Selling to schools takes a different sales process than most other IT solution sales. If you’re just beginning to map out a sales strategy for the education market, or if you’re looking for better ways to manage your sales team and improve their performance, consider these six best practices for EdTech sales.
1. Develop a profile of your ideal customer
The most successful sales strategies begin by defining a specific audience. Evaluate your current customers and determine which derive the most value and have the greatest satisfaction from the solutions you provide. Look for commonalities among those clients to understand which prospects are most likely to become customers.
Some metrics you may choose to evaluate and grade leads include:
- Type of school
- Number of students
- Recruiting success for private schools and universities
- Staff size and turnover rate
- State ranking
- Your opportunity to improve performance and deliver ROI
Finding information on leads can take time — but it’s time well-spent if it eliminates the risk that a salesperson will invest time into an account that will never result in a sale. You can use school websites and internet searches to collect information, and sales prospecting tools are available that can help you find schools that match your ideal customer profile who are looking to buy. There are also companies specifically focused on the EdTech market that can provide you with valuable information about your prospects.
Pursuing prospects that have the characteristics of your ideal customer can help your sales team make the best use of its time and close more deals.
2. Prepare for a long sales cycle
Schools rarely make technology purchases at random times of the year. K-12 schools governed by a school board, for example, typically begin working on a budget late in the previous year. Finalize it in the spring, and make purchases in the late spring or throughout the summer when funds are available. Private schools and universities will budget based on anticipated tuition and other sources of income to develop their annual budgets.
To propose an item for the budget, a committee conducts research at least a year before they intend to purchase to provide the board with the information it needs at budget time. In other words, you won’t call a school district or university in April and expect to deliver tablets and install wireless networking in July of the same year. The following July is more realistic for implementation.
Occasionally, schools will find that they have some budget that they need to use — or lose — before the next cycle. In those cases, a project may get bumped up to the current year.
3. Stay top of mind
Whether a school is planning to upgrade IT systems the following year or looking to spend use-it-or-lose-it money, you want the school to consider asking your business for a quote. Nurturing leads is essential in the education vertical to keep your name and information on the solutions you provide in front of potential customers.
Stay in touch with prospects with calls, email, newsletters, or visits. Provide some value with each touch, such as information on trends, news of EdTech advancements, or testimonies about your solutions they could use in their decision. Always remind your prospect that a partnership with your company will be an asset.
4. Talk to the right people
If you provide IT services and solutions to other verticals, you may be used to dealing with one or just a few decision makers. Purchasing decisions in education, however, depend on the input of multiple people in a variety of roles — from teachers and administrators to board members and the financial officer. Learn early who needs information and who will have a say in the decision — and develop those relationships.
5. Disqualify prospects, when warranted
With only so many hours in a day, your sales team needs to focus on prospects with the best chance of converting and with the budget for the project. If they learn that a sale won’t happen, it’s smart to focus attention elsewhere. Disqualifying a prospect doesn’t mean you never contact them again — after all, there are a finite number of schools. Move them to the bottom of the priority list and reassess for the next buying cycle.
6. Understand the school’s buying process
Purchasing follows a formal process at most schools and often includes sending requests for proposals, evaluations and demonstrations, and then accepting quotes on the system they choose. Ask for information on the procedure your prospect follows, including timelines, so you can make sure you provide complete information packets at the right times.
Make EdTech Sales Easy
Throughout the process, remember that educators, school administrators, and board members may not be technology experts. You need to provide information clearly and concisely so they can easily understand your solution and its value proposition.
Also, be prepared to provide superior customer service and support. Show the school that they made the right decision by signing a contract with your business and that by working with you, they receive much more than an IT system or service. Show them they now have a true partnership with a skilled and reliable provider who will keep their system optimized.
If you’ve won a contract, you’ve invested a lot to get to that point — enlist your whole team to ensure you keep the account for the long term.