A funny thing happened to me on the way to a sale!

A funny thing happened to me on the way to a sale!

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at gitomer.me.

Every high school has one weirdo total nerdy type you know what I mean. At Haddonfield Memorial High we had a kid who carried his books in a box.

One day he was walking in front of me down the steps. He suddenly stopped on the landing (all high schools have landings), dropped his box of books and threw up into his hands. “Nice catch,” I said as I walked by. It was funny, and it was a true personal experience.

I believe humor to be my single most important communication strength. If I can get the prospect or customer to laugh, I can get him or her to buy. So can you.

Humor builds rapport faster than any other situation or subject. It’s a bonding mechanism that transcends (and reveals) all prejudice and prejudgements. It brings the selling process to a real level. It brings about the truth. I have found that many truths are revealed through humor. If you listen carefully to a prospect’s jokes it will often reveal philosophy, prejudice, and intelligence (or lack of it).

How can you use this powerful tool to make more sales? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Use humor in the warmup of the presentation to set a happy tone for the meeting. The earlier you get a prospect to laugh the better.
  • Don’t make jokes at someone else’s personal expense. If the prospect knows the person (you never know who else knows), or is somehow related to the person at the brunt end of the joke, you’re dead meat. If it is repeated, I guarantee it will be mistold or altered, and will surely come back to haunt you.
  • Use yourself as the example or brunt of the joke. It shows you’re human and can take it.
  • Don’t use ethnic humor or make ethnic jokes unless you’re the ethnic. That’s not a guideline, that’s a rule.
  • Some people won’t get the joke. Silence at the end of a joke is pretty horrifying. Make sure it’s funny to someone else before you tell it where it counts. But, no matter how tested the material, some people’s elevator stops before the top floor and will never get it.
  • Listen before you tell a joke. Try to determine the type and demeanor of the person or people you’re addressing. The wrong humor will kill you as fast as the right humor will let you live eternally.
  • Try using personal experience rather than story type jokes. Something funny happened in your office, with your kid, or when you were a kid, rather than “two guys were walking down the street.”
  • If you tell a joke that the prospect or customer has heard before, it is actually a negative to make them hear it again. That’s one great reason for using personal humor they are sure to be hearing it for the first time.
  • Timing. Don’t use humor where it’s not appropriate. Conversely, humor properly inserted will turn the prospect or crowd in your favor.
  • Keep a joke file. Write down funny things or events so you can remember them in selling or speaking situations.

There are humor tendencies men and women tend to make jokes about the other gender. Religious sects are apt to take on each other. People in bordering states tend to be on the wrong end of the joke. In North Carolina it seems to be about West Virginia, but when I lived in Indiana it was those farmers from Kentucky. And, of course, if you’re from New York everyone else in the world is a farmer.

Risque jokes can be risky they will get you in trouble if you say them to the wrong person. Know the limits of your audience before engaging your mouth. RED FLAG: Tell a dirty joke to a woman in a business situation and you actually run the risk of being sued for harassment according to the new stupid laws.

I was in a room of smokers the other day making a presentation. I hate smoke. So I recounted a story where I was driving with my friend Becky Brown, and she was talking about how tough it was to quit smoking and how hard she was trying, but just couldn’t. I asked, “Have you ever tried the gum, you know that nicotine gum?” She said “I tried it but I couldn’t keep it lit.”

I made the sale.

If I can get the prospect or customer to laugh, I can get him or her to buy…
So can you.


Need to improve your humor? I’ll send you 15.5 ways to get funnier. Just go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time user and enter the word HUMOR in the GitBit box.