Want to Increase Sales? Lower the Action Threshold

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Way of the Wolf" by Jordan Belfort. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How can you use Straight Line sales psychology to increase sales? How can you lower a prospect’s action threshold and raise their pain threshold?

In Straight Line sales psychology, the action threshold is each prospect’s level of certainty they need to cross and the pain threshold is a powerful motivator and creates urgency, which helps close difficult sales.

Below you will learn how to lower the action threshold and raise the pain threshold to increase sales.

Straight Line Sales Psychology

There are five elements of the Straight Line System from Way of the Wolf. The first three are the three tens. You rate certainty on a scale of 1 to 10. If a prospect is at a 10, then she is absolutely certain. If she’s at a 1, she is absolutely uncertain. You want to get your prospect to a 10.  The three tens are:

  • One: The prospect needs to love the product.
  • Two: The prospect needs to like and have confidence in you.
  • Three: The prospect needs to believe in and trust the company.

The fourth and fifth elements have to do with Straight Line sales psychology:

  • Four: Work to lower the action threshold.
    • Even after you’ve done your best to raise the three tens as close to the right as possible, and it seems like they’re ready to buy, sometimes the prospect just won’t. This is because each individual has different beliefs about decision-making and trusting salespeople in general. Each prospect has to cross their own threshold of certainty, or action threshold. The harder someone is to sell to, the higher their action threshold. But these action thresholds can change. Sellers can work to lower them.
  • Five: Work to heighten the pain threshold.
    • Similar to the action threshold is the pain threshold. Pain is a powerful motivator and creates urgency, which helps close difficult sales. This is why you need to understand what your prospect’s pain is (why they need your product) and where it originates.

Think of the prospect like a complicated safe, where every action you perform helps break one of the five numbers in the lock. Straight Line sales psychology has a fantastic set of tools, so long as you take control immediately during the sale. Every sale is the same because, by taking control, you make every sale the same. Below, we explain how to lower the action threshold and raise the pain threshold.

How to Lower the Action Threshold

After you have developed trust with a prospect by presenting a Straight Line sales pitch, many people with initial objections will buy. Others still won’t—they’ll probably give you a sales objection. Most sales objections are all generally smoke screens for the real reason they don’t trust you, your product, or your company. So, answer very quickly and then loop back into the sale. This is going to help you crack the fourth number in the code, the action threshold.

  • This is the certainty someone needs to feel in order to buy. Some people are at 10, 10, 10 and others are at 7, 8, 7. 
  • Right before buying, people will run two separate scenarios in their minds. One is a positive scenario, where they consider their life with the upside potential of the product: the best-case scenario. The other is the worst-case scenario. People with low action thresholds will usually think about very positive best cases and not so negative worst cases, whereas people with high thresholds will be the opposite. 

When people have a high action threshold, you have to lower it right away. There are four ways to do this:

  1. Offer a money-back guarantee. This will assuage nervous buyers that if things don’t work out, they won’t have made a mistake.
  2. Offer a cool-off period. This is a contract that will allow a buyer to reverse their decision within five business days. 
  3. Use phrases that will make them less worried—talk about long-term relationships and “holding their hand every step of the way”
  4. Perform a reverse: This is the most effective strategy. You lay out the worst-case scenario, which is not that bad, and the best-case scenario, which is really good. And then you ask if they’ll start with a smaller cash outlay to prove yourself. 

High action threshold customers, if you can get them, make great long term clients, because they’re so pleased that you’ve earned their trust. Jordan Belfort’s dad is the perfect example of this. He dealt with only a few salespeople, gave them no grief, and tipped them very well, because he considered them absolute experts. 

How to Raise the Pain Threshold

The fifth and final code to break is the pain threshold. People feeling a lot of pain will act fast, whereas those who aren’t are slower to the draw. This has an inverse relationship with your action threshold. Imagine your car breaks down on the side of the road and in the cold with your whole family. You’ll do whatever and pay whatever it takes to get it fixed quickly, no matter how much of a tough buyer you are usually. 

Reintroduce the pain you found out about your prospective client from the information gathering phase of your pitch. Bring up whatever their issue is—they’re worried about retirement or their child’s education—and then ask what will happen if they don’t fix it. Be sympathetic throughout the process, but remind them that they have something in their life that needs fixing. Introduce the I care tonality, and then pitch your product again, quickly selling the Three Tens again, focusing explicitly on the emotional side of the equation. 

If at this point, the prospect sticks with the same objection, you have to thank them for their time and move on. There’s no point in doing endless loops and being an over-aggressive salesperson. 

Want to Increase Sales? Lower the Action Threshold

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jordan Belfort's "Way of the Wolf" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Way of the Wolf summary:

  • How to sell like Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street
  • The 4 steps of the Straight Line selling method
  • The 3 types of certainty you have to create to make a successful sale

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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