Teach Your Customers, Don’t Just Sell!

Do you remember a particular teacher in high school or college that really stood out from the crowd? I had a professor in a Business Law class at SDSU that I will always remember because of two things: his tests were all oral exams in front of the entire class (I really had to be prepared) and he and his wife hosted a potluck at their home for all of his students at the end of the semester. He really cared about making sure his students learned in his class and that he also cared about them as people, too.

“OK, Tim, so what does this have to do with sales?”

I probably had at least a hundred teachers throughout my school years and only a few made a significant impact on me.

Think about your customers…they have probably had well over a hundred different salespeople calling on them during their careers. Have you made an impact on them?

As I was thinking about how teaching is relevant to sales, I did some research on different teaching methods. Here are three that apply to the sales process:

  • Lecturing
  • Demonstrating
  • Collaborating.


This method is the main approach used in schools and, I would suggest, comparable to the standard PowerPoint presentation used in sales. It is relatively easy for both teacher and salesperson to talk TO their audience in this way of presenting information. The challenge with this approach is that while the presenter may be engaged in the presentation, the audience member may not be involved. Giving a standard lecture or presentation inadvertently creates a passive audience…one that may be “tuned out” and not receptive to the message being presented.

The best salespeople are aware of the risk of the passive audience and work to involve the audience in the presentation. I suggest using moments of silence during presentations as they will reengage the audience because they are unexpected. Additionally, depending on the size of your audience, feel free to ask them questions. This is done not to check if they are paying attention but to pull them into the presentation by turning it into a conversation. Finally, I like walking around the room, or stage, if the layout allows for that. There is no reason to have your feet planted into one spot as you deliver your message.


This is the process of teaching by using examples…for sales, a live demonstration of your product. In the digital advertising sales area, this consists of going online and walking your customers through the steps a user would take to see the customer’s online ad and how they would interact with that ad. Obviously, some products are difficult, or impossible, to demonstrate live with a customer…but, it can increase your customer engagement during the meeting if they are able to use the product themselves.

I can personally say, though, that live demonstrations can go awry. The connection may be faulty, or your own website could have problems, too. I always like to have screenshots of any online products to present in the case of technical issues. It is important to remember, in general, that it is good to always have a ‘Plan B’ for any sales meeting.


This is my favorite teaching method and I believe it can also be very effective in sales. It will work best during a smaller sized meeting because of the need for participation from your attendees. The idea is to actively encourage participation from those in the meeting. You might use a presentation deck as a starting point…but only as needed to facilitate the discussion. Whatever product or service you’re selling should be talked about with the participants. Encourage them to offer opposing viewpoints and objections. I love to hear objections vocalized by customers because that gives me the opportunity to address those concerns. It is far more difficult to present when your customers sit with stone faces. But, your job as a great salesperson is to ask questions or offer opinions that are designed to generate a response. You want a vigorous discussion of your product offerings, so you can learn more about your customer’s thoughts on what you’re presenting.

All three of these teaching methods have their place in the sales world and, in reality, most of your meetings and presentations are going to use elements of all of them. The most important point is to discover what will work best for you in getting your customers engaged with both you and your products. You want your customer to think of you as the best salesperson that they meet with.

Author: Tim Hand

My name is Tim Hand, and I am a digital media, sales & marketing team leader, and I have a real passion for partnering with companies, publishers and agencies to help drive client growth and bottom-line revenues.

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