Selling education

Teachers like to compare their skills to doctors’ and pilots’ but Natalie Solent thinks there’s a better comparison: Sales.

A teacher must get a sceptical audience to share his view of the desirability of what he is offering, as must a salesman. A good teacher must know his subject as a good salesman must know his product. For both there is more to success than product knowledge; enthusiasm and empathy are also involved. Both are born not made, although experience and training can help. For both the constant human interaction can be exhausting. Both will be rejected and insulted every day. The best love their jobs anyway.

Teachers don’t like the comparison.

For one thing, salesmen are not seen as virtuous. This is not mere anti-capitalism, although there is plenty of that, but is more that teachers still cling to their traditional Automatic Professional Virtue Rating, not perceiving how much of that rating came from their low pay.

Good salesmen earn a lot of money, Natalie points out.

Here’s more in an article she wrote for Right Now.

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  1. As a professoinal salesperson, I don’t like the comparison either. Selling is very much a skill that can be learned. In fact, it is only a learned skill. Some may figure it out at age 7, but it’s learned behavior.

    Also, not many salepeople have the police power of government to force our customers to deal with us.

  2. Chris..not sure I get your point…are you arguing that teaching is *not* a skill that can be learned, while selling *is*?

    I agree with Natalie..selling and teaching have a lot in common. They can be learned to some extent, but are also a matter of natural inclination. They improve with practice and with feedback…if there were no such thing as quotas and variable compensation plans, the average quality of selling would be considerably lower.

  3. Also…it would not be smart for educrats to push the doctor/pilot comparison too hard. People might notice a few…differences between the way schools of education operate and the corresponding training programs for doctors and pilots.

    Imagine a training program for Airline Transport Pilots that includes heavy politicization, mushy and verbose theory, promulgation of untested procedures, and a teaching staff most of whose hands have not known yoke and throttle in a long time, if ever. Sounds a lot like what goes on in colleges of education.

    I wonder what the accident rates would look like if the ATP program was really like this?

  4. I pretty much agree that “selling” what you teach is necessary. Kids will inevitably ask “Why do we need to know this?” You’d better be prepared to answer that, that’s for sure.

    In my case, teaching an elective subject (Spanish), not only do I have to answer that above question, but have to do it damn well or students simply won’t sign up to take my class!

  5. I don’t view teaching as “selling”. I view it as “leadership”, the art of getting people to do what they’re supposed to do but don’t necessarily want to do.


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