Teachers and salesmanship

A great salesperson is always aware of the fact that buyers have one question in mind – “why should I bother?” His expertise in answering this question is what set Steve Jobs apart. Jobs didn’t just answer the question with “what” made Apple’s products special, he explained the “why” behind them and explained why you should care.

The challenges that teachers face aren’t different from those in sales. As teachers, students sitting in front of them ask the same question – “why should I bother?” There are many competing pursuits that a student would rather divert his/her attention towards. And, this is where schools, organizations and teachers slip. When attempting to hire great teachers, they screen for passion and expertise. Yes, passion and expertise are critical. If a car salesman didn’t look like an expert on cars or simply didn’t care, there is no way we’d want to engage. Why should we bother when he clearly doesn’t?

Passion and expertise only make for a good teacher, however. That’s because people with a lot passion and expertise often make the wrong assumption that everyone cares about their subject as much as they do. And, that is exactly what great teachers do differently – they don’t make that assumption simply because they are always aware that the person in front of them doesn’t actually care as much. In fact, they’re making the decision as to whether or not to care as they speak. So, great teachers sell like professionals. They sell the “why,” they sell the dream of a better life, and they sell hope.

We all play the role of teachers at various points in our lives. We teach as parents, as colleagues, as managers, as trainers, and as mentors and coaches. And, to really have an impact on those at the other end, it is critical we remember that transferring knowledge and expertise is just one half of the job. The other half is demonstrating why it matters, selling the importance of commitment, and answering that important question – “why should I bother?”