Selling Edtech: 15 Tips For Agents And Distributors


Selling Edtech: 15 Tips For Agents And Distributors

There’s a growing need for people who sell edtech.

With global edtech funding jumping to 55% year-over-year, there’s a plethora of new and exciting edtech products out there that are ripe for selling.

Those with serious investment like Knewton and Duolingo have their own sales teams. Many offer a free service to build a user base before monetizing.

But the founders of most start-ups are educationalists who rely on monetizing their products early on. Yet, many don’t have the sales skills or the network to hit the market with impact. They need agents and distributors.

Exciting times for sales people in the education industry.

Selling edtech makes perfect sense. Unlike books, software carries less financial risk. It requires no warehousing, no returns, no logistics.

And right now, there are opportunities to out-flank the slow print publishers, many of which continue to adopt a Waterfall approach to producing digital learning content.

That said, selling tech has a different set of challenges to selling print.

It’s crucial that you mitigate your risks before you start selling. You need a coherent marketing plan. You need to be ready to respond to objections from prospective customers, and technical problems from new customers.

Here are 15 tips that I have noted while working with distributors to sell my language learning platform, Linguavote, to help you prepare for selling your next edtech product.

Review phase: You’ve identified a potential edtech product to sell. What should you do first?

  1. Review front-end: Have colleagues thoroughly review the product. Call on teacher friends and sample end-users to put the product through its paces. Does it live up to the product developer’s hype?
  2. Review back-end: Have an IT specialist review it. Is it built competently? Will it withstand the rigours of multiple users in your territory?
  3. Do an external audit: A PESTEL analysis will help you assess the relevancy of the product in its macro environment. For example, under “P” for “Political”, there may be government regulations the product needs to address before you can sell it.
  4. Do an internal audit: A SWOT analysis will help you assess the product’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities (e.g. gaps in market) and threats (e.g. competitors).
  5. Measure agility: Check the developers’ plans for future releases. Do they follow an Agile approach? If so, think ahead. The product you sell in Year 2 could be a lot better than the MVP you see today. Don’t lose out because you are underwhelmed by the current content/functionality if the concept is compelling.
  6. Agree pricing: What taxes will apply? Do a rough cost-benefit analysis against known competitors and agree a well-positioned RRP up front, with an attractive margin based on your forecasts.

Planning phase: You’re satisfied the product can make money… how do you prepare the ground for sales?

  1. Research competitors: Get to know the strategies of the companies you’re up against. How will you beat them?
  2. Create a buzz: Clarify what’s unique about the product, then create a need for it among your target customers before you reveal the product. Think Twitter, blog articles, presentations and informal school visits.
  3. Plan after-sales: Consider the practicalities: Will users need help on-boarding? What technical issues might they have? Who will deal with customer questions? What technical expertise will you need to fulfil these expectations based on best-case forecasted sales?
  4. Do a promotion plan. How many school visits will you aim for? Can you utilize your website or social media? Insist that your developers provide marketing materials, trial versions and UAT feedback so you have something to present.
  5. Flex your offer: think of ways to bundle the product with other products to meet the needs of different segments.
  6. Sign a contract: Insist on a formal agreement before you start selling, one that grants you exclusivity in a segment or territory. The contract should also clarify technical support responsibilities (it’s most likely you will be expected to fix customer issues and notify the product developer of system bugs).

Launch phase: You’re ready to sell… how do you achieve early traction?

  1. Use your network: Do what you do best – aim for 3 or 4 daily school visits. Advertise where possible. Promote at exhibitions. If your developers are good presenters, have them present at key conferences and accompany you on key account visits.
  2. Offer pilots: Unpaid trials, particularly in prestigious schools, can help you overcome that initial hurdle of “who else is using it?” Prepare a good feedback form or Survey Monkey questionnaire for teachers and students, and maximize opportunities for promoting positive feedback.
  3. Be a key account manager: Get to know the influencers in a school so you can assist your sales contacts achieve stakeholder buy-in. Your developers must be prepared to customize the product for large orders so you can close deals. After customers adopt, be prepared to provide continued service to facilitate word of mouth and tie-in those early accounts – for example, by helping your customer develop efficacy reports so they can see how successful the product is, and what needs to be improved for the next release. You’ll succeed one customer at a time.

If you already sell edtech, I’m sure you’ll agree this is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s also based on my experience selling in international markets, which may be different to selling in just one country.

Do you have any other tips for selling edtech that are not on this list? Do share them in the comment box.

 

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About the Author
Author: Shaun CrowleyWebsite: http://www.linguavote.com
Shaun Crowley is a consultant for an educational marketing agency and the founder of www.linguavote.com, an online language learning platform that features social learning and gamification, developed to support English programmes in schools and universities. Prior to founding Linguavote, Shaun worked for Oxford University Press ELT Division as a sales and marketing manager, and has previous experience as an EFL teacher. Follow Shaun on Twitter: @shauncrowley

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