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Book Summary: Way of The Wolf: Straight Line Selling, by Jordan Belfort

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Article reading time: 18 min

Book reading time: 4 hours

Way of The Wolf: Straight Line Selling was written by Jordan Belfort, the main character played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

My expectations for the content were high. Unfortunately, I finished the book mildly disappointed for three main reasons.

First, Belfort needlessly drags on stuff that has nothing to do with sales and for which he is telling you himself you won’t need them anyway.

Second, this book is horribly disorganized. The author speaks of concepts at the beginning that he eventually explains…at the end of the book.

Third, the book has no definite theme or audience. Sometimes, Belfort speaks to salespeople working on the phone, sometimes he speaks to salespeople selling in person. We never really know when he is speaking to whom, and as a result, he never fully delivers for any of these groups.

That being said, I still found a lot of interesting content, such as the five core elements to getting a sale, the art of looping, pacing, and more.

Overall, the book has some really interesting insights about sales and communication. But it also has a lot of useless information.

I give it a 7/10.

No need to buy the book. This summary is more than sufficient.


Everyone needs sales, even if you are not a salesman. Parents sell kids the idea to go to sleep early, churches sell God to their followers, and you sell yourself on a first date.

As such, anyone has the interest to learn sales, since sales is persuasion.

Salespeople’s job is not to transform “no” into a “yes”. It is to transform a “maybe” into a “yes”, hence the importance of getting leads.

Theoretically, every sale is the same because every sale is a straight line.

To be successful, a sale must score a 10/10 on the three key elements of sales called the Three Tens.

They are called this way because you will estimate how much on a scale from one to ten the customer has trust for each of the three elements.

These elements are:

  • Your product: the customer must believe the product will fix their problems.
  • You: the customer must believe you are a trustworthy person.
  • Your company: the customer must believe your company is trustworthy.

Your job as a salesperson is to maximize the trust that your prospect feels towards these three elements.

You do so by building massive certainties: the logical certainty, and the emotional certainty.

  • Logical certainty are facts and numbers proving your product and company are the best for your customers.
  • Emotional certainty is the gut feeling your prospect has. You can it influence using future pacing, which is painting a picture of how wonderful the future will be once your customer acquires the product.

You need both of these logics to sell since people buy with emotions and justify their purchase with logic.

Sales that don’t convert are almost always a problem of not enough certainty for one of the three elements cited above.

However, your customer won’t explicitly tell it to you. They will throw in a random objection such as “I need to talk about it with my partner”; “this is a bad time of the year”; “I need to think about it”. These are often smoke screens. The problem isn’t the partner or the time of the year. It’s you, your product, or your company.

So, how do you handle objections?

You don’t, because objections are smoke screens. They are not concerned with the underlying problem. As such, your job is to focus on the three key elements and keep on reinforcing all of them until you close.

Sales, as such, is like a straight line, from open to close.

Your job is to move your prospect along the line by building rapport. When you are on the line, you talk. When you are out, but within the boundaries (within control), you listen. When you are out of control is when you speak about stuff that has nothing to do with selling or nothing to do with your product.

When you listen, you gather intelligence. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Needs
  2. Core beliefs preventing the sale (making quick decisions, discussing over the phone, etc).
  3. Past experience with similar products and the salespeople that sold it
  4. Value
  5. Financial standards (willingness to feel good)
  6. Pains
  7. Financial availability

Here’s how the whole system looks like:

The three takeaways are the following:

  • Take immediate control of the sale
  • Gather intelligence while building rapport
  • Build absolute certainty for the three Tens

Here’s how you do so.


5 Core Elements of the Straight Line System

You can have a prospect that trusts you, your company, and your product, and still won’t buy because they haven’t crossed the action threshold, the fourth core element of the System.

The higher the action threshold of someone is, the more difficult it is to sell them, and inversely. Everyone has different action thresholds.

The good news is that an action threshold is malleable.

Sometimes though, it is still not enough. In that case, we need to use the fifth element of the Straight Line System: the pain threshold.

You use the pain threshold by quickly identifying what the pain of your customer is and paint a picture of their life without that pain (it’s called future pacing).

To summarize, the five elements of the Straight Line Selling system are:

  1. Trust in your product
  2. Trust in you
  3. Trust in your company
  4. The action threshold (needs to be lowered)
  5. The pain threshold (need to be raised)

Maximized together, these elements will trigger a sale as long as you take control of the process within the first four seconds. Otherwise, you’re lost.

