In Daniel H. Pink’s To Sell Is Human, he discusses “non-sales selling”, or moving people to adopt new ideas or ways of doing things. This is what instructors and ninety percent of the population do daily. To do this, Pink writes, we must agitate rather than irritate our clients (students, coworkers, managers, etc.). The difference here is that irritating our clients means that we want them to move in our direction but agitating them have them want to move in our direction, which leads to better outcomes. Now, how do we agitate rather than irritate? We listen.

But how can we listen is we are teachers? As a language instructor, I was listening 80% of the class time, lecturing 10% and the rest providing feedback. I now put on 1-hour workshops where I talk because this models typical workshops and it is the template of most every seminar at convention. To agitate clients into moving in my direction I first have to listen the way I listen in my language classes. I now follow a 10/80/10 breakdown as mentioned above in my language classes.

At the beginning of a workshop, I take 10% of the time to introduce the new tool, technique, or concept and then open the floor to guided discussion. How can this new tool, technique, or concept be adopted? In the last 8 minutes or so I summarize, give feedback and follow-up information. I walk away with a better understanding of the practical applications, opportunities, and challenges of what I was attempting to move clients towards, and they sold themselves into using it. I don’t sell the tool, technique, or concept but rather they buy it, which is much more desirable. They buy it by finding an application and need themselves. By listening, I am able to reinforce their self-discoveries that lead clients to want to adopt something new. By telling them what they need only leads to rejection.

To sell a tool, technique, or concept I’ll shut my yap 80% of the workshop and open my ears.


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