Using Humor as a Strategic Sales Tool

Drew Tarvin, CEO @ Humor That Works
Sales & Marketing Stage
Ascent Conference 2020

[00:00:00] Hello and welcome to your next session at the ascent conference. I’m Andrew Tarvin and we’re going to be talking about going from funny to money, how to use humor as a strategic sales tool, especially during these unprecedented times. And, you know, they are unprecedented at times because of the unprecedented number of times people have called them unprecedented times. But to be fair, how many of you had to survive a pandemic on your New Year’s resolutions? Anyone like, you know what? I want to eat healthier, exercise more and stay away from people as much as physically possible? Probably not. Right. And I think throughout it all, we’ve faced different challenges. At the beginning, I think some people realized that they weren’t as good at working from home as they were coming from work. Right. They were way better at checking Facebook or scrolling their Instagram and the office. And they were at actually being productive and getting the types of results that they needed while also feeding the kids and walking the dog or feeding the dog and walking the kids. You know, I think people are recognizing that it’s called remote work because honestly, it’s sometimes hard to find. For me, one of the challenges I’m dealing with is I live here in New York City in a four hundred square foot apartment in the East Village. And I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. It’s gotten to the point that the other night my wife and I built a pillow fort just so we’d have a new room to explore. We’re also rearranging our furniture every couple of weeks. It’s not really feng shui. So much is being way too much time on our hands. But I’m excited to be joining you wherever you’re watching from, whether that is your living room, your office, maybe somewhere else, hopefully not your bathroom. But I’m excited because while the world has changed around us, our work hasn’t changed all that much. We still have to send emails, still have meetings and still have customers, users, clients and potential buyers out there who can benefit from what we offer. Now, you just can do all of that wall in your socks and there is still a need for humor. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today, humor, because I spent the first part of my career working at Procter and Gamble where I learned that it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if it doesn’t actually resonate and serve your consumer.

[00:02:18] And it turns out that what I learned from 15 years of doing improv in stand up comedy is particularly helpful and resonating with people. So I started humor that works where we teach people like you how to get better business results while having more human fun. Now, before we start, I do have to make a little bit of a disclaimer. So if you all can read that and hit, I accept that would be great. But basically the summary or too long didn’t read version of that is to say that I have never actually worked at your company. I don’t know what it’s like in your role every single day. But what I have done is work with over 250 organizations all around the world on how to use humor to get better results and whether they were organizations like Microsoft or the IBM or the United Nations or the FBI or even the International Association of Canine Professionals. The one thing that they all had in common was that they dealt with humans. And so this is about being effective with people. Second, we believe we can help anyone learn to be funny or not necessarily across the board. Funny, you’re not going to watch this one program and immediately have a Netflix comedy special. But that’s also not the goal. Our goal isn’t to teach you to become a standup comedian. Instead is to help you understand how you can strategically used humor to get better results. To think about some of the biggest challenges you’re facing right now and see if humor might be part of the solution. Because while a lot has changed in twenty twenty. A lot has stayed the same, namely the nature of work. Because if you think about it, no matter who you are, what you do, your work comes down to five core skills. First, you have to be able to execute. You have to be able to send an email, fill out a TPS report. Shavon Alpaca, whatever your job is, you still have to do it. It’s just the environment in which you do. It might have changed. Instead of being surrounded by coworkers, you’re surrounded by loved ones or co pets or copious amounts of home distractions. Right. But you still have to execute next. You have to be able to think yet to be how to solve problems, prioritize a thousand different email requests and figure out the perfect angle so that your video background doesn’t show the mere next to you that someone might walk in front of at any moment. Then you have to be able to communicate. You have to be able to decipher what an employee said and what they actually want. Have to be able to explain your product or service in a way that doesn’t lead to confused faces. And you have to be able to pick the right gift to