Using humour on sales calls


As regular readers to my blog may realise, as well as running a Telemarketing business I’m also a comedian.  No, not just one of those people who tells “hilarious” jokes to their friends down the pub  or at work – an actual comedian.   Whether I’m funny or not is a different matter but I’ve been performing stand up comedy since 2001 and I’m also part of a sketch show that is performing at this years Edinburgh Fringe.  Obviously running the business comes first as that pays the bills but at my heart I’m still someone that gains a great deal of enjoyment from making others laugh and, as well as doing that outside of work I also feel it’s a hugely important part of my approach to sales.

Humour, when used correctly is a great uniter of minds, it can ease tension, build rapport and create mutual appreciation.   Used incorrectly it can alienate, offend and create a sense of division that is sometimes impossible to fix.  So, how do you utilise the power of humour in a sales call and how do you avoid offending and the death of the potential sale?

We all have different senses of humour, some will laugh inanely at someone falling over on a banana skin, some will chuckle appreciatively at clever political satire or word play, others may find nothing funny about anything in life – or business.    So there’s no universal rule as to who will find what funny but there are generalisations and it’s these generalisations – the average man/woman in the street’s sense of humour that we need to appeal to.

The big thing to bear in mind, and something that needs to be learned rather than taught, is to get a sense of what is the right thing to say and when is the right time to say it.   I recall an incident from my previous working life where one of my colleagues made a remark to a client as the name on his workbill stated his name as Tracy – he joked “that’s my name on the weekends” and promptly received a verbal warning from his manager as the client complained that he was using inappropriate humour for the workplace.  Whoops!

So, if you are going to make attempts at humour in a sales call, play it safe!  Anything related to procreation, anatomy, illness or recent tragic events, for example may not go down well so AVOID!

Stick to safe subjects, the weather being a great uniter of humour.  Whatever the weather it’s never too hot, too cold, too windy, too wet to not make a joke about it.  Us Brits are a nation of complainers and there’s nothing we like more than complaining about the weather.

I often find it also builds rapport to remark about the fact that you’re calling them to sell them something – again it has to be handled correctly, they know why you’re calling, you know you’re interrupting their day, make light of it.   I’ve even said “just calling to discuss….can you spare a couple of minutes as I’m sure you’ve nothing better to do at the moment (knowing full well that most people are rushed off their feet and can’t spare the time to be sold to)

There’s a myriad of things you can add humour to in order to lighten the tone – be creative, be bold but, above all use your own intuition as to whether this person is the sort to appreciate humour of any kind, let alone during working hours – and be conservative.  Imagine you’re telling jokes to a vicar, use that as your conversational compass! (I’m sure there are vicars with filthy senses of humour but we’ll assume our audience is the highly moral and easily offended type)

The more time you spend interacting over the telephone the more you’ll develop this sense – picking up tones of voice, words that they use, how quickly they answered the phone, whether they use humour themselves.  Listen in for these little hints, pay attention to what they say and how they say it.  Obviously don’t make humour the sole focus of the call – ensure you have a structure for the call, know your product, rehearse your objections and enjoy yourself.

Cold calls don’t have to be cold!

Please subscribe to my blog for more tips, tricks and tales from the world of cold calling!  And do pass it around if you feel any of your colleagues or friends could benefit from my cerebral rantings!


Dan Smith 
Inspired Business Development
Unit K9 Cradley Enterprise Centre
Maypole Fields
B63 2QB
T:01384 566 078


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  1. Pingback: People buy from people – or so they say | Inspired Telemarketing

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