While we teach, we learn.

            —Seneca

Here’s a simple but highly effective sales strategy with a big payoff. The first time I ever made use of it, I was just starting out in my career. My boss instructed me to go on a sales call with “Alice,” a trainee who’d stumbled onto a big opportunity, and teach her how to beat our competitors.

Aargh! I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t know much about the other vendors. All I knew was that we needed to win. Plus, I didn’t want to look stupid in front of a trainee.

For the next two days, I immersed myself in learning everything I could about the competition. I studied how they stacked up against us. I talked to experienced reps to learn about their strategies. Finally, I figured out how to engage the prospect in a conversation that would make us seem like the obvious choice.

My head was spinning. Before we went to the meeting, I reviewed everything with Alice. I outlined competitive strengths and weaknesses. I reviewed our plan for the meeting. Then, I answered her questions.

We marched into the prospect’s office. I was a nervous wreck, but I did my best to hide it. Two hours later, we left with a signed contract. I was never so relieved in my whole life.

Here’s what teaching Alice did for me. I became an overnight expert in our competition. I pulled together a rock solid, step-by-step strategy for the meeting. I figured out how to explain what I was doing to a rookie — and why.

As a result, I leapfrogged in my own sales development. I know it seems strange to recommend teaching while you’re still trying to learn something yourself. But the benefits of mentoring are huge. 

Annie Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant: The New Science of Smart writes about a university program in which learners are responsible for teaching a given subject to a computerized character. Of participants, Paul says, “As they prepare to teach, they organize their knowledge, improving their own understanding and recall.”

Teaching can help identify gaps in your own learning and make you motivated to master the material. That’s exactly what happened to me.

So here’s my challenge to you: Ask yourself what you really want (or need) to learn right now. Who can you teach it to? Look around. Get creative. And get teaching, so that you can learn to become a top seller.

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Jill Konrath is the author of SNAP Selling and Selling to Big Companies. If you’re struggling to set up meetings, click here to get a free Prospecting Tool Kit.