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The Green Sheet Online Edition

September 22, 2014 • Issue 14:09:02

Street SmartsSM

Are you selling or telling Part 3: Everyone likes to smile

By Tom Waters and Ben Abel
Bank Associates Merchant Services

There's something about laughing that lowers our walls. It opens us up and helps build relationships. The sales profession is built on rapport, trust and an affinity between salespeople and their prospects. Laughter helps with all of these. It is also a valuable tool for long-term relationship building.

Principle No. 8 in The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer is "If You Can Make Them Laugh, You Can Make Them Buy." We won't say laughter is a guarantee, but it greatly increases your chances of walking away with a signed application. When you meet a prospect, there often can be an initial air of suspicion or distrust. The potential customer might wonder: Does this agent really have my best interest in mind or is this one a crook like the last person who came by?

According to Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and President of Humor at Work, studies have shown that humor diffuses tension and opens people to new ideas. "People who laugh in response to a conflict tend to shift from convergent thinking, where they can see only one solution, to divergent thinking where multiple ideas are considered," he said.

Humor also assists in anchoring your sales presentation with an enjoyable experience, as opposed to a series of spreadsheets and numbers. Kerr referenced a study by Karen O'Quinn and Joel Aronoff in which salespeople negotiated the price of a painting. One group would start negotiations at a price of $6,000; a second group would also start at $6,000 – but also threw in a complimentary pet frog to sweeten the deal.

Kerr said, "The frog had a huge impact to the point where the buyer made a higher compromise on the final fee." While correlation cannot prove causation, it is reasonable to infer that the study's results indicate the humorous aspect of the sale contributed to a more sizable closing price.

Make it natural

There are several ways to inject humor into a sales presentation:

  1. Humorous stories: These provide a great way to be humorous without looking like you're going out of your way to be funny. When discussing next-day funding with a merchant, Tom will often say something like, "You'll get your funds next day, with the obvious exception of weekends and federal holidays." A merchant will typically respond with an expression that conveys, yes, that was obvious. So Tom follows up with, "I never used to say that until one day I got a call from a client on the Fourth of July! He wanted to know where his deposit was, so I told him, 'Hey, if you can find a bank that's open, we'll ACH you those funds right away!'"

    He then shares a quick chuckle with the merchant without it being obvious he was attempting to build rapport and put the merchant at ease. This story also assists in demonstrating that Tom will pick up the phone when his clients have problems, even on the Fourth of July.
  2. Humorous images: Painting rich mental images is a priceless selling tool; it can make ideas easy to understand and memorable. We all want merchants to view us as people they will enjoy doing business with. One way to do that is to work vivid, humorous mental images into conversations.

    Recently, Ben mentioned to a prospect that, while commoditization has increased in our industry, our company has continued to differentiate itself due to our competitive advantages. "The benefits we're able to provide make us stick out like a nine-foot-tall basketball player," Ben said. The merchant laughed out loud. Days later the merchant mentioned that after Ben's visit, he'd been imagining a nine-foot-tall player towering over everyone else on the court, easily taking shots at the basket.
  3. Self-deprecating humor: These are jokes in which you poke fun at yourself. This can be a great way to convey your humanity and show you're not the kind of person who takes everything too seriously. However, there is a difference between minimal self-deprecation and doing damage to your image or making yourself appear incompetent. You can poke fun at your having missed some gym visits, not a few meetings with clients.

Know your audience

During a conversation about the use of humor in sales presentations, GS Online's MLS Forum member Clearent pointed out, "[A]s much as I think humor is important, you must first know your prospect. For example, sarcasm and self-deprecation are commonly used humor types. But if a merchant is not comfortable with you, or with either of these, you could as easily lose the sale. Yes, use humor, but be careful where and how it's used until you are comfortable with them, and more importantly, they are comfortable with you."

This is a crucial point. When discussing humor in the workplace with the Wall Street Journal, Burt Teplitzky, a stand-up comedian and corporate trainer, said, "Presenters should avoid jokes about money, politics, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity. Also, cursing and words that could be taken the wrong way shouldn't be used. Adopt this motto: When in doubt, leave it out." If you question whether your joke will be well received, avoid it. You cannot assume that just because you find something funny your prospect will also.

Every prospect or client is different. You cannot expect the exact same presentation, proposition or product positioning to work every time. One important sales skill is to understand the person you sit across the table from. Learn what interests and concerns the individual and, yes, what makes that person laugh.

By doing this, you can generate trusting, lasting relationships worth more than a few basis points of savings. This is the third article in our "Are you telling or selling" series. The prior two were published in The Green Sheet July 14 and July 28 in issues 14:07:01 and 14:07:02, respectively. Each article in this series has sought to give you another tool, each one helping you build long-term relationships. We can't promise these tips will help you close every prospect, but we can tell you this: If you leave merchants with a smile, they're a lot more likely to leave you with a signed application.

Toc:The sales profession is built on rapport, trust and an affinity between salespeople and their prospects. Laughter helps with all of these. It also helps build long-term relationships. end of article

Tom Waters has been dedicated to the merchant service sales profession since 2001. Currently, he is responsible for cultivating relationships with entrepreneurs in information technology, accounting, sales and marketing in his role as Sales Director of Bank Associates Merchant Services (www.bams.com). Using fresh and matter-of-fact training methods, Tom has contributed to the success of thousands of agents, affiliates and clients. He can be reached via email through t.waters@bams.com or via phone at 347-651-1065.

Ben Abel is Regional Director at Bank Associates Merchant Services. Since joining the team in 2006, he has risen through company ranks with a paradigm that his success was measured by the success of those around him. Ben is a dedicated, pioneering trainer whose methods of merchant services consultation have helped many agents expand their portfolios in terms of processing volume, deal count and profitability. He can be contacted at 347-866-9571 or ben@bams.com.

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