What’s the one tool that’s completely free of charge and will help you better manage your team – even if your team is just you looking yourself in the mirror as you get ready to make cold calls in the morning – while at the same time, light a fire under your sales strategies?
Humor. In a cluttered marketing environment, fraught with competition, a shared laugh between you and a prospect can be a quick path to inking a deal. And, if you’re in a management role, poking fun at yourself or chuckling over customer foibles can be a great way to show your team that you empathize with the challenges they face, and that you’re in it right there with them.
In an era of increasing reliance on electronic communications, humor has an even more important place in both the workplace and across the negotiating table. The more we exchange ideas, proposals, and information digitally, the more important it becomes to take advantage of those times that we do have the opportunity to relate to each other one-on-one to establish synergies and both personal and professional empathy for one another.
Inc. 500 entrepreneur and best-selling author Kevin Daum explains how humor can achieve objectives seldom met by more straightforward approaches:
Humor establishes rapport – Almost all people love to laugh. Non-offensive jokes can easily establish likeability and trust. A joke related to a difficult situation can disarm an employee, prospect or client when delivering “tough medicine.” Relationships are often built on experiences of shared humor. Combined with knowledge, humor enhances expertise and demonstrates confidence and strength.
Humor triggers memorability – Many strive to create “AHA! moments” in their customers’ minds. This occurs when one is thinking one way and you turn their head to think another. Those are the very mechanics of a joke punch-line, explaining why a childhood joke exists in our repertoire decades after introduction.
Humor creates alignment – A joke is based upon shared experience. Humor works well when there is communal understanding of the issues at hand. By identifying a common problem and creating a punch-line around it, insiders will adopt the punch-line as a trigger representing the issue.
Clearly, sales is no laughing matter, but as Daum notes, establishing common ground is a key to conversion, and humor can be a powerful means of highlighting shared objectives. Even after that prospect becomes a customer, continue demonstrating you’re his partner on an ongoing basis. In either case, humor can be a very effective means to demonstrate that commonalities exist while also showing off your listening skills – track the customer’s personal interests, then share an anecdote having to do with that very subject yourself. If the customer golfs, plays tennis, or engages in another sport, spin a tale from your latest outing on the court or the course. Don’t play sports? Don’t worry. Perhaps you both have children and you can share a story about trying to get them out of bed in the morning. Breaking through the wall of resistance with such humor can go a long way in shattering barriers and showcasing you as someone the customer will be able to trust – and will enjoy spending time with.
This same approach to humor can go a long way toward strengthening your team internally, gaining buy-in, relieving tense situations, and increasing productivity. In fact, lightening up in the workplace can make your staff both more cohesive and more productive.
In either case, it’s certainly true that humor is nothing if not subjective. Make sure you’re staying away from common sense hot-button topics – don’t try political, religious, racial, gender-related, or ethnic humor. Stick to the lighthearted: Animals, children, and humor related to subjects held in common by all – such as having a lot on one’s plate, or simply being glad the workweek is coming to an end.
Perhaps the most important tip to employing humor to make sales and strengthen your corporate culture? That’s simple – be yourself. Don’t try too hard, and don’t go for a tone that isn’t typical of your everyday conversational style.
Here are a few additional tips from Yesware’s Lou Carlozo:
Use self-deprecating humor. Humor at your own expense is safe, but don’t make yourself appear incompetent. You can joke about your hairline but don’t undermine your product line.
If you don’t consider yourself funny, study up. Pros recommend improv courses as a terrific team-building activity, as well as a means to strengthen your funny bone.
Laughter really is the best medicine. Learn to laugh at awkward situations, whether that’s workplace issues or client foibles. If you don’t take yourself so seriously, your team members and/or customers will feel that they can loosen up, and the environment becomes one of reciprocal trust.
Need a remedy to boost sagging employee morale or a weak bottom line? Turns out the old maxim is true: Laughter really is the best medicine!