William Makepeace Thackeray tells us, “Good humor is one of the best articles of dress one can wear in society.” Naturally, I would agree with that premise.  We live in a society filled with formulas for success in management, personal achievement and how to be successful in life. One area that has been virtually ignored is the importance of humor and the use of humor in conducting the affairs of life, especially in the arena of sales.

Selling is one of the most demanding and stressful of all occupations. The salesperson has to be an expert on product knowledge, marketing, business trends, and human relations. It is imperative that the super salesperson must posses all or at least some of the following qualities:

1.   The super salesperson must have confidence in self and in the product they are selling.

2.   They must have a superior working knowledge of the product.

3.  They must have the ability to communicate the benefits of the product to the customer.

4.  They must have the belief that the product being sold will deliver the benefits to the customer.

5. The super salesperson must have a resilient sense of humor.

A poll conducted by Robert Half International, Inc., concluded that “Eighty-four percent of all super achieving Executives surveyed, believed that a good sense of humor helped all workers or employees to a better job in the workplace.” Many gurus of “success oriented thought” verify the importance of a good sense of humor with regard to getting ahead in the business environment.  Even business prophets of days gone by agreed that a habitual sense of humor is one of the key elements in succeeding with every day human relations. Humor and the use thereof is an extremely beneficial tool in selling.

What Corporation in America and the World is not sales-conscious? Each year I travel to scores of sales meetings to ply my trade as a professional speaker and humorist before groups of America’s top sales pros. It is gratifying to learn from these sales professionals that the use of humor in sales is a key element to their success. In the ranks of professional speaking we have a proverb that states, “as a professional speaker you don’t have to use humor in your speech, unless you want to get paid.” In the world of sales we can re-state that proverb thusly; “a salesperson does not have to use humor in selling, unless they want to be remembered, liked, believed, and unless they want to make a sale and create a customer for life.”

The truly good super sales pros I’ve met over the years resemble, to a large degree, show business professionals.

1.  A sales person must have a degree of talent for sales.

2.  They must know the script, translated in sales lingo to mean the sales presentation.

3. They must have confidence in the material, meaning the product.

4. They must have a relatively high measure of self worth and confidence.

5. They must be entertaining enough to be able to hold the interest of the customer.

When the sales professional has these qualities they will be equipped to accomplish the task at hand, which is to effectively “Sell” whatever product or service that is being offered to the customer.

The sales professional does not have to be a stand up comedian or a humorist. But using well placed humorous observations, being of good humor generally, taking a sincere interest in the customer as a person, using subtle bits of humor to answer objections, and being positive, pleasant, fun, make you more attractive as a sales person to the customer. Being a friend first, within the framework of that friendly relationship, helps you to meet the customer’s needs and explain the benefits of your product or service.’

Humor definitely sells! Using humor in advertising to sell products and services has been done since the beginning of “advertising time.” Some of the most humorous and successful ads in the past using mass media include, “Alka Seltzer”, and the phrase sung in unison by several fat guys, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” Remember the cute Avis commercial, “We try harder?” Remember the old lady, Clara Peller, who yelled at the counter, “Where’s the BEEF?”  Most recently we can point to the Southwest Airline commercials, and the Cellular Telephone spots with the guy walking around the world saying, “Can you hear me now?” The examples are numerous in advertising where companies are using Humor to make their product or service memorable. Why do they do it? Because Humor Sells!

Using humor in sales can be as subtle as the sales professional, “being of good humor” and having a positive and helpful attitude toward the customer, about themselves and the product or service.  The sales pro’s that I know, who use humor in their selling to put Zap into their Rap, have a high degree of talent for selling. They know their presentation; they have confidence in their product or service and the benefits that it provides. They have mastered the art of entertaining and informing their customers as they build that selling relationship.

To paraphrase the statement by William Makepeace Thackeray quoted at the beginning of this peace of literary excellence, “Good humor is one of the best articles of dress one can wear in the field of sales.” Consider the possibilities of using humor in your selling. Think of ways you can put more humor into your sales
presentations. Learn to think humorously and work at maintaining a positive attitude of good humor. Most people like to do business with people who make them feel good about themselves, the product or service, and the buy-sell relationship. Do what you can to make the customer happy and satisfied and content. Using humor can help you but that “Zap into your Rap.” By all means, HAVE FUN!


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