Organizations that provide EdTech solutions to school districts and post-secondary organizations have an unprecedented opportunity to do so in this post-COVID-19 environment. As institutions grapple with the need to provide remote education to students on a large scale, and for an indefinite time period, the need for high-quality, reliable, and user-friendly solutions has never been higher.
Still, there are challenges to overcome. When making sales outreach calls or emails, and when giving presentations to prospects, EdTech providers can improve their chances of closing the sale by focusing on basic principles. In addition, being aware of – and prepared for – COVID-19-specific sales challenges can also increase the likelihood of success.
Four Key Sales Principles for EdTech Providers
1. Find ways to stand apart from the competition.
With more companies in the EdTech space today than ever before, and with information about competitors available at decision makers’ fingertips, you need to stand out from other providers. Without the current ability to explore vendors’ offerings at education conferences (most are canceled or delayed due to COVID-19), potential customers are researching providers’ websites, reviewing their social media content and thought leadership, and talking to their peers at other institutions or in other districts. It is critical that EdTech sales professionals be able to differentiate themselves, their companies, and their products and services.
2. Don’t try to win on price.
While it is important to differentiate your organization from other EdTech providers, don’t make the mistake of trying to undercut other organizations just to get in the door with a district or institution. Every EdTech provider knows that school districts are working with tight budgets, but you should be winning on the overall value of your solution. Under-pricing your products will ultimately have a long-term, negative impact on your ongoing ability to continue investing in product development, marketing, and staffing. It will also be difficult to get approval to raise per/student fees at a later date, as there are typically multiple levels of approvals required.
3. Understand the differences in budgeting and buying for different levels.
Another mistake EdTech sales people sometimes make is thinking the sales cycle is the same at all levels of education. In reality, the process for K-12 schools often look vastly different from the budgeting and buying cycle for colleges and universities. If you hire a new sales professional with years of successful experience selling to K-12 school districts and want her to focus her attention on higher education, help her succeed by providing training on this fundamental difference.
4. Don’t be afraid to provide information – and lots of it.
Finally, know that decision-makers considering EdTech solutions do not simply want a high-level overview of what your solution can do. Sometimes, sales professionals are afraid to get too technical or to provide too much detail. Remember that the stakes are high (learning outcomes), and all stakeholders today want to understand specifically how your offering will be integrated, implemented and used. Be straightforward, transparent and comprehensive about what your product can do as well as what its limitations are – particularly if you are trying to convince a potential client to transition from a competitor’s product to yours.
Overcoming COVID-19 Specific Challenges
In addition to the “normal” challenges EdTech sales people face when trying to make a sale, such as being prepared to answer prospective clients’ questions and overcome objections effectively, and dealing with institutional buyers who may be slow to decide and require committee approvals to move forward, the novel coronavirus pandemic has created additional potential roadblocks.
While the virus rages on in parts of the country, social distancing continues. This means more presentations are done electronically rather than in-person. Not being physically present in the same room makes it difficult to gage viewers’ reactions, read facial expressions, or interpret non-verbal cues. In addition, it’s also more difficult in some cases to determine who the decision-makers are when presenting to a group – especially when those presentations are done remotely. The stakes are high though; when districts don’t have effective distance learning tools in place, students can’t learn.
The Hiring Landscape Has Changed
Education and technology salespeople must be able to master traditional sales techniques, while identifying and focusing their efforts on key decision-makers. The ability to effectively deliver remote sales presentations is also critically important in this environment.
Simply put, EdTech organizations must have the right salespeople in place, and the right leaders who can lead their teams to successful outcomes. The importance of approaching school district clients effectively has never been higher; students’ learning literally depends on it. EdTech firms are grappling with increased demand and the need to hire highly-qualified leaders in a competitive climate.
In a recent executive search engagement, a company retained The Renaissance Network (TRN) to help with filling an open Sales Director position. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the organization put the search on hold, unsure at that time whether they would be able to fill the position after all. However now, with unprecedented interest in the company’s products due to an increase in distance learning requirements, they are considering hiring two of the candidates TRN introduced.
Finding sales people and leaders who have the skills needed to deliver results in this unforeseen environment is becoming more difficult, as education and technology providers around the world are seeing significant increases in demand for their products and services. TRN can help.
To learn more, contact us today!