By: Eileen Rudden and Marissa Lowman
This week, LearnLaunch began a series of four classes on sales for EdTech entrepreneurs. LearnLaunch, Boston’s edtech community, campus, and accelerator, brings together over 240 edtech startups to participate in events, peer learning groups, and conferences. Many of these innovators have created a solution to a particular pain point in education, but have little experience finding new customers.
The series kicked off with a class on Sales 101 taught by Ken Wax, who has had a successful career selling technology and training others to sell. He discussed several key questions you need to consider when selling a product or service. Highlights from the class are below:
1. Who is your customer and what are they buying?
Is your product selling the promise of improving student achievement or does it save teachers time? Ask and observe your users, and incorporate what you learn into your sales pitch.
- Disney Theme Parks are amusement parks, but the company is actually selling family togetherness and family memories.
- Rolex is a watch company, but it is really selling luxury and status.
- Apex Learning offers an online credit recovery course, but schools buy its product because they want to improve high school graduation rates.
2. How will the buying decision be made?
Ken believes most business decisions are made emotionally and then justified with logic. Get your potential customer to talk as much as possible so you can find out what matters most to them. People love to have their opinions heard.
Salespeople need to find out from a potential customer how decisions are made in their organization and what their life would be like if they became a customer. It’s important to help a prospect learn how to make a purchase decision by telling them what to watch out for. Let them know the questions that others on their team might ask and how they can move the sale to the next step.
3. How important and essential is your solution?
Ken reminded us that there is no such thing as a “no brainer” — you have to describe your product or service’s big benefits and make them come alive. You can do this by helping a prospective customer understand what the benefits are in simple language that even your grandmother could comprehend. Rather than telling a teacher your product will save them 10 minutes a day, for example, tell them that they will gain back one week of instructional time in the school year.
4. What happens after the sales meeting?
The most important skill an entrepreneur can develop, according to Ken, is “customer vision.” You have to be able to look at yourself through the eyes of your prospect and visualize how they see you. You also need to make sure you leave something short and tangible that will help a prospect remember you after going back to a classroom, office, or day full of meetings.
If you aren’t able to tell your prospect the best way to proceed with you, no one will. Sales often die because potential customers are afraid, lazy, or simply don’t know why your solution is needed to improve their life. Prospects need you to tell them how to take the next step.
5. Are you treating web meetings as if they were in-person?
If your meeting takes place either on the phone or via web conference, you will miss all of the visual cues that generally help you gauge a prospect’s reaction to you and what you are presenting. It’s also a lot easier to tune you out. Ken recommends that a web meeting be more visual and fast paced than an in-person meeting. Asking a lot of questions and being extremely passionate about your product will help a potential customer stay engaged.
These questions become critical as you scale your startup and begin to sell to schools and districts. We’ll continue to examine the role of sales in edtech with weekly sessions on enterprise sales, inside sales, and partnership development, led by successful edtech salespeople. Check out next week’s blog post to buff up your knowledge of enterprise sales.
Eileen Rudden and Marissa Lowman are co-founders of LearnLaunch, a Boston-based EdTech accelerator.