of Wall Street.” As the owner of Stratton Oakmont, Belfort employed over 1,000 stockbrokers and raised over $1.5 billion and started more than 30 million-dollar-companies from scratch.

Along the way, he succumbed to some of the traps of the high-flying Wall Street lifestyle, going through a spectacular—and well-publicized—fall from grace. Taking invaluable lessons from the mistakes he made and the prices he paid, he has re-emerged as a globally recognized potent force behind extraordinary business success.

I caught up with Jordan to learn about how he teaches people the way of the wolf.

Q: How has Wall Street changed from your time there?

[Jordan Belfort] Things on Wall St have changed since I was there.  For instance, you see what’s happening right now with Harvey Weinstein, right? Wall Street used to be a bit like Hollywood with a ‘casting couch’ mentality and all the stuff that went along with that.  Twenty years ago, it was obviously much crazier than it is today.

Today, firms will no longer bless that behaviour, and- for example- I don’t think women will be harassed as much on Wall St these days.

In terms of how people behave in their jobs, I think the Financial Crisis of ’08 improved things for a little while, but I see that things seem to be slipping back- perhaps not quite as bad, but we’re definitely repeating the mistakes of the past.

Q: How does money impact people’s attitudes?

[Jordan Belfort] I don’t think it’s money that corrupts people, I really don’t.  I think it’s the idea that when you make money without having a tangible creation attached to that money, it has no value.

For a lot of bankers, they have that question – how do they value that money, what did they create?  What did they do?  …so, they work to attach value by buying cars, boats, and homes; they try to make the money real because they didn’t.

Only when I spent a year and a half writing a book, did I realise how long it takes you to do something to get a tangible result.  It makes you respect money more when it comes from something you create, rather than just trading back and forth with someone else’s cash.

If I look at my own life, a lot of my success has always depended on my ability to motivate people to beef them up to sell, but I applied in it a way that probably wasn’t the best way during my Wall Street career.  So, by teaching people to sell and doing it ethically and with integrity, it has created a very sustainable situation for me that I get a lot of gratification from.

Q: Can anyone be a great salesperson?

[Jordan Belfort] I think anybody can become a good enough salesperson that their ability to close a deal, or lack thereof, will not set them back.  It’s obvious that there are some people who are naturally better- they’re born that way.

By using the Straight Line System, you can get yourself to a level where you’re certainly good enough at sales, where your skill in that area is not going to be what holds you back in life.  You’ll get good enough at sales, and if you have any bit of talent it will turn you into a top producer.

Q: What is the basis for understanding sales?

[Jordan Belfort] Understanding sales cuts to the core of basically why people say yes, why people give you rejections, and what has to line up in someone’s mind before they say yes.  It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, it could be offline or online, tangible or intangible, expensive or inexpensive.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

Q: What are some of your key learnings in sales?

[Jordan Belfort] There are 5 core elements of the Straight Line System that we use as levers- lining them up to get someone to say yes.

Firstly, the person must love your product.

Secondly, if they’re certain they love your product? they must be certain that they can trust you.

Thirdly, they must be very certain that the company who delivers the product will stand behind the product and give them great customer service and deal with them ethically.

Those are the first three elements.

Now, whatever you’re selling, the prospect must believe those three things.  I mean listen, let’s face the fact that if the prospect thinks that your product sucks, that you are not trustworthy, or the company you work for is going to screw them, he’s not going to buy.  It’s when those three things are lined up that you have an excellent chance of the prospect buying.

You also have the Action Threshold and Pain Threshold.  Those are the elements that have to do with beliefs about buying.  Are people easy to sell to, or difficult to sell to?  For someone more difficult to sell to, there’s certain tactics and strategies that you need to apply to temporarily lessen that person’s threshold, make it so they are easier to sell to. The Pain Threshold, relates to whether someone’s in any pain or discomfort from not having your product or service- if that’s the case, we use that to help them say yes, get to the right decision.  If they are not feeling it at all, we learn how to amplify that, bring that to light and help them make the right decision.

Q: Do you need to do much research before making the close?

[Jordan Belfort] Every person is different, but every sale is the same.

The question is, where does the person start out on the certainty continuum?  Let’s say it ranges from 1 – 10., you have a 1, he is very uncertain.  He hates the product.  If someone’s at a 10, then they’re very certain about your product.  They love your product.  When someone enters your funnel, they may be anywhere between a 1 and a 10.  That’s the job of the salesperson, to move them as close to a 10 as possible.  That’s what a salesman does.

Q: How do you keep your motivation in sales?

