How many of our pupils end up working in the science industry? What about engineering or archaeology? In schools we teach subjects that steer people towards these careers, why don’t we teach them something more universal, like sales skills? It is the one thing that will last them a life time and can be used regardless of career choice later in life. It’s almost as if we are scared of what selling stands for.
Sales impact our lives on a daily basis. Whether we are being encouraged to make that extra purchase in a shop, sponsor a child who’s raising money for charity, or simply watching an advert on TV – we are living in a world where we are the target market for someone, something, somewhere, all the time!
Selling is involved in every part of life so the sooner we can help children develop it the better.
The problem is that often selling has negative connotations – people immediately think of the stereotypical second-hand car salesman (think Harry Wormwood, Matilda’s charming father!), high-pressure sales in stores or on the phone, and manipulative wide-boy market traders… the list is endless, but in reality, these are only a tiny minority of people that make their living through sales.
Most sales people are there to help you, they are not all motivated by greed and commission, in fact many organisations today do not reward high sales figures, but rather sales people that have returning customers / repeat business. It is much cheaper for a company to retain a customer than acquire a new one – so low pressure, empathetic, supportive sales people are far more in demand now than ever. To become a salesperson of this nature requires an array of skills that need to be developed from a very early age, including negotiation and persuasive writing skills, determination and perseverance, being aware of different people and audiences and adapting your style to their needs, self confidence, self discipline and multidisciplinary ways of communicating.
Selling can often mean solving someone’s problem, or convincing someone that something is a good or bad idea. It can be about helping someone see the benefits of change. In this way, we are all sales people! When we share ideas at staff meetings, run a training session for our colleagues, moderate each other’s work; we are selling our thoughts, ideas, feelings – trying to get others to buy into our way of thinking. Sales does not always involve a product or service – it can be a belief or an opinion.
Most importantly teaching sales develops great communication skills! Often in our world of social media and instant messaging, children aren’t exposed to communicating in person to a wider audience. By teaching selling techniques in a fun and relevant way children can see the benefit. For example, task a child with convincing you to buy a certain pen – why is this the pen I need? Why should I let my child stay up an extra half hour, or give them extra pocket money? Children are already using great techniques naturally; this can be developed into a skill for life.
At some point each child will experience an interview. It could be for a job or a place at a new school or university – this requires the individual to sell themselves! Not every child will be a sales person however whatever job they apply for, good selling and communication skills will be critical.
A final warning, when teaching children about selling, it is crucial there is an underlying moral and ethical code. It should be a win – win situation where both parties feel happy with the outcome. Just because you can convince someone to do or buy something (and you win) …is it the right outcome for them? Do the right thing and everyone will feel happy!