Here’s that question from the Sales Best Practices LinkedIn Group, and my reply:
Q: Should salespeople be teachers? The Challenger Sales model suggests that salespeople need to be able to educate prospects on the prospects' line of business. Do you agree with this model? Why?
A: Before I answer the question, I think it's important to be clear about what the book actually says. The Challenger Sales model says that Educating -- specifically "Commercial Teaching" -- is part of an up-to-date approach to selling. But it's not specifically educating prospects on their own line of business! Rather, to quote the authors, it's educating our prospects about "some capability where you outperform your competitors," and/or challenging their assumptions and reframing the way they think about their business, and/or "helping them to calculate the costs they're incurring or the returns they're forgoing by failing to act on the opportunity you've ... taught them they've overlooked."
The key, though, to all education efforts is that your prospect has to WANT to be educated. And in my experience you often need a set of skills to get them there -- you can't just begin by educating. Should you do that, you're likely to run up against their egos ("Who is this gal to be telling me about my business?") or their quite legitimate belief that after having spent X number of years in their business, they know it better than you do!
In answer to your question, then, I'd say YES, salespeople should be teachers IF their prospects are educable and willing to be educated, AND the salesperson has done enough preparation and is smart enough to bring fresh thoughts and insights to the table in a way that's tailored to each prospect's specific circumstances.
Comment below or click through to join the discussion on LinkedIn! Do you agree with me? How are you educating your prospects these days? Or are you?