How To Use HUMOR To Get Your Prospects ATTENTION

Jon Buchan is a cold outreach expert that has mastered the art of getting attention with humour.

In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Jon explains the structure to writing a joke and the formula of the perfect funny cold outreach email.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Jon Buchan
Cold Outreach Expert

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of The Salesman Podcast.

 

Jon Buchan:

So humour alone is not persuasive. It’s good at getting people to feel good, and getting a reaction, and making a good first impression, but it’s not good for getting people to take action. Included in that, obviously, you can’t just send emails to be funny. You’ve got to have an offer that likely the prospect will want, you’ve got to be contacting the right people.

 

Will Barron:

Hello Sales Nation, I’m Will Barron, host of The Salesman Podcast, the world’s most listened to B2B sales show. If you haven’t already, make sure to click subscribe. And with that, let’s meet today’s guest.

 

Jon Buchan:

Excellent. My name is Jon Buchan and I run a company called Charm Offensive. What we do is we help people get the attention of busy people. To find out more about me, you can go to our website, which is charm-offensive.co.uk. That’s charm-offensive.co.uk, .C-O.uk. Or, you can search on Facebook for Charm Offensive and look for the Facebook group, which has a little over 10,000 members.

 

Will Barron:

On this episode, with the legend that is Jon, we’re diving into how you can use humour in your cold outreach to get more attention, more replies and essentially close more business. We dive into what a joke actually is, the structure of it, where it should go in your email and how you can use jokes, and humour in general, to be more persuasive. So with that said, let’s jump right into the conversation.

 

Why is the B2B Sales World Devoid of Humour? · [01:39] 

 

Will Barron:

We’re going to talk about using humour in sales and business to get attention. But, before we get into the how-to of this, which is what I really want to get my teeth into and I’ll explain to the audience why personally in a second as well, beyond sales, which we should have done before we clicked record.

 

Will Barron:

Before we get into all of that, why is seemingly the B2B corporate world so devoid of anything other than blue or grey logos, and it’s just so sterile of any humour or personality whatsoever?

 

Jon Buchan:

I have got a theory on this. I think a lot of people believe that B2B stands for boring-to-boring and that’s somehow been propagated over time. It’s not true, of course. People that work in B2B are no more dry or drab than anyone that works in any other type of organisation. There’s actually more room to be daring and adventurous in B2B because it’s unexpected and it gets amazing results.

 

Jon Buchan:

There’s a lot of lessons you can take from consumer advertising. Obviously, not everything is that transferrable, but it doesn’t need to be so stuffy. Yes, we sell sometimes very serious, important things but it doesn’t mean that we have to have a sombre tone. I could understand some things deserve seriousness, but I think we’ve spread that a bit too far. We don’t need to be an in complete, complete suited and booted just because we’re discussing the marketing of a new type of loan. There’s this pomp, I think.

 

Jon Buchan:

I think maybe, as well as that, attached to it might be that some people put a lot of stock in the self importance of certain job titles and stuff. But, I think most people, they don’t want to be put on a pedestal. They just want to talk like a human and that’s why the message resonated. People don’t want to be in this really stern, jargon-y way of writing, they want to be like they are in their personal life, which is how they are as a person.

 

Jon Explains Why Having a Unique Personality is All You Need to Start a Sales Conversation · [03:10]

 

Will Barron:

It’s just very human, right? When you receive one of your emails, maybe one of mine … We’ve had Ryan from LeadIQ on the show a bunch of times now, to talk about cold emails and throwing your personality into it. Whenever I get one of these emails, and people do as well, it immediately makes you a person as opposed to this drone from this brand who, perhaps the brand has a personality or a persona, is trying to get money of out of pocket. Immediately you go, “Oh, right, I’m in a conversation with the dude,” or a woman. There’s real power in that, isn’t there?

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. I say write to people not professionals. The people with those fancy job titles, they have horrible, guilty pleasures that they listen to. They have probably silly comedy movies that they watch with their kids. They probably have some good stories of when they go drunk and trying to climb into their own shoe. These people that you put on a pedestal, they’re just people.

 

“When you’re writing to people that are maybe very important, and have achieved a lot and maybe you look up to them, yes you should be respectful, but that doesn’t mean it should be at the sacrifice of your personality.” – Jon Buchan · [04:14] 

 

Jon Buchan:

I don’t know why I always use this example, but you don’t become the CEO of Red Bull and then go, “You know what, I don’t like to laugh anymore. That’s something I did when I wasn’t successful.” Can you imagine how stupid that scenario is? That’s why, when you’re writing to people that are maybe very important, and have achieved a lot and maybe you look up to them, yes you should be respectful, but that doesn’t mean it should be at the sacrifice of your personality.

