The secret to being a successful wine trader is to sell clients the lifestyle rather than getting bogged down in facts, according to the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’, Jordan Belfort.
Speaking to an audience of wine merchants and City traders at a dinner organised by the California Wine Institute at M steakhouse in London this week, Belfort highlighted how wine is one of the few commodities in life that is genuinely attached to an aspirational lifestyle.
“I drink a lot of California wine. People talk about selling a lifestyle, and most of the time it’s not true, but it really is true with wine. California is a lifestyle and people that buy wine are not just buying a product; they’re buying into that lifestyle.
“Everyone knows that California wine is great and that it can command a certain price and place in the wine market.
“People selling California wine should focus more on the emotional side and the feeling you get from the place more than the nitty-gritty of how the wine is made. Sales people should be focusing more on how the wine and the place make customers feel,” he said.
During the dinner at M in Victoria, Belfort also dispensed pearls of wisdom about how to succeed during a sales call, particularly when you cold call someone.
“In a sales call, you get five seconds to make a good impression. If you don’t make the right impression in the first five seconds, it takes seven more attempts to be able to change someone’s mind about you.
“You have to be perceived to be sharp, enthusiastic and an expert in your field – that way people will defer to you and allow you to control the flow of conversation.
“We’ve been conditioned to defer to experts. We bend over for doctors and listen to authority figures or perceived authority figures,” he said.
“You have to be an on the ball problem solver that’s as enthusiastic as hell. It’s not about yelling and being really loud, it needs to be contained and below the surface – that kind of confidence is very powerful.
“It’s all about the tone of your voice, your body language, how you carry yourself – unconscious communication establishes you as an expert.
“You need to keep them on the phone long enough to ask them questions about what they need, then you need to offer them a solution that is perfect for them – that’s the secret to building a rapport,” he added.
In a Q&A session at the end of the dinner, Belfort was candid about the fact that he was a terrible writer at first, when he began to put pen to paper in prison after being convicted of securities fraud and money laundering in 2003.
“When I started trying to write a book about my experiences in prison I was terrible at first – I really couldn’t do it. I could talk but I couldn’t write.
“Then I came across a copy of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities in the prison library, which I used as my textbook. I got out a highlighter and learnt how to write from that book,” he said.
During the dinner, Belfort expressed remorse for the unethical way he’d gone about making his fortune as a trader.
“Success without ethics and integrity is not success at all and it’s not sustainable. I screwed up and I deserved what I got, but we have the chance to reinvent ourselves every day and there’s no point dwelling on your failures.
“Everyone makes mistakes, the important thing is to learn from them and realise that you don’t have to be defined by the mistakes of your past,” he said.
Belfort’s memoir, The Wolf of Wall Street, which got turned into an Oscar-nominated film by Martin Scorsese starring Leonardo di Caprio as Belfort, is being made into an immersive theatre experience in a secret London location this September.
Theatregoers can choose to be either crooked traders at Belfort’s former firm, Stratton Oakmont, or FBI agents investigating their illicit activities.