During a conversation with my friend who is a kindergarten teacher, she told me that she spent the entire day building out a lesson plan for the week ahead.
She had everything sorted out — down to the hour — and knew how to execute the plan in a way that would work for her students.
In recent years, the job of a sales representative has developed into something similar to this type of role.
Reps have transitioned from simply being providers of information to providers of information and educators. Reps must offer context around the information they share as well as teach prospects about the features and capabilities of what it is they're selling in regards to their specific challenges.
With this in mind, reps might take a lesson from teachers and start building lesson plans for their prospects.
How to Use a Teacher-Approved Framework for Your Sales Plan
When you’re setting up your lesson plan, follow this framework many teachers use:
- Set a learning objective: What are you trying to teach this person?
- Identify the crucial points: What are the key things the student needs to understand in order to be successful?
- Establish a test schedule: How are you going to test them on this information?
- Allow time for questions: When will you give them a chance to seek clarification?
- Ask for feedback: How can you change your teaching strategies so that students can more easily grasp the concept?
Without further ado, here’s how to apply the concept of lesson plans to a sales scenario.
1. Establish a learning goal.
If a prospect is going to learn one thing from you during a call, what would it be? Your answer to this question is the learning goal.
It’s important to enter each sales meeting with a learning goal in mind. Here are a few examples:
- A full understanding of your product’s functions
- How your product compares to a competitor's product
- The ROI of your service
- Why Strategy A is a better option than Strategy B
2. Focus on the key concepts and benefits.
As we all know from our school days, nobody likes information overload.Providing too much information interrupts how recipients of that information function as well as impacts their decision-making ability — and in sales, that’s not good.
Alternatively, just focusing on a few key concepts with prospects allows them to latch on to crucial ideas regarding how your brand and product or service can support them. So, before you go into your next meeting, decide what key points you want to hit on and then stay focused on them.
3. Include an assessment.
Why do teachers give tests? To ensure students are retaining information.
Just like teachers, it makes sense for sales reps to give their prospects tests. After all, it’s unfair to expect a buyer to pick up on what you’re telling them right away, and what is a test other than an opportunity to reinforce knowledge?
Granted, you probably don’t want to sit prospects down and have them write an essay about your presentation. However, informal quizzes can reinforce key concepts and increase the chances that they’ll buy (after all, people tend not to purchase products they don’t understand). Set aside times to review and ask questions to ensure your prospects understand exactly what you’ve told them.
4. Schedule time for questions.
Like any good teacher, leave some time for questions at the end of all of your calls. This is your chance to clarify anything your prospect might not have picked up on or understood. If they aren’t sure how something works, encourage them to ask questions and gain the knowledge they need to be successful.
It’s important to note that great teachers take time for questions throughout the lesson versus only at the end. Sales reps should use the same technique. Before you begin a new section or introduce a new topic, ask the prospect if they have any questions and take time to respond thoughtfully.
5. Seek feedback.
Finally, seek feedback through a customer survey, questionnaire, post-meeting debrief, or another format. Making adjustments based on prospect comments will help you fine-tune your presentation and the information you need to cover moving forward. Whether it’s talking too fast or not providing enough information that's tailored to a specific prospect's need, you can learn a lot about your techniques through feedback.
Start Educating Your Buyers
Teachers and sales reps might not have a lot in common on the surface, but both need to deliver information in an educational and supportive way to ensure their students and prospect understand and retain it.
The better and teachers and reps can instruct and impart knowledge, the more successful students and prospects will be.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.