 

Jon Buchan:

I’ve literally seen people scared to put a smiley face in an email. You should not be worried about this. But, that’s how people have been taught, I guess.

 

Jon’s Definition of Humour from an Email Standpoint · [04:43]

 

Will Barron:

Okay. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of it, and I want to ask you about how you write an email, or how you even write a joke, if there’s a structure to any of this, how it can be copied, implemented by the audience. What does humour mean to you? Is there a definition of it? Is there a way to describe it? You use the word unexpected here and I think that goes into the joke writing process perhaps, as well. But, how do you define humour? Especially in a context of email, let’s focus on email as opposed to standup comedy or anything like that.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah, yeah. It’s a good question.

 

Jon Buchan:

First, I’ll give a more broad definition which is the obvious one. Humour, stuff that makes you laugh. But within the context of email, it obviously has the purpose that you want to make people smile. Smirk, smile or make them laugh. But, why do you want to do that and why is it persuasive?

 

“Humour alone is not persuasive. It’s good at getting people to feel good, and getting a reaction and making a good first impression, but it’s not good for getting people to take action. Included in that, obviously, you can’t just send emails to be funny. You’ve got to have an offer that the prospect will want, you’ve got to be contacting the right people and if you don’t do that, it won’t work. The purpose of the humour is to get people’s attention.” – Jon Buchan · [05:19] 

 

Jon Buchan:

Humour alone is not persuasive. It’s good at getting people to feel good, and getting a reaction and making a good first impression, but it’s not good for getting people to take action. Included in that, obviously, you can’t just send emails to be funny. You’ve got to have an offer that likely the prospect will want, you’ve got to be contacting the right people and if you don’t do that, it won’t work.

 

Jon Buchan:

The purpose of the humour is to get people’s attention and really get their attention. The first line in the original Drunk Cold Email would read, “Greeting, Joe. You’ve never heard of me. Hi, I’m Jon. I got your details from a list, gasp. But hey, at least you’re list worthy. That’s got to be worth something, right?” That first line, to people that are in marketing, will know what it’s like to be on a list. Where you’re a marketing director, you’re getting lots of cold emails.

 

Jon Buchan:

Instead of hiding away the fact that I’ve got their details from a list, that’s the first thing I say and I make a joke out of it. I say, “At least you’re list worthy. That’s got to be worth something, right?” It’s almost like, “Yeah, you’ve made it.”

 

Jon Buchan:

How is that unusual? The reason that is unusual is A, first I used greetings. I’m like, “Greetings, Ian.” Who says greetings or salutations? You want every little bit to be as different as possible. And then, I admit I’ve got their data from a list and make a joke out of it. Whereas normally emails start with, “Hi, Ian. Do you ever have trouble navigating the ever complex, changing world of social media?” I can’t even not say it in that infomercial tone. No one I know speaks like this, but apparently that’s how you’re meant to write emails. Whereas instead, you should say the most honest thing you can first and hopefully, add a bit of levity. That’s going to get people’s attention, that gets them to read the next line.

 

Jon Buchan:

I use humour as a device. It’s not always completely throughout the emails, but there’s enough humour that I keep winning people’s attention, that they read the entire thing. And then, they’re in a good mood that I’ve made them laugh, they’re likely to hit reply and they’re likely to say nice things rather than nasty things.

 

The Percentage of People in Jon’s Campaigns that React Negatively to Humor in a Cold Email · [07:10] 

 

Will Barron:

What percentage, because I did a little experiment a little while back. This is an N equals one experiment, the data doesn’t really mean anything. I think maybe it was 15 emails I sent, outreach to people who could potentially sponsor the podcast. As regular listeners will know, I do all the ad sales on the show so I’m still selling, I’m still part of the tribe. As opposed to just blabbering on about sales and not actually doing any of it.

 

Will Barron:

So with that said, maybe it was 15, 20 emails, whatever it was. I got maybe one … There’s one email that came back, and the guy was calling me a dickhead, and saying I was unprofessional and all this kind of stuff. The email wasn’t even that crazy. I think it had a GIF at the end of it, which was people partying and throwing hands up in the air. It was something to do with the context of the email. That was basically it. Everyone else either ignored it or acknowledged it with a smiley face in their response. But, there was this one dude. I knew who the guy is now because we’ve actually done business together. It got a reaction which lead to business, so maybe it isn’t a bad thing, all in all.

 

Will Barron:

But, what percentage out of your data and the work that you’re doing, Jon, how many people do react negatively to going out of the ordinary with these things?

