I’ve recently been asked to become a real estate professor at a university. This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time now. Over the course of a number of years, I have developed a comprehensive training program on how to train commercial real estate agents in sales. I have also contacted several universities to inquire about implementing my program into a classroom and the furthest I have gotten with interest thus far is to participate as a guest speaker.
I never understood why universities don’t offer sales classes. Sales is the number one driver of business and without it, businesses cannot succeed. Yet, colleges don’t buy into the idea of offering such courses. Take a look at the curricula of the world’s top-ranked business schools, and you will find that most MBA programs offer no sales-related courses at all, and those that do offer only a single course in sales management. Even at the undergraduate level of business instruction, sales courses are rare.
Myth: Sales cannot be taught.
Many believe that sales cannot be taught and there is a stigma that sales is something you do when you are not educated, or it’s a job you take when you can’t secure anything else. This belief has roots going back to the Great Depression, when jobs were scarce and the only job you could get was selling apples or knocking on doors of homes to sell brooms. But there may be something else happening now that may shift this stereotype.
Companies are showing their frustration with the lack of exceptional sales talent in the marketplace and are starting to put pressure on universities to add classes and degrees in sales. The consensus from companies is that the millennial generation cannot sell.
Today’s classrooms are very different from when I was in school. Students are allowed to bring in their laptops and iPads to freely view their screens during a lesson. Active questioning and debates between students and teachers rarely happen anymore. Additionally, classes are often times divided into smaller group units, similar to today’s work environments. Collaboration instead of individual thought is the new norm.
Pressure is cooking.
The university that is now interested in speaking with me is seeking people, not to teach sales, but to teach one-on-one communication by speech instead of text. The recruiter I’m working with confided in me, “We are under pressure by large local companies that want us to teach students how to ‘speak.'” This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I wanted to teach commercial real estate sales.
As salespeople, we do see the changing ways we are communicating with our clients. Even though the landlords I work with tend to be older, they still prefer that I send them a quick question or comment by text, rather than by picking up the phone to talk about it.
Sales requires more than just talent.
While many salespeople do enjoy speaking to people, that doesn’t mean they possess the well-rounded communication skills required when building relationships and rapport with clients. Often times, technology firms hand out manuscripts and prompts to their millennial staff to handle their sales.
But what manuscripts can’t help with is listening. Listening is an essential part of communication and it’s not the same as hearing. Being a good listener requires patience and a willingness to pay attention and understand another person, even though you may not agree with them. Implementing classes in sales would help foster these key skills in order to gain an understanding of what the prospect truly wants and needs. You can tell whether or not someone is really listening by analyzing their response when they ask you, “How are you?” and you respond with something negative and they respond, “Good, glad to hear it!”
If you build it, they will come.
Now that schools are starting to feel the demand from businesses, it’s raised awareness for the importance of offering sales courses in college and universities. The more demand is raised, the more schools will listen and comply.
If you believe your business would benefit from access to a larger pool of talented sales professionals-I urge you to consider becoming an active business partner or part time professor to a college in need of a sales program.
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