Do you want to get better at persuading people? My guess is that you do because whether you are a salesperson selling a product, an entrepreneur courting an investor, or a business owner convincing your team about your vision, your success hinges on your ability to influence other people.
Luckily, there are shelves and shelves of books (and information all over the internet) on how to be better at selling, public speaking, and influencing others. A lot of them are good, more of them are mediocre, and almost all of them are relatively boring. It makes it a little more challenging to slog through them.
So here’s an idea of how to improve your persuasion and have a good time:
Watch more stand-up comedy.
Comedians are Master Influencers
Definitely watch whoever is playing at your local comedy club (you might even have a friend who is an aspiring comic), but more importantly, watch the big names. Stand-up comedy is hard, and the top comics are masters at influence.
They stand up in front of people they don’t know, and simply by talking persuade them to laugh. It’s a tall order but the experts can have audiences rolling in their seats.
Whatever style of comedy that you like, find the ones who are great at it, and watch what they do. (I prefer Chris Rock, Eddie Izzard, Aziz Ansari, and Jim Gaffigan – but find the ones that get you going). Don’t just sit there and laugh. Pay attention to how they make people laugh.
There’s a craft to it and you can take their tricks and incorporate them into your work whether it’s selling one-on-one or speaking in front of a group.
3 Sales Lessons from Comedians
1. Great Comedians Refer Back To Anchors Over and Over Again
Comedians take a gimmick, an idea, or a characterization and, after establishing it, return to it over and over again. Chris Rock is the king of this. Watch one of his routines and notice how certain punchlines keep returning. In fact, you’ll find that his last punchline is often one that he first used in the beginning and has woven throughout the performance.
This “anchor” creates a shared experience and meaning between him and the audience. It makes people feel comfortable because it’s familiar.
How you can use this:
When you are selling, find an idea or statement that you can refer back to. This works really well when the audience actually participates in the anchor. You could ask your prospect what’s important to them when making a decision and then come back to that selling point throughout your presentation.
Don’t beat people over the head with it, but reminding them a few times can go a long way to solidifying the idea in their mind.
2. Stories Engage Your Listener and Make Abstractions Real
Comedians don’t just talk about random people. They tell stories about their personal experiences, about their families, about their significant others, about their friends (watch Aziz Ansari talk about his nephew Harris for a great example). When we hear a story about someone, it becomes personal in a whole new way.
Think about ancient myths: they were stories told about gods and legends…in the form of people. Stand-up comedians are our version of the story-tellers that gathered around campfires thousands of years ago.
How you can use this:
Instead of making general statements about “your customers,” talk about a specific customer, even if he or she is fictional. Tell the story of how “Jane” had a problem and how she was able to solve that problem using your services. If you can tell a story about a real person, even better!
Stories take dry facts and figures and make them immediate and interesting. If you want your audience to pay attention to you, tell them a story about someone else.
3. Your Voice Has Power. Use It
Have you noticed how many well-known comedians are verbal gymnasts? They change the tone, tempo, and volume of their voice constantly. Some of the best have well-established “alter-egos” (such as Jim Gaffigan’s inner-monologue voice or Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady”).
They capture the audience’s attention by using their voice like a musical instrument. It’s been well-established that the tone of our voice can communicate more information than the words we use.
How you can use this:
When you present do you tend toward the monotone? (By the way, if you talk quickly, loudly, and passionately all the time…it’s still monotone.) The next time you are putting together a sales pitch or presentation identify three main points that you want to emphasize. Then consider how you could change your voice to really bring attention to these specific topics.
Maybe you can slow your tempo a little bit, or maybe there is a point to change the volume you usually use. Harness your delivery to focus your energy and drive your points home.