[Jordan Belfort] There are many things that cause people to lose their motivation when they face rejection or get the word no.

Importantly, when someone picks up the phone to make a sale, whether they knock on someone’s door, or it’s for a company and their offers are in store, or it’s face to face, they simply may not have the confidence that they truly can close the sale.

You have to be confident enough to close the deal, so when you hear the word ‘no’, you’re not hearing ‘Uh, not again’, which is very demoralising.  Just imagine going out there and not having the skill to really get a lot of people saying Yes!  Every no becomes painful.  In addition, salespeople that are inexperienced have the habit of staying with the people they shouldn’t even be speaking with, trying to sell to everybody- meaning that for them? The word ‘no’ comes a lot more often that those who speak to the potential buyers.

When you have the confidence that you really are an expert closer, you’re a competent closer, the word no doesn’t matter, because you know that there’s going to be a certain number of no’s and a certain number of yes’s.

Q: How did you find your key insights in sales?

[Jordan Belfort] The trigger to creating a method was trying to teach young kids how to call very sophisticated investors.  That was the trigger that led me, that forced me, to come up with a new way of training salespeople; they needed to be able to close rich people.

Ultimately, what allowed me to invent my system was basically everything I’d seen and heard and remembered in my conscious and unconscious mind. I had that window of clarity, I had this vision of a new way of teaching people how to sell- and basically everything I learned came into it.  It seemed to start with being just old enough to talk, and you know, watching my parents in situations, watching other salespeople, watching tv, my own experiences with human communication and cell phones.  It sounds strange but my system came to me in a sort-of almost otherworldly way.  It was very powerful.

Q: Has digital technology changed sales?

[Jordan Belfort] Sales is always changing.  It’s always evolving and growing, but that doesn’t mean that the same core elements still don’t have to line up.  They still do. People still say ‘let me think about it’ for the same reasons.  Sometimes we speak to people via email, sometimes we will speak over Skype, sometimes it’s on the phone.  When the telephone was invented, did it change everything? yes!  When the TV was invented? yes!

There’s always something that changes, and our ideas have to evolve and grow- and so it’s about integrating new technology and learning how to adapt to that, but the fundamental principles that drive human influence, they will always be the same.

Q: What are your most important learnings in sales?

[Jordan Belfort] Number one is the power of tonality- It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

Number two, you have to learn the power of asking questions and listening to answers in such a way that people form a deep rapport with you and understand that you are an expert.

Number three, when you’re selling, you’re not just selling your product.  You’re always selling yourself.  This was a major issue for me that I worked on along the way.

Number four, an understanding that the word ‘no’ is not a no!…  you don’t always hear the word ‘no’ in sales, it’s not what you get.  If you’re selling properly, you’re not going to get the word ‘no’.  You very seldom get it.  What you get is ‘let me think about it’, ‘let me call you back’, ‘let me send this information’.  You don’t hear ‘no’.

That happens only when you’re cold-calling, not when you’re actually in the middle of a presentation.


View Interviewee Biographies

In the 1990s, Jordan Belfort built one of the most dynamic and successful sales organizations in Wall Street history. During that time, he soared to the highest financial heights, earning over $50 million a year, a feat that coined him the name “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

As the owner of Stratton Oakmont, Belfort employed over 1,000 stockbrokers and raised over $1.5 billion and started more than 30 million-dollar-companies from scratch.

He’s acted as a consultant to more than fifty public companies, and has been written about in virtually every major newspaper and magazine in the world, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The London Times, The Herald Tribune, Le Monde, Corriere della Serra, Forbes, Business Week, Paris Match and Rolling Stone.

Along the way, he succumbed to some of the traps of the high-flying Wall Street lifestyle, going through a spectacular—and well-publicized—fall from grace. Taking invaluable lessons from the mistakes he made and the prices he paid, he has re-emerged as a globally recognized potent force behind extraordinary business success.

Today, his proprietary Straight Line System allows him to take virtually any company or individual, regardless of age, race, sex, educational background or social status, and empower them to create massive wealth, abundance, and entrepreneurial success, without sacrificing integrity or ethics.

Jordan’s two international bestselling memoirs, The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street, have been published in over forty countries and translated into eighteen languages. His life story has been turned in to a major motion picture starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.

Jordan’s comprehensive training sessions can be structured to meet each of your specific needs. His engagements have ranged from introductory 3-hour talks, to 3-day, in-depth training programs, to ongoing consultation on how to actively and massively grow the marketing and sales results of your organization.

Using his signature direct, humorous and passionate style, Jordan will train your team on how to use the most powerful business system ever devised. The results speak for themselves.



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