 

Jon Buchan:

Obviously, with cold pitching because you’re interrupting someone’s day, that has got to be part of it. But, I’ve never had that many. Over the years, I’ve been doing this since 2012, I’ve not had that many negative responses. I have had them, obviously, and they do happen because you’re cold pitching, but there are lines in there …

 

Jon Buchan:

The last line of that original Drunk Cold Email was, “I await your profanity filled response.” That line is clever because all the people that are laughing will still laugh at that line, it’s kind of funny. You’re assuming that, because it’s a cold email … But, the people that were going to write a swear-y response, they read that line and they go, “I’m not going to do what [inaudible 00:08:56].” You know that’s the type of person they are. 

 

Will Barron:

Yeah.

 

Jon Buchan:

They’re not the brightest people, the people that get raged over an email. They’re going to see that line and go, “No!” It’s good, it extinguishes that possibility. But, it does happen sometimes. With those, obviously just ignore them. Don’t contact them again, unsubscribe them.

 

Jon Buchan:

One of my favourite negative responses I got was actually after I’d been doing it for a few years. It didn’t obviously dent my confidence because I’d got so many positive responses. But, this one simply read, “Congratulations, this is the worst sales and marketing email I’ve ever received in my life.” And then, before I could reply to him to inform him of his error, he replied with, “But the irony is not lost on me that I replied to you.” And then, we got into a good conversation and didn’t do business, but it was funny. 

 

Jon Buchan:

You have to expect that some people reply negatively because you’re interrupting their day, just as you would if you put on a Facebook ad on, some people will reply negatively. It’s just something you’ve got to deal with. But, I think it does somewhat immunise you from negative responses. Not completely, but it does a little bit. And, the people that do reply really negatively, that’s another feature of the emails is that it disqualifies the people that are stern, self important, that think bland is a quality deserving of reverence. All of those people reveal themselves, you wouldn’t really want to work with them, they’re not going to be the nicest people to deal with. Immediately though, you’re not going to work with those people.

 

Jon Buchan:

It attracts the people that like your sense of humour and repels the people that have replied with serious anger to a little email. It’s a beneficial side effect that it disqualifies some people as well as qualifying others.

 

Will Barron:

Makes total senses. That was what I was expecting. I guess, if you did study this, I bet you the rate of people giving mean replies would probably be similar to just a generic cold email, to a generic cold email with X twist. They were just going to email you back because they were bored in the office and be mean anyway.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. I’ve got a friend of mine who is a cold caller, that’s his business. He finds that he’ll call someone one day and they’re really moody with him, call them the next day because they’ve said it’s okay to follow-up, they’re the nicest people in the world. You forget, people have whole lives that they’re living when they’re getting your email. So they could have just had a snipe-y email from their boss and then you’ve emailed. Guess who’s going to get the brunt of their anger? That’s as simple as it is. Yeah, that’s how it works.

 

The Key Elements of a Humorous Cold Email that Gets Responses · [11:17] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay. I’m sure there is, but from this conversation so far, there’s a structure to building these emails. It seems like we’ve got to be somewhat unexpected or different. So rather than “Hi, Bob. Greetings, Bob,” or whatever it is. We’ve got to be real in both our language and then, I guess, there’s irony and there’s funniness. Is that a word? It’s funny when we be blunt about things that other people would go around the hedges to avoid.

 

Jon Buchan:

Refreshingly honest, yes.

 

Will Barron:

Refreshingly honest, perfect. What other key parts are there in a hilarious email that gets responses?

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. Obviously, the first line is important. You want to disarm. I say the first thing you want to do is get attention and you can do that with a subject line, the first line and your name, those are the things people can see on their phone and on their desktop or tablet. You want to disarm in that first line, say something unusually honest.

 

Jon Buchan:

Another line I like that I use a lot. I think I’d probably used this in the email to you. “Greetings, Joe. I wanted to introduce myself in a way that showed I was interesting, witty and clever. Alas, I wrote this email instead.” It’s just a self-effacing, little opener. And then, you communicate, that’s when you talk about what you’ve got to offer. But, that’s actually the smallest part of the email. Even with that, I’m using humour to do it.

 

Jon Buchan:

And then, after that, is persuasion so you’ve got a call-to-action and I deliver that with sugar coating. In the original Drunk Email I said, “If you agree to chat with me about your digital marketing needs, I will take you for coffee, or lunch or tequila shots and promise to be somewhat entertaining. If you’re lucky, I may even wear a top hat. First off, I’d love to give you some ideas you’re free to steal.”

 

Jon Buchan:

There’s a lot wrapped up in that. A, I’m making them an offer they probably won’t know what to do with. I had loads of competitors that run far bigger agencies, that had fancy offices, ostensibly better case studies, big client names. But, I venture, I would suggest and I would suspect that none of those big agencies have ever sent big prospects the invitation and an offer of tequila shots.

 

Jon Buchan:

Even if I get to invited to pitches as the wild card option, that’s fine with me. If I’m getting into a pitch with a big brand, I’ll be the wild card option because then I can go in and I’ll impress. I’ll show you I’m more than just that initial trick that got your attention, there’s more to it than that.

