Why You Can’T Be Great At Sales – Courtesy of The American Education System

Our education system has never been one for fostering and encouraging curiosity. Instead, it is a system which is built upon rewarding knowing the ‘right’ answers. But where does this get us? For most people who go through an education system as rigid and results-based as our own, traits like curiosity and wonder are slowly and surely weeded out. These traits are essential if you want to be good in sales.

How exactly has our present day education system failed to take this into account?

Can you answer this simple math problem?

If you want to know how deeply rooted the conditioning from our education system goes, look at this example. If someone asked you what the answer to 9 + 3 was or 10 +1 you’d quickly have the answer for them. It’s 12 and 11 respectively. You would answer and not think twice about what the initial question was asking.

The reason why you’d find it so easy to answer is because through your education, you’ve been taught that the only thing that matters is ultimately knowing the right answer. Why is that? Simple: knowing the right answer will get you praise, good grades, rewards from your parents and admiration from your teachers and peers. Having good grades is also absolutely essential if you want to go to a good university.

You are taught from a very young age that where education is concerned, there is only one acceptable pattern: learn the material, answer all questions correctly, and reap the rewards.

This pattern is cyclical and is bound to repeat itself even when you go off to university where you’re told how important it is for your grades to be high in order to get a good job. In short, you’re locked into a behavioral pattern.

Experiences in the real world offer a harsh lesson

After spending the entirety of your life being told how important knowing the right answers was, you might be in for a bit of a shock when you venture out into the real world. There, the dynamics are a little different, and knowing the right answer isn’t always everything.

One of the key areas where this philosophy falls short is sales. Sales is a broad term and isn’t only applicable to salespersons. Instead, ‘sales’ applies to virtually all industries. For instance, as a banker or a lawyer, you may meet with clients to ‘sell’ a pitch or service.

For most new graduates, the attitude going into one of these early meetings is usually that if I demonstrate how much I know, I will be rewarded. Having the right answers is believed to be the key to securing the deal.

And yet, while this may have worked prior to the age of globalization, it no longer holds true. With globalization came rapid technological advancements, including the availability of information through the internet.

Clients no longer need to solely rely on a professional to get information they want; they know that they can get that information from a wide range of sources. The result of this is that simply ‘knowing’ all the right answers is no longer enough. Clients are looking for sales people who are inquisitive, imaginative, curious, and helpful. They want someone who knows what questions to ask and how to think outside of the box.

And this is where traditional educational systems have failed us. In the quest for knowledge simply for the sake of knowledge, curiosity was sacrificed. This kind of approach to learning drives out inquisitiveness and imagination.

The State of the Workforce

As long as we have an education system which rewards knowledge, curiosity will be sacrificed. This is evident in the job market today. Today, organizations are filled with employees that may be very knowledgeable but have no curiosity whatsoever. These are individuals who lack curiosity, the ability to engage clients, and ask thoughtful inquisitive questions. Without these skills, how can they expect to understand where the client is coming from, what their needs are, and how to effectively make a sale?

How to change this mindset

The only way to bring meaningful change to this trend is to change the approach to education. For many individuals, it is very hard to change learned behavior. Here’s what companies can do to help reverse this trend by training behavior:

  • Emphasize the need for certain attributes and skills aside from knowledge
  • Foster curiosity
  • Encourage individuals to truly understand their clients

Our education has, for a very long time, operated on the belief that knowing the right answer is the only way to success. If you can successfully do that, you’re set in terms of future employment. And yet, once you get out into the workforce, you learn that the education system promoted knowledge at the expense of a wide range of valuable traits. If you want to be good at sales, you need to be better-rounded, and that’s something that the education systems today don’t foster.


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