Used Car Management

Admittedly, when my first son was born, I was looking to make some extra money.  My wife and I were both teachers living in the Washington, DC metro area and life was expensive.  If you are unaware of the costs, daycare alone in this area can cost more than a state college tuition.  Once, I responded to an ad to sell an insurance product at nights and on the weekends.  I had never been involved in sales, but when I called the number the head of the small unit told me, “I have hired three former teachers and they have quickly become the best in the company.”  It seemed strange at the time and I never actually took the job, but it got me thinking about why that would be.

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I went to school to learn, teach, and lead America’s youth and not become a pushy “used car salesman”.  Used car salesmen have a long held negative connotation associated with their name.  Research, shows that the term “salesmen” in general, confirms what we already knew: the word most associated with “sales” or “selling” is pushy, followed closely by sleazy, slimy, manipulative, and dishonest.  However, think about your everyday life.  How much time is spent influencing others and persuading others to move in your direction?  Daniel Pink, author of Drive, who gave rise to many new insights in educational practice the last few years has some more that we may need to examine.

In To Sell is Human, he makes the argument that “we are all in sales now” and up to “40% of the day is dedicated to persuading and influencing others and people consider it crucial to their success.”  When you get down to it, selling is simply convincing someone to give up” their” resources for something else. As Pink states, “To sell someone well is to convince someone else to part with resources, not to deprive them, but to leave them better off.”[1] One of the biggest sectors of “non-sales selling” is what he refers to is the “Ed-Med” sector involved in healthcare and education.  This combined sector has continually grown to become the largest job sector in the United States economy.  It has added more jobs than any other sector in the last decade.[2]

“To sell someone well is to convince someone else to part with resources, not to deprive them, but to leave them better off.”

When I started my first company, Palank Tutoring, I soon realized how much I was actually in sales.  People would call and I would have to “sell” them on the value of my services.  I didn’t go out and buy Zig Ziglar sales tapes or invest in any sales courses, but I did start to take more notice on how to sell.  In the sales world, some businessmen told me it was called “inside sales” because I wasn’t generating business through cold calls or going door to door, but once they contacted me I had to sell the service I provided.

The problem with thinking about “sales” in the traditional sense is that the image that your brain usually conjures up is one of the guy with polyester or plaid suit with the gold watch trying to “push” unwanted crap on you.  Most likely the used car salesman, who continually tries to up-sell you or get you to add warranties or other unnecessary options to the deal, is the image that is most readily available in your memory. An educated population may be in the best interest of the public good, but just because it’s in the public good doesn’t mean we are not in sales.  Everyday, as a teacher you have to “sell” students that your lesson is the best thing ever.  However, when I began to think about it, being a used car salesman in the classroom is often what leads us to be ineffective at managing students.

Used car salesmen often used to rely on what is called information asymmetry.” Information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other. This creates an imbalance of power in transactions, which can sometimes cause the transactions to go awry.”[3]  In many classroom interactions, this is exactly what happens.  Teachers have an informational advantage on options, courses of action, and in general more experience in “life” in which to draw on than the students.  This sometimes manifests itself in the teacher being frustrated because the student doesn’t quite understand these options and therefore acts out, lies, or does not do the assignment correctly. In other words the transaction goes “awry.”

Agitation vs. Irritation
There are two types of selling that Sacramento, CA teacher Larry Ferlazzo, who has a huge Twitter following, has authored multiple books, and has one of the most popular education websites on the internet, describes in the book.  These are “Irritation and Agitation”.

“Irritation is challenging people to do something that they don’t want to do and agitation is challenging them to do something they want to do,” says Ferlazzo.  “Irritation doesn’t work. It’s about leading with my ears instead of my mouth.  Trying to elicit goals and shaping whatever we do in that context.”[4]

Irritation is what I will not refer to as “Used Car Classroom Management.”  Teachers in general have already had many more life experiences than the students and have seen more problems, solutions, failures, and successes.  We already have a full world advantage.  This used to work to the used car salesman advantage before the age of the internet, Kelly Blue Book, Carfax, Autotrader, and many other vehicles to find out the backgrounds of cars.  However, it doesn’t work as well now.  Access to this information has made life easier and less frightening when we want to buy a used car.

“Irritation doesn’t work. It’s about leading with my ears instead of my mouth.  Trying to elicit goals and shaping whatever we do in that context.”

Unfortunately, we must remember that the students, in most cases, are still operating on a daily basis as customers on a used car lot in the 70s and 80s.  They are wandering in, not always because they want to and do not fully know the options.  Good teachers will recognize that they have an informational advantage and will not take this out on the students.  They must remember that students have had little life experience compared to us and often have not had a positive one with the adults in their life.


Photes

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References

[1] Pink, D. (2012). To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others. New York: Riverhead Books. p.38

[2] Pink, D. (2012). To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others. New York: Riverhead Books. p.37

[3] Aboody, David; Lev, Baruch (2000). “Information Asymmetry, R&D, and Insider Gains”. Journal of Finance 55 (6): 2747–2766

[4] Pink, D. (2012). To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others. New York: Riverhead Books. p.38

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