There are three things you need to be and convey within these four seconds:

  1. Sharp as a tack
  2. Enthusiastic as hell
  3. An expert in your field

You do so with your body language, your tone of voice, and your words.


Get Into Your Best State (if you are not interested in pop self-development, head to the next part directly).

While future pacing is a good strategy to sell to your prospect, it is also a good strategy for yourself. The author of the book highlights how he would train his salespeople to envision, act, and carry themselves as their desired future selves (successful salesmen) to be enthusiastic enough to sell.

To quote the author:

“When you are in an empowered state, you are able to access your internal resources. When you are in a disempowered state, you can’t.”

The discipline of how to manage your own state is called state management.

They are four key states that you need to master to be successful at sales:

  • certainty
  • clarity
  • confidence
  • courage

You trigger these states with olfactory anchoring, an advanced method of NLP anchoring.

NLP means neuro-linguistic programing. It enables you to manipulate your own brain.

NLP state management is based on two elements.

  • What you choose to focus on: if you focus on the positive, you will be positive.
  • Your current physiology: if you carry yourself like a king (shoulders back, chin up, etc) you will feel like a king.

These two elements added to an anchor trigger the desired behavior. Most of the time, the anchor would be to scream “YES” and clap hands.

Here’s how you establish an NLP anchor.

  1. Choose a state: in this case, absolute certainty
  2. Choose your focus: choose to focus on a memory where you felt absolutely certain
  3. Choose your physiology: get into the physical state you were in then
  4. Intensify your state
  5. Set your anchor: the anchor is a sound, word or mantra.

The author explains that it didn’t work really well for him for two reasons:

  • The anchor was not powerful enough, no matter what he did
  • He could not attain a state of absolute certainty as strong as a real state of absolute certainty.

He fixed these problems the following way:

  • He bought a tube with a strong and nice smell to use as an anchor (it’s called BoomBoom lol)
  • He waited to naturally get into a state of absolute certainty to sniff the tube and set his anchor

And that’s what olfactory anchoring is.


Advanced Tonality

When you cold-call somebody, you shouldn’t be overly polite as they will directly know you are a salesperson.

Rather, you should be friendly, employing the “I care” tone you would employ when calling a friend.

Then, introduce yourself, disguising statements as questions.

“My name is John Smith (?). From the XXX Company (?).”

This sends your interlocutor’s brain into search mode. They wonder if they know you or not…because you gave the question intonation.

Then you announce why you are calling them with a mysterious tone.

Afterward, you can take a tone of scarcity to make your prospect want your product more.

There are several types of scarcity:

  • Verbal scarcity: stating scarcity: “this is the last one, the next shipment will arrive only in three months”.
  • Tonal scarcity: lower the tone of your voice right above a whisper
  • Informational scarcity: the information itself is in short supply: “we don’t know when we’ll have some again”.

Let’s have a look at the next three tonalities:

  1. Absolute certainty: your voice takes a definitive tone, coming from your solar plexus. We feel the pressure, but it doesn’t explode.
  2. Utter sincerity: calm, smooth, confident tone, what you are saying is coming directly from your heart. Humble, nonthreatening.
  3. The reasonable man: raise your voice up at the end of the sentence

Advanced Body Language

Ineffective body language will make people dislike you. It will stop you from establishing rapport with them. And it will kill your chance to make the sale.

The best way to dress is in a style that is congruent with your profession.

In terms of facial hair, men should not have anything more than a well-groomed beard. No one should wear too much perfume. And no one should dress like they’re going to a nightclub.

A (wo)man should not stand in front of another (wo)man, but corner them off. It comes off as aggressive otherwise. However, when the genders differ, they should definitely stand in front of each other (man facing off woman and the other way around).

You should not invade other people’s space.

You should make eye contact at least 70% of the time. No more, no less.

Crossing your arms makes you look like you are closed to new ideas.


Active Listening

It’s listening to build rapport with someone.

You can:

  • nod your head
  • verbally confirm you understand with “aha, ok”
  • match their body language and tone

Matching is very powerful to pace.

Pacing is taking someone from an emotional state to another. Here’s how it works.

First, get into a similar emotional state than your target (get angry if they are angry, get sad if they are sad, etc). Then slowly move towards the state you want them in.

They will automatically follow you.

The best way is always to get into a state which is deeper than theirs. If they’re sad, get really sad, then move towards happiness, and they’ll get there with you.