send in the group chat. Personally, I think you can never go wrong with a little bit of Citizen Kane clapping or if something is not going well, maybe try and everything is on fire. You have to be able to communicate now. You have to be able to connect, you have to have emotional intelligence, show empathy and build relationships with prospective client without the benefit of in-person interactions like casual chats or awkward small talk in the elevator. Instead, coworkers and customers are increasingly feeling like Alexa and Siri. You speak something out loud and hope that you hear something back. Note that the goal is not to treat people more and more like Alexa, but to maybe treat Alexa more and more like a person. In fact, if you have an Alexa, I strongly encourage you to say thank you and please. That way it’s not only more polite, but if there is a robot uprising, Alexa would be like, you know what? They were one of the good ones. Finally, you have to be able to lead. You have to be a to influence people to the best solution to motivate your coworkers when things are tough and you have to be a mentor. New people joining the organization. Now, it’s important to recognize that leadership is not a position. It is possible to be a manager of people and be a terrible leader. Leadership is an attitude and specifically it’s an attitude and action and one that happens at every level of the organization, no matter what your role is. And that’s it. Your work comes down to some subset of these five skills. So the work itself hasn’t changed so much. But what’s changed is how we do it. And it turns out that we as humans aren’t so good at the how even prepend in pandemic, because eighty three percent of employees feel stressed out at work. Eight out of ten. What’s crazy about this debt isn’t that eight out of ten seems like a lot. It’s that people are like, wait a second, what are the two out of ten people do that aren’t stressed out at work? Fifty five percent of employees are unsatisfied with their jobs. In fact, here in the United States, more people believe in ghosts than like what they do for a living. But that’s crazy. If you think about it, that means the average person like I want to kill my boss, but I can’t because then they come back and haunt me. Finally. Forty percent of employees struggle to stay happy. Of course, it’s even worse in Disney World, where statistically only fourteen point three percent of Dwarf’s are happy. That’s one out of seven, but it all leads to 70 percent of the workforce being disengaged. So not only is it impacting you and your coworkers, but also your customers, but you don’t need stats to know that the current way of working isn’t actually working because think about the average day for the average person, right? You wake up in, the first thing you touch isn’t a loved one. It isn’t your pet. It isn’t even like a glass of water, a toothbrush. It’s your phone to turn off the alarm. And then, you know, as you’re looking at your phone, you’re like, I’m just going to take a quick peek at email and boom, you’ve already started your workday before you’ve even fully woken up. And now because most people no longer have a commute, sure, they save time sitting in traffic, but now they jump straight into work. And because they never physically go to work, they don’t have the time to mentally prepare and because they never physically leave work, sometimes they never mentally leave it either. We no longer have this idea of work life balance so much as work life, survival and all this is happening while you’re still trying to make an impact. And the reality is we’re spending so much of our time in email slack and zoom. And if you’re like me, you’re probably lying a lot more because of that. In fact, the number one lie that I’m saying is, I’m sorry, I have to run to another meeting. Right. Because every single time I say that, I’m actually lying three times. I’m sorry, I have to run to another meeting. First of all, I’m not sorry. Not sorry, because there’s no reason that this should have been a two hour long meeting when it should have been an email. Second of all, I have to run. Right. I’m working from home. I’m not physically going anywhere. And third to another meeting, the only other meeting that I’m going to is just not being in this one anymore. But luckily, we have a strategy to combat all of this. People use humor at work, are more productive, less stressed and happier. This is me on the end, the youngest and three boys. I’m so happy. Even though I have a booboo on my head, I’m still so happy. And this picture. And that’s not it. Right. Humor also helps you to do all of these things. There are 30 benefits to using humor in the workplace, all backed by research. Case studies in real world examples helps you to communicate messages, build trust. It even burns calories. In fact, ten to fifteen minutes of laughter burns as many calories as five minutes of aerobic exercise, ten minutes of dancing or fifteen minutes of milking a cow. So I don’t know where you’re watching from, but if during the pandemic you decided to start milking cows for exercise, you can stop or I guess you could