You Had to Be There!


Inside Jokes — one of the most powerful sales tools!

I was once with a client at an outdoor cafe canopied in green umbrellas. I munched on my pesto chicken wrap and sweet potato chips while my client detailed his next project, which would be a home run for me if I landed the job.

One-at-a-time, small grey birds (not pigeons) flew down from the roofs nearby and landed on the extra chairs at our table. I shooed a few away, but more came. Concentrating on my customer's words with the growing number of winged intruders was becoming difficult. Finally one landed on my shoulder! I brushed it off and yelled, "Get your own!" Thinking I was clever, I smiled back at my client and said, "I think they got the point. Where were we?" Just then, one of the birds swooped down and plucked a chip right out of my hand. We both burst into laughter.

The next day, I emailed a proposal to the customer and included a photo of a bird with a potato chip photoshopped in its mouth. I ended the email with this, "Let's get started! How about a kick-off lunch next week. I suggest somewhere inside." I got the job, but more importantly kicked-off a long lasting client friendship.

Take a second to see if you can recall an inside joke you have with your customers. Maybe it was a belly laugh you had about kids or a quirky waiter. Perhaps you wore the same shirt or coined a new nickname of the golf course. Inside jokes are one of the most powerful ways to connect with a customer or prospect. They're ice-breakers at the moment they happen. They're follow up opportunities later.

Here are some tips to create a lasting inside joke:

• Latch on to moments or jokes your customer thought were funny, not just those you laughed at.

• Catalyze an inside joke. Bring a gift with you! I had a vendor who brought me a toy bowling set! We had a blast playing a few games before the meeting. I hired him and still bring it up when I see him.

• Keep the joke going. Follow up quick by taking the joke to the next level.

• Self-depricating jokes are fine, but if the joke is at your customer's expense, you're probably the only one really laughing.

• Don't try to bring the conversation back to your presentation, pitch, or price too quickly - if the customer is laughing, go with the flow. It's probably the one thing they'll remember!

Have a great inside joke with one of your customers? Send it to me!

Andy Horner —