 

Jon Buchan:

That’s the structure. Disarm, communicate and persuade. That’s actually similar to a structure from Dave Trott, who is a famous television actor guy. He said, “Impact, communication, persuasion, that’s what you’ve got to do.” I’ve changed that a little bit to add disarm at the start. But that’s what you’re doing, you’re disarming people, getting their sales alarm bells down. Usually when people open sales emails they’re like, “Okay, I’m going to be guarded because I know I’m being sold to.” This does the opposite.

 

“If you’re so honest with your intentions, and you combine that with an ambition, it’s a very intoxicating combination. If you’ve made someone laugh, they’re more likely to reply positively. And, getting through in a clever way is persuasive in itself. It demonstrates you’ve got some talent, that you’ve been able to do that.” – Jon Buchan · [14:00] 

 

Jon Buchan:

If you’re so honest with your intentions, and you combine that with an ambition … You can be meek and direct to ambitious, but self effacing. If you can have that, it’s a very intoxicating combination. If you’ve made someone laugh, they’re more likely to reply positively. And, getting through in a clever way is persuasive in itself. It demonstrates you’ve got some talent, that you’ve been able to do that.

 

How Can Someone Who’s Not Naturally Charismatic Incorporate Humour Into Their Email Campaigns · [14:26] 

 

Will Barron:

How do we go from making a seemingly boring statement or line, or a persuasive part of a conversation even, how do we make that funny? I realise this is the master question. But I want to get ahead, Jon, is the fact that, without stroking your ego too much, clearly you are very charismatic, you are articulate in what you’re saying. Far so than even me, who does a podcast, going for three or four hours every single day. My vocabulary sucks, and I speak too fast and all these other kind of things that I’m still working on. But, you use pauses, all this kind of stuff. It’s very easy to listen to you. Some of that must translate to an email or a call, or whatever it is.

 

Will Barron:

For someone who doesn’t have all of that, for someone who is just a self confessed bit of a boring bastard but they think this could add to their game … What I’m getting at is, someone who doesn’t have all this naturally, how do they turn a boring sentence into a sentence that grabs attention and is somewhat humorous?

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. Well, I’ve got a good answer to this. Well, one is and you may be able to speed this process up, but the way I got good at it is from the age of very young, maybe six or seven until my teens, I would stay up and watch standup comedy sitcoms, funny movies until four AM in the morning on my little TV. That was my 10,000 hours experience. If I’d had known it was working, I would have probably tried to procrastinate, but I didn’t.

 

Jon Buchan:

So when I came to write that Drunk Cold Email, when I got drunk, that’s what came out. I didn’t study copywriting ever so I didn’t know about copywriting hooks or anything like that. I knew joke formulas. 

 

Jon Buchan:

So an example, in that initial email was, “If you agree to meet with me and talk about your digital marketing needs, I will take you for coffee, or lunch or tequila shots and promise to be somewhat entertaining.” That’s called the comic triple. So coffee, that’s expected, lunch, expected, tequila shots, in this context, that is incongruent with what is expected. Who offers tequila shots in the context of a new business conversation? Especially, this is the first contact you’d made with them. That is called the comic triple.

 

Jon Buchan:

There are other joke formulas. When you know them, and when you watch standup you’ll see them all the time. Here’s a thing that you should do. You should watch standup, and watch sitcoms and watch funny movies, and have the subtitles on. It’s a good little tactic. When you study joke formulas, such as the comic triple, or the reverse, or the triple reverse and you can find out about all of those in my Facebook group, there’s a tag called How to be Somewhat Funny. When you learn them and you start watching comedy regularly, you’ll start seeing them. And then, if you write every day and that’s the most important thing, if you write every day, your writing will be improved. Watch comedy.

 

Jon Buchan:

This is the best homework ever. Watch loads of comedy. And then, when you write, write every day, you will get better. I know that is a platitude and there’s a lot of platitudes over the last 18 months that I’ve had to come to terms with. Even though they’re platitudes, they are correct. That is one of them, if you write every day, your writing will improve.

 

Jon Buchan:

On top of that, obviously read good stuff as well. There are good joke writing books out there. But also, just consuming content in general. Watching loads of podcasts with intellectuals on, that will develop your erudition. Just trying to keep trying to get better. But most importantly, watch comedy, write every day. And, look at the joke formulas in the Charm Offensive group.

 

Will Barron:

Well, I’ll link to that specific page in the group in the show notes to this episode, over at salesman.org.