The Art of Prospecting

Before you sell anyone anything, you must know whether they need it or want it. It’s a waste of time otherwise.

You qualify a prospect by asking them questions (gathering intelligence). If your prospect both needs the product and can pay for it…then, they qualify.

Before we delve into it, we need to understand the difference between marketing and sales.

The objectives of marketing are:

  • To identify the best potential buyers for a product
  • Develop a cost-effective strategy that gets the message in front of as many prospects as possible
  • Design the message so that as many prospects enter the sales funnel
  • Coordinate with the sales department so that prospects can be turned into customers

Marketing is divided into two worlds: offline and online.

Salespeople are those that take the customer from the marketing department and try to close the deal.

Now, there are four categories of buyers that will enter your funnel:

1. Buyers in heat: they already made their decision because they have a huge pain they want to solve and as such, will buy your product right away.

The only problem is that these buyers aren’t many, 10% to 20%.

2. Buyers in power: they have a need, but are not feeling any pain. As such, they take their time to find a solution that they know 100% fixes the problem they have. They make up for about 30% to 40% of your prospects.

These two buyers are the ones that will make it out of the prospecting phase “alive”.

The next two types of prospects need to be weeded out.

3. The lookie-loos: they pretend they want to buy, but have no intention to do so. As such, they waste time (1), and create frustration (2).

There are four signs that your prospect is a lookie-loo:

  • They ask questions they already know the answer of
  • They kick the tyre of whatever you are selling
  • They try too hard to look interested
  • When asked about their finance, they become overconfident, or really vague

4. The mistakes: they are not supposed to be there. They are people that neither want nor need your product.

As such, the three main goals of prospecting are:

  • identify the lookie-loos and remove them asap
  • gather necessary intelligence from buyers in heat and power and move them down the straight line
  • turn buyers in power to buyers in heat by amplifying their pain.

The 10 Rules of Straight-Line Prospecting

When you are prospecting, you are doing these four things:

  1. You are asking your prospects a series of prepared questions
  2. You are using these questions to gather intelligence and split your prospects into the four groups
  3. You keep the buyers in power and heat and eliminate the mistakes and lookie-loos
  4. You move the buyers in power and heat to the next step so that they can become customers

The ten rules of prospecting we are now going to learn are meant to help you create a blueprint to gather intelligence.

Rule #1: You are a sifter, not an alchemist

Gold diggers take a net and sift water to find gold. They are not expecting to turn the water into gold. That’s the alchemist’s job.

Your job is a sifting job.

Rule #2: Always ask for permission to ask questions

“Let me ask you a couple of questions so I don’t waste your time/ I can best serve you/ I can see exactly what you need.”

Rule #3: You must always use a script

This is because you need to ask questions in a specific order. With a script, you can also focus on your tonality and “inner-game” instead of thinking about what you are going to say.

Rule #4: Go from less invasive questions to more invasive questions

It’s the well-known foot-in-the-door technique from Robert Cialdini.

Rule #5: Ask each question using the right tonality

Each question has its best tonality (we will have a look at them later).

Rule #6: Use the correct body language as the prospect responds

Nodding your head; narrowing your eyes; leaning forward when you ask an emotionally charged question; lean back when you ask a question grounded in logic.

Rule #7: Always follow a logical path

The human brain doesn’t like when questions aren’t asked in a logical manner.

Rule #8: Make mental notes; don’t resolve their pain

You do not want to try to resolve their pain at this point. If you solve the pain directly when you encounter it, you are transforming your buyer in heat to a buyer in power.

Instead, ask them a series of future pacing questions that will amplify their pain. Your prospect will not only understand but feel the consequences of not taking action.

Rule #9: Always end with a powerful transition

This transition aims at moving your prospect to the next step of the sales process: the presentation.

This is also where you eliminate lookie-loos, mistakes, and the buyers in heat and power that are not right for your product.

If your prospect is right, then you can say “well John, based on everything you told me, this product/service is the perfect fit for you. Let me tell you why…”.

Rule #10: Stay on the Straight Line. Don’t go to Pluto

If your prospect likes duck hunting, don’t go on and on about how you love it too. You will come off as dishonest. Why? You are an expert in your category. Experts don’t have time to have hobbies – they are busy staying on their lines.

Genuine rapport is based on two things: you care, and you are just like them. You want to help your prospect fix his problem. And you are like them in the sense that you are sharing their excitement.

When a prospect is getting off the straight line to talk about something that interests him and that has nothing to do with the sale, listen even more closely. You may find intelligence, but more importantly, you will build rapport with your prospect.

