Sell to Win

How I learned to stop worrying and love meme sales

David Vallance
Contributor, Sell to Win
David Vallance
Contributor, Sell to Win
Deal with it meme

Mattia Schaper used to write boring sales emails.

She was just starting out in her sales career and copied what everyone else was doing: filling outreach with simple, straightforward, and dry messaging. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t get many responses.

But that all changed when she started experimenting with memes.

Today, as an SDR at SalesLoft, she’s the undisputed queen of sales memes.

If she sees open activity on an email, she’ll send her prospects a Shining meme.

When a buyer ghosts her, she drops this skeleton.

And it works.

“Memes are a wonderful way of communicating humor and making people laugh,” she says. “You can build strong connections on that.”

She’s part of a new generation of sellers using memes, gifs, and humor to boost open rates, land meetings, and open accounts.

Here’s how it works.

What is meme selling?

You probably know what a meme is, right? A viral internet joke usually in the form of an image, gif, or video. Sad Keanu, Doge, First World Problems, that sort of thing. While they’re popular on Facebook, you don’t see many memes in the business world. (Well, apart from a few exceptions like memelord Elon Musk.)

Folks think they’re too informal and flippant. They say adding memes to your sales outreach cheapens your pitch and distracts your buyers.

But the data says otherwise.

After analyzing 10 million meme interactions, viral marketing platform Memeois showed that using memes in marketing increased reach by 10X and organic engagement by 60%. That correlation even holds up in “serious” industries like healthcare.

“While the healthcare industry average hovers around 6% (email marketing), the CTR of our social worker meme campaign was 14%,” said Karina Tama-Rutigliano, a business consultant for the senior care industry. “After we sent out the campaign, we also received positive feedback from our sales team, which works directly with our referral sources.”

If it works for marketing, there’s a good chance it’ll work for sales. That’s not just conjecture. We’ve heard from countless high-performing sales reps about their meme selling successes. By carefully deploying memes throughout their sales process, they’re engaging new prospects, strengthening relationships, and nudging buyers toward conversion.

5 prime opportunities for memes

Much like a chainsaw, memes can be useful tools in the right hands or disastrous in the wrong ones. Replying to a serious technical query with a flippant meme isn’t going to win you a new customer. But celebrating a successful meeting with an inside joke? That could work.

To help sort the misguided memes from the prime opportunities, we found three rockstar sellers using memes in their outreach. We asked what’s working and where their memes are most effective.

Here are their go-to use cases for memes.

#1 First touch attention grabber

When to use it: On your first touch with a cold prospect.

Alex Kracov was employee number three at Lattice and its first revenue hire. In his four-year tenure, he grew revenue from zero to $50 million. Humor was a big part of his success. It helped cut through the noise and differentiate Lattice from dozens of solemn competitors.

“I'm a big fan of sales outreach that lightens the mood,” Alex explains. “Sales memes are a great way to catch people's attention.”

Take a look at this cold outreach campaign Alex ran back in 2019.

The copy is nothing special. Sure, it’s concise and relevant, but there’s no personalization. Instead, it relies on the Baby Yoda meme (which was huge at the time) to grab his prospect’s attention.

For reps thinking about adding memes to their first touch, Alex has one main piece of advice: “Follow up the joke with a solid argument on why the prospect should buy your product.”

Your memes can’t be your entire pitch. No one is going to buy your product or service because they smiled once. It’s an attention grabber. It gives you another two or three seconds to tell a potential buyer how you can help them achieve their goals.

#2 Pattern breaker follow-up

When to use it: Mid-sequence when a prospect shows little to no activity.

The response rate on a single email is close to zero. Increase your email count to three and your response rate increases to 9%. Bump your sequence up to seven emails and your response rate jumps to 27%.

The message is clear: more touches are better. But not all touches are created equal. If your emails and messages all look alike, there’s nothing new to catch your prospect’s attention. You have to give people new reasons to respond.

That’s where pattern breaker memes come in.

Check out this one from Mattia Schaper.

That was Mattia’s 20th touch. And guess what? It worked. She booked the meeting. It worked because it’s not another samey sales email. It’s funny and current. It breaks the normal pattern and demands a response.

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#3 Ghosting re-engagements

When to use it: To re-start a conversation with a previously active prospect who has gone quiet.

