Way of the Wolf: Straight Line Selling

A book by Jordan Belfort. Master salesman Jordan Belfort has done consulting work for more than 50 public companies. His two international best-selling memoirs The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street  have been published in more than 60 countries and translated into 25 languages.

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Take-Aways

  • Jordan Belfort is an innate salesperson who can make anyone an expert in sales.
  • His “Straight Line Selling” works for sellers in any industry. It helps move prospects from “absolute uncertainty” to “absolute certainty.”
  • The Straight Line method tightens sales cycles, effectuates closes, develops referrals and solidifies customer relationships.
  • Straight Line sellers never make presentations to people who have no interest in buying.
  • Prospects and salespeople who aren’t honest waste each other’s time.
  • For every successful sale, the prospect must love the product or service and trust the salesperson and his or her company.
  • Salespeople get only four seconds to connect positively with potential buyers.
  • Prospects judge sellers based on their words, their tone and their body language.
  • Plan, develop and work from scripts for all communications with prospects.
  • Once you secure the deal, focus on getting referrals.

The “Straight Line System”

Jordan Belfort is an innate salesperson. At any time or at any place, he can sell anything to any prospect. Belfort can teach you to become an expert salesperson. As portrayed in The Wolf of Wall Street, a 2013 movie, Belfort taught raw, young salespeople how to sell $5 stocks over the phone to America’s wealthiest, the top 1%.

As a result of Belfort’s guidance and his Straight Line System, the rookies on his team became master closers. Many became millionaires. In the system, the salesperson assumes control of the sale, maneuvering the prospect “from the open to the close along the shortest distance between any two points: a straight line.”

“The Straight Line System [levels] the playing field for anyone who’d been held back from achieving greatness.”

Straight Line salespeople don’t lose focus or waste time by conversing with prospects on subjects that have nothing to do with the sale. Everything they say and do when talking with potential buyers has a focused objective: Stay on the Straight Line and close the sale.

“If I were a superhero, then training salespeople would be my superpower.”

After his initial work with novice sellers, Belfort went on to teach his methods to experienced marketers and other persuaders worldwide and across many sectors, including in banking, real estate, automobiles and professional services.

The Straight Line System “will show you how to shorten your sales cycle, increase your closing rate, develop a steady stream of customer referrals and create customers for life.”

He promises salespeople that Straight Line selling will cut their sales cycles, build referrals, generate more closings and help them form permanent relationships with customers. As well, the Straight Line System teaches non-salespeople to become more persuasive.

“The human ear has become so adept at recognizing tonal shifts that even the slightest one can have a dramatic impact on the meaning of a word or phrase.”

The Three Essential Elements of Any Successful Sale

A basic proposition of the Straight Line System is that “every sale is the same.” No matter what product or service you sell – in whatever industry – the same three elements must exist within a prospect’s mind for a sale to succeed:

  1. “The product, idea or concept” – The prospect must fall in love with your product or service. You want the potential buyers to be at a level 10 of enthusiasm. If your prospects are at a six or a seven, you must move them up to a 10.
  2. “Trust” the salesperson – If you can’t establish great personal rapport with your prospect, you will never make the sale.
  3. “The prospect must trust and connect with the company” – Aim to establish great compatibility and affinity between the prospect and your organization.

“We can be proactive when it comes to choosing our emotional state, as opposed to reactive, which is what most human beings have been conditioned to think is our only choice.”

Without these factors, you can’t sell. If you make the three elements line up in the prospect’s mind, you have an excellent opportunity to make a sale.

Think of these as the “three 10s.” Potential buyers who feel “absolute certainty” about some aspect of your proposition are at a 10. In contrast, if your prospects feel “absolute uncertainty,” then they are at a one.

“When it comes time to ask for the order…the closer you’ve gotten your prospect[s] to a 10, the better chance you have of closing them.”

