Hey, Salespeople — Welcome to Meme Selling 101!



Posted: October 19, 2015 | Sales

Does this situation sound familiar? —

You’re sitting at your desk. You’ve been waiting for your prospect to get back to you—phone call, email, visit to the office—anything! But nothing is happening. You’re raking your brain, trying to figure out what to do. You thought the sale was in the bag, but it’s becoming more and more clear that perhaps that wasn’t the case after all. So, you wonder, what can you do to get back in touch with this prospect and get them excited about you and your product again? I have the answer.

It’s meme selling.

OK, you may be thinking, “What selling?!” For all you meme novices out there, let me get you up to speed. A meme is a curated image or video that is meant to get a laugh. It tends to spread rapidly over the internet, often through social media.

Now that you have that background, let me dive into your next question, which is, What is meme selling? Meme selling is the rip cord of sales strategies; when all other options have been exhausted, one of the tools at your disposal is to insert a funny meme or image and click send. Consider using it when you’ve been unable to get a response from a client that you have an established relationship with, or when you think that humor will differentiate you from your competitors late in the sales cycle. It’s generally reserved for when you have nothing left to lose, or when things are definitively not going your way. At that point, you can appeal to a prospect by showing that you are a human, not just a robot on the other end.

Here is an example of what a meme email looks like. (It’s worth noting that this particular email has garnered around a 25% response rate from prospects that were previously non-responsive!):

Hi Barb,

Tried reaching you a few times regarding your interest in our product—you’re hard to catch, which brings me to one of a few conclusions. Let me know what best fits you…

  • No interest
  • Let’s chat
  • Being chased by a hippo and need you to call Animal Control




Benefits of incorporating humor into your sales cycle

1. Getting through to prospects that have gone dark: After investing any significant amount of time with a prospect, there is nothing worse than never hearing from them again. As a sales person riding the eternal rollercoaster of emotion that a career in sales will take you on, being left wondering what happened, what changed, what you might have done wrong, is just additional wear and tear on your psyche. The following response, which I have actually received after sending the hippo email, is a lot better than the nagging curiosity that complete radio silence leaves you with:

That is hilarious! Sorry for the slow response. Priorities have shifted internally. Can we put time on the calendar to chat during the first week of next month?”

2. Humanizing yourself to your prospect: When your prospects think of you as just another sales person, they have no sense of responsibility to pick up your phone call or reply to your email. Think about it, how likely are you to feel any responsibility to respond to or follow up with a telemarketer?—little to none, I imagine. In fact there is evidence to prove that inserting humor can lead to a larger commission check. In the book “Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be More Persuasive,” authors Noah J. Goldstein, Robert B. Cialdini, and Steven J. Martin showed that sending a funny, inoffensive cartoon to the person you’re negotiating with that made them laugh generated higher levels of trust—and led to 15% larger profits.

3. Building stronger relationships: When we’re at the office day in and day out, it’s nice to inject some humor and laughter here and there to mix things up. The bonus? Prospects will remember you as being the funny one who made them laugh, and therefore you will be more memorable than a competitor’s sales rep who didn’t have that lasting effect. Your relationship will be fortified from this simple approach. If you have built a strong relationship with your prospect, they will be more candid with you, will be willing to refer business your way, and will be more likely to respond to your communications. As a Marketo account exec, I have been in many long negotiation sessions working out all of the fine print. After a particularly drawn out and grueling call with a professional contract negotiator, we finally sealed the deal. After getting the final signature, I sent the following meme to my new customer:


He had a good laugh. Since then we have continued to stay in touch and he has become a great reference that I have leveraged to win competitive deals. Clearly, humor is the gift that keeps on giving.

You don’t need to sell me any further. How do I get started?

Before spending the next 8 hours googling memes, here are six best practices for incorporating these bits of humor into your sales cycle:

  1. Know your audience: In my experience, the majority of people prefer a little bit of humor in their work day. However, there are definitely people out there that may perceive it as unprofessional. Assess your audience and use your best judgment before clicking send.
  2. With power comes great responsibility: When you know that the prospect has made up their mind on their vendor of choice, and it’s not you, it may be very tempting to send something that pushes the boundaries—but don’t. It’s best to know when to stop the communications.
  3. Timing is everything: Most comedians agree that timing is one of the largest factors in whether or not a joke is going to fall flat on its face. This is very much the case in humorous sales email communication. Imagine if you sent a prospect the hippo email after only three touches in a week; chances are they would find you extremely annoying. Conversely, if you come up with something hilarious but some time has passed since the joke would have been relevant, don’t take the risk and instead, just let it go. As a safety measure, always run it by a co-worker and ask how they would react if they were your prospect.
  4. Know your meme: If you are going to use an actual meme, make sure you have an understanding of what the meme actually refers to, and how people generally understand it. To learn about them, visit the Wikipedia of memes.
  5. Use this strategy sparingly: There was a vendor selling into my organization a few months back, and the sales rep sent at least two meme email blasts per week to everyone who was trialing their product. At first it was funny, but it quickly turned annoying. A good rule of thumb is to never send a meme email more than once per sales cycle and only in sales where it will be very well received.
  6. Be prepared for your prospects to respond in kind: A coworker of mine actually received the meme below in an email from a prospect. There was quite a lot of laughter on the sales floor, but I’ve gotta say, receiving a “no” is definitely still better than hearing crickets. If you get a response like this from one of your prospects, share it with your team, laugh a little, cry a little, and move on to the next one.


Memes are a powerful tool. At their core, they’re snippets of humor that make you human and relatable. If you use them sparingly and wisely, they’ll have a great effect where they’re needed.

If you or anyone on your team has used memes in your emails with prospects or customers, and had success, please share below!

Nikita Ovtchinikov is an Account Executive at Marketo. Outside of helping companies identify and meet their marketing needs, he is an avid reader, aspiring futurist, and top-notch cook. He also enjoys talking philosophy and traveling to exotic locales.

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#Sales people, listen up! How "meme selling" can wake up a prospect gone silent

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