 

Will Barron:

What I wanted to get at then, I think you’ve summed it up nicely, is that this isn’t something you were born with. Maybe people are born slightly funnier. The funniest people I know were either fat or ugly as children and were bullied. Probably bullied by me, as a friend kind of thing. My funniest feats were always the ones that were the black sheep out of the group that they were in, and perhaps this is somewhat of a defence mechanism they developed that turned into something really useful to get attention.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. I was never a popular kid. I liked my own things. I liked business studies, IT and English. It’s funny what I’ve ended up doing. I always had a very silly, absurd sense of humour. Yeah, I’ve somehow been able to profit from that, which is awesome.

 

Will Barron:

It’s cool. Okay.

 

Why Humor Must be Simple yet Relevant to Get the Intended Response · [18:24] 

 

Will Barron:

With this, we’ve got a structure. Unfortunately, you didn’t give us a magic bullet, which everyone was hoping for, to just be incredibly charismatic, and attractive to women or men by our levels of humour overnight. Clearly, that isn’t the case for anything other than perhaps plastic surgery or augmentation of some sort.

 

Jon Buchan:

I’ve got one.

 

Will Barron:

Go ahead, Jon.

 

Jon Buchan:

I’ve got one final tip. Sorry, I jumped in there. I’m being annoying. One final line of that original Drunk Email was, “I have attached a picture of a ferret that has been dressed up. According to the internet, his name is Colin. I trust this will charm you into submission. I await your profanity filled response.”

 

Jon Buchan:

It was this really, really silly picture of a ferret that had been dressed up in bunny ears. No reason to be attached. The humour is in the fact that there’s no reason for that. Why would you think this would work? There’s a little secret.

 

Jon Buchan:

I remember, I spoke to Rory Sutherland, the vice chair of Ogilvy, about this. I was showing off, basically, about the results I’d got. I was saying all the reasons, all the persuasive reasons and all these technical reasons why it worked. He said, “Yeah, it’s all very well and good, Jon, but there’s another reason why it worked.” I was like, “Why is that?” He said, “You attached a picture of a cute animal.” He’s like, “We don’t like people, we like animals. Why do you think we put animals in advertisements all the time?” I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s right.”

 

Jon Buchan:

You can intellectualise it, but also you can simplify it. If someone sees a picture of a cute animal, that also changes their mood. I promise, that’s the last of my waffles for today.

 

Will Barron:

Oh, it’s not waffles at all. It’s funny you should say that, this is something that comes up regularly on the show. The fish here … Maybe we could talk about this off air and over time, I think you can give me some insight. The fish here, the goldfish on the table, was part of a marketing campaign that I was going to rebrand the show, and we were going to have it either an orca as part of the logo or some kind of shark, or some kind of metaphor for winning business and crushing it. And then, the joke was going to be that I was going to keep referring to the shark but it really was a goldfish. This big, old, boggley-eyed, disgusting looking goldfish that I’ve got on my desk. And then, I got busy and just didn’t end up doing any of the branding whatsoever.

 

Daring PR in Sales and Why It’s So Effective · [20:19] 

 

Will Barron:

But, there’s very few brands that, especially in the B2B space, have any kind of animal or anything like that attached to them. Whereas in the consumer space, every brand has some kind of animal or mascot. It’s funny that you should mention it because it’s come up in conversations before. We literally brainstormed on it. Can you think of any B2B brand that has a cute animal facing it?

 

Jon Buchan:

No. Other than me deploying that ferret. People should. Yeah, there’s a huge opportunity there.

 

Jon Buchan:

And then also, on a similar note, daring PR. There’s a company, BrewDog, a Scottish craft brewing company. They do loads of daring PR. What was one of them they did? They had the strongest, at the time, strongest beer that the world record setting beer for the strength of the beer. And then, the tabloids went after them saying, “This was disgraceful, you’re going to get people to binge drink,” which is absurd. This is a drink for connoisseurs, it’s not a drink for binge drinking. In retaliation to that, they launched a beer called Nanny State, which was 1%, which I just thought was brilliant, clever PR.

 

Jon Buchan:

That’s another area where, B2B, there’s room. If you can do daring, clever, somewhat rebellious stuff, there’s loads of PR to get and it’s not expected because you’re B2B. There’s another avenue there where there’s lessons to be learned from the consumer world.

 

Will Barron:

Can you remember what the high percentage beer was called? It was like Tactical Nuclear [crosstalk 00:21:42] or something like that?

 

Jon Buchan:

Penguin. Tactical Nuclear Penguin or something like that, I believe. Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

Even that’s just incredible in itself.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. They’ve done loads of brilliant PR craft, clever PR stuff. They’re really, really, really good. Really impressive stuff. Search for BrewDog PR campaigns and there’s some real clever in there.

 

When to Stop Using Humour in the Sales Cadence · [22:00] 

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So, Jon, we’ve sent our first email, we’ve got attention, even if it is someone saying, “I’m not that interested but the ferret is really cute.” That, obviously, then leads us to another email. Does this humour continue forever, until we’re in the boardroom? Or, is this an attention grabbing tactic?