Look for two types of certainty: “Logical certainty” depends on the words you say, and “emotional certainty” depends on gut feelings. Your goal as a salesperson is to move prospects along the “continuum of certainty,” from absolute uncertainty to absolute certainty.

“Be actively building rapport throughout the entire sale, 100% of the time, without ever letting your guard down.”

The “Action Threshold”

Besides the three 10s, the Straight Line System requires you to lower the action threshold, so that the prospect becomes ready to act. You must also “raise the pain threshold,” so that your potential buyers need to buy your offering to alleviate some discomfort.

“You are capable of becoming proficient at anything you put your mind to.”

For example, you can dial up the pain by asking your prospects to imagine what will happen if they don’t act now to fix their problem.

Closing a sale depends on the quality and content of your communications. Your responsibility as a salesperson is to plan and manage communications to provide the best opportunity – a Straight Line – to sell to your prospects.

Straight Line Selling Principles

Mastering four facets of a transaction will help you use the system more effectively:

  1. “The first four seconds”  People make virtually instantaneous decisions about the people they meet. You get only four seconds to make a positive connection with a prospect over the phone or in person. In that brief time, you must communicate that you are “sharp as a tack” and can solve all problems, that you are “enthusiastic as hell,” and that you are “an expert in your field” – competent, knowledgeable and professional. Behave as if you possess all these qualities.
  2. “Tonality and body language” – Your voice and how you speak are crucial to success with prospects over the phone. Sound is equally important in face-to-face meetings, as is your body language. Your tone should be caring, sincere and empathetic. Effective body language includes appropriate facial expressions, a smile and your posture matching that of your potential buyer. The language you use carries great weight and works with your tone and body movements. Your words sway your prospect’s conscious mind by making a “logical case.” Your tone and body language affect your prospect’s subconscious mind and make your “emotional case.”
  3. “State management” – Use “future pacing” as a visualization technique to charge up your state of mind. Imagine a movie showing that you’ve attained a goal and are actively benefiting from it. When you engage in positive visualization, you experience a wonderful feeling, similar to how you’ll feel when you achieve a desired objective.
  4. “Looping” – Use looping to deal with customer objections, which can serve as smoke screens for prospects’ uncertainty. Eliminate those uncertainties – move prospects along the continuum of certainty – and you eliminate objections. Looping involves deflection: You briefly delay responding to the prospect’s objection. Then you go back to a previous aspect of your presentation to reinforce why the prospect should love your offering, you and your firm. Basically, you resell the prospect. If you loop correctly, you increase the prospect’s conviction about doing business with you and your firm.

“If you spend the next few minutes focusing on everything that’s great in your life…then you’ll quickly pop into a positive, empowered state that reflects all those wonderful things.”

Superior Sales Presentations

Whenever you communicate with anyone – or pitch a prospect with a sales presentation – be sure to deliver three messages: Show you understand the prospects, that you care about them and that you feel their pain.

“If you screw up the first four seconds, you have another 10 seconds, at most, to play catch-up ball, but after that, you’re completely done.”

As you pitch, don’t “wing it.” Work from a well-planned, memorized script that ensures a flowing conversation. Don’t mention benefits at the beginning. Later, stress the benefits, not the features. Rely on scripts for every aspect of communications with prospects.

“Act as if you have unmatched confidence, and people will have confidence in you. Act as if you have all the answers, and the answers will come to you.”

Follow each important idea that you present with a “stopping-off point,” such as, for example, “Make sense so far?” Use conversational-style phrasing, not elevated, stilted or technical language. Be honest and ethical.

“People don’t buy on logic; they buy on emotion, and then justify their decision with logic.”

Ask strategic questions to secure valuable intelligence about your prospects and to refine your targeting. Give this intelligence gathering the time it needs.

