Be Like Sam

Green Eggs And HamMany voluminous books have been written about sales, some technical, some strategic and some tactical. However, there really is only one book that you need to read on the subject of sales and that book comes from a very unlikely source, Dr. Seuss.

Without realizing it, Dr. Seuss drafted the salesman’s manifesto in the form of “Green Eggs and Ham”. If you have an average salesperson’s intellect, like myself, you will find the book especially appealing, as it only utilizes 50-distinct words, 48-of which are only one syllable.

The Plot
Sam I AmOur protagonist, Sam, is an androgynous creature, which fits well with his / her asexual name. This depiction makes Sam’s appeal universal. Man or woman, the tactics deployed by Sam are applicable to any sales situation and can be put to use by any salesperson, irrespective of their gender. For sake of grammatical convenience, I will refer to Sam as a man in the remainder of this entry.

The story begins with the unwitting, future customer relaxing and reading the paper. Sam-I-Am enters stage right, riding a Seussian creature and holding a sign which reads, “Sam-I-Am”.

This is Sam’s cold call. The last thing on the Prospect’s mind is buying something from Sam or anyone else for that matter. However, Sam is fearless. He introduces himself to his Prospect wearing a large, sincere smile.

Why is Sam smiling? Is it because he is trying to ‘trick’ the customer? Is he already counting his future commission? Is his smile a cynical attempt to disarm the Prospect and ingratiate himself?

No, the answer is D: None of the above.

Sam is smiling because he knows that he has something the Prospect will love and eventually thank him for bringing to his attention. He is so confident in his green eggs and ham ‘product’, that he cannot do anything but smile.

The customer’s initial reaction is rather predictable. He is irritated at being interrupted by an unsolicited salesperson, just like you would be if you received a telemarketing call during dinner. Thus, without knowing who Sam is or what he is selling, the Prospect lashes out and tells Sam that he, “does not like him”. Right from the start, Sam is forced to endure the most painful of all forms of rejection, a personal attack.

However, Sam remains undeterred. He continues smiling and deploys a rudimentary sales technique. Instead of acknowledging the personal repudiation, he poses a simple question in a form which cannot be answered with “no”. He asks the Prospect if he would like the product “here or there”, pointing to two spots on the ground and smiling his winning smile.

As the book continues, the studious reader will note Sam’s subtle but powerful use of body language. When reprimanded by the Prospect, he is appropriately conciliatory, looking up at the Prospect with puppy dog eyes and a sorrowful look of disappointment. However, when posing a question, he turns on his smile and raises his eyebrows, forcing the Prospect to fill the silence with a reply.

Despite being a children’s book, it makes for painful reading, as Sam is repeatedly rejected, at times in a vicious manner. However (Spoiler Warning…) Sam’s persistence finally wears the Prospect down, at which point he makes a deal with Sam.

In exchange for demoing the product, he asks that Sam to agree to leave him alone after the demo. Sam smiles but never explicitly acknowledges this ‘deal’, thereby giving himself the option of continuing his sales tactics, irrespective of the Prospect’s reaction to the demo.

Fortunately, Sam does not have to continue ‘selling’ once the demo is completed. After trying the product, the Prospect grins broadly, puts his arm around Sam and tells him, “Thank you. Thank you. Sam-I-Am.”

Sam-I-Am Lessons Learned
There are a number of practical sales lessons that we can draw from this opus, including the following:

