Einstein, Allen, and Tommy Boy

Since I began offering what amounts to be a “comedy writing for salespeople” training & workshop, people react to what I offer the same way they do to a new Star Wars trailer: thrilled and confused. In short, I want sales reps to simultaneously obtain their prospects' attention, and show a grasp of their challenges.  Let’s kick things off with a quote:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”  -Albert Einstein


If Einstein was around today, his LinkedIn profile’s tagline would read “Influential Thought Leader In Stuff You Don’t Understand”.  However I disagree with Einstein, as I’d change “insanity” in the above quote with “stupidity”. Though, in his defense, he invented a theory of relativity, while I struggle to score likes & shares on LinkedIn. If he was around today, he’d have reverse-engineered LinkedIn’s algorithm while trimming his moustache and be in fact a leading influencer. The irony is that the solution to my own problem is to post something antagonistic on LinkedIn like “Me: Smarter than Einstein. Fo’ Realz, YO!” (nothing like sowing the seeds of outrage to drive interest in your own brand, but I digress).

So many potentially fruitful businesses or ideas within businesses are burned to the ground because of incompetence, greed, ego, and a lack self-awareness. So much innovative thought & morale are tossed into metaphorical bonfires because leadership doesn’t have the will or desire to fix basic problems. So, it’s hilarious when leaders make the same mistakes over and over again. Except when they’re our bosses.  Then it’s tragic.

“Comedy = tragedy + time” - Steve Allen



This equation is far more meaningful to me than anything that know-it-all Einstein ever proved. Back in 1937, Hindenburg jokes were taboo, but today, it’s a metaphor for disaster. Yet, in the business world, struggling through hard times just to someday laugh about them is neither a payoff nor an option.  Repeated insanity experienced by employees in the present, is an utter tragedy, which not only affects profitability, but also diffuses morale and lower productivity. Ominous stuff. Nothing says “hilariously good times” like mass layoffs.

Good salespeople are like psychiatrists. We let prospects traumatized by operational frustrations vent their problems in a forum we offer them.  Our role is to listen and prescribe the right medication to cure the patient, and get them back to a healthy operational state.  That said, the first step in asking for help, is knowing it’s needed. Part of our role is to help our prospect admit (or see) that they need to open up to us. To do that, we need to:

1)    Get their attention;

2)    Display empathy;

3)    Be respected & liked.

On the other hand, stand-up comedians are the ultimate attention-getters.  We seek buy-in from their audience because we speak about relatable challenges/observations, and frame them in a way that drives engagement. And like the comedian, sales reps need to achieve this quickly. Attention spans are shorter than ever. Whether it’s on a cold call, or during a demo/sales pitch, a well-crafted, well-placed joke can do it all in a couple of short sentences.  

Consider the following, which I crafted for an employee at a company that sells pre-built predictive analytics tools to clothing retailers – everyday, comedic fodder.  Test yourself, and deliver it out loud. Imagine you’re onstage and need to project, and deliver with some charisma:

Clothing retailers are building their own predictive analytics tools in order to make more informed decisions, but building software is not core business. That’d be like if Oracle opened a “Big and Tall” shop. 

I know, I know: too soon. This joke will not be appreciated by everyone, but it doesn’t care. It wasn’t written for comedy club or my Netflix special.  It’s for a very specific audience – the vendor’s prospects. Helping prospects laugh about their problem can become their first step in fixing it.  Such jokes show the prospect that the rep understands a challenge they face, their industry, and it should get the prospect to – at the very least – crack a smile and crawl onto the couch for deep therapy. 

If you're in Montreal, check out my therapy most Sundays at my weekly stand-up show in Montreal:

My 2018 Sales Kickoff Planning Experience!

(This isn't a blog, but an article I posted on LinkedIn on November 29, 2017.  If you dig it, give it a like, a share, or just share this post wherever you like! Now, onto my FIRST post!):

Annual sales kickoffs are management’s inspirational rallying cry for focus and drive for the forthcoming fiscal year. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, build morale, and sample new condiments from the Thai Taco Truck (it’s a mystery how they get that thing indoors).

