Learning Sales Skills at School

SEPTEMBER 07, 2015 / Articles

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Westmount School conducted research and found that students who come out of the mainstream curriculum are not adequately prepared for the many diverse roles in business. They have developed a model for change, which includes the opportunity for students to learn, with practical experience, essential selling skills so that they can hit the ground running when they enter the workforce.

Jon Bowen, a Regional Principal with Westmount Education, says, “we developed a model for learning that included the opportunity for students to grow themselves – the ‘Learning to Learn framework’. We then established a number of study options additional to NCEA subjects that we believed would equip our students with the ability to go straight into professional or well-paid positions upon leaving school. The resulting Careers Advantage Programme (CAP) was then made available for the first time this year to students in Year 12 and Year 13 at Westmount Schools.” CAP provides a selection of professional courses that can be completed alongside senior school studies. The capability of each student is analysed professionally to ensure that they can effectively complete the course. Students are given the opportunity to apply for courses that reach beyond the school curriculum. Those with a specific career pathway may choose a tertiary course suitable for their development. Others may choose a more general course related to an area of work interest or personal development such as time-management or the development of other general skills suitable for work/employment/further study. One of the courses is a sales skills course.

To develop the course, Westmount conducted research with a number of training institutes within NZ including sales training organisations and found that few had a course that really matched the needs of school students pre-employment. Rick Silby of the CAP Reporting Team says “many sales courses assume that the participant already has a certain level of skill set, and such courses are developed to build on these skills. The majority of students however have no knowledge of the business environment and must be taught these skills from the start. Finding a course that starts with these essential skills and then builds on that foundation was not available from any of the options that we initially explored. The Marketing Company was one of the sales training organisations that we approached, and they offered to work with us to develop a course suited to the needs of students that are wanting to pursue a career in sales. We discussed what we were looking for with them and along with their input they compiled a couple of options which we refined. It was from this that the sales course for students was born.” The course is a mixture of online and face to face training. It provides the students with knowledge in a range of sales related subjects as well as personal development areas. The students learn about setting SMART goals, personality types and having the right mindset. The student’s progress through the various stages of developing and making a sale which includes topics like; making the most of cold calling, preparing for meetings, getting referrals, features versus benefits, negotiation, the process of closing the sale, and then managing clients after the sale has been made.

"If sales are not their final chosen career, they will still be equipped with a skill set that provides greater development opportunities in the workplace”

Stirling Smith

Along with this theory the students have monthly video conference meetings with a sales trainer to introduce each module and teach the key skills and they have access to a coach that they can call on at any point for help/advice. Each student is assigned to a business where they can go on sales calls with salesmen or undertake work experience alongside a sales manager or salesman. Ambrose Blowfield of The Marketing Company says, “By understanding the fundamental key elements of having the right positive mental attitude and being able to determine the impact of communication with different personality types, the students can take the variety of learned skills and use them in areas even outside of sales. If sales are not their final chosen career, they will still be equipped with a skill set that provides greater development opportunities in the workplace.” Silby adds, “The majority of the students are about 60% of the way through the course and most of them are aiming to have it completed by the time final exams for NCEA come up at the end of the year. Progress so far has been excellent and exciting.” A total of 282 students are participating in CAP. Year 13 Westmount student Stirling Smith is taking the 12 Week Intensive Sales Accelerator program. He says, “it is an exciting and hugely advancing course. While the workload is not too much, it certainly lives up to the intensity promised. I also take Business Studies as one of my six school choice subjects, and taking this sales course has hugely increased my chances for excellence within this subject due to the knowledge that I have picked up.

After watching each of the modules, I feel freshly invigorated and want to get out there and put my energies into it. The role plays really help me to see just how it should be done.” Bowen concludes with advice for other schools or teachers who see the need for students to be leaving school ready to hit the ground running. “Talk widely, communicate openly. Don’t try to perfect a model before you roll it out. Develop a product that can be trialled, and refine it as you go.”