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Inside Self-Storage Magazine 07/2004: The Chuckle Rule

Tron Jordheim Comments
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The Chuckle Rule

By Tron Jordheim

There are many mathematical formulas and behavior theories one could consider when crafting a sales program and projecting a sales cycle. None of these prescriptions is more fun than the “Chuckle Rule.”

There are a few basic drives that steer humanity. First, there are basic physical needs, such as food and shelter. Then there are more emotional forces, such as love, fear and greed. Some behaviorists might disagree, but I believe laughter is another of the basic drives that determine human behavior. It certainly is one of the healthiest, most enjoyable activities in which a person can participate. When laughter is involved in the selling process, it becomes a powerful tool.

Most selling situations can get a little tense. There are a lot of emotions involved in any buying process. Many people do not find their need for storage to be a happy circumstance. In the self-storage market, sales situations often involve two or more companies competing for a prospect’s business, which can bring pressure to a boiling point. If your occupancy is a little off or you feel threatened by a new competitor in your market, you might feel the need to fight for your next rental.

So there you are at your counter, not wanting a prospect to slip away. Then there is the prospect, who, in many cases, would rather smash his thumb with a hammer than have to put his stuff in storage. The use of all your best sales techniques might seal the deal and get a signature on the lease. But there is a simple, fun method to dramatically increase the likelihood of doing business with the customer: Share a few laughs.

Here is the fine print on the Chuckle Rule: The laugh has to be generated by something appropriate that fits the situation. You need to listen to the prospect, assess his mood, and then find something about which to joke or laugh. With the first chuckle, you will see the stress on the prospect’s face melt away and a shine start to show in his eyes. The second laugh will give the person an even deeper release; the third will make you friends for life! OK, maybe the effect isn’t quite that dramatic. The point is to make your prospect feel comfortable, even better about his situation.

You may, in your quest to share a giggle, encounter a prospect with no sense of humor. Or, if he is from another country, his concept of humor may simply differ from yours. In that case, you’ll need to rely on your well-honed sales skills. But there are a few ways to prime people for a good laugh. Find some clean, funny cartoons and post them in your office. You might get a chuckle out of a prospect before you even say hello! You can also learn a few good jokes and share the laughs while giving facility tours.

The power of the chuckle is exponential. Two laughs shared increases your likelihood of doing business by a factor of four. Keep in mind, there is a point of diminishing returns somewhere around the third to fifth laugh, depending on the situation and the people involved. Laughter will never ensure the sale, but it will help establish a good rapport with your clients. And once you set the precedent, customers may come into your office just to share a joke or comic. Give your them chuckles, and they will come back for more.

Tron Jordheim is the director of PhoneSmart, which serves the self-storage industry as an off-site sales force that turns missed calls into rentals. This rollover-call service serves as a backup to store managers. Mr. Jordheim has started several successful businesses from scratch, and assisted with acquisitions as general manager of the Mid-Missouri Culligan Bottled Water franchise. For more information call 866.639.1715; e-mail

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