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Why Selling is a Joke

selling is a joke

richardsonsalestraining27 January 2014Blog

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A young executive was leaving the office late one evening when he found the CEO standing in front of a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand.

"Listen," the CEO said, "this is a very sensitive and important document here, and my assistant has gone for the night. Can you make this thing work for me?""Certainly," said the young executive. He turned the machine on, inserted the paper and pressed the start button.

"Excellent, excellent!" said the CEO, as his paper disappeared inside the shredder.   "I just need one copy..."

[Cue laugh track]


So, what made that funny? You thought it was going in one direction, but at the last moment, it went another way, right?  There was a surprise; often called “a left turn.”  There’s a reason they call it the “punch line”… it hits you right in the figurative funny bone. This is one way that comedians make us laugh.

It’s also one way that sales professionals can spark an Aha Moment, using insights.

The Aha Moment

According to Wikipedia, the “eureka effect,” also known as the “aha! effect,” refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. Scientists actually study this. We call it the Aha Moment and talk about it in our Selling with Insights® programme. In the course, we share these definitions of insight, which relate to the Aha Moment.

The Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines insight as:

“…a clear, deep and sometimes sudden understanding of a complicated problem or situation, or the ability to have such an understanding.”  Insight can come in the form of an idea (sometimes a surprise or “flash insight”), a data point from research, or knowledge gained from experience.

In the context of selling, we define insight specifically as:

“… information or an idea that is based on credible research, authoritative content, or relevant experiences, which, when personalised to your client’s likely or known challenges and opportunities and shared appropriately, opens your client’s mind to think about their situation in a new way and shows them a path toward solving a challenge or capitalising on opportunity through your company’s capabilities and differentiators.”

Shake, Rattle and Roll

If you’re selling, the goal is to bring value, create opportunity, solve problems, empower outcomes, influence decisions and ultimately incite action. We think of the “insight” as the data or information and the Aha Moment as the desired short-term outcome of sharing the insight and making some dot connection. Whether it’s in the context of selling or not, the Aha Moment is the same…it sparks interest and results in seeing things in a new light or gaining a new understanding. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it is one very important piece of selling with insights.

You can think of an Aha Moment like an earthquake. They vary in intensity, right? Some topple buildings; others just rattle your China. But both get your attention. Remember this, to keep expectations realistic. Not every Aha Moment will be earth-shattering. The goal of sharing insight isn’t an end in itself… it’s a means to continue and deepen the ensuing dialogue and explore new possibilities together with your client.

Creating Surprise or Tension with Your Insight

To get back to the main purpose (and title) of this post, if you want to create an Aha Moment or surprise left-turn with your insights, you can learn from what comedians do. (This is just one method that we’re exploring today, but it works.) To do this, you must find a way to juxtapose facts to make a quick “left turn.” In business situations, as opposed to comedy, this typically creates a “resolvable tension,” which illuminates (or further illuminates) a challenge or opportunity, or leads to a path to resolve one.

Here are two examples to consider.


Here’s an example using some data from CSO Insights that you’ve likely heard or seen this year:

  • If you say, “According to the 2013 research conducted by CSO Insights, 65% of top sales leaders say that new account acquisition is their primary objective for the coming year,” that’s simply a statistic.  It’s interesting and it points toward something important, but it’s just a fact.
  • If you add, in juxtaposition, “Yet, 67% of those same sales leaders, rate their sales team as ‘Needing Improvement’ in lead generation,” suddenly, you’ve created some tension. Hmm. They want X, but Y could get in the way of achieving that.
Presuming you offer a way to improve sales reps’ ability to generate leads and acquire customers, these facts could be helpful to share. (Or, if you’re a learning and development or sales enablement leader, and you confirm these facts as true in your organisation, you’ve certainly just found a way to link sales training initiatives to business strategy.)


Let’s look at another example. (Disclaimer: this is for illustrative purposes… some of this unverified data has been sourced from various websites, and some is fabricated for the teaching example.)

Data from a 2011 federal crime report shows that, in the U.S.:

  • A burglary happens once every 15 seconds
  • We can expect one in every thirty-six homes in the United States to be burglarised this year
  • Homeowners incur an average loss of $1,675 per break in
  • In 38% of home invasion incidents where someone was home at the time, assault was reported (of injuries reported, 36% were minor and 9% were serious)
Grim statistics, but just facts. What if we added…

  • While many home security systems adequately protect front doors, only 34% of home intrusions come through the front door, with 66% entering through windows and other less-secured points
  • Most security companies hire contractors to install systems, but according to research commissioned by Crime Prevention Journal, trained law enforcement personnel offer the best advice on avoiding home intrusions and can more accurately identify the most vulnerable and likely entrance points
Might this influence your thinking about the home security company and system that you choose?

What if you then learnt that Richardson Sales Performance Home Security offered the following?

  • A complimentary home inspection to determine areas at greatest risk, especially windows, with inspection and installation crews comprised entirely of retired or off-duty law enforcement professionals
  • A wide variety of window protection options, from installed bars, reinforced locking devices, electronic barrier deterrents, automated sliding covers, laser barriers, lighting and biometric scanners.
See what I did there?

The first data set exposes the seriousness of the home invasion risk. The second layers information and takes a slight left turn to point out a specific problem and create some tension. The capabilities offered by our fake security company address those problems.

This may be over-simplified or different compared to some of the complex B2B products you sell, but the concepts are the same and I hope the point is clear. In both cases above, we took data that established a baseline and juxtaposed data against it to make a left-turn or create a resolvable tension.

Our Own Aha Moment

So what’s the take-away from this?

  • Well, if you begin with your capabilities and get clear about what problems you can solve and the special value you can bring, it’s a great start.
  • Then conduct, commission, source or buy research or codify your knowledge gained from experience to create a baseline of data about the challenge or opportunity that you can solve.
  • Next, look for ways to juxtapose the data to further exacerbate the issue, highlight the importance of addressing it or lead to the unique ways you can address it and add value.
While this is a very simplified representation, this is exactly what we do with our Insight Blueprint™ (among other things).

Coming full circle back to our earlier definition, then you can craft relevant, compelling, personalised Insight Messages to share:

“… information or an idea that is based on credible research, authoritative content or relevant experiences, which, when personalised to your client’s likely or known challenges and opportunities and shared appropriately, opens your client’s mind to think about their situation in a new way and shows them a path toward solving a challenge or capitalising on opportunity through your company’s capabilities and differentiators.”

We’ll talk more about the Insight message, another day.

Oh – and about that title – no, of course I don’t think selling is a joke. But by using those same funny, left-turn principles used by comedians, you can surprise clients, capture interest and perhaps enlighten them, if your message is delivered well. If you’d like to talk about that or anything else about selling more effectively with insights and thoughtful dialogue, reach out and let me know.

Good luck with those punch lines!

Man:  “Did I ever tell you that my uncle Bob was a magician?”

Woman:   “No, you didn’t!  Really?

Man:   “Yup.  Every time he walks down the street, he turns into a bar.”

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