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Sell Me This Pen: The Crucial Sales Lesson Overlooked In "The Wolf of Wall Street"

Updated: Feb 1

There’s a great scene at the end of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” where Leonardo DiCaprio, portraying Jordan Belfort – the 1990s penny stock broker, asks a room full of salespeople at a seminar to sell him a pen. Mr. DiCaprio hands a pen to the first salesperson, who says, "It's an amazing pen..." Immediately, Mr. DiCaprio moves on to the next salesperson and poses the same question. The reply this time starts with “It’s a nice pen…” This continues several times with Mr. DiCaprio unsatisfied with each response. But the movie never explains what the correct response should be. Trained sales professionals, however, immediately understood the mistake each salesperson is making. And it’s a mistake made by many salespeople in the real world today. Never start off selling the features of your product or service without first uncovering what the needs, goals and challenges are of the prospect. Immediately going into your product’s or service’s features is basically telling the prospect that you don’t care about them or what they want.

As the real-life Jordan Belford explained in an interview, the proper way to answer this question is to turn it around and start asking the prospect questions. “So, tell me how long have you been in the market for a pen? What kind of pen have you used in the past? Was it for business or personal? Typically, when you buy a pen what kind of money do you spend on it? The key to selling is to find out what are your client’s needs, values. What pain are they looking to resolve? What do they need? And you’re looking to fulfill that need at the most basic level.”

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