  • Persistence – As every sales textbooks will tell you, there is no substitute for persistence. Sam exemplifies this truism. Until the moment the Prospect finally demos the product, it appears that Sam has no chance of success. However, Sam never loses hope, and never gives up.
  • Research – Sam’s persistence is not born of ignorance. His knowing smile indicates that he is highly confident that his product is ‘right’ for the Prospect and that it is his ‘duty’ to ensure that the Prospect experiences the product’s value first-hand. This perspective is crucial to a salesperson’s ultimate success. You must have enough confidence in your product to push through baseless objections and ensure that your Prospect experiences your product, and thereby judges it on its merits. An effective way to bolster your confidence is to research and fully understand the degree of fit between your product and the Prospect’s needs. The reason Sam can handle the litany of rejections is because he is confident that his product is a good fit for the Prospect, due to his thorough research.
  • No Drama – Sam also realizes that the Prospect’s reaction is not based on knowledge – his blanket rejection is a coping mechanism that many people utilize to deal with the competing demands on their time. Sam does not get caught up in the Prospect’s emotions. Instead, he remains focused on encouraging the Prospect to demo his product, as Sam knows that the product will deliver real value to the Prospect and that the Prospect will ultimately “thank him” for introducing him to the product, once he validates the value proposition firsthand.
  • Affability – Sam remains affable throughout the entire sales process. Even when the prospect personally attacks him, and is downright rude, Sam realizes that the ultimate payoff (his commission and the Prospect’s satisfaction with the product) make dealing with the short-term discomforts bearable.
  • Listen and Adapt – Sam listens to his Prospect’s objections and adjusts his tactics to best suit an evolving situation. He probes to better understand his Prospect’s needs with questions like, “would like the product, in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain, with a mouse, etc”. In each instance, Sam actively listens to his Prospect’s responses, and attempts to satisfy all of his needs by creating third-party bundles that offer his Prospect holistic solutions. Effective salespeople attempt to satisfy all their prospects’ needs, even those needs which extend beyond what his product can fulfill on its own. Such value-added selling elevates the salesperson’s role to that of a consultive partner.
  • Manage Expectations – Sam does not tout his product’s features, nor does he oversell his product. Instead, he focuses on the objective at hand, which is to get his Prospect to demo the product. By avoiding puffery and overselling, Sam is able to reach his goal of performing a demo while still setting low expectations. By properly managing the Prospect’s expectations, Sam has lowered the bar with respect to the impact his product must make to grab the Prospect’s attention. This ‘expectation management’ significantly contributes to the Prospect’s eventual positive user experience. By the time the Prospect finally tries the product, he fully expects to be disappointed. Thus, he is delighted when he realizes that the product delivers value to him, despite his misgivings.
  • Humility – Sam remains humble and committed to his Prospect’s satisfaction throughout the sales cycle, even after the Prospect becomes a Customer and admits that he loves the product.Once the sale is completed, it would be tempting for Sam to say, “I told you so”. However, he realizes that he is forming a long-term relationship with his Customer, which must be based on mutual respect. Any insinuation of “I told you so” could engender animosity that would undercut the good rapport that Sam has worked so hard to establish.

Throw out Porter, Moore and Christensen and make room for Dr. Seuss. After all, “Green Eggs and Ham” helped the US win the Cold War – it might prove to be an equally effective ‘secret weapon’ for you as well.

Your Turn
This list only scratches the surface of the lessons that can be drawn from “Green Eggs and Ham”. What other “Lessons” that can be drawn from this master work? I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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  • Sales and Emotional IQ-

    Sam does a fantastic job of deploying emotional intelligence throughout his ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ sales process. He knows what is and what is not being sold, and fearlessly attempts to discover the correct ‘fit’ for how Green Eggs and Ham will solve a specific need or pain experienced by the prospect. Salespeople are often emotionally reactive to objections and rejection, blinding them from even identifying the shape of the prospect?s pain, commonly resulting in anger toward the prospect, the product/service sold, their own self-confidence, or any combination thereof. Sam displays usage of emotional intelligence through understanding that a sale or no-sale is a function of solving the ‘fit’ equation- finding where one piece of a sales puzzle fits perfectly with a corresponding shape. Sam-I-Am knows that puzzle pieces are all different- just like people, product features, and customer needs. In order to find the right fit, salespeople must become familiar with the different shapes of the pieces to see how they might fit together. Puzzle piece in hand, eyes scanning the puzzle for the right fit, and attempting to fit the piece in a myriad of positions on the puzzle is how the right puzzle piece fit is properly discovered. How easy this process becomes is directly correlated to the emotional IQ utilized by the puzzle solver.

    Sales processes are exactly the same. A salesperson must understand what shapes (features/benefits) are intrinsic to what is sold, subsequently, they must identify and test how those shapes could fit with another puzzle piece (sales prospect). Sam-I-Am doesn’t get angry at his prospect, his Green Eggs and Ham, his confidence in Green Eggs and Ham, or at any element of what he’s selling. He simply tests one fit after another until he finds one that works. Regardless of the emotional state of the prospect, Sam-I-Am remains unwavering in his confidernce because he doesn?t see the problem characterized as a crummy prospect, product/service, confidence level, or otherwise. Sam-I-Am sees the problem characterized as rationally fitting the pieces together, testing and adapting the fit to finally solve the puzzle (make the sale). This is an easier lens to see the sales process through; it does not involve temporary feelings about oneself or one?s products or services, it simply involves discovery of a proper fit for the puzzle pieces within the sales process, eliminating ups and downs salespeople commonly experience thus facilitating more consistent sales environments.

    Once the right fit is uncovered, the pieces fit seamlessly together. Salespeople should attempt to uncover the perfect fit between a product/service and its user in the same fashion.

