Marketing and Sales Lessons from Sam I Am

How many times have you read Dr. Seuss’s classic, Green Eggs and Ham?  If you’re anything like me, and/or have any kids, dozens if not hundreds of times.  And yet, not until recently were my eyes opened to the marketing and sales lessons contained within this masterpiece of persistence.

For the uncultured – and therefore unfortunate – among us who have yet to lose themselves in the madcap world of Sam I am and the culinary brilliance that is green eggs and ham, allow me to recap. This classic Seuss book is the fourth largest selling children’s book of all time; and yet – like so many of the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel – there are hidden jewels of profound wisdom and truths sprinkled throughout the seemingly simple but colorful parables.

Purposeful Persistence

I recently met with a colleague who opened my eyes to one such truth contained in the pages of this classic which chronicles the kind but purposeful persistence of Sam I am, in his quest to have his “prospect” try his oddly-hued breakfast offering.  My colleague, Sandra Shock Wallace, a marketing professional, took me aback by engaging me in a bit of Seuss trivia.

“How many times did Sam I am ask his prospect to try his green eggs and ham before he succeeded?”

 “Umm, like…10?  No 20?” “Actually, he asked 88 times. I counted them.” She then presented me with a copy of the book, with each of Sam’s “asks” marked with a green highlighter.  Sandra takes her Seuss seriously! Sure enough, Sam had the perseverance and dedication to ask 88 times.  This reminded me of a statistic I recently heard on the radio:  consumers making large purchasing decisions on average do not decide to buy until the 8th time they are asked.  Ironically, most salespeople never ask for the close more than 3-4 times.  Makes you wonder who’s getting your closes, doesn’t it?

Polite Persistence 

I have to admit that I often saw the story of Green Eggs and Ham as one of Sam wearing down his target, pestering him into submission.  But, as Sandra pointed out to me, Sam is always kind, always polite, never becomes discouraged and he always offers “options.”

“Would you eat them in a box?  Would you eat them with a fox?  On a train?  In a plane?  With a mouse?  In a house?”  And always…Sam asks with a gentle smile.

The really cool thing about the story is that, in the end (spoiler alert!) the target of Sam’s query does in fact try them…and loves them.  In fact, he absolutely adores them!  In the final act of Sam’s culinary quest, his prospect thanks Sam profusely, for his persistence. 

You see, had Sam not been as determined to have his prospect simply “try” the dish, he’d have never realized just how much he enjoyed green eggs and ham.  He would have missed out on one of life’s pleasures, but for the kind tenacity of Sam. Certainly it would have been easier for Sam to stop asking after 4 or 5 times; and who could blame him? After all, repeated rejection itself can be difficult to swallow.  Eighty-eight times until Sam got the close. 

How many times do you ask? So take this lesson from Sam I am, Kind persistence is no sham… And in the end you very well may… find success and make someone’s day.

John Gonzales

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