Written selling

Most non-sales job descriptions underemphasize the amount of selling required as part of our jobs. And, of all the selling we do, the ability to do “written selling” is, ironically, under-sold.

Written selling is all the writing we do on a daily basis – via long form documents, emails, and messaging conversations – to persuade others on the merits of whatever it is we’re selling.

We could be selling belief in a vision in a long form doc, the fact that we’re on top of the crisis-of-the-day in an email exchange, and that the task at hand is the best use of our teammate’s time over a message exchange.

When we picture selling, we picture the verbal version. But, in today’s workplace, our ability to write persuasively is a high leverage skill.

Our work won’t speak for itself.

Our work won’t speak for itself. On a good day, it may just do 70% of the talking required. But, it still needs us to make the effort to package it and make the case for it.

But, it bears repeating – it won’t speak for itself. And, even if we build it well, they may not come. In fact, unless we put in the effort to sell it, they most likely won’t.

A useful assumption, then, is that quality work will do half the talking. The rest is up to us.

The world and the places we work seem fairer places once we internalize that and do the work to make sure our efforts count – after we do the work.

PS: The note to self version of this started with – “To my intense disappointment, I’ve come to realize that our work alone won’t speak for itself.” :-)

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?”