When they are finished rambling, say something like “wow, that’s cool, I can see why you are so excited. Now, as far as your goal for learning web design goes…”. And you ask the next question on the script.

That’s how you can build rapport, control the sale, and stay on the Straight Line.

Building rapport is not linear. It depends on two things:

  • how the prospect feels about what you said last (positively or not)
  • whether the prospect thinks you and him are on the same page

It’s important because you cannot close a sale if you are out of rapport.

Building rapport is not an event. It’s an ongoing process. You cannot stop building rapport or you will fail.


The Art and Science of Making World-Class Sales Presentations

Rapport between two human beings is based on your interlocutor feeling three things:

  • He cares about me
  • He understands me
  • He feels my pain

Making others feel these is called having charisma.

Charisma is the lubricant of the sales engine. The good news is that if you don’t have charisma, you can learn how to have some (check out my summary of “Charisma on Command“).

Charisma can be broken down into three parts.

  • The effective use of tonality

You sound so good when you speak that people want to keep on listening.

  • Body language

Emphasize active listening.

  • Not saying stupid sh*t

The most difficult component to master. This is why scripts were invented.

Now, we will learn how to build scripts.

Benefits of sales scripts:

  • Not saying stupid sh*t
  • Figuring out which tonality to use
  • Since you no longer think about what to say, you can focus on other stuff (tonality, etc)

The following are the eight key features that must appear in your script to be efficient.

  1. Your script must not be front-loaded: it means you shouldn’t blow your best amunitions right at the beginning. You convince people bit by bit, so spread your golden nuggets all over your script.
  2. Focus on the benefits, not the features.
  3. Your script should have stopping-off points: for a powerful statement to stand, it cannot be drowned into other powerful statements. After you made a statement, ask a simple yes or no question, such as: “does it make sense”? This enables you to keep people engaged, and to say “yes” to you. This also enables you to build rapport, and to let the statement have its effect.
  4. Write in the spoken word, not in “writing”: you still have to sound like an expert though, so aim at achieving balance.
  5. Your script must flow perfectly.
  6. Your script must be honest and ethical.
  7. Energy in = benefits out: before buying a product, your customer makes a rapid calculation to see if the price of the product is lower than the expected value of the benefits. If the latter is higher, they likely buy. Otherwise, they don’t. By “energy”, we also mean the effort one has to make to pay. You need to make it as easy as possible. To close, say something like “We just need your name, and we’ll handle everything from here. When you combine that with benefit 1, benefit 2, and benefit 3, believe me, the only problem you’re going to have is that you didn’t buy more. Sounds fair enough?”
  8. A Straight Line Script is part of a series of scripts: you won’t use the same script the first time you are calling someone than the second or third time. As such, you need to create and use different scripts.

Buying signals: signals that your prospect wants to buy. These are usually questions they ask, such as:

  • How long will I wait to receive the product?
  • How much will that cost me?
  • How long until I start seeing results?

Answer these questions by responding to your prospect, always adding at the end benefit 1, benefit 2, benefit 3.


Language Patterns

The order in which you build certainty for the Three Tens is first your product, then you, then your company.

Always start building a logical case then an emotional one. The reason is that logic satisfies customers’ bs detector. You do so by building scripts with the correct language patterns.

Here are basic rules when you have a sales call:

  • Be enthusiastic
  • Speak in the familiar
  • Introduce yourself once and your company twice within a couple of sentences. Ask them to recall who you are (if you have already called or if you have met.)
  • Use power words (dramatically, explosive, etc)
  • Use justifiers (reasons for calling)
  • Ask for permission to begin the qualification process

Then, start the intelligence-gathering process with the big, non-threatening questions.

Once you asked all of your questions, you can go to your sales presentation where you will use language patterns.

1. Start with the name of your product and follow with a couple of sentences about it.

Eg from The Wolf of Wall Street: “Aerotyne International. It’s a cutting-edge, high-tech firm out of the Midwest, awaiting imminent patent approval on the next generation of radar detector that have both huge military and civilian applications.”

2. Then talk about benefits that fit the client’s needs. Use facts, figures, comparisons, metaphors, testimonials, to illustrate your point.

3. Ask if your prospect is following.

4. Repeat 2 and 3.

5. Create some type of urgency before closing.

6. Energy in = benefits out. Explain how easy it is to buy.

7. Ask for the order, without beating around the bush.

Once you created your sales script, all you need to do is train and drill.


