Let’s talk about Sam.
Sam is a great saleswoman.
Sam has one product to sell,
Green eggs and ham!
In his critically acclaimed, 1960 business development case-study, “Green Eggs and Ham”, Theodore [Dr.] Seuss Geisel introduced one of the most challenging, real time, sales training scenarios; one which every sales professional should study. In this case study we follow a sales representative, Sam-I-Am, while she travels through her sales territory, meets and ultimately sells a new prospect.
The case-study opens with Sam actively marketing and prospecting in her territory. When Sam cold-calls a new prospect, we see that Sam’s diligent prospecting efforts have yielded dividends, because the prospect KNOWS and has an opinion of Sam, albeit a strongly negative one!
The prospect’s feeling should be expected. As Tom McMakin explained in his 2018 article, “Most of us hate salespeople. They’re the bottom-feeders of commerce schooled in the art of deceit and manipulation.” We see that Sam understands her product can bring value to this client, and she will, over the course of the case-study, work to overcome this negative starting position to ultimately win the sale.
It is obvious Sam knows the product, its features and benefits. Throughout the sales cycle, Sam explained at least 12 ways the product could be used and enjoyed. These uses range from locations, altitudes as well as being rodent and small animal safe. Sam also presented the product’s weather resistance and ability to be enjoyed in various modes of transportation.
Sam drove the conversation with no fewer than 15 questions. As a Sales Trainer, I will critique Sam for asking so many closed-ended questions. Sam was fortunate that the prospect was open to sharing objections, getting the client to speak 79.6% of the time without a direct probe. As we read this case-study, we can see and learn from Sam’s one glaring opportunity.
Throughout the sales cycle, Sam met the prospect where and when the prospect had availability. We read about them meeting in the prospect’s office, in the evening, on his commute and seemingly accompanied the prospect on a business trip. This commitment in time and openness to meet the client when the opportunity was presented showed Sam’s focus and drive.
While we don’t know the overall length of this particular sales cycle, we know that Sam fielded a total of 11 objections during qualifying and presentation. After each, Sam either pushed through or acknowledged the objection and along the way executed two trial closes. When Sam felt the prospect was ready, she brought the dance to an end with a confident close and call to action:
“You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may. Try them and you may, I say.”Sam-I-Am, 1960, p. 53
After the ask, she didn’t try to “fill the silence” as the prospect talked himself into the sale! There is no doubt that Sam is a confident and experienced sales professional, because after the close, Sam didn’t say another word in this case study!
Sam’s efforts certainly resulted in the sale. Based on the client’s enthusiasm, we can certainly conclude Sam leveraged the sale into referrals and introductions, getting the very most out of his efforts.
“Green Eggs and Ham” is a “must read” for all new sales reps and, I’m sure, could be shared with young children and new readers. The case-study shows that business development is not an easy process. Selling involves asking questions and listening for the answers. It demands effort and determination. Sales involves a ton of (at times) harsh rejection with the possibility of a wonderful “Yes” at the end of all your hard work!
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