Selling into the K12 and education market presents unique challenges and opportunities for salespeople. It’s a sector where the altruistic motivation of improving education for students can be a powerful driving force. In this article, we’ll delve deeper into some key strategies and insights for successfully selling in the education market.
With this in mind we’ve put together a few tips to help those selling into this market.
- Addressing Budget Concerns: One common hurdle you’ll face is the perpetual “we don’t have enough money” card that education institutions tend to overplay. It’s essential to be prepared for this and arm your sales team with well-crafted talk tracks and value propositions. Show how your product or service offers tangible value and how it can be a worthwhile investment in the long run.
- Understanding Funding Release Dates: Schools and districts operate within specific funding release schedules. While this can be frustrating, it’s an essential factor to consider. Publicly available information can help you track these dates and align your sales efforts accordingly. Remember, they can’t spend money they don’t have, so timing is crucial.
- Identifying Early Adopters: Despite their reputation for being slow to change, there are forward-thinking educators and institutions that embrace technology and innovation. Identifying and targeting these early adopters can be a strategic move to gain a foothold in the market.
- Leveraging Inside Sales Teams: Selling through an inside sales team can be highly effective in the education market. These teams can establish and nurture relationships with educators and administrators, providing consistent support and information throughout the sales process.
- Building Trust: Trust is paramount in the education sector. While institutions may be slow to change, once they trust a product, service, and the sales executive behind it, they tend to remain loyal. Invest time in building and maintaining these relationships.
- Playing the Long Game: The education market has a finite number of institutions in the K12 and college segments in the United States. Therefore, it’s essential to play the long game. Focus on building a strong reputation, fostering customer loyalty, and growing your market share steadily over time.
- Selling the Reality and the Dream: Effective sales in education involve presenting both the practical benefits and the aspirational vision. Understand what motivates educators, which often boils down to time and money. Be specific about the time saved and relate it to their extensive to-do lists. Paint a clear picture of how your solution can help them achieve their dreams while addressing their immediate needs.
- Implementing a Strong Sales Process: A structured sales process is critical. Consider adopting methodologies like N.E.A.T. Selling™ and train your team on essential techniques such as Respect Contracts, Open & Closed-Ended Questions, Mirroring, and Labeling.
- In-Depth Questioning: Spend ample time asking open-ended questions to uncover critical insights, such as:
- What is driving the initiative within the institution? Is it coming from the Principal, Superintendent, or District-Wide?
- Understand the funding sources, whether it’s from a local bond initiative, state, or federal funds.
- Explore the curriculum goals both for teachers and students.
- Inquire about other ongoing projects, as institutions often juggle multiple priorities. By understanding their pains outside your offerings, you can build trust and tailor your solutions accordingly.
- Negotiation Strategies: When finalizing contracts, consider including clauses that allow your institution to use them as a case study, a referral customer, or a member of a customer advisory board. While this may require finesse due to district policies, it’s often easier to negotiate such clauses upfront than to add them later.