Sales 101: Levity and Sales Don't Mix

Don't be a comedian while selling

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Selling in not a joke

Recently, I had a salesperson argue that levity is as much a part of the sales process as the demonstration of a product. He said it makes the customer feel more comfortable. I say that trying to be witty is nothing more than a distraction at an inopportune time. Time is the most important thing about any sales call; specifically, the amount of time the salesperson is stealing from the buyer’s workday! On the flip side, the time and effort it takes to joke around should instead be channeled toward closing a sale. Every moment wasted on jokes is money out of the salesperson's pocket, and the company her or she works for. A customer's comfort should only go so far as keep the air pleasant through genuine smiles can be made to feel comfortable through a pleasant demeanor and genuine smiles.

Follow these rules for greater sales success

Rick's Rules

Keeping that all-important factor in mind, a presentation of any product should be completed in as little time as possible. The optimum length should be no more than fifteen minutes, to conform to known statistics on attention spans, and work-related constraints (like telephone interruptions.) That means a salesperson should use Rick’s Rules:

  1. Spend your own time creating a concise product presentation so your customer does not have to waste time trying to follow your inept demonstration. Unless levity is part of the product itself, leave it out. If your customer wants to see a comedian, he or she will surely pay to see a professional.
  2. The longer your demonstration, the less chance of closing the sale before the buyer becomes inattentive or is interrupted. The two rules are related by the time factor. Shorter is better. However, if prospects want to spend more time asking questions or playing with an item during or after the presentation, fine. It’s their time, not yours. A salesperson should always be conscious of the amount of time he or she is using out of a buyer’s day. Unfortunately, most of the salespeople I’ve met don’t give a rip how much of my time they waste. Joking around like it’s old home week completely destroys the purpose of the sales visit. What is the purpose of a sales visit, you ask? To make sales, of course! Although a salesperson and a buyer may know each other, may even be best friends, there is still a single goal for any sales visit, and that is to close a sale. It is not time for jokes, it is not time for baby pictures, and it is certainly not time for anything related to a salesperson’s personal life. It is time to make a sale. Staying focused on making the sale is the hardest thing for salespeople to do. Why make it more complicated by throwing all sorts of outside wit into the mix? Perhaps salespeople who do this should take a dose of humility and understand that how clever they are is not part of the sales process. In fact, it is the biggest distraction from the goal of making the sale! There are plenty of ways to phrase the closing question, but every variation sounds something like this, “How many would you like?” Once that closing question hits the air, the salesperson should do only one thing—SHUT UP! The next person to talk is the loser. Either the buyer is going to say “yes” or “no,” or the salesperson is going to derail the decision-making process with silly comments. A good presentation covers what the buyer needs to know in order to make an informed choice. Only pushy salespeople try to make that choice a “yes” by adding more information after the closing question has been asked. A buyer will pick up on this vibe—and “no” becomes more prominent in their mind. No one likes to be pushed. On uncountable occasions, I have heard salespeople try to fill the pregnant silence that invariably follows the closing question with some off-the-wall joke. Almost every time meant a lost sale. Distractions allow a prospect to find a way of wiggling out of saying “yes.” I have seen sales lost without the closing question ever being answered. The salesperson simply chatters away until it is time to leave—empty-handed.
  3. Don’t waste the buyer’s time! A salesperson throwing jokes around when he or she should be making a presentation—the task of every sales contact—is a time-waster. A salesperson whipping out the latest kiddie pictures for a proud display is a time-waster. A salesperson that doesn’t shut up once the closing question is thrown is a time-waster.
  4. Thank a client for the time spent listening to you! A salesperson that shows appreciation for the buyer’s time is more likely to be empathized with. Buyers understand that it takes time to prepare a good presentation. This knowledge makes it even harder to say “no” to a good salesperson with a good presentation and a product that meets the buyer’s needs.

Leave comedy to the pros

I like a good joke as well as the next person, but when joking around becomes the norm on a sales call, time and money are wasted for everyone involved. Keep a customer comfortable by exuding an air of pleasantness through your personal demeanor accompanied by genuine smiles. Keep all presentations succinct with an eye toward closing the sale rather than being loved and adored for your comedic antics. Enter the time factor into your equation for sales success and leave your levity for real comedians!

Laughter is good; wasting sales time is bad

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