Friday, 16 May 2014

Selling Education

I've written eight "Sales Matters" posts over the last two weeks, these posts consider the role that sales plays in EdTech from a number of different angles. I hope these posts have highlighted how and why this is an area that needs to be discussed and explored. I have questioned perceptions about why the sales profession gets a bad name, and considered the role that organisational culture plays with the way that sales people conduct themselves.

Today I want to explore 8 reasons why sales should be part of the curriculum as the experience could really help students with their career progression by developing in demand soft skills, as well as increase self awareness.

I didn't choose a career in sales, like many people, I kind of "fell into it." I never really felt comfortable about what I did for a living. This attitude changed when I got involved with education technology as I got to hang out with educators and techies;

“Some salespeople put a high value on the friendships they develop in sales and the opportunity to work in a field they enjoy” 

Over the last year I have explored the role that sales plays in whether or not a product or idea will live or die and, if it lives, how the motivations of the sales team will determine the kind of relationship that the company has with their clients and other partners.

Through reading Philip Delves Broughtons' book "Life's a Pitch" I've been able to add to my ideas about the effective roll out of EdTech and am a lot more comfortable about working in sales. One of the aims the author had with publishing this book was to restore some of the luster for sales and selling. 

Not only was this objective achieved but I feel that it should be more prominent in education, here's why;

1) The Job Search
The job market is tough at the moment so if you get an interview you're going to have to sell yourself and your skills.

"As you move one step up from the bottom, your effectiveness depends on your ability to reach others through the spoken and written word" Peter Drucker

Here's a great post by Carmine Gallo Sell yourself the Steve Jobs Way... One 20 minute product launch take 250 hours for Apple to develop.
2) Creating Opportunities
Even before the interview stage, using initiative and being prepared to remain persistent and upbeat in the face of rejection can put you ahead of the competition;

"I got the Yellow Pages and started to call every carpet company within 100 miles of Cleveland. Every single one of 200 companies said "no." Making those calls took me a week. 

The next week, I went back to the beginning and started through the list again. When I got to K, Kilgore carpets, I got Mr Kilgore himself on the phone; 

"Didn't I tell you last week we didn't have a job?"

"Yes, but a lot can change in a week" The applicant replied.
"Boy, I've got to meet you" Mr Kilgore replied.

Here's where that carpet layer is today: Augie Turak

3) Humble Beginnings
Founded on a handshake, $500 & mutual trust
For various reasons the conditions from being from humble beginnings produces some extremely successful people.  When starting out they don't have any wealthy investors so they need to learn how to sell.

How many of the world’s top 73 self-made billionaires were in a worse situation than you when they started? 

Is it possible for most of us to go from zero to billionaire? Yes. This is how: From Zero to Billionaire

Regardless of an individual's background, every company starts out with nothing...  It's hard to imagine that Nike started out selling shoes out of the back of a van at track meets.

4) The Startup
Ideas that spread win
In "Talk like Ted" Carmine Gallo demonstrates how great communicators can start movements, but... failure to communicate effectively in business is a fast road to failure. It means startups won't get funded, products won't get sold, projects won't get backing and careers won't soar.

You could have the best idea since sliced bread but if you can't find a way to share you're vision it may languish for 15 years... Just like sliced bread did?!

5) Edu-Employer Mismatch
The government and educations love affair with all things "start up" accentuates the massive mis-match between employers and education. There is all this talk of enterprise and entrepreneurial programmes, but how much focus is there on selling? Does the elitist attitude remain? I agree with Philip Delves Broughton's assessment that;

"Not only should colleges, universities and companies teach more sales, but it should be the starting point of a business education. It is from sales that everything follows: How you make money, how you treat people, how you wish to grow. Every ethical business person could face comes down to a question you confront in your very first sale: What are you willing to do for a buck" 

I think a great example of this is how even universities like Oxford and Cambridge Knowledge Transfer Partnerships struggle to make ideas commercially viable compared to Stanford and MIT... But then again I can't see Oxford or Cambridge employing anyone who has "Debt collector" on their CV like MIT has done, can you?

