Here's the second installment of our effort to bring time-tested sales and marketing articles to the attention of new readers.
The original version ran on July 17, 2015.
Selling life insurance, annuities, disability insurance, health insurance, and related products and services during a Washington meltdown, when it's August, to consumers who are sure they will live, and be healthy, forever, is brutal work. Most of the remedies traditionally recommended for that kind of stress are terrible for you.
Humor is much safer, and less fattening.
Humor can also help you reduce the underlying level of stress, by creating beautiful little crevices in the stone walls you're banging your head against. If a little light can get through, maybe you can get through, too...
Apparently the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine” has a lot of truth to it. When we laugh, our body releases stress and breathes in a bit of peace. But what makes a great joke? What kind of power is unleashed when your audience laughs?
We’ve written compilations of all sorts of jokes before, from great accountant jokes to jokes about insurance. But what about harnessing the power of a joke to close a sale, without getting yourself into a world of hurt? Is that even possible?
Ian Adams, sales manager at Yesware, says it is. In his old, much-mourned blog, The Senator Club, he recommended that sales-minded joke-tellers use the same approach that professional comedians use: Know your material without hesitation, talk as if you’re telling a short story, and avoid laughing before or while telling the joke.
Adams goes on to suggest nine short jokes to close that deal.
A few of his jokes are included here, alongside others that our research turned up. Do you have any go-to jokes that you tell your clients to help them feel at ease? Do you think some of the jokes here are lame (and, if so, do you have better ones)? Prove it! Leave them in the comments below.
1. Overworked office manager
Salesman: “This computer will cut your workload by 50%.”
Office manager: “That’s great! I’ll take two of them.”
(From Ian Adams)
2. Good news, bad news
A salesman comes home after a hard day’s work and is greeted by his wife at the front door.
She tells him she has good news and bad news about their new car.
The salesman says: "OK, honey — so give me the good news."
His wife replies: "The good news is, the air bags work!"
(From Ian Adams)
3. Seeing is believing?
“No, no, no!” said the enraged businessman to the persistent salesman. “I cannot see you today!”
“That’s fine,” said the salesman, “I’m selling spectacles.”
4. The Texas salesman
A keen Texas lad applied for a salesman's job at a city department store. The store was the biggest in the world and sold everything under the sun.
At the interview, the boss took an immediate liking to the lad and told him he could start the next day. "I'll come and see how you made out after we close up," the boss said.
The day was long and hard for the young man, but finally it was 5 o'clock. The boss closed up the store and found the lad sitting, slumped and exhausted, in a chair. "How many sales did you make today?" the boss asked.
"One," said the lad.
"One?" said the boss, obviously displeased. "Most of the salespeople on my staff make 20 or 30 sales a day. How much was the sale worth?"
"Exactly $101,334.53," said the young man.
"How did you manage that?" asked the boss, flabbergasted.
"Well," said the lad, "this man came in and I sold him a small fish hook, then a medium fish hook, and finally a really large hook. Then I sold him a small fishing line, a medium one, and huge one. I asked him where he was going fishing, and he said he was going down the coast. I said he'd probably need a boat, so I took him down to the boat department and sold him that fancy 22-foot Chris Craft with twin engines. Then he said his Honda Civic probably wouldn't be able to handle the load, so I took him to the vehicle department and sold him a new GMC 1-ton pickup truck."
"You sold all that to a guy who came in for a fish hook?" the boss asked in astonishment.
"He didn't come in to buy a fish hook," the Texas boy explained. "He came in to buy a box of tampons for his wife, and I said to him, 'Your weekend's shot. You might as well go fishing.'"
5. Need a toothbrush?
The top toothbrush salesman at the company was asked by his boss how he managed to sell so many brushes. He replied, "It's easy" and he pulled out his card table, setting his display of brushes on top.
He told his boss: “I lay the brushes out like this, and then I put out some potato chips and dip to draw in the customers.”
He laid out his chips and dip. His boss said, "That's a very innovative approach," and took one of the chips, dipped it, and stuck it in his mouth.
"Yuck, this tastes terrible!" his boss yelled.
The salesman replied: "IT IS! Want to buy a toothbrush?"
6. It’s all in the approach
A young salesperson peeped into the office of someone who looked like a sales manager, muttered something then started walking away. After retreating a little he seemed to change his mind, seemed to head back to the door, where after some hesitation, he started to back away again. The sales manager, feeling sorry for the young man, and surprised that he was so badly trained, called him in.
"You're a salesman aren't you? What are you selling?"
"Sir ... uh ... yes ... I'm a salesman. I'm sorry to bother you. I was selling insurance, but I'm sure you don't want any. Sorry to have wasted your time."
Feeling sorry for the young bungler, the sales manager bought two policies to give the young salesman some confidence and then started teaching him about selling. He said: "You should have different pre-planned approaches for different kinds of--"
"But I do, sir,” the young salesman interrupted, “the one I just used is my planned approach for sales managers. It always works. Thank you!"
