According to Dwight D. Eisenhower, “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” If you can get people laughing, you can get them listening--and what more do you want from your prospect in a sales pitch than an eager ear? Once your prospect is comfortable and giggling, they are much more likely to appreciate your pitch and what you’re trying to say. Comedy also invites people to respond to you, first via laughter and then with real questions, comments and concerns. Humor is an easy stress-buster, humanizer, and way to put your prospect at ease and build implicit trust. Cracking a joke or two will help bust the sleazy-salesman stereotype and make you seem more approachable and memorable, to boot.
However, humor isn’t easy for everyone and can even seem a little scary. What if you say the wrong thing? What if you can’t think of a good joke on the spot?
Make Yourself Comfortable With Comedy
The key to humor isn’t actually trying to be funny--in fact, you’re decidedly less funny when you try too hard. It’s best to be as simple and natural as possible. If you don’t think you’re a funny person (in which case, I challenge you to reconsider that paradigm), take a “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. You’ve honed your interpersonal skills for sales over many years of hard work, so why not work on humor, too? Watch some funny TV shows. Keep up with comedy pop culture. Laugh more. Observe how your colleagues or competitors effectively use humor.
Once you’ve made yourself comfortable with comedy, it’s time to integrate jokes and humor into your sales pitch. Thinking about or planning jokes before your pitch will help you add comedy to your routine every time (without relying on stressful, on the spot wordplay) and will give you time to think of the most appropriate joke. With business humor, it’s especially important to keep all your jokes PC and PG. The worst thing you can do in a business setting is say something inappropriate--with a big, fat smile on your face.
Planning Your Jokes
1. Know Your Audience
How old is your audience? What are they interested in? Why are they listening to you? Knowing your audience means knowing what humor they will understand and what they will find funny. For example, you might not want to make a joke about an old, obscure film to a client--unless you know they’re a cinema buff. You also want to make jokes that you have the authority to talk about. So, don’t Google “old, obscure films” just to make a joke about it.
2. Use Safe Humor
Never make a joke that targets or divides your audience. Don’t use profanity. Stay away from taboo subjects like politics. It’s okay to be self-deprecating, but remember that you still want your audience to respect you and what you have to say in addition to the jokes. Stick to the two tenants of comedy: be unexpected and be honest. If you say something surprising but true with a smile, people will laugh.
3. Integrating Jokes Into Your Pitch
Blend your jokes into anecdotes or stories related to your pitch to keep your conversation on track, just with a few more laughs. In a pitch, you’re often weaving a narrative, so let different storytelling devices guide your humor. Think of English-class keywords like irony, metaphor and even puns.
If you’re doing a presentation, let sight gags be your guide! My father often has to lead big talks at his company, and I help him pepper his powerpoints with funny gifs and memes to add humor to what would otherwise be an information overload. Take advantage of powerpoint functions that allow you to reveal different images or text with a click--this will help add in that extra element of surprise.
Rehearse, Review And Rework
Always practice your jokes before a pitch on a trusted colleague. Listen to their feedback. It’s better to have no jokes in your pitch than a weak one. Once you’ve finished your pitch or presentation, review your performance in your mind. How was the humor received? Was there a joke no one laughed at? Was there a bit that had your audience giggling for minutes? Once you’ve pinpointed your weak spots, it’s time to rework the material and your delivery.
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