 

“Business is serious. You can’t always be lighthearted.” – Jon Buchan · [22:23] 

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah, it’s just an attention grabbing tactic. I’ve said to people that, imagine if you were the person in that email all the time, you would be the most infuriating person in the world because business is serious. You can’t always be lighthearted. People know that this is a device to get their attention.

 

Jon Buchan:

I always say that obviously you shouldn’t just be rude, you should be polite and obviously friendly, but you don’t have to be that funny person. I used to follow up with enthusiasm, passion and knowledge. You’ve got their attention but they could easily forget about you if your ideas aren’t good. So then, you follow up, obviously you’d be expedient, you’d be quick in replying to them when they send you a message. Always be polite, but focus on showing your knowledge and being just so enthusiastic, because that enthusiasm is intoxicating. That’s another leveller.

 

Jon Buchan:

There might be huge competitors you’ve got, but if they’re really unflexible, and faceless and boring in their pitch, and you’re super enthusiastic about your ideas, you can beat those big competitors. It’s another great leveller. Enthusiasm is the most cost effective cosmetic there is, I would suggest. That’s not actually one of my lines, I got that from somewhere else. But, it’s a true statement.

 

The Power of Enthusiasm and Optimism in Sales · [23:30] 

 

Will Barron:

Well, talk to enthusiasm for a second because I think this is something that I naturally get overly excited about things that I shouldn’t be getting excited about. Hopefully, that comes across on the show. Clearly, we should be excited about this conversation but there’s plenty of other things that crop up in life where I’m like, “That’s incredible!” You look back five minutes later, it wasn’t that incredible, it was just a thing that happens every day. My girlfriend takes the nick out of me on this all the time. I always try and err on the side of things just being incredible.

 

Jon Buchan:

[crosstalk 00:23:56].

 

Will Barron:

Twice a day I must say, “This is the best thing I’ve ever seen.”

 

Jon Buchan:

That’s good.

 

Will Barron:

Clearly, it can’t be true.

 

Jon Buchan:

The alternative is worse. I would much rather be optimistic and enthusiastic. Yeah, you’re right to err on the side of excitement. I think we agree on that, for sure.

 

Will Barron:

Is there any way, then, to engineer that? I’ve always been like this. Even my dad, as a kid, said I’d be running around, “This is the greatest insect I’ve ever seen!” And then you’d turn around, I’d be like, “This is the greatest insect I’ve ever seen!” Or tree, or whatever it is.

 

Will Barron:

I’ll put you in the scenario, you’re training someone up. You’ve got them to understand the humour element of it, they can do it now over an email, they’re getting attention. But then, people get on a phone call with them, and they’re monotone and boring as heck. How would you give them a kick in the ass and get them excited about this?

 

“Only experience can give you confidence. Everything, when it’s new, is going to be difficult. You need to make sure that, even if things don’t go so well, you need to keep doing it.” – Jon Buchan · [24:46] 

 

Jon Buchan:

Well, first thing is only experience can give you the confidence. Everything, when it’s new, is going to be difficult. You need to make sure that, even if things don’t go so well, you need to keep doing it.

 

Jon Buchan:

Secondly, realise that the people you’re speaking to, 99% of them are nice people. There are a few people that are completely unpleasant people, but most people are nice people. You can even tell them. If you’re starting out and you’re new, you can get away with being honest and just saying, “Look, I haven’t done many of these sales calls before so I might be a little nervous.” You’ll ingratiate yourself to people. You’ll probably find your confidence will go up just because you’ve said that, so they know how you’re feeling. And then, if you do stumble, they won’t be as bothered. They’ll actually be on your side. They’ll probably be finishing your sentences for you, because people like to help other people. Don’t worry, most people are nice people and you’ve got to just keep practising .

 

Jon Buchan:

Another thing you can do, actually, if you don’t have experience and you’re a bit nervous, is what’s called graduated exposure. Say you’re nervous about writing a cold email, write something for yourself every day. You don’t have to send it to anyone. If you’re nervous about doing a video, record a video, you don’t have to send it to anyone. Then, take the next step, send it to a friend. Then, send it to a peer. You can do it that way. Or, you can do the bandage off technique where you just send loads of cold emails, book loads of calls and just go for it. You will get better.

 

Jon Buchan:

There isn’t a better way of doing it. Some people are better slowly going for it, some people are better just going right for it. But, what you must do is continually making imperfect action, every day. That’s the thing I would strongly suggest because you will improve, as long as you keep taking action every day.

 

Will Barron:

Awesome. There’s the consistency element to all of this as well.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yes. Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

You mentioned the 10,000 hour rule. Or, just starting today, gets you a day quicker than starting tomorrow.

