Unleash Your Sales Potential by Tapping into Your Inner Teacher

The best sales people don't sell, they teach.

Do you remember your favorite teacher?

You might have even had a few.

But most people have at least one whom they remember for years and years after they last stepped foot in a classroom. For many people, those teachers may have even gotten them on their current career path.

Think about why you liked that teacher.

Often, students mention that they made the content interesting, fun, or brought their own personality into the classroom. Perhaps you could feel their passion for their subject area, which also rubbed off on the students.

Mr. Erickson was my high-school biology teacher. And I really hope my kids get to have a teacher as passionate about teaching science as he was. Every day in that classroom was a treat, and I don’t think I’ve ever learned as much in a single semester of schooling.

Mr. Erickson was not having us read out of the textbook. He wrote the lesson plans himself based on his knowledge and the tools he had at his disposal. As students, this made the content far more engaging.

I remember the day he brought a deer embryo into the classroom.

Yes, a deer embryo. Do keep in mind that we live in Wisconsin! While our city is located just outside Madison's capital, we still have a decent deer population, and consequently, there is an active hunting season. One of Mr. Erickson’s buddies had shot a female deer only to find out when gutting her that she was pregnant.

When Mr. Erickson was told this, he asked his friend to save the embryo so he could use it for our class. We had already finished a unit on reproduction, but with how fascinating it was for him to see the snapshot of the fetal development of a white-tail deer, he knew he had to show it to his students.

Even the normally squeamish students stood around and watched as Mr. Erickson pulled out the bloody deer reproductive parts from the bucket that they were resting in. He showed us, piece by piece how each of the various areas of the system were connected, including a little lifeless deer body.

Gross, right?

But it wasn’t gross though. It was interesting as hell. The passion that he had for teaching us about the biology behind the gore that was in front of us was engaging.

I Wanted to Be a Teacher

Mr. Erickson inspired me to become a teacher.

Through teachers like him, I realized that you can foster a desire to learn in people. You make your subject matter interesting. And more importantly, you can relate your content back to your student’s lived experience.

I actually started my undergraduate college experience as a Biology major with an Education minor. Completing my first year of introductory science and education courses, I planned to bring passion to teaching science to students like Mr. Erickson did back in high school.

And then, like every college freshman, I changed my major.

As an unrelated elective (I went to a Liberal arts college), I signed up for an Introduction to Business course. Another great teacher, Professor Beaubien, entered my life and showed me how business can be fun and rewarding.

Coming from a family of small business owners, the thought of studying business in college was not totally out of left field. However, just like Mr. Erickson had sparked my interest in Biology, Professor Beaubien connected the dots for my passion for business.

I learned that business has analytical sides: think accounting, operations processes, and data analysis. But it also has a people side to it: sales, marketing, HR, and leadership. The people side of business, just like teaching, can be a rewarding way to inspire and empower people.

What I ultimately learned is that what makes a great teacher, also makes a great business leader.

Speaking at a Social Media Event

When building our sales strategy for our web design company, I heavily leaned into educating as a means of business development. At the cornerstone of our sales process was teaching, including an online “University” that was used to generate inbound leads and nurture existing deals in the pipeline.

We produced webinars, blog posts, social media content, email newsletters, and live in-person events, all as ways to expand our reach, build our authority, and increase our revenue. I knew that the better we could teach, the better we could sell.

The Traits of a Great Teacher

When you look up the traits of a great teacher, you’ll likely find the following listed:

Passionate: A good teacher is passionate about teaching and is enthusiastic about the subject matter they are teaching. This enthusiasm is contagious and can inspire students to learn and enjoy the subject matter.

Knowledgable: A good teacher has a deep understanding of the subject matter they are teaching. They stay up-to-date with the latest research and trends in their field and are able to convey this information to their students in a clear and understandable way.

Patient: A good teacher understands that learning can be a slow process and is patient with their students. They are willing to explain concepts multiple times and in different ways until their students fully understand.

Organized: A good teacher is well-organized and has a clear plan for each lesson. They keep track of assignments, deadlines, and grades, and are able to communicate this information effectively to their students and parents.

Adaptable: A good teacher is able to adapt their teaching style to meet the needs of different students. They understand that each student has a unique learning style and adjust their teaching methods accordingly.

Supportive: A good teacher is supportive of their students and encourages them to succeed. They provide constructive feedback and offer guidance and resources to help their students achieve their goals.

Creative: A good teacher is creative and finds ways to make learning fun and engaging. They use a variety of teaching methods and techniques to keep their students interested and motivated.

Now, here is what I want you to do with the text above:

  • Swap out teachers for sales reps.
  • Swap out students for customers.
  • Swap out teaching for selling.

The secret, of course, is that the best salespeople don’t sell. They teach.

Those who can sell by educating, empowering, and inspiring their prospects will be FAR more successful than their peers who simply focus on pushing for a close.

Yes, you do need to still sell. But a great salesperson, like a great teacher, utilizes the traits above to improve their performance.

Become the Favorite Teacher

So, how do you become a better salesperson?

You need to be a better teacher.

You need to educate in a way that creates an inner desire for your “students,” to get them excited about the prospect of working with you.

You need to be that favorite teacher.

You want prospective customers who see your social media posts, read your articles, or attend one of your webinars, to think to themselves, “This is interesting, and I want to learn more.”

Don’t just read aloud from the textbook. Use your expertise and ability to present your knowledge in an engaging way. Get your audience excited to engage with your content.

The sales reps who can become the favorite teacher will always outsell the competition.

Think of it this way - When it comes time for a prospect to make a purchase, who will they choose? The boring teacher or the passionate one?

We can even draw the analogy out further—do you remember whose class everybody wanted to be in? Even if they wrote hard tests (selling the more expensive solutions), it was worth trying to get into the favorite teacher’s class. Because that teacher is the one who inspired you to take action.

In this week’s action items, I want you to consider what it means to be the favorite teacher in your industry.

Take action on the following:

  1. Become a Teacher - Shift your mindset from a salesperson to a teacher. Who are your students? What are the topics they want to learn about? How can you use your passion and knowledge to support their learning? Start to brainstorm what it means to be the favorite teacher in your industry. Re-read those traits above for inspiration.
  2. Create Your Lesson Plan - Next, you must create your lesson plan. How are you teaching your audience? Create a content plan that will enable you to expand your reach and build authority through educational content. Check out my free Content Matrix mini-course if you struggle with brainstorming content ideas. It’s a great template you can use that aligns your content with your buyer personas and the stages of the buyer’s journey.

Consider what type of content is best for educating your students. You’ll likely have a combination of a few:

  • How-Tos
  • FAQs
  • Explainer Videos
  • Industry News/Insights
  • Expert Interviews

And remember, your goal is to be the favorite teacher. If you can achieve that status, the sales will inevitably follow!

Do you incorporate teaching into your sales process? Share your insights and ideas in the comments section!

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and colleagues. I appreciate you helping to grow the Sell with Social community!

Subscribe to Sell with Social

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.