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Canadian Professional Sales Association

What kind of student were you? Whether you were an As across the board type kid or a B (and sometimes C) student, it’s likely you learned a lot of sales skills during your time at school. Let’s call them “Hidden” sales skills because at the time you probably had no idea at all they would be relevant to your future career. Here are the hidden sales skills you learned in school and how you can make use of them now to help your sales career soar!

Presentation Skills

Many of us hated giving presentations in school. Even if you were hugely confident and extroverted, the idea of standing up in front of your classmates to give a presentation on The Catcher In The Rye probably still filled you with dread. However, presenting to a disengaged and potentially unreceptive audience is excellent practise for presenting as a sales pro. If you could win over your teacher AND your bored classmates, then you can win over anyone. Think about the techniques you had to use back then. Certainly, if you wanted a good grade from teacher you had to do your research and speak clearly and confidently -- all of which are just as important today as a sales pro. But to get your classmates to listen up you also had to know your audience well and match your presentation style to their needs. You would have had to keep the content on each slide concise, use appropriate humour and embed engaging images and/or videos. In short, when you’re giving presentations today, remember that balance: you have to be entertaining but also satisfy the high standards of that one teacher-like person who has an eye for detail and wants you to impress them with your knowledge.

Negotiation Skills

Let’s imagine for a minute that you weren’t an A student. Did you ever have to convince your teacher to give you a deadline extension or turn that C into a B? Well then, your teenage self was already honing those negotiation skills. Moreover, like you probably find today, you didn’t get very far with teacher unless you could really build a case for support. Excuses and pleading don’t cut it in negotiations. To successfully negotiate with your teacher you had to demonstrate the value of what you were arguing for and be ready to counter objections on the fly. The same goes for negotiating today. It’s all boils down to demonstrating your product’s value and being prepared to answer objections while always keeping your cool and remaining respectful.

Collaboration Skills

Group products could be a pain, but teachers make you do them because they really do set you up for success in working as part of a team in the real world. At school, you would have run into the same personality types you encounter in the sales force: the bossypants who just wants to tell everyone else what to do; the slacker who doesn’t pull their weight; the know-it-all who always has to be right; the contrarian who has to turn everything into an argument; the crybaby who is extremely sensitive and whose feelings are easily hurt. Remember how you learned to work and collaborate with those different personality types? You can use those techniques today in the way you successfully work within your sales team and with clients. Weren’t ever very successful in working with a certain type of person? Use that knowledge and figure out how you can navigate that today.


At school things are usually highly structured: timetables of classes, school rules to abide by and deadlines to meet. The discipline you learned at school can definitely help you succeed in sales. The most effective sales pros set themselves high targets and structure their days and activities to help them get there. The more disciplined you are in sticking to the activities you’ve planned - such as completing a set number of cold calls or follow-ups - the more likely you are to experience success.  Being disciplined in time management is equally important. At school you learned that being late for class would earn you detention, today being late for a client meeting will earn you penalties in their respect for you and your likelihood to close.

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