What Districts Really Need to Know about Your Products
As every education marketer knows, there are more than 14,000 school districts each with their own process of finding and purchasing products and services. Even though their methods may differ, the essentials remain the same. Every district is concerned about choosing the best available products to support their instructional objectives. Their determination of what is “best” is usually based on some combination of the following factors:
- Awareness of products
- Available funding
- Credibility of research
- Implementation challenges
- Professional development required
- Relationships with current vendors
Making effective sales presentations to district buyers requires answering the following questions: What’s available? How much does it cost? Does it work? Can you prove it? What’s the timeline for deployment? Does it require training? What are the expected outcomes?
Because they have been disappointed in the past when promised product features or outcomes have not materialized, district buyers are hesitant to buy without strong proof of efficacy. Districts value third-party independent research, but it is difficult to make the economics of randomized trials work for most products. However, the greater the research rigor, the greater the amount of trust a district buyer will have in the product.
Some of the other methods of demonstrating efficacy include: research papers, case studies, school pilots, referral sites, third-party reviews and evaluations, education consultants, and recommendations from other educators and districts. The best kind of proof is first-hand accounts from other districts. So, if there is a way for potential buyers to see your product in action in a nearby district, using existing schools as referral sites can be a valuable option. Installing pilot studies are proving more difficult than in the past due to student privacy concerns and the volume of requests.
Districts have a bias to well-established companies, which makes it difficult for newer providers to get traction in the market. Too many district buyers have purchased products and services from newer companies only to find themselves without the product or support services or both. So, knowing that the bias exists alerts companies to the need to build strong relationships.
Getting to Yes
District buyers have less time and fewer resources, including staff, than ever before. They appreciate working with companies that understand and are responsive to their needs. The district is focused on selecting products and services that support their instructional goals and that demonstrate good stewardship of district resources.
Make it easy for them to say yes to the next step by:
- Doing your homework on the district
- Respecting the buyer’s time
- Getting to the point
- Providing a decision framework with clear next steps
- Presenting as much credible evidence of product efficacy as possible
The most important thing to remember in a presentation is that this is not about you, your company, or your product. The district wants solutions to problems. They are not interested in transactions. They are interested in support. So, they need reassurance that you will be there to support them.
Do you need charts and graphs and a designer PowerPoint or Prezi to make a compelling and effective presentation? Perhaps, but that is just packaging.
What really matters is that you demonstrate your understanding of the district’s challenges – understand their organization, use their language, provide the proof of efficacy that they need to support their purchase decision, and demonstrate your commitment to them post-transaction. If district buyers perceive that you are a consultant who understands their challenges and is committed to the relationship, you are on the road to success.