milk cows and laugh at the same time, bring double the calories. Right. And then probably get locked up. That’s a little weird. If you want to learn more about these particular benefits, you can go to humor me such benefits and also see all of the sources. So how do you actually do it? How do we gain these wonderful benefits while also avoiding a trip to H.R.? How can we leverage Chuma to increase our sales without increasing our complaints? In order to do that, we have to talk first about the definition of humor. So I want you. Start thinking about what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word humor, maybe it’s laughter, maybe it’s jokes, maybe it’s comedy, maybe think of a smile or levity or even connection. Humor is all of these things. Humor is defined as a comic, absurd or incongruous quality causing amusement. So comedy is certainly included, but it’s also more broad than that. It’s beyond just what is funny. It includes things like this sign outside of a coffee shop. Life is like a game of chess. I don’t know how to play chess or might be like this sign in a park. This is a silly sign to me because this is the first sign that I’ve ever seen where the stick figure has a but that’s absurd. And finally, at this stop sign now, this isn’t necessarily laugh out loud funny, but it is something different. If you pull up to this stop sign, you’d probably pause for just a little bit longer. And that’s what we’re talking about today, right? We’re not talking about making the workplace funny so much as making the workplace a little bit more fun. So how does that directly relate to sales? Well, we’ve discovered that there are 10 humor strategies that anyone can implement in their roles. Today. We’re going to talk about the three most important ones in the sales process, starting first with getting people to pay attention because it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if no one is paying attention to it. And let’s face it, the world is increasingly distracted. The average person sends and receives one hundred and twelve emails per day and spends up to 80 percent of their time in some form of active communication. Email Zoome meetings, chats, text messages, phone calls, Instagram and whatever it is that happens on Ticktock, they’re all distracting us. So it’s no wonder that many of our virtual audiences look like this. They’re disinterested, disengaged or checked out completely. But even pre pandemic, a lot of our audiences were like this. What’s wrong with this audience? Well, first of all, most of the people aren’t paying attention. They’re on their phone or their computer. The people who are paying attention aren’t particularly enthused about it. And this person is either sleeping or has literally suffered from death by PowerPoint. One of the keys to getting and keeping people’s attention is being relevant. You can do this by telling people what they want to hear or more what they need to know and by using humor, because humor is instant relevance. When you get people laughing, they are listening. And once they’re listening, you can tell them what they need to know so we can use humor strategy number five to engineer surprise, to capture attention. Things like incongruity or simply doing things a little differently are a great way to create that surprise. You can do that in a couple of different ways. First of all, the incongruity could be visual like this sign. If you hit this sign, you will hit that bridge. Now, that’s effective. Or it could be like this ad in a magazine. Are you in the wrong job? Like if you’re flipping through a magazine, you probably stop at this photo it get your attention. And it actually makes a great point. In fact, not too long ago, I got a cold email from someone that I flat out ignored. Three days later, he sent me an empty email with just the gif of confused Travolta looking around. And I’ll admit it made me laugh out loud and I responded right away a little bit of visual incongruity to capture attention. That incongruity could also be a twist of speech, such as a turn of phrase like melts in your mouth, not in your hand, or maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline. Simple phrases like that stick with people and stand out. And finally, the incongruity could be logical, innocent. In Altman, the author of Same Side Selling, told me a story of one of his clients who would start all of his cold calls with This is a cold call. Now is your chance to hang up. Now, that may sound a logical in a way to start off right out of the gate, giving people an opportunity hang up. But a lot of people would laugh and they would then give him a little bit more time to actually make his pitch. So that’s the first strategy to engineer surprise, to grab attention. Up next, we can build rapport because when we laugh, we release endorphins and we associate those positive feelings with the person who made us laugh. Plus, when we see someone smile or laugh, we are primed to mirror that behavior with mirror neurons in our brain. This builds trust, diffuses tension and creates a positive shared experience that brings people closer together, which is