Rubber Face

Humor has always been my ally. I got out of a lot of jams back in Brooklyn when I was a kid by making people laugh. I remember one steamy summer night in particular.  Walking home I realized a car was following me.  I picked up my pace and darted into an alley. When I came out the other side the car was still there. I started to run. The car closed in. Exhausted, out of breath and with no place left to hide, I sagged to the curb. The car stopped, its headlights fixed squarely on my face. Out jumped 5 menacing kids with baseball bats. I steeled myself for the first blow when a voice yelled out “hey, aren’t you the kid who was making us laugh on the beach today”? “Yep, that’s me”, I replied. Instead of painful blows I received hearty pats on the back. See what I mean about humor being my ally? It’s been that way my entire life.

Not Everyone “Gets It”

In the late eighties I thought it was time to take comedy seriously so I started doing standup in the clubs around Boston. I soon learned a lesson that has stuck with me ever since. Not everyone gets it. Today I still consider humor the most important tool in my toolbox. It helps prospective clients let their guard down and breaks the ice. But … not everyone gets it. You see to be effective, comedy has to have context. And to understand the context you have to listen. There! That’s the secret. Listening. Not only will listening increase the odds that you’ll be funny when you’re trying to be, it will let your clients know you care. And you must care.

For another take on comedy as a sales tool, read A Funny Sales Secret on Bob Poole’s terrific website. In it, Bob talks about his good friend Walt, a very funny guy and a great salesman. What strikes me about Walt is not his sense of humor but his natural ability to make everyone in the room feel comfortable. That’s a gift. And while you’re at it, treat yourself by spending some time on Bob Poole’s website. There are many sales and marketing gurus. There is only one Bob Poole.

Closing Thoughts

These pointers are solely my opinion and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of management.

  • If you use humor in a sales context, understand it’s not about inflating your ego. It’s about making your client/customer/audience feel comfortable
  • Remember context. Before you start firing off jokes, ask questions, listen earnestly to the answers. Get the lay of the land. Then determine if humor is appropriate. It may not be.
  • If you’re not sure if something you’re about to say is funny, chances are it isn’t. Don’t say it.
  • In the same way that social media won’t work for you if you’re not a social person, humor won’t work for you if you’re not funny. (Don’t get mad at me for that one … it’s the truth).

So what do you think? Is humor an effective sales tool? Have you used it effectively? Has a sales person used it on you and did it work? I would really love some feedback on this one.

Photo by tofslie

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