 

Direct Mail, Handwritten Letters, and Other Effective Sales Outreach Techniques · [26:40] 

 

Will Barron:

You mentioned something here that we don’t really talk about on the show all that often. But, as we’re talking about getting attention, because we don’t care whether it’s attention through a cold email. We just want the attention to be able to not even necessarily pitch someone, but to be able to consult with them, to able to get in front of them, to be able to build some rapport so that, even if it’s a big, complex B2B deal, we can, again, the sooner we start it, the sooner it will be finished. It’s better to get attention now than it is to faff around and get it in six months time.

 

Will Barron:

So with that said, you mentioned direct mail earlier on. There’s clearly multiple ways to go about this. As a marketing background, you might have insights on this which would be unusual for us salesperson, who rely on typically knocking on doors, sending emails and making phone calls in this day and age that we live in. Is there anything else we should be doing, over the just cold email outreach, to get in front of people?

 

Jon Buchan:

I love direct mail. I said earlier, I started sending my email as a letter. I was like, “I like the responses I’m getting and I’m getting a good response rate. But, how do I get more?” In my idiocy, I didn’t think you should send follow-up emails, which is the obvious thing. I didn’t know that’s the thing you should do. I thought, “Well, I’ll send a letter in the post.” The ferret picture will be a sticker, I’ll include that. And then, after a few days, I’ll send a follow-up that sent to them on email that says in the subject line, “Sorry for the ferret in the post.” They know who that is, massively high open rates. People will email you because they’ve got the letter and it’s funny, and then the follow-up email as well, you’ll get even more responses.

 

Jon Buchan:

That’s super effective. Send some direct mail that is unusual in some way, hopefully cute or funny, along with a letter that’s hopefully charming and funny. Follow-up a few days later with an email that mentions the unusual thing you’ve sent in the subject line. That’s a really effective technique. If I was to do that now, I probably wouldn’t send letters, I would send postcards because they don’t even have to be opened. But then, there’s all of the other techniques you can use to do it now. Big, fluffy, pink envelopes and lumpy mail, and all that kind of stuff. The lumpy mail, I would say, is one of the best ways of getting really hard to reach contacts’ attention. Especially, you can go a step further, and you can use one of the services that does handwritten letters.

 

Jon Buchan:

Someone actually, just in my group, who’s offering handwritten letter writing services called Nicky Parr, she’s really good. If you send handwritten letters with charming copy to your dream clients, you will get responses. You think how infrequently you get a letter, let alone a funny letter, let alone a handwritten letter, or beautifully handwritten letter, that’s going to get people’s attention. That’s a super effective technique and it will work, if you deploy it.

 

Why Salespeople Need to Start Sending their Prospects Cool and Interesting Stuff to Continuously Stay Top of Mind · [29:10] 

 

Will Barron:

I love this idea … Maybe I might have got the wrong end of the stick here, but if you sent them a sticker, that they’re going to stick it on something that they’re going to see more often, and you’re going to be reminded of it as well. Clearly, even better if there’s any kind of brand managers, marketing people listening to this, who have an animal brand logo or something for their company, which is not boring and corporate, which is somewhat charming. If someone sent me some cool stuff, I would stick it on the front of my Mac.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. That’s another good thing. There was, on these stickers, a #foundtheferret and @colinferret I think. If you search for #foundtheferret, you’ll see people have put my letter up. And, the stickers. As another benefit, obviously all of the sales meetings and opportunities, and all of that that I got, another benefit I’ve got is I know that these silly Colin stickers, ferret stickers, are on offices all over the world, confusing colleagues as to what is this that’s been stuck here. That’s another nice little benefit. And, the additional exposure that people would tweet and put on Pinterest, my letter.

 

Jon Buchan:

At the time that I used to annoy me because I was like, “No, you’re going to show people!” But now, it’s obviously very beneficial social proof for me.

 

Reasons Why Honesty is an Effective Sales Strategy · [30:13] 

 

Will Barron:

Cool. Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground in this. I wanted to ask you, is there anything that you feel I have skipped? Is there anything that we can add to wrap up? Essentially, is there anything that we’ve not touched on which can get us more attention as a B2B salesperson?

 

“If there’s one lesson to take, it’s to be refreshingly honest. That’s a good root for humour. You’ll find if you’re super honest and you say the things that you’re maybe not meant to say, that is a good route. If you’re really honest with people, it’s harder for them to reply negatively.” – Jon Buchan · [30:30] 

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. I would say, if there’s one lesson to take, it’s to be refreshingly honest. That’s a good root for humour. You’ll find if you’re super honest and you say the things that you’re maybe not meant to say, that is a good route. If you’re really honest with people, it’s harder for them to reply negatively. But, it’s something you need to work on because we’ve been trained to write in a certain way.

