4 Sales Lessons from The Wolf of Wall Street

Looking for some fresh sales lessons to impart to your sales staff? Here are four sales lessons from The Wolf of Wall Street.

January 25, 2017

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Movies often serve as powerful sources of inspiration. Look no further than Rocky, Good Will Hunting, The Pursuit of Happiness, or any of your favorite spine-tingling classics out there. Usually inspirational movies follow protagonists who achieve greatness despite being stacked up against great odds.

Then there are movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the 2014 Oscar-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It may be an unlikely candidate for inspiration considering the subject of the film is Jordan Belfort, a slick stockbroker who was ultimately convicted of securities fraud. But if you sift through the criminality and outright absurdity of the film, there are several sales lessons that reps and leaders alike can emulate in their approach.

Believe You Can Sell Anything

Behind Belfort’s wild success and incredible wealth is a burning passion for sales. Whether it was selling penny stocks over the phone or handling enormous accounts, the driving force for Belfort’s success is his passion for closing sales. To Belfort and his team, selling was more than a job. It was a lifestyle that bordered on an obsession.

His belief that anyone could sell anything was a pillar of his company’s success. This is on full display during the “sell me this pen” scene, where Belfort demonstrates to his employees the benefit of creating urgency in a sales transaction. To Belfort, anyone with the passion and will to succeed could become an accomplished sales rep.

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He also believed that a great leader could impart passion and will into their employees. Which leads us to how he led his uber-successful team.

Incentivize Your Team

Belfort pays great attention to building a competitive workplace. Each team member’s success is celebrated in a way that aims to draw out the competitive juices of the other sales reps. By recognizing the success of your sales reps publicly, you’ll encourage other reps to want to obtain similar recognition for their successes.

He also incentivizes his team by setting high expectations that are accompanied by large rewards, which leads us to the next point.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Motivation

Belfort was a tremendous motivator. There are numerous scenes in the movie where he launches into spirited, and often extreme, motivational speeches. Sales managers don’t need to be world-class orators to motivate their teams to success. Rather, they can take a cue from Belfort, using speeches as opportunities to garner trust and build camaraderie. In turn, his team members do not want to let their boss or teammates down. He builds trust by showing team members that he wants them to succeed as much as he wants his own success.

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As Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” You can reflect this mentality by maintaining a strong line of communication with your reps. Figure out what hurdles they are encountering and how you can help them accomplish their goals. Become the strongest ally on their road to hitting those lofty numbers.

Enjoy Your Successes

Sales can be an emotional roller coaster. Ensure that you’re taking the time to celebrate your successes, both individually and as a company. Set goals for yourself with particular rewards at the end. “If I complete X by the end of the second quarter I will treat myself to Y.”

Belfort and his gang take this to an extreme in the movie, with lavish parties, yacht trips, and joyrides in high-end sports cars. We don’t recommend taking it that level of excess, but rewarding your successes will help you get through the down times and appreciate the good.

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By following these lessons set forth by “The Wolf of Wall Street,” you can accelerate the success you and your sales reps encounter. Just make sure you don’t take it too far and eat one of your employee’s goldfish as a lesson on staying focused, such as Jonah Hill’s character does in the movie. That is not a lesson we suggest taking to heart.

For prescriptive sales advice from award-worthy B2B stars, be sure to check out LinkedIn’s Definitive Guide to Selling to Multiple Decision Makers