Tutor: Teaching is Selling is Teaching

Far too many professionals in the business of education seem to dismiss, deride, or even fear the business part of the package. Everyone sounds like Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything:

“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed.”

Despite the negative stereotypes–which sometimes do rear their ugly heads in our industry–sales doesn’t have to rely on chicanery or coercion to connect goods and services with buyers. In fact, no enterprise exists without healthy amounts of selling.

As a tutor or test prep professional, you may be more comfortable focusing on teaching and letting someone else handle the sales for you. Obviously, as a business owner, I’d be in trouble if all of my tutors left to start competing firms. Fortunately, many professionals prefer to focus on their craft rather than the business that supports their craft. Nonetheless, you ignore the importance of selling at your peril. While you can minimize your exposure to direct sales transactions, a teacher can never really avoid selling. On the contrary, effective teachers hone their sales skills on a daily basis:

  • When you persuade students to pay attention in class, you are selling the value of your instruction.
  • When you persuade students to do their classwork or homework, you are selling the value of the subject or content.
  • When you persuade students to study for a quiz or exam, you are selling the value of preparation.
  • When you persuade—not command, coerce, wheedle, or beg—parents to support your efforts at home, you are selling the value of your services.

Forget the financial aspects of commerce, and focus instead on what really occurs during any sales transaction. Selling comes down to clearly communicating essential information and, where appropriate, persuading someone of the merits of an beneficial action. Doesn’t that sound like what teachers do on a daily basis. In a very real sense, teaching is selling, and selling is teaching.

— Mike Bergin

Tutor Tastemaker

Jade Arthur is a verbal exam prep tutor at the Huntington Learning Center in Murfreesboro, TN and possesses certifications from the National Tutoring Association, Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, and TPAPT.

What are three resources your practice depends on?
1) HLC curriculum
2) Steck-Vaughn’s Language Exercise: Student Edition Review Book
3) McGraw-Hill Education ACT 2022

What is one more resource you strongly recommend?
Powerful Teaching by Patrice M. Bain and Pooja K. Agarwal. This book focuses on four main teaching strategies — Retrieval Practice, Spaced Practice, Interleaving, and Feedback-driven metacognition — that are essential to unlocking your student’s educational potential. I’ve used these concepts to create quizzes for my students, and I’m a better tutor because of them.

What is one insight every tutor should hear? 
Never stop cultivating value. Create your own resources, seek out certifications, join a tutoring association. Every action you take builds your knowledge base and expands your capabilities as a tutor. The more you do, the more invaluable you become.

Tutor Tips, Tools, and Thoughts

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Does Mindfulness Help? A Blockbuster New Study
Does mindfulness training produce better outcomes than general SEL training in academic settings? Prepare to be surprised.

Average Rank and Adjusted Rank Are Better Measures of College Student Success than GPA
We know that grades lack sufficient rigor to fairly differentiate students, but what metrics are better?

Switching From a Sole Proprietorship to an LLC: When and Why to Do It
Tutoring success brings new opportunities and decisions.

How Many AP Classes Should I Take?
This article exemplifies just how confusing every aspect of both high school and college has become.

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