The Art and Science of Looping

As long as your customer isn’t ready to buy, you need to keep on looping by reinforcing the level of certainty for your product (first loop), yourself (second loop), and your company (third loop).

By looping, we mean making a second presentation that builds on the logical case that you made.

If after three loops, your customer is still not ready to buy, then you need a fourth loop that will lower their action threshold, and finally, the fifth loop to raise their pain threshold.

If your customer does not buy at the end of the fifth loop, let it go.

First Loop

When you ask your prospect for an order, there are only three answers you can get:

  • Yes, I will pay now
  • No
  • Maybe

Maybe is an objection you’ll have to go through.

The best way to handle this objection is to say this:

“I hear what you are saying, Name, but let me ask you a question: Does the idea make sense to you? Do you like the idea?” (the idea of buying whatever you are offering them).

This is how you deflect the objection instead of taking it in the face.

Now, while a meager yes from your prospect is enough to move further down the Line when you are in the first part of the sale, you need an enthusiastic yes when you are in the second half. As such, if your yes isn’t enthusiastic, you need to keep on looping until you get a sufficient amount of certainty from your customer.

Eg:

– Does it make sense?
– Yes (6/10 level of enthusiasm)
– Exactly! It really is a great buy! In fact, one of the true beauties here is that benefit 1

Your words don’t change whether you get a 4 enthusiasm level, or an 8. What changes is your intonation. You need to be slightly higher on the enthusiasm scale than your prospect so that they can lock onto you, and you can pace them to the moon (a more enthusiastic level, slowly).

If the level of enthusiasm is below 3, end the encounter and move on to the next prospect.

Second Loop

Once you got a high enough volume of enthusiasm for your product (and if you still cannot close), you need to get a high score for the second of the Three Tens: yourself.

For that, you can say something like: “Now, let me ask you another question: if I had been your broker for the last three of four years, making you money on a constant basis, then you probably wouldn’t be saying “let me think about it right now, Aure”. You’d be saying “pick me up a block of at least a few thousand shares”, am I right?”

(Obviously, this example is for a stockbroker. Adapt it to your product and industry.)

Once they admit that, it means that they trust you. If they don’t admit that, then you need to come at them with all you got.

“Now, that I can understand. You don’t know me, and I don’t have the luxury of a track record; so let me take a moment to reintroduce myself. My name is Aure Lastname, and I am a job title at company name, and I have been there for number of years and I pride myself on…”.

Tell them about your degrees, license, talents, awards, etc until they trust you.

Third Loop

Now, you can resolve the last of the Three Tens: the company.

As you finish to introduce yourself, say:

“And as far as my company, company name, goes, it’s one of the most well respected…”

If you cannot close the sale after overrunning three objections and looping them into reinforcing your product, yourself, and your company, you need to move on to the action threshold.

Fourth Loop

The action threshold is the level of certainty that a person needs to be at before they feel comfortable buying. A low threshold means you buy easily. A high threshold means you are harder to sell to.

There are four ways to lower someone’s action threshold:

  1. You offer a money-back guarantee
  2. You offer a rescission period. They can say “yes” now and then have this period to change their mind, like five days for example.
  3. You use key phrases like “I’ll hold your hand every step of the way”.
  4. You use a powerful language pattern that reverses the threshold. “Can I ask you an honest question? What’s the worst thing that is going to happen? Let’s say I am wrong about the market, would this investment put you on the street? Of course not. Since this is our first investment together, how about we take it down a notch. Let’s pick up a thousand shares instead of ten thousand. Believe me, when you’ll see the results, the only problem you’ll have is that I didn’t call you six months earlier”.

Let your prospect think. Wait for their response.

Fifth Loop

If you still can’t close, you have one more loop to run: the pain threshold.

People that feel pain want to act quickly.

During the intelligence-gathering process, you were instructed to look for pain. The moment to use that info is now.

“Now, I know you said before that you’re worried about your retirement in terms of social security not being enough to…” etc. Then ask them what they think is going to happen with the situation if they fail to take action to fix it.

“Given how things have been deteriorating, where do you see yourself one year, or even, five years from now?”

Follow with “I have been around the block for a while, and I know these things typically don’t resolve themselves automatically, unless you take serious action to resolve them. In fact, let me say this, one of the true beauties is that benefit 1…”. And resell your Three Tens.

If you still can’t close, let it go.

Photo by Milo Weiler on Unsplash

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