Laughter… There’s Nothing Funny About the Way It Sells

That’s the title of one of the most popular programs that Laughter Works Seminars offers. “But hey,” we hear from some audience members, “I’m not in sales.” Well, I beg to disagree! These days we’re all in sales, from the marketing pro to the operations expert, the distribution manager, the human resource specialist, even the health care professional, the educator, and the parent! It’s true, even those who may not be exchanging goods or services directly for money are selling just the same.

Among the definitions of “sell” you’ll find “to promote, to convince of, to be approved of, to gain acceptance.” Now do you see that you (we) all are indeed, to some degree at least, in sales? The art of persuasion, which is the key to successful salesmanship, is also the key to success in much of our daily communication and interaction, regardless of our profession. Persuasion involves seeing both points of view and then making the case that yours can help solve their problems.

Another powerful key to success in sales – and in life – is collaboration. Think about that for a minute. One sales style we’ve all probably had painful experience with is the high pressure car salesman. “Are you prepared to buy this car TODAY?” Yikes! Talk about an adversarial situation, guaranteed to have your blood pressure rising! Even if you end up with a car you like, you may feel done in by the experience. It’s definitely a me-against-them feeling.

If you’re lucky, you’ve also had experience with a delightful, caring sales style too, where the seller is genuinely interested in meeting your needs. Think about a time when a merchant or service provider has first asked you about your needs and then sincerely worked to meet them, maybe suggesting ways to save money or improve the results in the process. That’s collaboration – working together for a common goal. It’s a mutually beneficial situation where no one ends up feeling taken advantage of or overpowered.

So what about humor as a sales tool? It’s fantastic! I’m convinced that the creative, appropriate use of humor can boost sales and build solid customer rapport. One reason humor works is that it effectively disarms people. Think about it. When we’re laughing we have to let go of anger and hostility – our defenses are down. That makes for a relaxed setting conducive to. . . you guessed it. . . persuasion and collaboration.

Humor has the power to change people’s minds. (Do you want to change your mind or keep the one you have?) Laughter opens our minds to a new world of possibilities – including the value of whatever it is we are selling. Humor can magically present how we outshine the competition. How? Humor is based on seeing things differently, altering our perception. That means divergent thinking, which means creativity. And creativity is behind all meaningful change, growth and discovery. Whew! Did you realize the power and value of a good hearty laugh? It has the ability to take you from “ha-ha” to “ah-ha” in no time flat!

Now that you’re sold on the value of selling, here are some of the best gems of sales advice ever gathered in one place… well, they’re pretty darn good anyway. If you’re not directly involved in sales, consider how they might apply to those situations where you’d like to be more effective, persuasive and collaborative.

  • Assume that all the people you see probably want your product or service and will buy it if they see its benefits and how it can help them. Your challenge is to make sure they see those benefits. If you’ve had great products or services in the past, then build on your good reputation. Leapfrog over those successful past products to your new offerings. “If you think Pelley’s Pickles were good, wait ’til you try the new and improved Pelley’s Extra-Puckery Pickles!”
  • When you cold call, don’t try to sell right away. Instead, offer a no-strings-attached, complimentary analysis of their operation. For every ten such phone calls you make, youÕll probably schedule one to four appointments. Yup, no matter how great you are, you’ll get more noes that yeses. Expect it and you won’t be disappointed. “Yahoo! I’ve been rejected seven times already today and it’s not even noon! This next call will be great!”
  • When making an appointment, use an alternate choice question: “Would 10:15 or 2:30 be better?” I’m not sure if the parenting manuals got this from the sales manuals or vice versa, but if you’re a parent you know it can be very effective! One note of warning: Allan S. Boress, author of The “I Hate Selling” Book, says to avoid such alternative closes at all costs. He thinks they’re a terrible cliche’. He recommends instead, “What’s your calendar look like?” As my favorite third-grader would say, “Whatever.” Use any technique that feels natural and works for you. Being consistent with your own personality is essential. But please, be sure that you do close and don’t just leave things hanging.
  • Everyone wants to upgrade if can they see how to do it without too much pain. It’s the old value-versus-price argument (do you want it good or do you want it cheap?). None of us wants to believe that we need or deserve the bottom-of-the-line offering! We select it out of duty or thriftiness. So make it easy for us to raise our sights a bit. Use comparison to make your point and paint a clear picture, a reduction to the ridiculous. One thousand dollars may be a big chunk of change, but. . . “That’s less than the cost of one double-mocha-half-caff per day!”
  • Remember, the successful salesperson does the things the average salesperson will not do. This axiom can be applied universally if you substitute another noun for salesperson. Try teacher, doctor, administrator, gardener, spouse – just keep in mind what you mean by successful.
  • Objections are often indicators of interest. Of course, if they object to the fact that you take up any space at all on the planet, it may be time to make a gracious exit and move on. But when a potential customer objects to a specific element of what you are offering, it means they are at least considering it. Now it’s up to you to remove their objection by focusing on the positive aspects of your product or service. But don’t deny the facts. If you can’t really meet their needs for whatever reason, say so, and then refer them to someone you trust who can. They will appreciate your honesty as will the person you refer them to, and you’ll be able to sleep better at night because you didn’t over promise.
  • Deputize your best customers. Besides their repeat business, they’re also an invaluable source of referrals. You can use meaningful incentives to empower your happy customers to recruit new business for you. Maybe you can’t give them big brass Deputy badges, but you can give them a nice shirt or tote with you logo emblazoned on it. (We’re talking quality here!) Have personalized Post-it Notes printed and distribute them generously. Most importantly, THANK EVERYONE promptly and profusely. Word-of-mouth will always be the best advertising money can’t buy. Every referral you get is a gift, and Mom always said you must send thank you notes. “Right again, Mom!”
  • A buyer buys when the benefits of buying are clear and completely overwhelming. So be clear. And overwhelm your buyer with your talent, your knowledge, your preparation, and with just how much stinkin’ fun it is doing business with you!
  • Above all, have fun selling your product, your services or just your point of view. Positive and appropriate humor will energize you and your prospects. Keep in mind that the sales process itself can and should be fun. And remember, people who laugh, last.

by Jim Pelley
Laughter Works Seminars

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