How to Use Humor in Your Sales Presentation - the More Laughs, the More You Sell

humor in bike store

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Want to increase your sales? Try adding humor! Here are eight tips for incorporating humor into your retail store or in-person sales presentation.

With all the focus on features and benefits from manufacturers, many retail sales presentations can be dry and boring. “It has this, and this, and this. And a warranty. And it’s on sale.”

That is just above the lowest form of customer service - simply asking, “Can I help you?” as someone comes in the door.

A person who can use humor skillfully in their sales presentation operates at the highest level of professionalism.

Now let’s take a step back; I’m not talking about using humor to degrade or make fun of someone to feel better about yourself – after all, this isn’t Junior High. Your goal is to laugh with, never laugh at.

This is about adding some gentle humor to break the ice, build rapport with your shoppers, and make your entire selling presentation more enjoyable. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs, and muscles, and increases the endorphins released by your brain.” People who feel good are more likely to be receptive to your attempts at rapport and closing the sale.

But productive humor only comes from being present in the moment and listening to your customer. If you overdo it or just run your “schtick,” it could show you aren’t paying attention.

And yes, I can hear some of you saying, “But you could end up offending someone.” So, you don’t do it.

And that's a mistake...

Oracle's Happiness Report, reveals the following:

  • Seventy-eight percent of people believe brands can do more to deliver happiness to their customers, and 91 percent said they preferred brands to be funny; this number increased among Gen Z (94 percent) and Millennials (94 percent).
  • Seventy-five percent of people would follow a brand if it’s funny on its social media channels, yet only 15 percent of business leaders said their brand is humorous on social.
  • Sixty-nine percent of people would open an email from a brand if the subject line were funnier. Yet, only 24 percent of business leaders said they use humor in email marketing campaigns.
  • Seventy-seven percent of people are likelier to buy from a funny salesperson, yet only 16 percent of business leaders said that their brands use humor to sell.

Finding humor in your in-the-moment interactions with people can help you build rapport with potential customers and establish connections with them.

Humor is a great way to make your sales presentation more enjoyable for you and your customers.

On the other hand, droning on about impersonal facts irrelevant to your customer can make your presentation dull and lose a sale because you are seen as always “pitching” instead of sharing.

1. Why use humor in your sales presentation?

Typically, humor is found in personal stories that draw in the listener. Using humor in your sales presentation can increase the likelihood of making a sale because you have to have developed enough rapport to be comfortable. You have to sell yourself to get buy-in from the customer to want to listen to you.

Otherwise, they’ll revert to staring at their phone. I’ve used humor often to get over the “I have to ask my (wife, husband, friend, etc.)” reply. I just smile, “And I’m sure (he, she, they, etc.) has never purchased anything without checking with you first.” Works almost every time.

2. How to add humor to your presentation without being offensive

The best humor comes from laughing at ourselves. Customers can relate to a story about first not turning off the water when replacing a faucet. But laughing at a “stupid guy” who did that can make the person you are with wary you’ll think they are a “stupid guy” too for something they did. So, tone down the subjective rhetoric, avoid negative labels, and just recount your story. Also, keep your personal story brief and to the point so the customer doesn’t start checking their watch waiting for you to finish so they can bolt for the door.

3. How to know right off the bat if a customer will not be receptive to humor

Many people would say it is based on body posture; their arms are crossed, they aren’t looking at you, or they say something gruff. You can’t always know if they aren’t receptive. Facebook fan Keith was selling his art at an art fair. As he was packing up, a gentleman walked in at the end, so Keith asked, “Do you see anything you like?” The shopper quickly replied, “I don’t like the price.” Without thinking but with a slight grin, Keith said, “I can go a little higher if you would like.” With a surprised look, the man stared at Keith briefly and then started to laugh. He said Keith had caught him off guard, making his day. He then proceeded to purchase one of Keith’s the display price.

Bonus reasons to use humor – surprise and delight.

4. How to get comfortable using humor

Sign up for an improv class. The ability to listen is key to making improvisation in the moment. I can’t overstate how important listening is to help you determine when and where humor, a story, or an anecdote is appropriate. The goal of improv is to prepare you to deal with a situation at a moment’s notice.

Facebook fan Jane told me a customer said, “I want to buy the entire store!” Jane quickly replied, “I’ll carry it to the car for you!” The great value of using humor is that it happens best when reacting fast to what is happening around you.

As you build that muscle to see opportunities, you can feel more confident on the sales floor with more situations. That, in turn, allows you to be more confident with more people, resulting in more rapport, connections, and, yes, more sales.

Facebook fan Rachel shared that customers often describe how they clean their showers to her. She said she wanted to say, “What you do in your shower is your business…I’ll just help make it pretty while you’re in there.” What a great opportunity to have connected with customers.

How Smart Associates Use Fun Benefits To Drive Retail Sales

5. How to make customers feel better when you use humor

Make sure you share funny stories, not creepy, political, too personal, or something someone would laugh awkwardly about. There was this one time in band camp…. You get the idea. Share stories that uplift and many people can relate to. Add a happy ending if possible. Facebook fan Janna adds to her bigger sales, “What happens at the counter stays at the counter.”

6. How to make sure that your jokes don't fall flat

Practice. There’s no way to understand humor than to try simply. Yes, things can go wrong, but you'll build your confidence if you practice with your family and friends to see a moment and share a comment or brief story with a punch line. Remember, using humor properly is the highest form of communication. Make your musings, jokes, and anecdotes part of a store environment where everyone can relate, feel comfortable, and laugh.

7. What to do if a customer balks at your attempt at humor?

You can always say, “Oops,” or “Anyways.” And yes, sometimes humor backfires, just like saying Good morning to someone who is extremely upset doesn’t work or telling a customer who is yelling at you to “Calm down.” Human communication is that way; you have to take risks.

8. How you'll know if using humor worked

This one time, when I was CMO of It’s A Grind Coffee, I came up with the Woody. It was a summer drink, and the POP display featured surfers and a woody panel station wagon. Megan, one of the most confident trainers I’ve ever encountered, would simply ask the guys at the register, with a smile and a straight face, “Would you like the biggest Woody you’ve ever had?” The customer would laugh, and she sold a ton of them.

Jessica asked her customer, “Do you want me to take your top off?” It was a soda cap. The customer loved it and now is a regular.

I understand; some of you might think those were over the top. However, a store where people hear laughs is a store where the money rolls in. Laughter doesn't have to be out loud, knee-slapping funny; it can also be the shared smiles of knowing, having a similar experience, or seeing something funny and connecting.

Humor helps you get an immediate reaction and allows you and your customer to bond unexpectedly. Humor helps lower barriers by making everyone feel comfortable enough to be themselves and makes your store worth the visit to buy from.

A store where no one is comfortable enough to be heard, much less find laughter every day, is a store few want to buy from or return to.

It’s not a museum. It’s a store.

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