vital in the sales process. In a study by CareerBuilder, they found that seventy one percent of employees said IQ is more important than IQ, both of which weren’t nearly as important as dequeue. Now, I’ll admit that it’s kind of tough to hear about how important emotional intelligence is. Since I’m an engineer, I think of emotions as just data and emotions are just data, if you think about it, which I did learn is the wrong thing to say when someone is crying. But it is true. And I do think that things would be so much easier if humans came with error messages. Right. Just like computers, we wouldn’t even have to. Change the error messages that exist, for example, if you forget someone’s name, it would just pop up warning system out of memory or if you get caught speeding would say caution, a legal operation has been committed. Or finally, if you’re out flirting with the waitress and she’s not really feeling it, it would just say error. Unable to establish connection to a server, an absence of human error messages. How do we actually build rapport? Well, we can use humor, stranded number seven to generate empathy. The one client that I’ve worked with that has generated more puzzled looks or questions from people is the FBI. People are confused, like where you teach FBI agents how to use humor to track terror threats better. Well, yeah, if you think of searching records as a game of where’s Waldo and investigations like those old magic guidebooks, you know, my work was specifically with the FBI office of Private Sector, the part focused on building relationships with senior executives to help prevent white collar crime. They’re also one of the most intimidating groups that I’ve ever presented to, not because they’re not nice people, but because 90 percent of the room was armed. But it’s exactly because of this intimidation that they were interested in learning how to use humor because it can be hard to build relationships if people are intimidated by your presence. I mean, how many grizzly bears are you friends with? None. And you don’t think that makes them sad. But as you can imagine, having the FBI come up on your caller ID or appear in your calendar can be a little startling. And some of the more typical methods of the FBI, like intimidation, don’t exactly work for collaboration. So the FBI wanted to learn how to build relationships without threats or subpoenas. And you might want to learn how to build relationships without begging for business or giving away everything for free. Either way, humor can help those brief moments of sharing a smile, laugh or giggle bond us emotionally and physiologically. And we can create conversational humor by following a three step process for generating empathy. Step one, ask compelling questions. Dale Carnegie claimed you can make more friends in a week by being interested in other people than in a year of trying to be interesting. Or, as Aaron Burr said and Hamilton, talk less, smile more, because how can you possibly make the right recommendation to a client if all you do is talk? As sales guru Phil Jones says, prescription before diagnosis is malpractise. The problem is, if you ask the same boring question, you’re going to get the same boring answer a question like the popular pandemic. Small talk of how you holding up either leads to someone saying fine or someone unloading way more baggage on you than you are prepared for. So instead incorporate a little bit of humor into your question. Replace how you end up with something like what’s your favorite thing that you did this weekend? The goal is to get the person to talk about something that they’re passionate and hopefully positive about. Next, we can actually tell interesting stories. Sometimes when people here ask questions, all they do is ask questions. And that’s not really a conversation, but an interview or an interrogation if you’re the FBI. So if someone asks you a question instead of answering with a one word response and flipping it back on them, answer with the short story. The key word here is short. If your response is longer than a George R.R. Martin novel, then your conversation will flame out like season eight of Game of Thrones. With the right stories, you can create a deeper bond with the other person by connecting with them through your past and your future. We’ll talk more about that in just a moment. And finally, you can continue the conversation. How do you know what question to ask or stories to tell? Well, this is where we can have an improv mindset. The fundamental mindset of improvization is, yes, in. And it turns out that that phrase is incredibly helpful for continuing the conversation. If you’re ever at a loss of what to say, simply yes. And the last thing that the other person said, even a question like, how about this, whether you’re going to bond. Yes. And if you weren’t working inside right now, what would you be out doing, enjoying the weather or guess? And did you know that there are over eighteen hundred tornadoes in the United States every single year? I read that and I was blown away. Maybe you don’t always need puns. Now, a conversation about the state of the atmosphere