Dr. Seuss’ birthday is just around the corner – March 2nd to be precise. That means that if you’re a salesperson reading this on the big day, you may just be sleeping off the end of month hangover from what I can only imagine has been a wild last week in February.
I’m no Nostradamus. Let’s be honest with ourselves, predicting that the last week in a winter month is going to be hard isn’t exactly a leap to the metaphysical. Just like it doesn’t make me an elite mental gymnast to assume that sales managers everywhere aren’t struggling to keep ahead of the game in 2020.
Dr. Seuss, born Theodor (Ted / Theo) Seuss Geisel, is not only a celebrated children’s author, he’s one of the best selling authors of all time. His works are hallmarks of our childhood and occupy not just shelf space in my home but wall space as well.
I bet you wish your sales teams were peddling books like Oh the Places You’ll Go or Cat in the Hat… sadly, Seuss doesn’t need a sales force to push his genius. We’re out of luck there and anyways, it was my idea first, so dibs.
We can, however, learn from Seuss. There are some great sales lessons from the man’s life as well as from his published works.
Before I delve into the role of sales pulpiteer, March 2nd is not just Seuss’ birthday. It’s the NEA Read Across America Day. If you don’t read to your kids, it’s a great day to start. If you don’t have kids, you can volunteer to read to some kids. Try reaching out to local hospitals or schools or you can check out Reach Out and Read.
So without further ado, or further further ado, here are some lessons you can learn from Seuss – yes even you! (see what I did there?).
Never Welch on a Bet (Do What You Say)
In 1960, Theo Geisel was bet $50 by Bennett Cerf, the founder of Random House publishers, that a book could not be written using only 50 unique words. Over 8 million copies later, Seuss’ masterwork Green Eggs and Ham paid far more than $50 to our Dr. Seuss.
Knowledge is Power
The most basic of sales skills you must master is asking good questions. Not only must you ask good questions, but you unequivocally should know what you want the answer to be and what you will do if you A) get your answer or B) don’t get your answer.
Questions help us explore the customer’s needs. Questions are focused on enabling you to guide the prospect on their journey from a lead to a customer, to an advocate. Ask the questions, collect the information.
Stop pitching and start asking.
Sales meetings are not boxing matches where you exchange blows with your adversary. You’re the attorney collecting facts and making a compelling case for moving forward.
Persistence doesn’t pay, It’s the ONLY thing that pays
Speaking of Green Eggs and Ham, read that one out loud tonight. If you have kids, read it to them. If you’re a crazy person like me, you may even extract some sales lessons for your kids and bore them as you pontificate on sales strategy and tactics. I digress… In this book, using only 50 unique words, Sam-I-Am, our enterprising yet struggling salesperson, has to overcome no less than 73 objections and ask for the sale 13 times before he has a happy customer. In the end, our adamant objectionist to green eggs and ham thanks our intrepid and persistent Sam-I-Am.
Maybe Don’t Lead with Product?
While I applaud the tenacity of Sam-I-Am, the mental ward would have one more occupant if every sale went that way for our polite persistent sales hero. Sam-I-Am pushed his product and while he did it well, he didn’t get the sale until he started to discern his would-be-buyer’s likes and dislikes. Now imagine a world where Sam-I-Am had five or six different things to sell? Get in touch with the needs of your customer, solve their real pain. You’ll be shocked at how much more enjoyable sales can be.
Get Yourself a Closet Full of Wacky Hats…
Unless you already have one, I’m not judging. When Seuss was stumped, he went to his treasure trove of silly hats. Why? Who knows? My guess is because it worked for him. Perhaps it broke his attention away from his blocks. Perhaps it reconnected him to the whimsy that makes his works such masterpieces.
I’m not sure, but here’s what I do know. If you’re stuck, if your meeting is going off the rails or if your career is dissolving before your eyes, find something – anything – to break the pattern. Listen to a podcast, pick up a book, talk to a top performer – connect with something that feeds your brain, your soul, and recharges your batteries.
Less is Often Much Much More
Green Eggs and Ham was only 50 words. Cat in the Hat was only 236 words. Mark Twain said it best: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” If you’re still with me, I can assume it is as obvious to you as it is to me that this is not a strength of mine. Keep your approach concise and focused. In sales, it’s not the volume of your words or statements, but instead the power of the questions you ask. Take the time to learn your verticals and learn to ask questions to uncover your prospects’ needs. Connect that knowledge to your product or service and you’re golden.
Be Real… Be You
Happy Birthday to You! is consistently in the top 5 children’s books on Amazon and in the Top 700 for all books. It possibly contains Seuss’ most famous quote:
Just be yourself. Be honest with people. Don’t bullshit them. Look, if you can’t get behind your product or service and believe in it and your company, move the hell on. Your prospects can smell it coming off you in waves.
If you aren’t interested in your prospect’s business, then get out of sales. You can’t fake this unless you can act the part as well as Tom Hanks plays a nice guy on film. Even then, I can only imagine that faking your way through your day every day gets pretty damned old.
Be authentic, be you. After all, there is no one alive who is youer than you!