 

Jon Buchan:

The other thing is, as I say, imperfect action every day. That’s super important.

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. I’ll wrap up this part of the show. Before, I’ve got one final question I ask everyone, Jon, to ask you in a second. But, I won’t put you on the spot by asking you if you agree with this, but I will maybe assume that you will. That’s if your sales manager, if your organisation are against some of this, I would always recommend and you can blame me, and send them the link to this part of video, I always recommend to ask for forgiveness rather than permission. Especially if everyone in your market’s doing the same thing, everyone in your company’s doing the same thing and everyone is getting the same results, it’s worth testing it. For 10 emails, 50 emails a week, or whatever it is.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. You can either blend in or you can stand out. One of those is beneficial and one is very much not.

 

Jon’s Advise to His Younger Self on How to Become Better at Selling · [31:37]

 

Will Barron:

Amazing stuff. Well, I’ve got one final question I ask everyone that comes on the show, Jon. I know you’re not a “sales professional” necessarily, but you’ll have insights to this, I’m sure. If you could go back in time, and speak to your younger self and give him one piece advice that helped him become better at selling, which has nothing to do with humour, what would that one piece of advice be?

 

Jon Buchan:

I wouldn’t just blanket emails to marketing directors. I would spend more time picking the clients that I really, really wanted to work with. Or, at least had somewhat of an interest in what they did. Because if you can pick your clients, you obviously can’t pick if they’re nice people or not, most people are. But, I would have been more precise in who I targeted because I just found something that worked, so I was just indiscriminately firing it out. But I went to a lot of meetings that I probably should have gone to. I would have been more careful in picking how I want to work with, that would have been far more efficient and far more profitable, longterm. That’s what I would say.

 

Why You Don’t Need to Work with Everybody · [32:31] 

 

Will Barron:

There’s different ways to describe this. Would you suggest you’d go after an account based marketing approach as opposed to an industry approach?

 

Jon Buchan:

Well, I’d still do stuff at scale but highly targeted, like the stuff Ryan talks about, from LeadIQ. High targeted, I really want to work with these brands. But then, even with other stuff that maybe isn’t as personalised, I would be more careful in choosing who I contacted. I’d have to have some interest in the sector, or there’d have to be something other than just the money, the reason that I would be working with them. I would say that now.

 

Jon Buchan:

I used to decry that because I used to be, “No, of course it’s about the money.” But now, I’ve learned that no, that’s another platitude that is important. You will do better work for companies if you’ve got an interest in what they do. That’s what I would suggest.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. If you’re listening to this and you’re like me, which was a full stack salesperson of doing the lead generation, the account management, all this kind of stuff, what you’re talking about there, Jon, leads to more referrals. Which, two, three years down the line, makes everything so much easier and reduces some of the pressure of some of this, right?

 

Jon Buchan:

Exactly, yeah. Yeah. You’re going to do better work, you’re going to have more results to talk about, you’re going to have more referrals, it’s going to be better longterm. And, short term because you’re going to deal with less clients that you don’t really want to work on. It’s both beneficial short term and longterm.

 

Parting Thoughts · [33:48] 

 

Will Barron:

Great. Well, with that, what a way to wrap up the show, Jon, tell us where we can find out more about you, where we can find the Facebook group. And then, I know you’ve got some kind of training and things as well, so share some of those with us.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah. If you go to charm-offensive.co.uk, that’s charm-offensive.C-O.uk/salesmen, I will send you my little bag of tricks. That will have my magic email cheat sheet, I’ve got a mini B2B sales guide and an assortment of other goodies that will help you make outbound sales and get better responses to your cold pitches. And, I have a selection of other stuff as well.

 

Jon Buchan:

Also, if you go to the Facebook, so just search for Charm Offensive and there’s a Facebook group there with a little bit over 10,000 members. If you’re not on Facebook, you can find me on LinkedIn, just search for Jon Buchan and you’ll find the profile picture of me, rescuing a baby and a basket of kittens from a burning building. That’s how you find me. Yeah, I hope to speak to some of you guys soon.

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. Well, I’ll link to all that in the show notes of this episode. We’ll do salesman.org/ferret. With that, Jon, I appreciate your time, mate, your energy on this, I really enjoyed the conversation. I’ll say this on air. We’ll get you on, I’m sure Ryan will be up for it. We’ll get you on with Ryan from LeadIQ.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah, yeah.

 

Will Barron:

I feel like you two, I won’t have to do anything, you guys will just meld together in a pot of show together that way.

 

Jon Buchan:

Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

I’ll reach out to him now and I’ve committed to it on air, so we’ll do that. With that, thanks again for joining us on The Salesman Podcast.

 

Jon Buchan:

Thank you very much.

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