“The 10 Rules of Straight Line Prospecting”

When you’re working on finding and qualifying good prospects, follow these 10 guidelines:

  1. “You are a sifter, not an alchemist” – Gold prospectors in the 19th century would plop down at the side of a stream, use tin pans to sift the sand under the water and wait patiently to snag gold dust. They didn’t perch by the stream expecting the water to transform itself into gold. They were sifters, not alchemists. As a salesperson, you must sift through your prospects to find the most likely sales. Don’t waste time trying to transform unlikely buyers into passionate prospects.
  2. “Ask for permission to ask questions” – No one likes to be interrogated. Yet salespeople do need to ask questions to learn about prospects: what they are like, what they care about and what will motivate them to buy. To overcome this dilemma, get the prospect’s OK before you ask questions.
  3. “Always use a script” – All industries are different. Salespeople who need information from and about prospects should pose industry-specific questions, asked in a certain order. Without a script, that will be hard to do. When you work with a script that you’ve committed to memory, you won’t worry about coming up with the best questions on the spot, and you will be able to pay more attention to the prospect’s answers and body language. When you don’t need to think of which questions to ask, you can focus on using the perfect tone of voice.
  4. “Go from less invasive questions to more invasive questions” – Asking prospects questions is like peeling an onion: You start at the outer layer and work your way to the heart of the matter. Less intimate queries set you up for more intimate questions. You must always earn the right and establish the necessary rapport to ask questions of prospects, who are, after all, strangers. You earn this right by asking your least obtrusive questions and working your way up to more sensitive queries.
  5. “Ask each question using the right tonality” – A salesperson who adopts a callous or disrespectful tone can’t sell anything. The wrong tone of voice communicates far more than the actual words you use. In contrast, the right tone – showing consideration, empathy, caring and respect – amplifies the strength and compelling nature of your words. The right tonality promotes the sale; the wrong tonality kills it.
  6. “Use the correct body language as the prospect responds” – Use five productive body-language techniques: 1) When the prospect speaks, nod your head to signal that you’re paying close attention; 2) when the prospect tells you something he or she considers important, nod your head slowly while “narrowing your eyes and compressing your lips”; 3) use vocal exclamation points – “oohs and aahs” – to register your affinity with your prospect; 4) lean your body forward when you ask an emotion-based question and continue to lean forward as the person answers; and 5) when you ask a logic-based question, lean back and nod as your prospect responds.
  7. “Always follow a logical path” – Sequence your inquiries coherently to help you present yourself as an expert.
  8. “Don’t resolve their pain” – Your goal in the early stages of your relationship with prospects isn’t to eliminate the discomfort that only your product or service can alleviate. At the beginning, you want to amplify this pain.
  9. “End with a powerful transition” – The point of the Straight Line is to move prospects along it at a regular pace, so long as your product or service makes sense for them. Be ready with effective transitions: “Well, John, based on everything you just said to me, this program is definitely a perfect fit for you. Let me tell you why…”
  10. “Stay on the straight line; don’t go spiraling off to Pluto” – To illustrate, consider the example of a conversation between a salesperson and a prospect. The salesperson asks the prospect what job he has. The prospect says he’s a midlevel manager and works in a geographic area famous for duck hunting. He launches into a monologue about how much he loves to hunt ducks. The salesperson takes this as a cue for his own song-and-dance about duck hunting. In no way does such a conversation promote an eventual sale. When you speak with prospects, avoid this common mistake. Don’t shoot off to Pluto; always stay right here on Earth. You can’t close sales on Pluto.

“Even if you’re not in sales, you still need to become at least reasonably proficient at sales and persuasion.”

The Basics      

In combination, the basic elements of the Straight Line System allow you to establish yourself in the first four seconds, develop a rapport with the prospect, secure the intelligence you need, make a strong presentation, “ask for the order,” use looping to establish certainty in the prospect’s mind, lower the prospect’s action threshold, uncover the prospect’s pain, and detail how your product or service will relieve it.

Once you secure the deal, focus on getting referrals. Do all you can to solidify your customer relationships for life. Stay flexible and adapt your “core language patterns” to the system.

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Categories: Books Review, Personal Development

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