Andrew Tarvin realized over the course of his career that you can’t be efficient with humans. Instead, you must be effective. His experience in stand-up comedy revealed that improv demands the same skills necessary to be an effective leader. He explored the intersection of humor in the workplace and fell in love with the subject.
He observed that it’s strange to think that companies pay him to teach employees to have more fun. He notes, though, that it’s missing from the workplace, and he addresses the issue in his book, Humor That Works.
We know that humor relieves stress and that it’s overall a good thing. We do not seem to know how to deploy humor strategically. Rather than simply using it for the sake of fun. we must use it to achieve a specific result.
How do I use humor in the sales process to build rapport?Can I get people to pay attention to what I’m saying with humor? Will humor relieve my own stress in the sales process?
We tend to think work must be strictly business. In actuality, though, you’re still dealing with humans. Humor inspires people to connect and let their guard down.
Would you rather?
Andrew calls it a stupid question, but he wonders whether people would rather do something fun or not fun? Of course, people will say they’d rather do something fun. And if work is a little more fun, they’d probably be more likely to do the work.
If you could make interactions a little more enjoyable, people would be more willing to engage in them. Even if the work you’re doing is serious in nature, like the Red Cross, you’re still working with humans.
Humor happens to be one of the most effective means of engaging people. It’s something different that people enjoy.
Working with the FBI
The FBI has a group called the office of private sector where agents work to build relationships with senior leaders at private companies. If the FBI can develop strong relationships before there are problems within companies, they can more readily identify problems when they emerge.
They want to set meetings with people but you can imagine how people respond when they hear from the FBI. Andrew worked to teach them how to use humor to build rapport.
The agents learned to build rapport despite the intimidation factor.
If you hold an initial meeting that bores your attendees, they won’t want to attend the next time you invite them. If people get value out of your meetings and enjoy attending, they’ll be more likely to attend future meetings.
Humor isn’t what you do. It doesn’t replace the work. It’s simply a matter of presenting information that someone needs in a way they enjoy consuming it.
Sales reps face many different hurdles when engaging prospects or new people. One of the greatest difficulties is making a great first impression and building rapport when they meet people for the first time.
Within existing sales processes, a number of challenges exist. The average person sends and receives more than 100 emails per day, with many spending up to 80 percent of their time in active communication.
Many sellers present information to help the buyer purchase rather than sharing information that will help develop a relationship.
Andrew points to a sales presenter named Phil Jones who says that sales is simply earning the right to make a recommendation.
Think of it as a visit to the doctor. Before the doctor gives a diagnosis, he asks questions and ultimately gives a prescription. Imagine if you went to a doctor who gave you pills before you even told him what was wrong. You’d assume he was a quack and you wouldn’t trust him with your health.
The same scenario is true in sales. If the seller doesn’t even know anything about you, how will he address your challenges?
Since the seller and the buyer are both humans, see if you can make the process a bit enjoyable. Then, discover whether you can be on the same side.
Ian Altman wrote a great book called Same Side Selling that encourages sellers to solve problems without trying to trick buyers into buying something.
Understand that humor is broader than comedy. Make the process a bit more fun to get people to pay attention. In your outreach, what are you doing to introduce a bit of humor?
If it’s true that people buy from the first person who provides them value, recognize that humor adds value.
Andrew got a cold email from a guy with a regular pitch. He ignored it like he does most cold emails. About a week later, the guy followed up with a gif of John Travolta from Pulp Fiction with his coat over his arm looking confused.
There was no text with the email because it wasn’t necessary. He didn’t need to point out that he had emailed just the week before.
Another seller started each cold call by acknowledging that this was a cold call and the person on the other end of the phone could hang up if he wanted to. Some of them did, but many others allowed him another 60 seconds because of the humor.
Capture attention and build intrigue.
Humans are seeking different connections and one way to build rapport throughout a conversation is small talk. Instead of asking the typical questions, ask slightly more interesting questions. Instead of asking “What do you do?” ask, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve worked on the past few months?”
It changes people’s perspective and then their response. Then, drop relevant facts throughout the conversation, like whether you’re a nerd or an introvert or from Ohio. If you offer this kind of information as part of a smaller group, you’ll have an instant connection to anyone else who is also from Ohio.
Humor doesn’t only help during the introduction part of the sales process, either. It can help improve understanding about ideas and it can lessen the awkwardness of the money conversation.
Even if you work for a company that doesn’t allow humor, the company can’t control how you think. There are benefits to using humor to increase sales and get better results.
Additionally, though, you can use humor to help you enjoy your work more. You’ll be more willing to do your work and you won’t dread Monday.
It comes down to a choice. You decide how you do your work every day.
Andrew’s book provides 10 strategies for using humor in the workplace, and the 11th strategy, a bonus one, is perhaps the most important.
It develops a humor habit.
“Use Humor In The Sales Process” episode resources
You can connect with Andrew at humorthatworks.com, where you’ll find a bunch of free resources and a newsletter. You can also grab a copy of his book, Humor That Works, which teaches the what, why, and how of humor in the workplace.
Connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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