    Test your E-IQ:

    Q: When attempting to solve puzzles in the past, does anger arise toward the pieces and/or the puzzle when it seems impossible to find a fit? Perhaps thoughts that the puzzle creator must have made a mistake in the design, or perhaps thoughts arise that a particular piece may belong to a whole different puzzle entirely? Do conclusions that the puzzle is inherently flawed result in the puzzle being thrown to the trash?

    a) Yes, I hate puzzles. They make me mad and it takes too long to put them together. I’ll never do another puzzle as long as I live.

    b) Once I did have a problem where I found pieces from a different puzzle in the box of the puzzle I was attempting. It frustrated me so I gave up and decided it was too much hassle to organize the pieces.

    c) No, I don’t get upset at puzzles. I enjoy them because they require delicacy, patience, and problem solving skills to complete successfully. I’ll take a whirl at a good puzzle any day; I love the challenge.

    d) Some puzzles are harder than others. If they aren’t too complicated, I don’t mind taking a snap at it; but if the puzzle is for advanced puzzle enthusiasts, I’ll pass.

    e) Often times I start puzzles but am unable to finish because they get too hard and they take too long. I generally let my friends go at it after I’ve given up.

    f) It really depends on the kind of day I’m having. Some days it seems like I can put together pieces in a puzzle without even thinking about it, and it’s really easy. Other days though, it is as if none of the pieces will fit, and sometimes I even try to force them. In this case, my frustration takes days for me to get over and finally I muster the energy to go back and attempt where I left off, praying the day is one of my lucky days.

    What kind of sales E-IQ profile was your best match?

    If you answered,

    a) You probably don’t have the patience for sales. Sales is a process, and successful salespeople can’t get upset just because the process gets brutal at times. It is part of the process, and if it creates misery when attempting sales, a better job ‘fit’ in your company is probably a better alternative.

    b) Make sure you know what it is you’re selling. If you came from a different style of sales job than your current one, and you are finding it difficult to adjust, don’t get upset. Sometimes bringing in the wrong pieces (sales concepts/features) from a different box (company) can throw you off. This becomes frustrating during the sales process because trying to employ sales techniques that aren’t relevant to your new sales job, or highlighting features and benefits that aren’t necessarily relevant to the products or services you are now selling simply does not uncover the proper product-user fit. Your new sales job might involve selling something completely different that what you?re accustomed too. Keep in mind the sales process specifics are generally different from one company to another.

    c) You are Sam-I-Am! Sam handles the sales process delicately by politely listening, behaving patiently in approaching the prospect, and going through a discovery process to reveal the fit between Green Eggs and Ham and the Prospect’s needs. He does this all while enjoying the process of solving the problem. Sam is confident that what he is selling has a fit for the prospect, and is eager to accept the challenge of finding that fit, irrespective of the difficulty involved.

    d) You’ll do fine in sales environments where there is not common rejection, but attempting a sales job that requires cold-calling would probably not be the right sales job fit for you.

    e) Sales is probably a tedious task for you, and you would probably be doing something else if you had the choice, so you probably should make that choice. Find people like Sam-I-Am for your sales force unless you don’t have that option.

    f) You are a shooting star salesperson. When you’re on, you’re on; but when you’re off, you probably don’t even show up to work. You like the rewards that sales jobs can provide, but it becomes an emotional roller-coaster for you because you are unable to identify what that secret ‘juice’ is that makes everything perfect on the ‘good days’, thereby creating an inability to know what it takes to perform consistently over time. You must figure out what makes you tick on the good days, and figure out a way to return to this state when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed on your bad days. This is the most difficult E-IQ profile to adjust- on those days that you aren?t working, you set yourself and your company back more and more by ignoring and blowing off potential clients. These kinds of salespeople often think the great ?lucky? days justify the bad days, and this is generally not true. This belief can easily poison part or all of a salesforce, which can result in bigger losses than those incurred on the ?off days? of just one person, it affects the entire sales team. These people are great because they sometimes come through in crunch times, but they will cause big headaches for any enterprise.

    First, sales E-IQ is focused on understanding where one fits on the emotional profile spectrum- this can help to determine if one should even attempt to go into sales, and can save people lots of time and stress.

    Second, sales E-IQ focuses on mental and emotional agility. This takes the knowledge of a current emotional IQ profile and designs a solution to ‘adapt’ a person?s emotional IQ profile in order to enhance current sales performance. (i.e., a superstar salesperson adjusting their emotional perspective on sales in general- although very difficult to accomplish, if they can rid themselves of the emotional perspective on sales, and at the same time maintain the charisma that makes them effective, this adjustment can create the very best salespeople around).

    Sam-I-Am demonstrates correct use of emotional intelligence. He is aware of his emotional state and adapts his emotional profile to better communicate with the prospect, enabling increased ease in the discovery process, eventually resulting in a sale. Discovering the correct puzzle-piece – product-user fit while maintaining emotional and mental agility, sometimes in the face of complete rejection, is the product of proper E-IQ understanding.

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  • Anonymous

    Its funny how Dr. Seuss makes such a credible book on salesmanship, while also publishing books like the Lorax about how incentive systems in herent in capitalism make people exploit resources in an unhealthy way.

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