Business School Entrepreneurship Leadership Marketing Sales Uncategorized

4 Essential Teaching Principles For Business People

Teaching is the new marketing. Traditional marketing and advertising is useful, but they aren’t enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Today’s consumers don’t just want to know about the product. They want to know about where it came from. They want to know who it came from. And they insist on having their trust earned by more than just a pop-up ad.

That’s where teaching comes in. Making yourself into an effective educator is the most important part of being an effective salesperson. Offering valuable insights, information, and experience earns the trust that leads to sales. Proving your own value as an expert builds the credibility that inspires genuine brand loyalty. A great salesman can move product. A great teacher can earn “true fans.”

Of course you don’t need a classroom or a chalkboard to be a teacher. The entrepreneur teaches through blogs, podcasts, interviews, public speaking, tutorials, and all the other modes of content marketing. Whichever methods you use, there are few principles that will ensure your lessons hit home—and drive sales.

The 4 Essentials

I’ve been a teacher for most of my working life. Before I struck out on my own as an entrepreneur, I taught at the high school and university levels. I was also responsible for observing teachers to evaluate their effectiveness. Now that I’m in business, it’s no coincidence that my products are educational. In all that time, four things have struck me as being common threads in great teaching:

  1. Starting with a clear outcome in mind. Some in education call it “backwards design.” Essentially, the first thing you do in designing your “lesson”—your blog, your webinar, your podcast—is identify the desired result. What do you want your audience to know or be able to do when it’s all over? Once you know what that is, you design everything towards that end.

Remember, this isn’t about the desired outcome for you. The outcome for you will always be the same: earning trust, credibility, and eventually sales. As a teacher, you need to prioritize the outcome for your “students.” What will the audience walk away with? How will their outlook be changed? What skill will they possess? What value will they come away with? What will they want to thank you for?

Identify this. Write it down. Keep it as a mantra as you design and execute your content. Anything that doesn’t serve that end, get rid of. Strip your “lesson” down to only those things that lead to the outcome. That’s the difference between a simple sales pitch and a learning experience.

  1. Making it interactive. As much as possible, that is. A blog isn’t immediately interactive, but that doesn’t mean I’m writing this in a vacuum. This is coming from years of not only speaking to audiences, but listening to them. This is the answer to a question I perceive my readers to be asking, from countless exchanges with them.

The same holds true for any content. Videos, books, live events; all can be interactive if you make the effort. Everything you do should be one side of a conversation with your audience. Encourage feedback. Encourage questions. One of the worst mistakes a teacher can make is to be a simple lecturer.

Side note: This principle is why I believe so firmly in the power of webinars, and why we created our own webinar platform, Webinar Ninja. Webinars allow you to interact with a wide-ranging audience in real time through chat and Q&A features. I think this is the future of the “teaching” model of salesmanship.

  1. Having fun. Seriously. That’s not some vague New Age quasi-spiritual advice. If you’re not having fun with it, it’s not genuine. If it’s not genuine, it’s not honest. If it’s not honest, your audience has no reason to trust you. While I’ve said before that “passion” in business is overrated, you have to enjoy your work on some level. Why would anyone follow the advice of someone who isn’t making themselves happy?

Enjoyment is contagious. Enjoyment takes the “lesson” out of the lesson and turns it into something more meaningful on a human level. If you’re stiff or unhappy or unenthusiastic in your delivery, it builds walls. It creates a barrier between you and your audience that makes it impossible for them to see the “person” in the sales person. It’s simple, but it’s true. The fun comes through no matter the medium—be it a live webinar or a simple blog. Have. Fun.

  1. Following through. The last thing that has to happen is ensurance. You’ve got to make sure that the audience has actually learned—that the desired outcome from Tip 1 has been achieved. You’ll have to recap, to constantly put information in context. It may seem to you like it’s repetitive, but to audience members, it’s crucial.

Different people learn in different ways and at different speeds. In order to reach everyone, it’s important to break the information down into bite-sized, digestible sections. This not only makes it easier to process, but makes the content more dynamic. After each section, contextualize what you covered, always bringing it back to the desired outcome. Show a bit, show how it fits into the bigger picture. Repeat. At the end, sum it all up. Even blogs are broken into headings and subheadings for this very reason.

I understand that many people go into business not expecting to have to “teach.” You may have a great product, great marketing ideas, and even business experience. But as an entrepreneur trying to earn a following, there’s no way around it. You’ve got to be a good teacher.

If it doesn’t come naturally to you, work on it. Teaching is hard for most people; that’s why most people aren’t teachers. But it is a skill you can develop. It’s ok to be self-conscious at first. It’s ok to be nervous. When I was a new teacher, I could barely contain the fear and apprehension at first. Who was I to tell anyone else what to do? We all feel some version of “imposter syndrome” at the beginning. It’s normal. It’s natural. And it’s no reason to give up. Trust in your own expertise, and your own genuine intentions.

Donald Kelly, founder of the Sales Evangelist, has a philosophy: if you have the skills, experience or knowledge to help somebody, you should share it. If you have the genuine ability to improve people’s lives, it’s your obligation to tell people about it. Let that be the antidote to any apprehension you might have about teaching. You’re offering something valuable to your audience. With that mindset, you can’t go wrong.