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5 Selling Principles Learned From Dr. Seuss

Sam I Am had an unattractive product but sold it and made customer happy in the process.

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The other night, when I was putting my 5-year old son to bed, he asked me to read the classic Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss a.k.a.. Theodor Seuss Geisel.

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After we sang some songs and said some prayers, I sat in a rocking chair next to his bed humming a lullaby in the dark musing over the 62-page picture book we had just finished.

The premise is pretty straightforward. A supporting character named "Sam I Am" tries to persuade the unnamed protagonist to taste some green eggs and ham -- all written in the absurdly unique rhyming styling of the Good Doctor.

While simple in its language and composition, there are no fewer than five interesting sales principles that can be gleaned from this toddlers' tome.

1. If it's different, it needs to be free -- at first.

Throughout the entire book Sam tries to convince the main character to try an unappetizing representation of green eggs. Usually, green eggs are a hallmark of spoilage rather than a delicacy but that's what Sam is peddling.

The best course for such a novelty product is to offer it for free to reduce consumer risk and encourage sampling, which works in this case. Once the customer likes the product, then it's logical to move the discussion to value and price, but make it free first.

Related: 4 Creative Ways to Use Free Samples to Grow Your Business

2. Persistency produces results.

Sam asks the protagonist at least a dozen times to consume the components of the breakfast plate. Twelve times!

A typical prospect might call such relentless engagement "harassment" rather than selling, but the point is don't give up if you can't close the sale on your first attempt.

Related: The Art of the Follow-Up

3. Seek and sell the solution.

It's a common sales mistake to sell the features of a product or service, versus the benefits that those features may provide a potential customer. It's long been said that when a consumer buys a drill, they're not buying the drill but rather the holes the drill can create.

The key to successful selling is to focus on the benefits and solutions for the buyer.

In Green Eggs, Sam tries to persuade the reluctant prospect that he might like, and thereby benefit from, the taste, texture and quality of the free food. Toward that end, Sam seeks a variety of different scenarios to try making it easier for the prospective consumer to sample the meal.

Sam is keenly focused on a solution and ultimately the main character sees that.

Related: Forget Your Product: Start Selling 'Solutions' Instead

4. Don't take rejection personally.

Sam remains cheery and unflappable throughout the book, despite more than 80 rebukes, rebuffs and refutations. At every point in the story, the little "salesmen" comes across as genuinely helpful, authentic and upbeat. While the story is silly and nonsensical, Sam's manner is a model for anyone in sales.

Rejection of your product or service is not a rejection of you as a person. The best sales people keep their products and personalities separate.

Related: Seven Rules for Coping with Sales Rejection

5. Relationship is the goal.

At the end of the little book the appreciative and smiling protagonist puts his arm around Sam with a seemingly heartfelt "Thank you" for helping him experience and enjoy the oddly-colored ovum and pork.

The lesson here is that the only way to build a sustainable business is by building lasting trust and relationships with customers.

Although simple and few these points all ring true---while a diction of fiction, it's still worth a look to review and chew on the truths in this book.

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