Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Using Humor and Humility in Every Conversation

When is the last time you had what felt like an honest conversation with a salesperson? Most people feel immediately like running away as soon as they hear that you are a “Sales professional”. No one likes to be sold -the assumption is that anyone in sales is going to do whatever it takes to make a sale. No chance for honesty as it flies out the window! 

We have all had experiences where some well-intentioned sales person pulls us into a conversation trying to convince us just why their product or services are something we cannot live without. I have spent my twenty year career trying to be the opposite of this type, and I have used two vital tools- humor and humility. 

Humor is a staple of life for many people. Often difficult to define, there are many strains of humor, the goal being amusement resulting in laughter. The ridiculous, the unexpected, or the juxtaposed can elicit such a feeling. Let's face it, a conversation that involves information technology is not usually a hotbed for humor. I have found that the more I offer my humor in a way that is designed to relieve my client of the pressure of their pain points, the better the results. I ask the tough questions in a humorous way to set the conversation on comfortable ground. 

The truth is that the pressure of being responsible for million dollar purchases and the exposure that comes with that is not for the faint of heart. What is so funny about assessing whether or not the technology choices one has made for their business (or is planning to make)? Potential dangerous or risky paths and alternatives to consider are serious considerations. 

Example: Joe is trying to make a decision about what parts of his current IT road map to move to the cloud. "Tell me Joe, which of these areas are the ones that can get you a midnight call from the CEO saying Fix this or you're fired!" 

Once the obvious is stated, we can move onto the "What else?" and ideas that flow. Humor can get the biggest issues out in the open and comfortably talked about.

Humility is also an essential component in becoming a trusted partner for clients. While feigned humility is the height of insincerity, authentic humility is the most sincere form of confidence. Not trying to be perfect or acting like a know-it-all has to be at the forefront, but in such a way as to not diminish the strength of experience. I try to start responses to questions with a preface of  “In my experience… “ or   “ I’m familiar with this because… “ so it can set up an experience that shows  a sincere effort to relate to the solution first hand.

Passing knowledge from one person to another takes a bumpy road often when a salesperson dives right into a monologue. Prospective clients start to move around uncomfortably giving the non verbal signs of information overload. Eager to share the amount of knowledge they have in their products, sales people typically forge ahead because “they are certain they know exactly what you need”. Many leave their prospects feeling like they are caught with a fire hose of information being shot at them.  

The best exchanges happen when you can help somebody connect what you hear is their issue with what is your experience. Structuring the conversation with their needs as the end in mind will gain the most trust in the long run. I have yet to hear a client I have worked with that said, “ She just talked and talked and I agreed to the purchase.” It cannot and should not happen that way.

It was C.S. Lewis who said: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking about yourself less.” A humble salesperson must recognize and value the contributions of others in lieu of self-promotion.

When these two work together, humor and humility, they are like the eggs and butter in a recipe. They work as the foundation, and the better you learn to combine them in your conversations, the more you will find your associations growing deeper and with more long term potential.