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Which of the following best describes selling to you:
a) A set of persuasion techniques in which a company representative manipulates you into buying their product - regardless of whether you want it or need it.
b) An exchange in which you give up something of value and receive something back which you perceive to be of equal or greater value.
c) An interaction in which someone aims to add value to your life and in doing so, in some small way, push the whole human race forwards just a little.
d) Something else.
Your choice is likely dictated by your experience of selling and of being sold to (buying?). According to Dan Pink in 'To Sell is Human' b) and c) describe how selling is evolving whereas a) reflects an outdated and unethical approach that is long past its use-by date.
Pink builds a convincing argument through anecdotes, case studies, research (psychology and sociology) and by describing how the contexts in which a sale now happens are very different to those of 20 years ago - because information asymmetry is rapidly declining. Increased access to product data and customer feedback is putting as many facts into the hands of buyers as used to be closely guarded (or slowly and only partially revealed) by those doing the selling.
If I want to buy a new car or a piece of furniture or choose a holiday destination I can find out all I need to know online before I even consider a purchase. Reviews, feedback and product specifications, as well as price comparison services all contribute to a much flatter playing field. When buyers know as much as sellers, selling must evolve.
Salespeople and Teachers
I regularly meet teachers who have previously worked in sales and/or marketing. Without exception they approach the job in a different way to others. A salesperson aims to move you to action, to tell you something that you'll remember, to influence your behaviour and your beliefs, to carry out an exchange of value with you. And guess what? Doesn't a teacher want to do exactly the same? It's only the product that's different. Salespeople work with objects and services; teachers with knowledge, skills and characteristics.
I'd highly recommend Dan Pink's book but in the meantime here are some of his key principles and a proposal for their parallels in school. Use the concepts as prompts for professional dialogue and to enhance learning with lessons from ethical, upgraded selling:
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