This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Like you, I get a lot of unsolicited email inviting me to do business with strangers. Those messages are almost always immediately deleted or saved in the “How Not to Engage a Stranger”/“How Not to Ask for a Meeting” folder. (I really do have said folder.)

Not long ago, though, I got one that really stood apart—so much so that it got saved in a much more desirable folder. Last week’s tip about humor as a trust-builder reminded me of it.

The author’s opening paragraph is my favorite:

Hi Andrea-

Can you believe it’s that time again already?! Yep, it’s been a few months since I last nagged you like an (my) overbearing mother to dig deep into your budget and order some logo’d goodies. If there’s one thing I learned in business school (literally – I learned one thing) it’s to “follow up” with my “best clients” regularly. And to use lots of words like “synergies” and “enterprise solutions” and “vertical integrations” when talking to them.

I was chuckling as I read it, and I was impressed by her ability to artfully make fun of herself (and me, whether she realized it or not). I actually opened up a search window and found her website. (No, I didn’t give her the satisfaction of a click-through; I’m still a little too ornery for that.) Then I shared some of her products with my team. That was a first.

[Tweet “Do you really want to get someone’s attention? Here’s a lesson from an unsolicited email: #getreal”]

The lesson here is relevant to far more than low-end product peddlers. I’ve been in and around professional services for over 25 years now, so it’s not a big stretch to assert that your emails, PowerPoints, and conversations would benefit from a little humor—self-deprecating or otherwise. Think about those times when you really want to get someone’s attention: during oral proposals, or when a client has been non-responsive, or even when you’re making initial contact.

You’d probably tone it down a bit from the model above, depending on your style and your audience. And that’s OK as long as you don’t take all the risk out of it, since part of the magic is in the risk-taking.

I’m willing to bet you’d also be the one among the masses who actually gets a favorable response.

Make It Real

This week, gather your team and brainstorm ways you could bring a little creative humor to an existing client. Then pick the best idea and, as the Nike saying goes, “Just do it.”

Learn More

Find creative inspiration in this conference call parody, or refresh on ways to “ditch the pitch” in Chapter 13 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).