A Good Reason To Laugh

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Neighboring graveyards aren’t always viewed as a selling point by most buyers. But Mary Shelsby, a real estate professional with RE/MAX Realty Group in Pittsford, N.Y., promoted it on a For Sale sign rider. The sign read: “Quiet neighbors across the street!” “The buyers bought the house specifically because of the cemetery — it’s now their favorite place to walk their dog,” Shelsby says.
Research has shown that one of the best ways to improve customer relationships is to get ’em to laugh. Customers are more likely to want to work with a real estate professional with a good sense of humor, according to a study by Baylor University’s Keller Center. The study also found that a good sense of humor can be a boon for your reputation.
According to author Karyn Buxman, “humor can be really helpful in making sales and developing relationships.” Buxman speaks to businesspeople in many industries, including real estate, about the benefits of humor in the workplace. “But you can’t just let humor happen by chance. Be strategic. Think of humor as a resource in your toolbox, not one that accidentally falls out every once in a while.”
Buxman says humor has been shown to deflate stress, ease tension, create more memorable marketing messages, and improve rapport. It can also help diffuse a difficult client by getting them off balance for a moment while you regroup to address their needs or concerns.
But is Real Estate Actually Funny?
Relationships can get tense in the home-buying and home-selling processes. Clients are often stressed and frustrated. But is laughter really the best medicine?
Real estate broker Herman Chan with Sotheby’s International Realty’s LuxSFHomes.com in the San Francisco Bay Area promotes his business as “real estate with a punch line.” He created a video blog about real estate and home design called “Habitat for Hermanity,” which pokes fun at the real estate business while empowering buyers and sellers with real estate tips. The humor-laced messages helped Chan become a real estate personality who writes columns for media outlets like the San Francisco Chronicle and has been featured on HGTV’s “House Hunters” and “My House is Worth What?”
“Consumers nowadays are socialized to receive information with humor.” Chan says having a sense of humor is especially important for blogging and social media strategy. He has more than 35,000 Facebook and Twitter followers.
Some real estate pros take an offbeat approach to differentiate themselves in a packed field. For example, a video ad from the Harris Group in Vancouver, B.C., featured a fictitious agent named Gary Schlitz, ostensibly the worst real estate agent ever. In the video, Schlitz shares one of his best ways to promote his real estate business: “Ever hear about whisper marketing? I go around to high-market areas and whisper my name, Gary Schlitz, to passersby on the street. That generates a lot of hits every once in a while. And once I get a phone that will work out a lot better.”
The take-home message at the end of the video: Don’t get stuck with that guy. The Harris Group will connect you to a real professional.
Shelsby says humor is an important trait to have in interactions with customers, too. “Everyone knows how stressful buying or selling a property can be. So I will crack a joke, be a little silly, or do whatever it takes to get a smile and a deep breath out of my clients. People make better decisions when they are relaxed, and what is more relaxing than a good giggle?”
Can I Be Funny?
You might think you don’t have anything funny to say, or that by cracking a joke you’ll run the risk of looking unprofessional. Or maybe you just don’t see the humor in your local market. But you don’t have to be David Letterman to be successful at adding humor in professional interactions, Buxman says. “The strategic use of humor means more than cracking a few jokes. It’s a systematic way to approach every single aspect of your career. Learning how to identify the lighter side, and using humor to bolster your emotional reserves, will make you happier, too.”
Buxman says the first step is to change the way you filter your experiences, and start seeing the humor you might be missing all around you. “Part of discovering humor is playing with your mind-set,” she says. One of the most overlooked places for humor is pain or stress. Next time you’re having a tough day, ask yourself, “How could this be worse?” In order to answer the question, you may find you need to exaggerate the situation to the point of absurdity. That can both bring you humor and help put things in proper perspective, Buxman says.
Overcoming Fear of Humor
Whether you’re a comedic genius or a joke-cracking novice, the worry that no one will laugh at your punch line is universal. Thankfully, there are a few ways to lower the pressure.
First, keep your jokes short. Buxman says one-line jokes get a chuckle more easily and people are more quickly satisfied. If you tell a five-minute story, there’s more expectation for an epically funny pay-off.
Always avoid race-, religion-, or gender-based jokes and any humor that makes light of serious violence. Also, you should always carefully consider your relationship with the recipient of your humor to decide whether it’s appropriate. If someone you’ve been working with for years ends up not finding your attempt at humor funny, they’ll probably get over it. But, “if you’re meeting a customer for the first time, using humor inappropriately will likely damage or ruin that relationship,” Buxman says. “The stronger the relationship, the riskier the humor can be.”
“When you poke fun at yourself, you show yourself as more human, so the listener often feels safer to share and develop a rapport that strengthens your relationship,” Buxman says. “The humor diminishes any perceived hierarchy, and the client feels more open to participate in the fun.”

By: Melissa Dittmann Tracey, www.realtormag.realtor.org

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