Voice from the Industry

EdTech: Turning Relevance and Results into Revenue

In today’s education market, it’s more important than ever to provide products and services that solve specific needs and achieve clear results. Assuming that an EdTech company has developed important, relevant products and has documented proven results, then revenue should follow, right?

Often, companies invest extensively in product development but underestimate the required investment for sales and marketing. Why is it that the best product doesn’t always win? Typically, a company has been out-sold by a competitor who strategically and tactically surpassed them with better questioning, positioning, differentiation, and closing skills.

Success is measured by revenue, typically generated by a sophisticated orchestration of targeted Public Relations, Marketing, and Sales strategy. Achieving revenue objectives is the cornerstone of success and validates a company’s relevance in today’s market.

Let’s face it, without sales, there’s nothing to talk about. In the education industry, the word “sales” is often shunned and instead couched as “developing school partnerships.” This is evident by many sales titles in our industry that replace the word “sales” with the word “partnerships.” Some EdTech companies we’ve worked with in recent years avoid using the word sales almost entirely, fearing that the word demeans their noble mission.

Early in my career, when I was recruited to leave my post as a State Technology Director to join IBM, I agreed to come aboard as an Education Consultant and stated firmly that I wasn’t going to do “sales.” I had naively associated sales with the role of a used car salesman, and I looked negatively on the word.

It didn’t take long before I realized that when one has proven products and services that help kids to read and write, it’s important to spread the word. I soon became a sales evangelist to ensure that more students were benefitting from IBM’s offerings and realized that the art and science of sales is, in fact, a noble mission. Our sales success opened many new doors for thousands of young students.

In another position as VP of Sales Strategy, I was in charge of the California State Reading Adoption for a core curriculum company. We were under-staffed as compared to our competition, so we recruited key teachers to take a one-year leave of absence and join our team. We promised the school administrators to return their teachers a year later with significant professional development growth experience.

At our first training session of the new teacher sabbatical team, we heard the same mantra. The educators stated that they were only going to be consultants and not salespeople. It’s a long story, but, in short, it didn’t take long before we developed an impressive team of true, credible sales hunters with sharpened sales instincts and sales techniques that derailed our competition.

In reality, if we, as the general population, want to get anywhere in life, we’re often selling. Whether it’s to convince our kids to view a life situation differently or to express our voice for social change, we’re selling. Selling is a natural aspect of living an engaged, relevant life.

Creating a Sales-Driven Company Culture

Think about the education companies you’ve worked with and the various silos of team members. Company Leadership, Product Development, Technical Support, Marketing, Professional Development, and Support are some that comprise the teams at education companies. Everyone has specific tasks and an important job to do. However, without sales growth, these positions will eventually become irrelevant because without customers, there’s no company.

When building sales teams and providing consultative services to EdTech companies, we focus on developing a progressive, sales-driven culture to establish the reality that we’re all in this together and we’re all selling. It’s impressive to see the results when everyone on the company team is onboard with the importance of revenue growth. Many contributions to the sales process rapidly expand by team members, providing greater insights for product features, advantages and benefits. Product developers participate in key sales calls, and the marketing team aligns seamlessly with the sales team, executing strategy with precision, perfectly timed to the buying cycle. Tech support and the post sales service team are fully engaged in the sales process as well. The sales pipeline is openly shared, and team members often participate in sales strategy planning. Team members that had previously been isolated from sales processes are now passionate about sales, bringing forth valuable strategic insights and uncovering new sales leads.

Supporting Your Sales Hunters

Many EdTech recurring revenue companies have both Sales Hunters, to build new business, and Sales Farmers, to cultivate the current customer base to ensure measurable results and renewals. Successful EdTech Sales Hunters are passionate with specialized intrinsic skills, strong intellect, and technique.

Being an accomplished Sales Hunter is a challenging career requiring relentless drive and proficient consultative listening skills. Hunters pick their battles, and they know when to pull out the stops but also know when to walk away. Current market intelligence is essential to know customer priorities and funding sources. Picking low hanging fruit while concurrently prioritizing large opportunities with expansion potential is an essential strategy. Leveraging customer results and efficacy to gain new customers is a key approach for the experienced hunter.

Sales Hunters that achieve success in the education industry have sharpened tools and the full support of their company. They have a plan, require latitude, work smart, and need to stay focused without being bogged down by administrative tasks or archaic data entry systems. They have leadership support to minimize roadblocks. Successful Hunters have realistic sales goals with highly leveraged commission plans to keep them hungry.

Qualifying leads, building a constituency of stakeholder support, and closing new sales is of the highest priority in successful EdTech companies.

Building on Success

Creating relevant EdTech products that address the highest priorities in education and achieve measurable results is a required cornerstone for success. However, achieving revenue growth in today’s education market requires market intelligence, brilliant sales strategy, and investment in world-class sales and marketing professionals. A sales-driven organization has strong leaders who continually motivate and invest in their team. They set clear, achievable expectations, and they care enough to be demanding.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dayton has been the go-to resource for innovators in the fields of educational technology and publishing in both K-12 and higher education for the past decade. Dayton and his team are well known for their successes in accelerating sales for educational companies by delivering game-changing sales talent. In addition to sales professionals, Dayton and his team recruit the strongest players in the industry for leadership positions, including CEOs and VPs in Sales, Marketing, Product Development, and Implementation. Dayton’s credentials include his achievements as an educator, State Department of Education Technology Director, as well as Senior National Sales Leader and Strategist with IBM, Scholastic, and six K-12 start-up companies. He has co-authored several publications in educational technology, has been the recipient of numerous achievement awards, and holds a master’s degree in education. He may be reached at Dayton@DaytonJohnson.com or at 575.776.8941.