For those of you who don’t know me, my training & workshop's called "Funny: You Should Say That!". I show sales teams how humor helps reps better connect, engage, and influence, and then work with them to craft jokes relatable to their prospects. It's fun, practical, unlocks creative doors, and makes for excellent team-building. With 2 degrees in business, I’m an improbable stand-up comic, independent coach, and trainer, who’s also his own sales, marketing, sales enablement, social media, content creation, demand-gen, and drip-coffee-making team. As such, we need a LOT of motivation and even more Pad Thai Burritos. 

We’re expecting 2018 to be our breakout year. Our growth targets are almost as ambitious as our vacation desires. To ensure that my team is primed, motivated and inspired to crush our numbers, I’m hard at work at planning our 2018 sales kickoff. I have a lot on my plate, but I’ve produced enough stand-up comedy shows in Latin America, so I definitely have the chops to put this thing together. I’ve sourced possible locations, built an agenda, identified guest speakers, and most importantly – mapped out the menu for six meals (the Thai Taco Truck’s been booked so I’ve gone in another direction).

While I’m unsure of how the SKO will go, I have definitely set a new standard for SKO planning. Here are the details:

- I’ve narrowed the location down to 3 possibilities: 1) The Austin Convention Center, 2) The Four Seasons in Hawaii, or 3) my kitchen table. The first 2 are ideal settings in destinations my team loves, but neither has Montreal bagels demanded by team members, and shipping them over from here seems like an obscene waste of funds.

- I’ll be delivering the keynote. It’s one I recommend other self-employed coaches trainers listen in on via webcast, and is entitled: “Get It or Deal With It”. It dovetails perfectly with the theme of this year's kickoff: “Hunger”. I need to ensure the whole team pays VERY close attention to this.

- Speaking of hunger, we will alleviate it by ordering a sumptuous feast – and ensuring it lasts for 5 more meals. True "innovation” means cold Indian food for breakfast.

- Esteemed guest & motivational speakers will be my parents. They don’t understand our business, yet seem to have extremely firm opinions on how it should be run. My mother (who feels I should pivot to a career in medicine even though I struggled to pass 10th grade physics), is globally renowned for speaking on the topics of “Why I Know Best”, “Your Parachute Should Be the Colour I Tell You”, and “Clean Off Your Kitchen Table”. With 50 years of expertise, my dad will be speaking on “Listening To Your Mother”.

Sales Kickoffs can’t be just territory reviews, product training and nagging parents. A fun time’s required to show that you care about the mental well-being of your team. That said, our final blowout bash will depend on budget remaining after all of the above decisions are taken.  If we stay on budget, we’ll paying our friend Christian, the mastermind behind "Middle-Aged Wasteland" to curate a really hip Spotify Playlist. But, if we burn through our funds and can't pay a local college radio DJ, we’ll hire Hootie and the Blowfish.  

- This will be a 2 day event. A third may ensue if the team isn’t adequately motivated, is weighed down by 2 straight days of Indian food, or if morale has been destroyed by either Hootie or The Blowfish.

This just in: Budget’s been approved. Time to get the badges printed!  

Check out how I/we help your sales team, my sizzler video, other videos and references at:

I can be reached at jon at jonselig dot com. OR connect with me here on LinkedIn, or follow on Twitter or Instagram (@ImprobableComic).

Bio: Jon Selig coaches business & sales professionals on how to make audiences laugh so they can better connect, engage, and influence.  He's a far less serious in person than his copywriting leads you believe.

Jon received his BComm & MBA followed by a 12 year career selling technology before his career took a sharp left-turn in 2011, and he started performing stand-up comedy. In that time, he's performed at JFL Zoofest, The Comedy Nest's Young Guns of Comedy, and he's also also appeared in a segment on The Daily Show.