Congratulations, you got the contract! But don’t pop the champagne just yet. For educators, signing a contract with your company is just one of many milestones in a long journey. Educators need vendors who are partners, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them as they champion your product from sales pitch to successful implementation to the next budgeting cycle.
Be an Investigator
Before you set foot in a district, do your due diligence. Gain an understanding of the environment into which you are selling by: looking at local newspaper coverage of education issues, reviewing the school district’s website, reading school board meeting minutes, and following your prospect and other key district leaders on social media. Educators shouldn’t have to teach you about the challenges in their district; arrive informed.
Help Them Make the Sale
There are 5.4 people involved in the average B2B buying decision—and that may just be within the school system. District representatives must consider all the constituencies that have—or feel they should have—a say in buying decisions, such as:
- Parents who think back to their own time in school and question the need; “I never had FILL IN THE BLANK, why do my kids need it?”
- Voters—who demographically skew older—and may no longer have school-age children or the personal ‘skin-in-the-game’ to support allocating more tax dollars for education.
- School Boards who are all about the budget and demonstrable positive outcomes for students.
Salespeople should come ready to support their prospect’s sales job with elevator pitches, talking points, press releases, public speaking points, or even collateral materials tailored to specific constituencies that will need to be brought on board. Also, come ready and willing to present directly to school boards, parent groups (or anyone else the prospect suggests) to answer questions and gain backing for your project.
Don’t Be the Straw
It’s unavoidable: introducing your product or program will create an additional training burden on teachers already stretched to the limit. Districts have 8 to 10 Professional Development days a year and those are already scripted. Adding in new topics can be difficult. Since no one will be handing you PD days or dollars for your project, you need creative and flexible solutions for teacher training in your toolkit. Ideas like webinars, Twitter chats, train-the-trainer sessions, or bundling training dollars into the contract can keep your project from being the straw that breaks the back of an already over-burdened PD schedule.
Always Keep It Real
What do educators want from vendors? Candor. Let’s face it, educators know there will be headwinds and hurdles when introducing something new to their district. They just ask that you are straight with them. Tell them what to reasonably expect in results, what’s required for fidelity of implementation, and give them a heads-up when something is going wrong. As one district superintendent told us, “We need honesty about what is and isn’t working—and early on—to establish a sound working relationship. We don’t want to work with vendors; we want partners who will work with us. Let’s face what’s not working when it’s not. We can help you succeed if you let us in.”
Don’t Sign and Drive
Big, disruptive change takes time—for persuasion, budgeting, rollout, and evaluation. As a salesperson, will you still be involved in a district’s implementation process three to five years down the road? Or, will you have hit the road, moving on to court another prospect? As several superintendents have told us: “Collaboration and connection is important. Where are you after we make the deal and during the lifecycle of the project? True partners stay with you and stay connected when the budget cycle comes around again.” Stay in touch and help connect the dots to make the transition easier.
Remember, if your company doesn’t support an ongoing, supportive customer relationship post-contract, it could come back to bite you. Educators are avid users of social media. They talk and they share experiences. Therefore, you don’t want your company to have a reputation for doing the big fade once the deal is done but before any positive outcomes are achieved.