5 Ways To "Sell" Your Activity To a Reluctant Education Crowd

Selling is in Ron Popeil's genes.

You're not sure who he is?  Then chances are you're not an insomniac:

You're thinking "ohhh I get it, Public Education is going down the tubes and I'll have to find a new job in the near future..."

Wrong.  Ron Popeil is an inventor marketer: he develops new things and convinces people to buy them. As a school leader, that should sound familiar...

Change in a school is tough, almost as hard as selling people things they don't need.  We can learn a lot from Ron Popeil; stick with me through this post and you'll agree.
We trust Popeil because he is a teacher.  His segments are a 30 minute lesson on how to use something new.  He teaches a skill.  If you're bored, watch one of his infomercials; how many times does he show the viewer how to drop food into the 5in1 fryer?  It seems like dozens.  He presents the same skill in a variety of different ways.  As educators, we do the same.

But let's take it a step further.  Being building leaders (teachers or administrators), we often need to  "sell" people things they may not want; think of Professional Development or uninspiring content.

Here are 5 lessons learned from Popeil, a professional "seller".

1.  Popeil has an incessant drive to improve

Popeil has an overwhelming will to improve a concept.  He tirelessly works and redesigns prototypes until he has what he feels is the best product he can develop.  Only then does he pitch it.  He spent four years designing the 5in1 Fryer.

Further, he communicates the thoughtful design features effectively.  This touch gives the product a personalized flavor.

Before pitching a PD idea or lesson, educators need to improve and personalize the concept for their audience.

Be transparent about the development process.

Educators can do themselves a favor and communicate to their audience how the lesson/activity was improved for them.

2.  Popeil's product serves a purpose

Popeil's development theory is simple.  From Entrepeneur.com:
"1) the product must be needed by lots of people; and 2) the product has to solve a problem."
Problems drive purpose.

Popeil may say something like "I get it.  Some people may not have a lot of money.  When they come home from work they need a quick way to prepare dinner for the whole family."  He identifies the problem.  He'll then follow up with the purpose: "I had that in mind when I designed the 5in1 Fryer."  

Your lesson or activity serves a purpose to solve a problem.  Get your audience on your side by taking a moment to craft a problem/purpose phrase.

If they understand the problem, they'll understand the purpose of what your trying to "sell" them.

Using the problem/purpose design, he makes people want things they didn't know they wanted.

In this respect, he is very much like Steve Jobs.

From Steve Jobs: "a lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show them"

Said about Popeil by Steve Wynn "He has the ability to make people want things they didn't know they wanted."

Your problem/purpose statement must be clear.  It must make your audience want something they didn't know they wanted.

3.  Popeils products are so good that they market themselves

His philosophy on marketing is simple: marketing and product are inseparable.  His products genuinely work as they are supposed to.

The time you spend developing a lesson should be spent on the quality of the activity.

You won't need to sell your lesson/activity if your audience perceives it as something high in quality and worth their time.  Your activity, being amazing, will market itself.

Further, Popeil always focused on the product.  The product takes center stage as soon as his infomercial begins and remains center stage throughout.

When pitching, focus on the activity and take a back seat.  You're simply the messenger.

4.  The product won't disrupt the daily routine of people's lives...

...only improve it.  We hear "quick and easy" or "huge time saver" often when watching his programs.    EVERYBODY on Earth is reluctant to change.  However, small changes that fit into routines are more palatable.

Specifically addressing Professional Development: the change must fit into the daily routine of the participant.  It can not significantly alter or change their current method of doing things.

Using phrases like "this small change will help you do                       easier" is a sure-fire way of getting participants on board.

5. Popeil values testimonials

Popeil  sells so effectively (he once sold 1.25 million dollars of pasta makers in 12 minutes) because he uses testimonials appropriately.  

He actually got Flavor Flav in his audience to endorse his product!

Customers trust other customers.  Therefore, participants trust the opinions of other participants.

"Last year, my students thought this lesson was exciting because..."
"The most recent time this PD activity was implemented, participants thought it ..."

Testimonials give your lesson/activity street credit and social proof provided by peers.  Work hard to include testimonials into your pitch; especially for a reluctant PD crowd.

The next time you're considering a new activity, consider Ron Popeil- you'll find the pitch much easier.

Thanks for reading.

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