Wanted everywhere: an experienced, knowledgeable and motivated person capable of selling language training
As I help language schools with their sales and marketing, I’m often asked if I know a salesman who is for hire or help for language school sales jobs recruitment. There seems to be a penury of experienced, motivated and knowledgeable sales people in this profession and schools are always on the look-out. As there is no official qualification to be a sales or marketing manager of a language school, then there is basically only on-the-job training, and this is costly, long and full of ups-and-downs along the way.
No one grows up wanting to sell language training for a living. When a kindly uncle asked you “So missy, what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I bet you didn’t answer “Well, I just dream of selling language training”. The chances are pretty slim, aren’t they?
You might be the most capable salesman in the world, one whose powers of persuasion are legendary, one who can pick up the phone and have people listening on the edge of their seats, and still it’s not enough to sell language training properly. Why? Because it’s a subtle mix of many different skills and qualities that take time, talent and tenacity to get right.
Here is a list of the 5 main skills and qualities you need to sell language training properly:
1. Listening skills
This is the number one quality that nearly all sales advisors in language schools think they have, and happily it’s the number one skill that is needed. Whether it’s talking to a potential learner, agent orclient, you need the ability to be curious, ask questions, listen, reformulate, push (maybe even challenge) and find out why language training is needed, how much motivation is there and use the answers to find the right solution.
The huge demand for language training means that the range of needs is very varied. It’s just not possible that you have a one size-fits-all solution for all the people with whom you are in contact. You need to know about levels, methods, needs analysis, teaching styles, course materials, online learning, blended learning, rhythm, etc. Your offer needs to be able to cater for at least some of those needs, and you need to know how to push one learner to the right solution. As the offer evolves (and it will), it is important that you are involved in this design and development too. You also need to be constantly learning yourself – sales skills, marketing skills, market watch, teaching methods, evaluation skills. Your learning path will never end.
Margins are so small nowadays that it means we all have to multi-task. We might have to teach and sell. We might have to do paperwork and sell. We might have to direct the school and sell. We might have to manage teachers and sell. The smaller the school, the larger the chances are that you can’t just sell all day. Organization is key. Knowing how to manage your priorities, your tasks, your schedule, your clients, etc. is incredibly important. An organized school is a successful school, and you need to be part of that.
This is a huge area that is little understood and needs a lot of work. Evaluation is the capacity to take a photo of a current level of knowledge, results or skill at one time, and then take another photo a little later, and compare the difference to understand better how and why progress has been made. It’s important in language training for several reasons:
a) level progress – before, during, at the end of and after a course (especially if the student needs it for professional reasons – I will write an article about this soon)
b) soft skill progress – for example if the student needs to present better in English, then it is important to know how to evaluate this too
c) your own sales progress – what procedures are working? What period of the year has the best results? Which countries, agents or clients are you working the best at? It’s important to take the time to evaluate and work out what is working or failing to best plan for the future.
There will be days where everything seems to be going wrong, where people slam the phone in your face, where teachers don’t turn up, where students are late, where the I.T. system fails, where the weather is apocalyptic and we simply ask ourselves “Why are we doing this?”.
The good thing about language training is that it’s fundamentally not a high-pressure vocation – it’s not life-threatening, the product doesn’t have a shelf-life, you don’t have to go through years and years of obligatory training to run or work in language training. So pressure comes from managers but also probably from your own conscience. And this means you are your worst critic. So I’m a big advocate (but sadly not necessarily a good disciple) of creating the proper conditions for success – understanding your own personal motivation, managing stress, setting goals. All these things are important to hold strong and persevere to the good days where classes are full, teachers are happy and you’re in contact with a student who just absolutely loved his course and can’t wait to come back.
I look forward to your comments and if you need more help with selling to companies, then please take a look at our new course: