The Three Certainties of the Straight Line System

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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What are the three certainties from Way of the Wolf? Why are the three certainties essential in Straight Line sales?

In his book Way of the Wolf, Jordan Belford discusses the three certainties of the Straight Line system: 1) the product, 2) the seller (you), and 3) the company. If you don’t gain a prospect’s trust in these three areas, then you are less likely to close the sale.

Continue below to learn more about the three certainties and what happens if you fall short.

Jordan Belfort’s Three Certainties

In Way of the Wolf, Jordan Belfort explains the three certainties in selling. Following is a breakdown of the three certainties you must establish in the prospect’s mind to make a Straight Line sale.

The First Certainty: The Product

  • The first certainty is that your prospect love the product or be at a 10 on the certainty scale, believing it fully meets her needs and is worth the price.
  • At the opposite end of the scale—a 1—she’ll feel the product is inferior and overpriced. If so, you won’t be able to change her mind. 
  • However, at a 5 on the certainty scale, she’ll be ambivalent and therefore can be moved toward a 10. (Belfort says she wants the salesperson to influence her or tell her what to do.)
  • If your prospect is below a 5, you can’t close a sale immediately, but you have an opportunity to increase her certainty score by persuading her that your product will improve her life. Belfort contends that people buy products only if they think the products will help them or improve their lives. They may be wrong—but it’s thinking they’ll benefit that moves them toward a sale.

The Second Certainty: You as the Seller

  • The second certainty or requirement for a successful close is that your prospect find you totally likable, trustworthy, and acting in her best interests. If she views you as unlikable, incompetent, or acting from self-interest, she’ll be at a 1 and uncloseable.
  • A prospect will fall near the middle of the scale and can be moved if: she finds you reasonably trustworthy although she dislikes you, or she likes you but doesn’t trust you. Belfort’s prescription for building trust, which he discusses in more detail in Chapters 4 and 7-8, emphasizes using tone and body language to appeal on an emotional level.
How to Be Likable and Trustworthy

Like Belfort, many sales trainers emphasize the need for the seller to be likable and trustworthy. For instance, in News Sales. Simplified., Mike Weinberg says that being likable requires being aware of others’ emotions and of how you come across. For example, to be likable, you need to be able to understand and adapt to the customer’s communication style (if they’re not chatty, drop the small talk and get to the point). To build trust, Grant Cardone recommends the following in Sell or Be Sold: Assume the customer doesn’t trust you, and you’ll need to prove yourself. Help the customer research the product by providing as much information as possible. Support what you say with documentation that she can see for herself. Put promises in writing as part of the customer’s order. Be honest when you don’t know the answer.

The Third Certainty: Your Company or Brand

  • The third certainty and final requirement for a successful close is that your prospect feel positively about your company or brand. If she believes something negative, for instance that your company doesn’t stand behind its products, you’ll need to increase her confidence.
  • It’s typically easier to sell to an existing customer because if she already has a positive relationship with the company, you only need to work on increasing her certainty about you and the product.
  • In addition, if a prospect already feels positively about your company, she’s also likely to feel good about you and your product. Of course, the reverse is also true—if she doesn’t like your company or brand, she’s less likely to like you and your product. 

Belfort argues that with even a basic understanding of the Straight Line system, you can take control of the sales conversation and move most prospects toward increased certainty until you close the sale. (Shortform note: In contrast to Belfort’s seller-focused method of making a sale as expeditiously as possible, customer-centric methods like the SPIN Selling and the Sandler method spend significant time building a relationship, “discovering” and analyzing customer needs, and pitching a custom solution.)

Customer Certainties Overlap

Although Belfort refers to the three certainties in the same order throughout the book (product, seller, company), he doesn’t say whether the seller must address them in that order during every sales conversation. It seems likely that you’d often work toward certainty on all three aspects simultaneously—for instance, your compelling pitch for the product would help create client certainty, not only about the product, but also about you as an expert and about the company as the producer of a great product. Or, you might vary your emphasis depending on the circumstances and customer. For example, if the customer has already made up her mind to buy a laptop computer, and she’s comparison shopping, you’d focus on establishing certainty that your brand and company offer superior quality and service rather than on the general benefits of owning a laptop.

Two Types of Certainty

Before explaining the Straight Line path further, Belfort makes one more point about certainty. A seller must create certainty in the prospect’s mind on two levels: logical and emotional.

  • Logical certainty: To reach logical certainty, a prospect asks whether things add up intellectually. (Does the product meet my needs? Is the price fair? Is it backed by a guarantee and service?)
  • Emotional certainty: The prospect is emotionally certain when he has a gut feeling the product will improve his life. You can create emotional certainty by future pacing—helping the client envision how much better life will be with the product. (Shortform note: It could be as simple as saying, “I know you’re really going to like how much bigger and brighter this window treatment will make your rooms feel.” This is a common sales technique. On a more complex level, future pacing is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) technique in which creating thoughts about something (in your own mind or someone else’s) is intended to help bring about the reality. We’ll discuss NLP in more detail in the final chapters of this guide, which focus on the seller’s mindset.)

The seller must create both emotional and logical certainty to close a sale because buyers draw on both—Belfort quotes the sales adage that people buy based on emotion, then rationalize the purchase with logic. (Shortform note: The research around emotion/logic in buying decisions is complicated, and sales experts interpret it in different ways. But many agree with Belfort on the need for a balanced approach. Chapters 4, 7-8 specifically explore how to connect with a customer emotionally.)

If the Three Certainties Don’t Align

If you fall short on one or more of the three certainties, you probably won’t get a straightforward “no”—more likely, Belfort says, the customer will raise a hurdle or objection as a cover for their uncertainty about the product, you, or the company. 

You’ll encounter your first objections in the initial third of the sales conversation, the first time you ask for an order. Examples of objections are: “I’ll think about it and get back to you” and “I need time to talk it over with (my boss, colleagues, or spouse).” Objections are an opportunity to go back and address the real issue, then move the customer more firmly toward certainty (a process called looping). Belfort discusses looping in Chapters 2-3 and 12. If you instead hope or believe that the prospect actually will get back to you, you’ve lost the sale, because they won’t.

(Shortform note: In Sell or Be Sold, sales trainer Grant Cardone similarly says that objections are an excuse for a customer’s lack of confidence that the product will truly meet his needs. He recommends preparing responses to common objections. We’ll compare how various sales methods address objections in more detail in Chapter 11.)

On the other hand, if you do get a rare, flat-out “no,” move on. Belfort says that people who simply aren’t interested can’t be convinced to buy, and you shouldn’t waste time on them. Weed out uninterested people early in the process by asking targeted questions (part of information gathering).

The Three Certainties of the Straight Line System

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  • 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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