Sales Skill is a Life Skill Even for Young Students

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset is just a convoluted way of saying, “Learn to sell.”

I had a classmate who stood out for his insatiable curiosity. He was the kid who would pick up something from the ground, put it in his mouth, taste it and determine if it was an edible seed to keep in his pocket or discard as a stone. He was the kid who picked up a frog on his way to school, and caused a ruckus when the frog escaped his satchel and jumped from desk to desk in our classroom. He was also the one, who, in one Divali season, decided to sell backyard fireworks to people, carrying them around on his bicycle. He was a sales guy. The same kid grew up to become a scientist, got his Ph.D. from Cornell and went on to lead massive projects in some of the largest pharma companies.

He thus became a scientist and a salesman. However, those skills were developed early – a curious mind and customer-service orientation.

The point of this story is that it’s never too early to learn how to sell. Another point of the story is that at every stage in our lives, we are selling something – whether we are making a case for something, convincing someone of our point of view, or writing a research grant to persuade a government agency to award us a grant.

Children are born with sales skills – from the time they cry to get fed. I do not know when they unlearn that skill, but it is one thing that students in AlligatorZone pick up because of the way our programs are designed.

By learning to sell, students hone their listening skills.

By learning to sell, students understand how to craft a winning message.

By learning to sell, students learn the value of authenticity.

By learning to sell, they learn how to play on their strengths.

By learning to sell, students build the kind of confidence that can neither be taught nor bought.

Selling is an entrepreneurial skill. Everyone develops or acquires sales skills at some point in life. The sooner the better. Whether you are trying to sell lemonade from your porch, sneakers online, or that old refrigerator on Facebook marketplace, you are learning an invaluable life skill.

As the entrepreneur-turned-VC Kanwal Rekhi once told me, an entrepreneur must always be selling.

Selling is a skill every student must learn early on in life.

Even a surgeon has to learn selling skills. A surgeon-inventor, even more so. Join us on March 28th, to learn from surgeon-inventor Dr. Anjan R. Shah on his entrepreneurial foray through co-inventing a new way to fix a broken hip bone. Buy your tickets via

How Students Could Differentiate Themselves.

I am hearing it over and over again, and I am hearing it not just from college admission officials, and consultants when they advise high school students aspiring to go to colleges, but also from companies recruiting professionals in engineering and other fields. I have heard that is the case even with doctors applying for residency. The world expects applicants to be different and stand out – at least until they join their organization.

Once they join an organization, they have to learn how to fit in. A student with an internship in a giant engineering conglomerate yesterday mentioned how he is learning corporate jargon and acronyms that is practiced like a religion within the company. However, that is a topic for another day.

Today, I want to address the expectation to be different, and the need to stand out among competing candidates.

Different means distinctive in this context.

Different means interesting.

When kids in high school get released into the real world of career pursuit, college education or professional training, I hear that they are expected to be different and learn to stand out among the 8 billion people in the world, or for that matter, the probable 8,000 candidates vying for a spot.

How could parents and educators help children be different? The answer is simple, yet difficult to achieve within a schooling system that is designed to educate students collectively.

The simple answer is to allow students stay different outside of school.

A student who was leading a college campus tour yesterday could not name a single unorganized activity or hobby that he enjoys in his free time. They were all programs in student clubs. These are important, no doubt, but when students go for a job interview the interviewers will not learn anything new about the world through him.

It is more important for students is to have room to pursue an interest on their own, something they created, crafted or curated. Something on which they can put their name with pride.

A pragmatic and low-cost approach is for a student to explore entrepreneurship.

That becomes easier when a kid is exposed to entrepreneurship.

Teaching it may yield results, but kids learn by observation and even better, by doing.

Not everyone is born into a family business or has an aunt or uncle who is in business. The next best thing is to provide an environment of entrepreneurial exposure. That’s been the genesis of AlligatorZone.

This environment can be created at home, but as one dad who is a successful physician-entrepreneur told me at our summer workshop, his teenage son will not follow his advice, and that it was better for him to develop an entrepreneurial mindset by attending AlligatorZone’s workshops.

Steve Jobs closed his Stanford speech saying, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Add “Be interesting” to that.

A good start would be to attend an AlligatorZone event where students can meet with accomplished startup founders and inventors. Join us in Tampa on March 28th to hear from and meet surgeon-inventor Dr. Anjan R. Shah MD., who will show us a surgical product he co-invented, a new way to fix a broken hip bone.

Tips for Students On Speaking to Physician Inventors

On Thursday, March 28, 2024, AlligatorZone will feature a physician inventor in a live in-person event. School students will have the opportunity not only to see and learn about an innovative surgical device that’s “a better way to fix a broken hip,” in the words of its co-inventor Dr. Anjan R. Shah, MD, but also get to chat informally with the speaker. 

AlligatorZone’s events are also industry networking events for young students where a community gathers around an entrepreneur, and many of them wait to speak to the presenter after the session.

The one key aspect of AlligatorZone events is that the founders, entrepreneurs and inventors who make an appearance as featured speakers, are highly accomplished professionals, who, despite very hectic lives make the time to have mindful conversations with attendees once their presentation is done, especially with the younger members of the audience.

It’s a little different with physician inventors and physician entrepreneurs. They have often added new knowledge during their practice of medicine and figured out a better way to do their work or transform their industry. They would have figured out how to protect their invention and bring it to the market. They may have a keen sense of which among their inventions is worth pursuing due to their busy schedule. They may have picked up entrepreneurial skills while being a physician.

For those who are able to attend our event on March 28th in person, here is how a student can make most of the opportunity to talk to a physician inventor.

  • Do your homework on the speaker: The presenter is a physician inventor. That means you are in the presence of a creative problem solver who has invested years in learning medicine, and in the practice of medicine. In this case, the physician is a leading orthopedic trauma surgeon.
  • Do your homework on the problem the inventor is solving. Read up a little on how hip surgeries are done so that you can understand the speaker better or ask well informed questions to understand his invention while he showcases it.
  • Prepare for a conversation with the featured speaker. Aim to impress from the get-go, especially if you are a student because every opportunity to speak to an accomplished industry professional is an opportunity to improve your communication skills. Prepare a short crisp self-introduction and practice it. Deliver your self-introduction with confidence and a smile before you ask your question. Use simple language when you ask your questions.
  • Prepare to ask about the inventing process. Inventing something, making it a product and marketing it is not something that is typically taught in med schools to the best of our knowledge. You can learn a lot about how a physician with specific knowledge and expertise decides to also become an inventor.
  • Any ask must be clear and straightforward. Have a clear ask especially if you are looking for guidance in the form of insights into their field of specialization, mentoring or seeking shadowing opportunities (be prepared mentally for your request to be declined, and graciously accept it).
  • Be considerate. A physician inventor is very likely coming to the event after a day of seeing patients or conducting surgeries. Be patient and respectful in asking your questions. Be respectful of the presenter’s time and also be considerate to the others waiting to speak to the presenter after you.
  • Be helpful. Inventors rarely get to hear from a broader audience of people outside their field, so you too have something of value to offer them. Share any insights that might come to your mind about the inventor’s product. Inventors and entrepreneurs always look for feedback and want to improve both, their product, and how they communicate the value of their product.

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