selling by teaching

The Best Salespeople Are Great Teachers

Last year, Jim Keenan, better known as A Sales Guy, published a book called Not Taught: What It Takes to be Successful in the 21st Century that Nobody’s Teaching You. And what he thinks makes a great salesperson in the 21st Century is the ability to teach.


“Part of teaching is what I call analysis,” says Keenan. “You can’t be a teacher unless you can assess where somebody’s deficiencies are.”

Keenan is a qualified ski instructor as well as a sales consultant. One of the tests instructors have to pass is movement analysis where you watch a video of a person skiing and assess what skills the person is using and how well they use them.

Good salespeople do the same thing. “They first assess where the customer is in their decision process and in their pain points,” says Keenan. “What’s happening in their business that is driving the decision to think about moving?”

Demand creation

If the customer isn’t thinking about moving, salespeople need to ask the right questions to demonstrate why the customer should consider moving. That’s also teaching.

One potential student already skied pretty well and just wanted a few tips. Keenan asked her how she would do on a double black diamond run which was full of bumps. She replied that she wouldn’t even attempt it. The mountain was dictating to her where and how and when she skied.

“So why would you just want a few tips? Why would you not want to build a learning plan over the next years so that someday you dictate to the mountain where and when you ski?” Keenan calls this demand creation. “I took a woman who believed she wanted something, and made her believe she needed something else. How did I do that? Through teaching.”

Solving problems

Once you teach someone how to teach, then you can teach them how to solve problems. You can show them how to leverage that teaching skill to get a customer to recognize they need something and therefore buy it from you. That’s real sales.

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