Jordan Belfort inspired the feature film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and portrayed the wealth and excesses that the head of former Long Island brokerage Stratton Oakmont enjoyed back in the 1990s.
Belfort, aged 55, has had a resurrection of sorts since landing in jail in 2003 after the US Securities and Exchange Commission hit his firm for defrauding clients.
After serving 22 months of a four-year sentence, Belfort published two memoirs. He now lives in California and has built a powerful consulting business based on the sales skills that brought him so much fame (and infamy).
Belfort spoke with Reuters to talk about his new book, “Way of the Wolf,” which shares those sales techniques with the masses.
Q: Why focus on sales this time?
A: My wife was really adamant that this is my legacy. The guy you saw in the movie was from 30 years ago, and I’m not him anymore.
The problem is that there are so many brilliant and hard-working people out there with wonderful ideas, but because they lack the skill to communicate, they just can’t get off first base. So this book isn’t about becoming me, and it’s not about being perfect. It’s about becoming good enough.
Q: How is your new sales approach different from the tactics we saw in the movie?
A: It’s a total redo. The basic core is the same, in terms of knowing the elements that drive human influence.
What is different is anything like applying high-pressure tactics, overcoming objections, or selling people 10 times what they need just to get a huge commission. And frankly, it’s more powerful without all that stuff.
I hope I’ve changed back into the person my parents sent out into the world.
Obviously I allowed greed and insecurity and youth and stupidity and the desire for instant gratification to let me go totally off-course. Then I just became desensitised to everything.
Now I think I’m back to the same guy I was 32 years ago, before everything happened.
Q: How do these principles work for people who are not in sales?
A: The biggest misconception is that sales is just for salespeople. Nothing could be further from the truth. Communication is a lynchpin skill for any human being.
So maybe you’re a parent trying to influence their kids to make their beds and do their homework. Or you’re a teacher influencing your students, or a lawyer influencing a jury, or a pastor influencing your congregation, or a politician influencing your constituents.
Because you’re not just selling products, you’re selling yourself. When I say that, the lightbulb goes on for people.
Q: Why are tonality and body language so important?
A: At any given time, you come across as certain or empathetic or whatever it may be. You have to own these tonalities and be conscious of them and know where and when to apply them.
It’s like a hidden language of influence. That will buy you enough time to start asking questions, and that’s when you start building rapport.
Q: Why are the first few seconds of any interaction crucial?
A: You have about four or five seconds to get across three things: that you are sharp as a tack and enthusiastic and an expert in your field. Then the person says to themselves: “This is a person worth listening to and who can help me get what I want.” Those first few seconds open up a lot of possibilities.
Q: How did the movie release in 2013 affect your life?
A: It actually had a very positive impact. When the script was first written, it ended with me in jail. But then I built a successful business in sales and speaking, and they had to change the entire third act of the movie to reflect that.
I had essentially rewritten my own life story.