Your cold outreach was great. Your prospect replied. Your conversation was buzzing. And then… silence. Ghosting really sucks. And it happens—a lot. According to Outreach, half of all prospects who reply to an email end up going quiet.

“Being ghosted feels horrible, not just in sales,” said Mattia. “Because your mind is trying to make up an explanation for why you are being ghosted—and it’s often not pretty, in my case at least.”

But the reality is rarely as horrible as you imagine. Buyers are busy people. This deal is your entire job. Whereas for them, it’s an extra responsibility alongside their full-time gig.

So don’t get mad, frustrated, or downtrodden. Instead, think about how best to re-engage prospects and stay top of mind. According to sales trainer Drewbie Wilson, one of the most effective ways to restart a conversation is with humor.

Drewbie’s “You good?” meme does the same job as a text-based follow-up (bringing your email to the top of your prospect’s inbox) but it does so in an eye-catching way. It’s funny and personable. It reminds your buyer that there’s a real human on the other side of the conversation.

“I use this meme in almost every sales conversation,” says Drewbie. “It is responsible for more than $5,000,000 in sales for our organization.”

#4 Activity-based triggers

When to use it: When your tracking shows a prospect has completed an important action like opening an email or downloading a content asset.

With a half-decent tech stack in place, you can track your buyer’s behavior, monitoring what website pages they’re looking at, content they’re downloading, emails they’re reading, the list goes on.

Reps like to pretend they don’t have access to this information. They play it off as a complete coincidence when they phone a prospect for a catch-up immediately after they reopen a sales email.

But others take a different approach.

For example, Mattia uses certain buyer behaviors as triggers for ad hoc outreach. And in typical Mattia fashion, that outreach is warm, funny, and human.

Okay, it’s a little creepy too… but in a self-acknowledging sort of way. It’s like she’s dropping the pretense and saying, “I can see you’re interested. Let’s talk.” That funny-but-honest approach works. 

The trick is not to overuse this tactic. After all, you don’t want to come across as Big Brother hovering over their shoulder. Instead, give your prospects time to respond on their own schedule. Then, if you’re still not getting replies to your normal touches, try an activity-based meme.

#5 Meeting no-shows

When to use it: To remind a prospect about a meeting they’ve (probably) forgotten about.

It’s 10:00 AM and you log into Zoom for a sales demo. It’s 10:05 AM and you’re still waiting on your prospect. It’s 10:10 AM and you start to wonder whether they’ve forgotten. It’s 10:20 AM and you’re pretty sure they have.

No-shows feel like a gut punch. You’ve put in the hard work, secured a meeting, and have nothing to show for it. It can feel like a personal rejection. But just like mid-conversation ghosting, there are a bunch of reasons why a prospect might no-show.

According to sales and marketing consultant Al Davidson, being overwhelmed by internal events is the most likely (56%) cause of a no-show. Being called into another meeting (10%), having an emergency (6%), technical problems (5.2%), and unexpected travel (5%) round out the top five reasons.

Importantly, none of these have anything to do with you. They’re all just bad circumstances and that means that most no-shows are salvageable.

How do you gently remind a prospect that you’re waiting for them?

With humor, of course.

That’s another Mattia special. She also has a collage of lonely-looking Kermits to pull on her prospect’s heartstrings. She uses them both to chase tardy prospects.

They’re effective because they de-escalates the situation with humor. Folks often don’t reschedule because they’re embarrassed about missing a call. Humor lowers the stakes and makes it easy for someone to jump on Zoom even if they’re half an hour late.

What’s the verdict?

Remember when I said memes were like chainsaws? Well, I want to go back to that because meme selling can go wrong. You can piss off potential buyers and damage your (and your brand’s) credibility. That’s why some people treat meme selling as a last-ditch attempt. 

Nikita Ovtchinikov, VP of Sales at Spectrum Labs, once called meme selling the “ripcord” 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,” she explained. Her point is that if there’s nothing to lose, it doesn’t matter that memes are inherently riskier than a text-only email.

I think Nikita has a point… but her warning goes too far. As the rockstar sellers we spoke to have proved, memes can drive success through the entire sales process—from the first touch through qualification to conversion. So keep memes as a tactic in your toolkit, but use common sense.

You’ll know your prospects better than anyone. If they’re personable, friendly, and receptive to humor, consider experimenting with memes. It could bring you higher connect rates, faster rapport building, and more closed revenue.

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