The Power of Laughter

To build trust in sales, make them laugh.

By Carole Mahoney

Really? Can making people laugh really build trust in a sales relationship?

Absolutely. In a study of 149 salesperson-customer relationships from a cross-industry survey, the results suggest that a salesperson’s use of humor positively influences their creativity and customer trust. In addition, customer trust also influences word-of-mouth and expectation of a continued relationship.

So, it works. But just how does using humor build trust?

Think about what happens when you laugh—you often throw your head back, you expose your neck, you make yourself vulnerable. At the end of the day, you laugh with the people you trust.

Laughter also releases oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” or the “bonding molecule.” Paul Zak of the Wall Street Journal called it the “trust molecule” after extensive research into oxytocin as a social behavior moderator because of its significant implications in business and global commerce.

This applies whenever we’re thinking about how we’re going to position our opening statements to people on the phone or even how we handle face-to-face issues with customers. Because when we use humor, not only does it help build trust, but it also helps reduce the stress level for customers who are concerned or having problems.

Differentiate from Competitors

One thing many of us face is trying to stand out when there are countless products and multiple companies vying for a customer’s attention. How can you get noticed in the crowd?

Here’s one simple thing you can do: Just add some humor into a conversation when you get a chance to have one.

For example, I heard one sales representative call on someone who was in a C-level position for an organization, and she asked permission to have time to speak with him for five minutes.

When he said, “yes” the sales rep responded with, “Are you sure? You do know that this is a sales call, right?”

Of course, the executive started laughing and it broke the ice and opened up things for the rep to be able to give a positioning statement and ask some open-ended questions. The joke got the ball rolling.

To Break the Ice, Be a Human

I know one salesperson who continued to call a place he was having no luck getting through to. Every time he kept getting this objection of “You know what, I’m just about to go into a meeting.”

I coached him to use humor and he started replying with: “You know, I must have some magic gift because everyone I call on seems to be about to go into a meeting.”

And, of course, they laughed. He even furthered that with someone else when he said: “I hear that a lot and I’m starting to think that maybe it’s me!”

It may seem insignificant, but the little lines humanize you and you stand out.

Use Humor in Everyday Conversations

When you use humor every day, it helps when you get into those sales situations because you’re now a pro at it.

To use it every day, you must actively listen to the people you are with. Otherwise, you will never pick up the cues to be able to use humor. Next, have some ready-at-hand jokes to pull from. Start with having some kid-safe simple jokes, dad-jokes as my kids like to call them.

For example, if you ask how someone is and they say they’re sick (and who isn’t these days?), a silly joke like “Where do sick boats go to get healthy? To the dock!” can at least make them smile a bit.

And if they don’t laugh? Self-deprecating humor can work too. “Yeah, even my kids don’t find that one funny anymore. . .”

This not only works with your customers, but also with your teams. When you use humor, you are encouraging them to do the same, which leads to more creative thinking and problem solving.

And that will eventually lead to more sales for your company too! No joke.

Mahoney Offers Tips on YouTube for Sales Leaders and Sellers
Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney provides tips for sales leaders and sellers on YouTube. Past topics have included how to get over fears and have better conversations, how to become a top salesperson, and cognitive behavioral tips to sell on value. To watch these videos and future ones, visit Mahoney’s Linktree webpage and click “YouTube” in the drop-down menu.
Have a Sales or Marketing Question for Mahoney? Let Us Know!
Is there a sales or marketing issue that you have wondered about for a long time? Do you wish you or your team had a technique for better closing sales or promoting your business and its products and services? Unbound Sales Growth columnist Carole Mahoney can help. Email WWJ Editor Thad Plumley at tplumley@ngwa.org and he will arrange for Mahoney to answer your question in a video at www.WaterWellJournal.com.

Carole Mahoney, as the founder of Unbound Growth, has coached Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial MBA students on sales and been featured as a top sales coach by Ambition and Sales Hacker. You can contact her directly at www.unboundgrowth.com.