Be Patient and Smile: 4 Sales Tips from a Former Preschool TeacherBefore I entered the world of sales, I worked as a preschool teacher for a few years. I truly enjoyed being a teacher and loved spending my days reading stories and singing songs. Sometimes I miss it, but I do like to go home at the end of each day without someone else’s boogers on me.
Teaching preschoolers and working in sales may seem like very different worlds, but there are many things I learned during my time as Miss Colleen that I can apply to my current job as an inside sales rep. Here are some sales tips from a former preschool teacher.
1. Keep a positive attitude and make sure you’re always smiling.
This is a general rule I try to live by all the time, but it sometimes takes a bit more thought to follow through during the work day.
As a preschool teacher, you always want to keep a smile on your face and give the impression that you are kind and nurturing. This probably comes naturally for most teachers, but no one, not even Mary Poppins, feels like smiling and singing all the time. If you stand in a preschool classroom for only 5 minutes you will see a child spill something or break something and hear screams and shouts from every corner of the room. When you watch a child spill an entire gallon of orange juice all over that morning’s art projects, your natural reaction may be to scream in their face, “Why do you have the worst motor skills ever? And why would you think your tiny little arms are strong enough to properly handle a gallon of liquid?” but you can’t do that because they will cry and probably develop some strange complex where they are terrified to drink orange juice. Instead, you have to force a smile and say, “It’s OK. I’m happy to see you are trying to be independent, but sometimes we need to ask for help.”
The same rule can be applied to sales. After a few unsuccessful sales calls, you can start to feel down on yourself, and this translates over the phone. Instead of sounding like a happy sales rep who is excited about the opportunity you’re offering and willing to share your incredible software/service with a prospect, you might start to sound like Ben Stein. Imagine having a phone conversation with the Clear Eyes guy? That would be the worst. If you sound miserable on the phone, prospects won’t want to speak with you, but if it sounds like you’re smiling, you will find that people are more likely to want to chat with you.
2. Remember that your attitude affects those around you.
I think one of the most important things any teacher should keep in mind is that your attitude sets the tone for the classroom. When you yell at a child to sit down and be quiet, it is only a matter of time before that child turns around and speaks to a classmate in the same manner. If it feels like the kids are extra cranky on the days that you’re tired and your patience is short, it’s probably because they are.
This is true in the office as well. When you come into work and walk around like a big grump, it’s going to rub off on your coworkers. The manner in which you speak to a prospect will affect the way they interact with you as well. If you are open and friendly, there is a better chance they too will speak openly with you. No one wants to chit-chat with a cranky-pants, which brings me to my next point.
3. Sometimes people are just in a bad mood. Don’t take it personally.
As we grow, we learn how to control our emotions, a concept that is foreign to most preschoolers. Sometimes a child will sit down to morning circle time, you’ll ask them a simple question like “What does the weather look like outside today?” and they may respond by screaming “I don’t know!” and bursting into tears. Most likely this poor little terror just didn’t get enough sleep last night or Mom was running late and they forgot breakfast. Whatever the situation is, the simple question about the weather is not why they are upset, and when you ask them about the weather tomorrow they will most likely happily respond.
Though adults have more control over their emotions, it is still something we all struggle with. I have reached out to many prospects who were less than thrilled to receive my call. If you call someone and kindly ask if they have a few minutes to speak about your service and they respond by shouting “NO!” and slamming the phone on the receiver, don’t give up on them. Maybe that person didn’t get enough sleep last night, maybe their boss just yelled at them, maybe they are working from home and their three year old just spilled a gallon of OJ on the floor. Everyone has bad days; give that prospect the benefit of the doubt, and try to call him or her again week later. There is a good chance that when that prospect answers, it will be like speaking to a totally different person. He or she may even apologize for being so rude last time and take your call. Of course there’s the possibility that that prospect is just a big jerk, but you don’t know that until you try, try again.
4. Make sure that what you are working towards is in the best interest of others.
You may think this would be an impossible thing for a teacher to forget. Obviously their work should always be in the best interest of their students. But teaching is a job too, and sometimes you can catch yourself focusing on what is best for you as opposed to your students. Sometimes, I would have to stop and ask myself, “Am I letting nap time go on for a half hour longer than usual because I think my students need the extra rest today, or because I need those few extra moments of quiet?”
Always remember to keep the best interest of your prospect in mind. Sometimes sales reps can get so caught up in trying to hit their numbers that they overlook the reasons that their service actually wouldn’t be a great fit for the account they are reaching out to. Be honest about the services you provide. If you aren’t honest with a prospect, there is a good chance the deal won’t work out, or if it did, there will be problems in the future. Take the time to stop and remember why you are offering your services, and really listen to your prospects to make sure it will actually benefit them, not just you.
I think many of life’s most important lessons are taught in preschool. You learn the basics of interpersonal communication: remember your manners, don’t hit your friends, use your listening ears, be kind to one another, and don’t be afraid to try new things. If your preschool teacher watched you do your job for a day, what advice do you think they would give you?
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