7. Underperformer contest
A sales manager was addressing an underperforming sales force at the start of a new month:
“We are going to have a sales contest this month. The winners will get to enter next month’s contest.”
(From Ian Adams)
8. Genie grants another wish …
A salesman walking along the beach found a bottle. When he rubbed it, lo and behold, a genie appeared.
“I will grant you three wishes,” announced the genie. “But since Satan still hates me, for every wish you make, your rival gets the wish as well — only double.”
The salesman thought about this for a while.
“For my first wish, I would like ten million dollars,” he announced.
Instantly the genie gave him a Swiss bank account number and assured the man that $10,000,000 had been deposited.
“But your rival has just received $20,000,000,” the genie said.
“I’ve always wanted a Ferrari,” the salesman said. Instantly a Ferrari appeared.
“But your rival has just received two Ferraris,” the genie said. “And what is your last wish?”
“Well,” said the salesman, “I’ve always wanted to donate a kidney for transplant.”
(From Ian Adams)
9. All I ask the Lord …
All I ask the Lord is for the chance to prove that money cannot make me happy.
(From the Sales Joke App, may it rest in peace)
10. Pocket calculator
Salesman: “Would you like to buy a pocket calculator?”
Customer: “No, thanks. I know how many pockets I have.”
(From Salesmen jokes)
11. The simple salesman
A minister concluded that his church was getting into serious financial troubles. Coincidentally, while checking the church storeroom, he discovered several cartons of new Bibles. So at his Sunday sermon, he asked for three volunteers from the congregation who would be willing to sell the Bibles door-to-door for $10 each to raise the money the church desperately needed.
Peter, Paul and Louie all raised their hands to volunteer for the task. The reverend knew that Peter and Paul earned their living as salesmen and were likely capable of selling some Bibles, but he had serious doubts about Louie. Louie was just a little local farmer, who had always tended to keep to himself because he was embarrassed by his speech impediment. Poor little Louis stuttered very badly.
But, not wanting to discourage poor Louis, the reverend decided to let him try anyway. He sent the three of them away with the back seat of their cars stacked with Bibles and asked them to report the results of their door-to-door selling efforts the following Sunday, which they did.
Eager to find out how successful they were, the reverend immediately asked each of them how they made out selling the Bibles.
Proudly handing the reverend an envelope, Peter replied, "Father, using my sales prowess, I was able to sell 20 Bibles, and here's the $200 I collected on behalf of the church."
Paul, smiling said, "Reverend, I am a professional salesman and was happy to give the church the benefit of my sales expertise. Last week, I sold 28 Bibles on behalf of the church, and here's $280 I collected."
Louie silently offered the reverend a large envelope. The reverend opened it and counted the contents.
"What is this!?" the reverend exclaimed. "Louie, there's $3,200 in here! Are you suggesting that you sold 320 Bibles for the church, door to door, in just one week?"
Louie just nodded.
"That's impossible!" both Peter and Paul said in unison. "We are professional salesmen, yet you claim to have sold ten times as many Bibles as we could."
Curiously the reverend added, "I think you'd better explain how you managed to accomplish this, Louie."
Louie shrugged. "I-I-I- re-re-really do-do-don't kn-kn-know f-f-f-for sh-sh-sh-sure," he stammered.
Impatiently, Peter interrupted. "For crying out loud, Louie, just tell us what you said to them when they answered the door!"
"A-a-a-all I-I-I s-s-said wa-wa-was," Louis replied, "W-w-w-w-would y-y-y-you l-l-l-l-l-like t-t-to b-b-b-buy th-th-th-this B-B-B-B-Bible f-f-for t-t-ten b-b-b-bucks --- o-o-o-or --- wo-wo-would yo-you j-j-j-just l-like m-m-me t-t-to st-st-stand h-h-here and r-r-r-r-r-read it t-to y-y-you?"
12. An unbreakable comb
A salesman was demonstrating unbreakable combs in a department store. He was impressing the people who stopped by to look by putting the comb through all sorts of torture and stress.
Finally, to impress even the skeptics in the crowd, he bent the comb completely in half, and it snapped with a loud crack. Without missing a beat, he bravely held up both halves of the unbreakable comb for everyone to see and said, “And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what an unbreakable comb looks like on the inside.”
13. Pure wool pants
Customer: “You said these pants were pure wool, but the label says ‘all cotton.’”
Salesman: “Oh, that’s just to keep the moths away.”
(From Ian Adams)
14. Reading comprehension
A sales training consultant was speaking to a new group of salespeople:
“Folks, please let me know if I start talking too fast today, or if I confuse you. It all started when I took a speed-reading course a few months ago. Before the course, I was reading 180 words per minute with 97 percent comprehension. I now read 900 words per minute with absolutely no comprehension.”
