Green Eggs and Ham: Overcoming Objections in Sales

One of my Vistage group members had a copy of Green Eggs and Ham in his office.  When I asked him how it got there he told me, It is the best sales book ever written!".  I reread it and, he is right!  It is an amazing story of persistence, overcoming objections and closing the sale.  I liked this blog post to illustrate some of the practical points of the book!

by Carmen Hudson
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess is a classic tale of the struggling salesman. Poor Sam-I-Am isn't even trying to get his prospect to buy his product yet: he's just trying to get the man to take a sample! Sam-I-Am overcomes no less than 73 objections before he makes his "sale".

There is step by step process that you can use to overcome objections, and like any sales "script", if you can brand these into your memory and make them yours, you'll be able to deliver them smoothly and avoid making it sound canned or corny. While our friend Sam-I-Am does not follow the outline exactly, he does go pretty closely.

First, Make Sure You Understand the Objection.

Sometimes the objection is not the objection. For example, a prospect might say, "I have to think about it. I never buy anything like this without thinking about it first."

This could be true. But it often isn't. Sometimes this is just a smoke screen for whatever is really bothering the prospect. Restating and clarifying the objection can help you zero in on what the prospect's actual problem is.

A good way to do this is to say, "I can certainly respect that, Mr. Jones. I myself like to make sure I am carefully considering every angle before I spend any of my hard earned money. Can I ask you a question?"

Usually, the prospect will consent to being asked a question. A question is not threatening, and it reassures the other person that you are interested in what they are thinking and feeling at this juncture. So when they assent, you ask the key question.

The Key Question: "Is the need to think about this decision the only thing keeping us from doing business today?"

If the prospect says, "Yes," move on to the next step. If the prospect says, "No," he will often follow it up with the real objection, perhaps, "I just am not sure I have the money for it right now." Once you're working with the real objection, you can proceed to trying to overcome it.

Clarify their Desires.

If you are like most salespeople, you likely have a variety of options to offer any customers, even if those options are just as simple as the "red one" or the "blue one." Sam-I-Am, for example, offered "here," or "there", as well as "in a box" and "with a fox." Asking about options refocuses the prospect's mind on ownership, on seeing your product or service as his. So once you have isolated the objection, you might be able to move on to something like this:

"I can definitely appreciate that Mr. Jones. Nobody wants to spend their money on something they're not going to need or like. But just so I can clarify for any conversations we might have in the future, did you like the red one, or the blue one, better?"

"I definitely liked the red one better," Mr. Jones might say.

Overcome the Objection.

"The red one is an excellent choice," you might say, "And I see how well it will compliment what you're already doing. You did mention to me that you were really wanting to have a nice couch that would compliment your existing decorating scheme, I can see how the red one would be the choice for you. But you said you were concerned about the price?"

Again, you're making sure you're dealing with the real objection.

"Yes," Mr. Jones might say. "$999 is a little more than I'd hoped to pay."

How you overcome the objection might well depend on what you have to offer. Does your product or service offer savings in the long run? Do you have a slightly different option that offers a lot of what the prospect is looking for at a cheaper price? Do you have negotiating room to lower the price or give deals and specials? Your own sales manager or company will likely have their own industry-specific tips to deal with the specific objections.

Sometimes, however, the prospect will switch objections on you again, and you'll have to go back to the beginning. Just make sure you switch up your wording, or you'll start to sound like the happy bobble headed psychobabble robot, understanding and appreciating everything the prospect ever said.

Thank you, Thank you, Sam-I-Am!

You are doing your prospects a favor by overcoming their objections in the right way. By continuing to ask enough questions to learn what your prospects real concerns are, you will be able to dramatically raise your close rate as well as be assured that you've created the relationship that brings customers back to you, rather than risking a case of "Buyer's Remorse" and cancellation down the line. After all, when Sam-I-Am finally made his sale, he created a customer for life.