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Five Misunderstandings about Teaching as a Part of Selling

With the heightened awareness of and interest in insight selling, it has become popular for sellers to think of themselves as teachers. This is a positive step in the right direction toward genuinely helping buyers and creating value. However, there are some misunderstandings about how and what to teach that can backfire and leave sellers wondering “what went wrong?”

Here are the five biggest misunderstandings I’ve observed when it comes to sellers teaching their buyers something new:

You don’t need to have all the answers. Oftentimes, sellers shy away from teaching because they feel limited by their own range of knowledge. They fear that the buyer may ask a question that stumps them. Or they are concerned about getting in too deep and being exposed for what they don’t know. One of the very best teaching techniques is asking questions and bringing others’ knowledge and gaps in knowledge to the surface. Doing so makes you an indispensable resource to your buyers.

Buyers appreciate sellers who are knowledgeable… But product knowledge alone isn’t sufficient. Sellers most often feel comfortable and confident as subject matter experts in their own products. While it’s true that you should, indeed, know everything possible about the products you sell, don’t stop there. Your buyers expect you to also know about their industry and challenges. They want you to know enough about business and the work they do to offer credible solutions. With that additional knowledge (and some good questions – see #1), you will be able to explain and teach contextually. You won’t be spouting product knowledge in a vacuum. Instead, your teaching will be highly relevant.

You won’t offend someone if you offer to share new information. To the contrary, you will offend buyers if you make assumptions about what they do or do not know already. You’ll alienate buyers if you talk beyond their level of understanding. What’s basic to you (as the subject matter expert about the products you sell) may be mysterious and difficult to understand for your buyers.

You’ll need to customize every lesson. Every individual buyer is different. Each one brings different experiences, comparisons, questions and biases. When you teach your buyers, be sure to tune in to their responses and subtle reactions. Ask questions to probe for understanding and to surface any misunderstandings (which will later lead to objections). Don’t do canned lessons because they are no more effective than canned sales pitches.

Adults learn best when the teaching is interactive. Don’t lecture. Discuss. Ask questions to engage your buyer as a full participant in the instructional conversation. Talk about his or her specific situation and needs so what you are teaching is practical knowledge that can be used immediately (with the purchase of your product, of course). Along the way, let your buyers teach you some things, too, about their businesses and industries. Every single thing you learn is something you can use to teach some other buyer or, at least, to craft great questions for interactive and shared learning.

Aim to be the “guide on the side” instead of the “sage on the stage” when you are teaching something new to your buyers. This approach will build connections and facilitate mutual sharing. It will also help you to advance more sales more quickly.

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