is one about hobbies. As you manage the conversation you can. Yes. And your way into talking about your product or service finally go. Number three is we can influence people. Study suggests that more than 70 percent of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in the career. For me, I have reason to believe that I am at least a somewhat humorous person because I’ve done over a thousand shows, is a stand up comedian. I’ve spoken or performed in all 50 states, in 30 countries and on one planet. This one, my TED talk is more than seven million views and over one hundred thousand likes, but it also has three thousand dislikes in the comments on YouTube range from compliments about the talk to utter disbelief that so many people could possibly enjoy this on. Funny waste of time now the positive comments tend to talk about how much they enjoyed the talk, like, wow, what a phenomenal speech or I straight up love this, watch it five times on repeat, which is maybe too many. Or this guy, I imagine, was just yelling the entire time, like, I think this video is genius. And it’s true what he said. Some of the comments are comedic in and of themselves. You have things like you can hear the nerd in his voice. This dude’s forehead is so big it has its own sense of humor form. I would pay to hear how this guy sounds on helium. Then there are also the people who just didn’t like the talk at all. This guy is trying too hard to be funny. Yeah, he’s copied a lot from other comedians and we’ll say luckily I did have some support in the comments, like Jack LaLanne saying I thought he was pretty OK. Thanks, Jack. But for every positive comment, there was a negative one. This guy is funny. This guy isn’t funny. Best TED talk ever. Go back to engineering, please. Your customers wrestle with these same challenges in their work every single day. But something that I’ve realized that every ounce of energy you devote to the people who don’t like what you’re doing is an ounce of energy that you’re not using to serve the people who do resonate with your story. And the reality is that you are the author of your own story. You interpret what happens to you and choose how to react. So what story are you telling yourself and what story are you selling to your customers? Deliberately crafting these stories is how you become more influential. And it’s our final strategy by being a storyteller. Stories when done well build connection with the customer, communicate your service clearly, get people thinking about how they can be involved and inspire them to take action. It’s the one strategy that crosses all five work skills. If you want someone to do something, tell them a story of someone who did that something and got the results that people want to achieve. This is why case studies are such a valuable sales technique. If you want someone to stop doing something, tell them a story of someone who didn’t stop and what the consequences and the loss was as a result. This is a cautionary tale. I mean, how many of us no longer take apples from crazy old ladies because of Snow White? Now, we could spend an entire workshop on storytelling, but to get started, it’s helpful to really understand the basic structure of business stories. For fairy tales. It’s beginning, middle and end. But for business, it’s context. Action results. To craft a story, think first about the context of the situation a previous customer was in. Your client should be able to identify with that scenario, then share what the action was that was taken. Oftentimes it might just show up and be what you actually work on. And finally, what were the results of those actions? While you can craft stories about just about anything, some of the most important stories to be able to tell our one the story of who you are and what you do, the story of your service or organization, and the story of where your customer could be with your help. And that’s how we use humor as a strategic sales tool. First, by getting people’s attention, by engineering surprise, then by building rapport, by generating empathy and then influencing behavior, by being a storyteller. Ultimately, the next step is up to you. What are you going to do differently now that you know the value of humor in sales? If you want to learn more, feel free to visit us at humor that works dotcom for free resources, information about our book and details about some of our virtual programs and virtual coaching options. If you have questions or ideas, feel free to reach out to me directly on social media. Assuming that works or website again, human networks, dotcom or my email android, human networks, dotcom to close out. Remember that when you get people laughing, they are listening. And when they’re listening, you can tell them almost anything. You choose how to do your work every single day. So why not choose to be more productive, less stressed and happier? Why not choose to get better results and have more fun? Why not choose humor that works? You all have been great. I’ve been Andrew Tarvin and oh, look at the time. I’m sorry. I have to run to another meeting.

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