(From the old Sales Jokes App)
15. Stranded in Hawaii
A traveling salesman was held up by a bad storm in the Hawaiian Islands. He sent an email to his corporate headquarters advising them that he was stranded for a few days and requested instructions.
The reply came back shortly: “Begin vacation as of yesterday.”
16. Lucky cats
A famous art collector is walking through the city when he notices a mangy cat lapping milk from a saucer in the doorway of a store. He does a double take. He recognizes that the saucer is extremely old and very valuable, so he walks casually into the store and offers to buy the cat for $2.
The storeowner replies: "I'm sorry, but the cat isn't for sale.”
The collector says: "Please, I need a hungry cat around the house to catch mice. I'll pay you $20 for that cat."
And the owner says, "Sold!" and hands over the cat.
The collector continues: "Hey, for the 20 bucks I wonder if you could throw in that old saucer. The cat's used to it and it'll save me from having to get a dish."
And the owner says: "Sorry, buddy, but that's my lucky saucer. So far this week, I've sold 68 cats."
(From Salesmen jokes)
17. Heaven or hell?
When a young salesman met his untimely end, he was informed that he had a choice about where he would spend his eternity: heaven or hell. He was allowed to visit both places, and then make his decision afterwards.
"I'll see heaven first," said the salesman, and an angel led through the gates on a private tour. Inside it was very peaceful and serene, and all the people there were playing harps and eating grapes. It looked very nice, but the salesman was not about to make a decision that could very well condemn him to a life of musical produce.
"Can I see hell now?" he asked. The angel pointed him to the elevator, and he went down to the basement where he was greeted by one of Satan's loyal followers. For the next half hour, the salesman was led through a tour of what appeared to be the best night club he'd ever seen. People were partying loudly, and having a, if you'll pardon the expression, "hell of a time."
When the tour ended, he was sent back up where the angel asked him if he had reached a final decision. "Yes, I have," he replied. "As great as heaven looks and all, I have to admit that hell was more of my kind of place. I've decided to spend my eternity down there."
The salesman was sent to hell, where he was immediately thrown into a cave and was chained to a wall, and he was subjected to various tortures. "When I came down here for the tour," he yelled with anger and pain, "I was shown a whole bunch of bars and parties and other great stuff! What happened?!"
The devil replied, "Oh, that! That was just the sales demo."
18. That’s a lot of soap
Finnegan returned to his old home town on a visit. While he was there, he looked up his old friend Hennessy, who ran the general store. He noticed as he went in that the two display windows were jammed full of soap. The two old friends greeted one another. As they did so, Finnegan saw that every shelf in the store was stacked with soap.
“Gosh! You’ve certainly got a lot of soap,” Finnegan said
“You think so? Look at this,” said Hennessy. He took Finnegan through to the storeroom which was also full of soap.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much soap,” Finnegan noted.
“Come with me.” Hennessy lifted a trapdoor and took him down some steps into a huge cellar, which was jammed with soap from the floor to the roof.
“Gee! You really must sell a lot of soap.”
“No, I don’t actually. But the fellow that sold it to me — boy, could he sell soap!” Hennessy exclaimed.
19. Even if your mom is home…
"Is your mother home?" the salesman asked a small girl sitting on the steps in front of a house.
"Yeah, she’s home," the girl said, scooting over to let him pass.
The salesman rang the doorbell, got no response, knocked once, then again. Still no one came to the door.
Turning to the girl, the fellow said, "I thought you said your mother was home."
The kid replied, "She is; but this isn’t where I live.”
(From the old ARWScripts.com site)
20. Greeting other salespeople
How do salespeople traditionally greet each other?
“Hi, nice to meet you. I’m better than you.”
(From Ian Adams)
21. The secretary
The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.
22. For charity
Despite warnings from his guide, an American skiing in Switzerland got separated from his group and fell — uninjured — into a deep crevasse. Several hours later, a rescue party found the yawning pit, and to reassure the stranded skier, shouted down to him, “We’re from the Red Cross!”
“Sorry,” the imperturbable American echoed back, “I already gave at the office!”
Question: How many salespeople does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer No. 1: None. You don't need a new lightbulb; you need to upgrade your socket to the newest version.
Answer No. 2: Just one, but it'll take technical support weeks to sort out the mess left behind.
Answer No. 3: Four. One to change the bulb and three to pull the chair out from under him.
24. You might be a salesperson if ...
- You refer to dating as test marketing.
- When you bought a new house, you called your fellow alumni and offered to name a room after them, if they'll help with the down payment.
- Your favorite stories begin with, "Bob Jones, VP of marketing, sat at his desk and stared out his window..."
- When you give your son his birthday present, you must say that it has an "unprecedented performance."
- When you describe a product as "maintenance-free," you mean that it is impossible to fix it.
- You insist that you do some more market research before you and your spouse produce another child.
--- Check out 20 of the Best Insurance Jokes on ThinkAdvisor.