What happens when you let a standup comedian write your cold call script? In conversation with Jon Selig

Collin Stewart, CEO

7 June 2018

And now for something completely different.

Well, maybe not completely different. Comedy, or humour, at least on paper, seems a world away from the the grind of cold calling and sales development.

I mean, the goal of one pursuit is to book meetings, build pipeline and, ultimately, increase revenue for your company. Comedy, on the hand, is entirely concerned with making people laugh. And, maybe, getting a Netflix special.

But, if you dig a little deeper, these two, seemingly unrelated, disciplines actually share a common ethic: to connect with people over shared human experiences, and tell a story that leaves a positive affect.

“Comedy cuts through the noise. If you can make your prospect laugh really quickly, you’re going to be a ray of sunlight in their day,” says Jon Selig, a veteran sales professional and consultant that teaches sales teams how to inject humour into their prospecting.

“With all of the stress and data that is coming at us, all the notifications and alerts – everyone is distracted and not too thrilled. People aren’t connected to their jobs. So, if we can deliver a customer pain point in the form a joke, our prospects will know what we’re saying is true, but it breaks the ice and cuts the tension.”

The right mindset

Before jumping headlong into a new and hilarious cadence, the first step to involving humour in your prospecting is getting in the right frame of mind. If you’re angry, tired, or irritated (or some combination of the three), you’re attempts at humour probably won’t land.

You might be thinking: ‘my favourite comics are angry and irritated all the time.’ Fair enough. But when bringing humour into prospecting, it helps to have fun with your jokes and maintain a playful approach.

“Try something new that you never would have attempted – make a game of it,” says Selig.

“Being in a bad mood when you’re cold calling isn’t serving anybody.”

What makes things funny?

So, you’ve got yourself in the right frame of mind. And, you think you’re pretty funny. How do you start injecting your cadence with humour?

According to Selig, there are three elements to making something funny: surprise, authenticity, and relatability.

Surprise – this is a critical element to any joke. If you lay the groundwork for a joke properly, your prospect will have certain expectations, based on that setup. A good punchline, however, will subvert those expectations.
Authenticity – regardless of what you’re talking about, authenticity plays a key role in connecting with people. Audiences and prospects want to know that you understand what they’re going through.
Relatability – it’s no secret why we laugh at universal concepts such as marriage, relationships, raising children, work – it’s experiences we all understand. But, beyond showing your prospects that you’re an authentic person, you need to take those shared experiences and present them in a digestible and relatable way.

“These are all things we can relate to and understand,” adds Selig.

“Some comedians like to tell jokes about what happened in the 37th minute of Game of Thrones episode 4, season 3. Not everyone can relate to that.”

Predictable Revenue punchlines

In addition to the more philosophical comedic foundations listed above, there are also tactical elements to crafting a joke. For instance, a longstanding framework for joke writing is called “the rule of three.”

The rule of three is built on, you guessed it, having three elements in your joke. Typically, those three elements are outcomes are scenarios, the last of which is a surprise, or subverts the previous two.

For those readers lucky enough to have been on the receiving end of our prospecting, or have read the book that is the foundation of our work, the goal of our company is no secret: to drive qualified meetings for our customers, month over month.

As such, the biggest pain we here, time after time, from our clients is that their Account Executives aren’t being fed enough leads by their SDRs.

Using that pain as our foundation, if we were to inject some humour in our prospecting, we could use lines like these one written by Selig (note the rule of three being used in each):

A sales team without leads fed to them is like an arsonist for hire – they sit around, wait for a call, and cause a lot of burn.

If sales was a game, you’d want your Account Executives to play Hungry Hungry Hippos, not Angry Birds, who fly away to other jobs.

I’m a sales guy myself, so when SDRs aren’t generating leads I’m finding other ways to advance my career like developing referral campaigns, optimizing Salesforce, or figuring out subtle ways to let people on LinkedIn know I’m open to new opportunities without overtly writing “open to new opportunities.”

As you can see, each joke is short, relatable, and underscores the consequences of not having enough leads. Sales managers, VPs, CEOs, anyone responsible for a well-run sales org, will relate. Not enough leads means accelerating your burn rate, bored salespeople, and a potential exodus to other companies.

All of that, needless to say, should be avoided, and that’s what we help you do.

The trouble with emails

If you’re a sales development professional, you’re used to sending emails. Lots and lots of emails. For many, including us, emails form the foundation of a cadence.

When it comes using humour in sales, however, relying on emails to get that humour across, says Selig, can be tricky. For instance, if your lead doesn’t open your email (your subject line didn’t catch their eye), then they’re not going to laugh at your well-written joke.

To avoid your work going unnoticed, Selig suggests saving your jokes for cold calls.

“I’ve always been a phone guy. I don’t intimately know the science of cold emails,” says Selig.

So I call, let the prospect know I speak with a lot of people on sales teams and a common theme is their SDR team isn’t feeding enough leads. Then, I would go into the joke.”

Of course, the break up email, in particular, has long been a place where prospectors tried to inject some humour in the emails.

“I’ve reached out a number of times, but I understand you’re busy and I’m sorry we haven’t connected as yet. When you have time, let me know if you went with another vendor, aren’t interested, or there’s a hippo in your office and you’re hiding under your desk to save yourself.”

Remember those emails? I bet you do (sent a couple of those myself…)

But regardless of how, and where, you deliver humorous elements remember – it’s about connecting, and laughing, about a shared experience. To do so, you must understand what your prospects are experiencing. You have to understand their pain.

Because, as Selig says, “that’s comedy. And that’s sales.”

For more on Selig’s thoughts on how to make your prospecting more funny, check out his recent appearance on The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

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