Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.
– Victor Borge
Sure, sales is about the client buying what you have to sell, but that is far from the whole story. The foundation of each sale is built on a connection between you and the client. Unfortunately, for us sales guys that is, we usually are at a disadvantage because clients see us as having our own agendas. To break down that barrier, we need a good strategy that shows we can be trusted. Humor is one of the most effective ways to get the client to open up and see the real human being behind the sales guy and not a sales robot. (For a start, we suggest you try Spiro that marries humor and sales.)
When you crack a joke, assuming it is somewhat funny or at least well-intentioned, you encourage your clients to warm up. Humor makes you vulnerable, which can take away some of the vulnerability the client feels. It also shows you are friendly, creative and intelligent. If you can create an environment where your clients feel comfortable asking you questions, laughing and having a good time, you have created the ideal atmosphere for closing deals.
The Science Of Humor In Sales
While it may seem obvious that humor can help most any situation go smoother, there is plenty of scientific research to back it up. Humor causes the release of endorphins within the brain, which causes us to feel good, relax and move in the direction of accomplishing tasks. You never know the kind of day your client is having; they may be tired, distracted or stressed out. They may have come from talking with 3 other vendors in competition with you. Humor levels the playing field to help people to be “in the moment” and focus on finding a solution with you.
It causes relaxation by increasing oxygen in the brain. This allows for a better air exchange and deeper thinking. Some retail stores actually pump supplemental oxygen into their buildings to try and improve the mood of customers. All the while, all you had to do is have a little fun.
So, if humor is effective, what type is best for sales?
Best Types of Humor for Sales
As we stated earlier, humor is a sign of intelligence and creativity. It is not limited by personality or innate comedic ability, it is simply understanding the concept of what is funny. In sales, the type of humor has to be carefully chosen, as we have to walk a fine line between being funny and being offensive. You can just as easily turn someone away with a bad joke, as warm them up with a good one. With that in mind, choose carefully.
One of the most recommended forms of humor is poking fun at yourself. You don’t want to make yourself out to be an idiot, but you will seem more approachable if you can make cracks at yourself. Joking about your hairline is funny, while taking digs at your business is not.
Another powerful tactic is telling a funny story about your past experiences that is relevant to the situation. This creates rapport between you and the client, as it shows a more personal side, despite your role of selling them something.
Now onto what to avoid.
What Not to Do
It’s important to know what is not funny. When testing out the comedic waters, there are a few things to avoid. First, don’t make jokes at anyone’s expense besides your own. You definitely don’t want to offend your prospect and don’t want to come off as mean-spirited. Secondly, keep the jokes clean and without offensive language. Third, avoid anything related to politics or religion as you don’t want to bring unneeded controversy into the conversation. Lastly, make sure the humor is used to connect with the customer, but is not causing the sale to be side tracked. Keep your focus on where you want the interaction to go.
As a sales guy, you are already used to talking with people. Now, start experimenting by injecting some humor into the conversation and watch how it affects your clients. Take note of what works and what doesn’t, and gradually you will build confidence in your sense of humor in sales.