"By treating sales with such disdain, business schools prove themselves to be foolish and elitist. Without selling, there is no business" Augie Turak

6) Self-Awareness
The Harvard psychologist Robert Coles wrote in his book The Moral Life of Children that morality is developed in the young by experience. He found extraordinary levels of moral sophistication among barely schooled children who had been caught up in the Souths school integration of the 1960s. Experience had given them empathy and a grasp of life's complexity. They were further along the path of understanding morality's shades than their peers who had experienced no such adversity. 

This is not to say bitter experience is necessary to develop moral sense, but some experience beyond the deceptive, sunshiny rhetoric often dumped in children's minds helps. Sales, with its many contradictions, hypocracrises, and moral challenges would be a fine start. Selling allows for the kind of moral confrontations which lead to personal examination and the banishment of fear. What Coles found time and again was that the most active idealists as adults tended to be those who started early considering the tensions they would face in life between their idealism and their need to satisfy the "practical" ambitions forced on them by their family, institutions and peers. It was those who never considered these tensions who ended up disillusioned. I cannot think of a better practical education than selling for forcing anyone to think about who one is and how one might balance one's highest self with one's most practical, human needs.

The common traits that successful sales people have is resilience and optimism, a useful foundation and transferable skills that apply for anyone looking to do well in just about any profession. 

7) Self-Sufficiency
"If I were to die tomorrow, what skill would you want most for your children to have? The ability to meet their own needs. It is what all parenting efforts boil down to. We want our children not merely to be self sufficient, but to be able to meet the needs any human has in order to live a fulfilling life. What we fear most is that if we were to die, they would be as helpless as they were when they were first born" Martin Shanker, Sales Trainer in Life's a Pitch

The Arts and Crafts Movement, in the late 19th Century, argued that selling should be an integral part of any child's education. Their reasoning was that children should not be taught to live upon the labour of others. Students should learn by practice how to cultivate the land, develop their own food supply, and make whatever they needed to house, clothe and equip themselves for life. 

"Let a child work until he craves the help of books, instead of studying until he forgets the need of work" Early edition of The Craftsman Magazine. 

The perfect school, according to the Arts and Crafts Movement sounds an awful lot like Project Based Learning and Further Education's commercial services to me... it should be a working garden or small farm, with buildings attached for carpentry, metalwork, sewing , printing, binding, painting, cooking and so on. 

The front entrance should be a shop, where children should learn how to approach customers, how to interest them, how to explain the quality of their work and why it is priced the way it is. If children were not making something then they should be out filling orders and drafting contracts to make activity of their school self-supporting. Selling, according to this philosophy, was anything but Willie Loman's subjection to the capitalist grind. It was a means to escape the jaws of industrialised commerce.

8) Learned Optimism
Done well, selling frees people from the oppression of corporate culture and allows them to define their own personal destinies. It is a way for people with little formal education, but plenty of perseverance, to do well. 

Good sales people are able to recover from a setback and is something that University of Pennsylvania psychologist, Martin Seligman has studied. Seligman sent out 1,100 surveys to sales people at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The aim of the study was to elicit sales people's "attributional style" - The way people interpret the reason for success and failure and whether they were optimists or pessimists.

What this study found was that many of the salespeople suffered from "Learned Helplessness," a state of mind caused by uncontrollable bad events. Losing your wallet could be interpreted as;

1) Internal: Because I'm an absent minded fool
2) External: Because we were in a rush to get to the airport and the kids were screaming
3) Global Attribution: The lost wallet symbolizes my life of incessant failure, disorganisation and futility
4) Specific Attribution: It's just a lost wallet, once I've called the credit card company everything will be fine, it's no big deal.
Agents who scored in the optimistic half of the scale sold 37% more insurance than those in the pessimistic half.

The optimists were more likely to stick at the job, whereas the pessimists, who believe that bad things happen for internal, stable, global reasons, will be destroyed by failure. They simply cannot cope with rejection, and the sense of failure it engenders will only lead to more failure and the state of "learned helplessness" observed in depressives. By contrast, optimists succeed in sales, which leads to more optimism and more success. They feel the opposite of learned helplessness: Learned optimism.

One of Seligman's research associates, Peter Schulman, argued that any industry where persistence is required to overcome adversity, a sense of optimism is vital and can be developed by identifying the self defeating thinking and events that prompt it and gathering evidence to support or undermine the fear that is inhibiting us and recall a success 

No comments:

Post a Comment