Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why do you sell door-to-door?

One of the most common questions we are frequently asked is...

"Why do you sell door-to-door??"

What is this, the 1950s? Ever heard of e-commerce? 

Fair questions. The answers are pretty simple though and will likely make sense to you. It all comes back to our sales and leadership program for our student reps. 

Let's start by pointing out that the mission of our company is not to sell educational products. The mission of our company is to be the best organization at helping young people develop the skills and character they need to achieve their goals. Selling great educational products is something we enjoy doing because 1) we believe that education is a crucial element in life, and 2) we believe that our business model is the most effective way of achieving our previously-stated mission.

The human part
Have you noticed that our culture spends more and more time staring at screens, but less and less time and attention given to the people around us? Communication skills, empathy, and healthy mental and emotional development does not take place by staring at a screen. It takes place interacting with people face-to-face. The college student at your door realizes they are part of a technology-dependent narcissistic generation; they're actively setting themselves apart from these negative stereotypes. Instead of living life through screens, they're out engaging communities, helping families.

The skills part
Since 1855, our products have been sold door-to-door to families because it is an unmatched way of teaching student reps how to run a small business in-between semesters at school. Students learn how to professionally interact with people from every type of background while gaining other by-products such as business management, public speaking and listening skills, using referrals, networking, building relationships, service-mindedness, and persevering through rejection. These students are setting themselves apart from what is increasingly being considered by employers as a spoon-fed entitled generation.

The character part
Not everyone is as excited about door-to-door sales as we are though, and that's perfectly fine. In fact, dealing with the opposition, challenges, credibility questioning and social media "outrage" while simultaneously receiving encouragement and support from people in the very same community, is one of the reasons many students develop new levels of perspective and emotional maturity – something that cannot be gained the same way from other summer jobs, internships, and definitely not through e-commerce. We get to deal with the entire spectrum of humans and human emotions face-to-face. We believe there's a tremendous amount of value for an individual (especially a college student) who is willing to step outside their comfort zone of friends and family (people who are typically like them) to do business with people from every other walk of life.

The consumers' part
Southwestern Advantage is about much, much more than selling educational products. Sale or no sale, students are taught to sit down with a family, take interest in their situation, and engage the kids in a conversation about their future and why school matters. We look for ways to help younger students get through the many challenges that come with a quality education without losing interest in school along the way. We believe in having real face-to-face conversations with families, looking them in the eye, listening to their stories, their victories, their struggles, and seeing if and how we can help. We're big fans of unfiltered human interaction. Websites and apps don't do that. So at the risk of sounding like your grandparents, that's a very real reason our student reps sell the old-fashioned way they do.

Based on feedback from parents, our face-to-face business style is something they appreciated most. It's one thing for their middle school or high school student to read a social media post or a text message about why education matters. It's another for a college student to have an encouraging conversation with them about how, yes, Algebra and Chemistry are tough, but you're doing challenging things now that your future-self will thank you for; here's why it's worth it and here's how I might be able to help.

The reality is that our program and products are a great fit for many, definitely not a fit for everyone, and we're totally okay with both. So if you see a college kid carrying a green bag selling books, maybe give them 5 minutes with an open mind. You don't have to buy, but they'll at least brighten your day. Who knows, maybe you'll see something that will really help your kids. If not, let them know that you appreciate the work ethic and positive attitude that they've chosen to have, and wish them well.