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How to sell to multiple stakeholders in the education space

Navigating the world of educational technology, or EdTech, can feel like trying to untangle a knot of different interests and needs. We're not just selling to one person or group, but to a whole web of stakeholders, each with their own concerns and priorities. From parents and students to teachers and school administrators, everyone has a stake in the products and services we offer. Understanding this complex landscape is crucial for success in the industry.

Imagine you have a great idea for a new EdTech tool that could revolutionize how students learn. But who do you pitch it to? Is it the parents, or is it the teachers, who are on the front lines of education every day, or maybe the children (they should have a say in what they use, right?)? Perhaps it's the school principals or district administrators.Do you pitch it to everyone, and hope that someone likes it enough to steer you to the right person, or talk it up until the decision maker finds you? Knowing who the decision maker is can make all the difference between success and failure in the EdTech market. 

But it's not just about identifying the decision maker; it's also about understanding what motivates them. What are their pain points, and how can your product or service solve them? By focusing on the decision maker first, you can streamline your sales process and avoid wasting time on stakeholders who don't have the power to say yes. 

Understanding the Landscape:

When EdTech companies are pitching their products and services, there are often many different groups involved.

First, there are parents. They care a lot about their kids' education and often have a big say in what tools and resources are used in schools. Then, there are the kids themselves. They're the ones who use the tools, so it's important to think about how these tools can help them learn and grow. The Parent-Teacher Association, or PTA, also plays a role. They work to support schools and families, so they're interested in finding tools that benefit both.

Teachers are another important group. They're the ones who use these tools in their classrooms every day, so it's essential to consider how these tools can support their teaching and make their jobs easier. Department heads and principals are also key players. They make big decisions about what gets used in schools and how money is spent. So, they need to see how EdTech tools can benefit the whole school community, from students to teachers to parents.

Recognizing whose lives can be transformed is crucial. 

When I I started Flex Academies my idea was to take my enrichment programs to the PTA’s  that didn’t have school enrichment programs. My thoughts were that they were really going to like this. The PTA presidents did like it, but the parents weren’t buying it. And I can understand that, because as the father of a nine year old, if you brought a program to our school, I wouldn’t just buy in because the program was more convenient. I already have someone that teaches her art and skateboarding and we are really happy with those teachers. But I would change if the program could offer me something that the current program couldn’t… So I had to go back and think about that. I had to change my approach and rethink about my ideal client. 

Identifying the Decision Maker:

Finding out who makes the big decisions in schools can be tough. Unlike buying something for yourself, schools have a lot of people involved in deciding what to buy. It is not like an oil change where you know exactly who you need to sell the oil change to. You need to identify the person whose life is going to be transformed.

The decision maker's role is super important. They're the ones who say yes or no to buying new tech for the school. Their approval is like a green light for everyone else to use the new tools. If they believe in a product, it's more likely to be used by teachers, students, and parents. So, understanding who the decision maker is and showing them why their product is worth it is key to getting into schools. It's like getting the boss's approval before starting a new project.

Top-Down Approach vs. Bottom-Up Approach:

When selling, there are two main ways companies do it: top-down and bottom-up.

With the top-down approach, companies go straight to the big boss, like the principal or school district leader, and try to sell the product to them. If they can convince the person in charge, they'll say yes and everyone else will follow suit. 

Brent from MyOwl is leading the homework revolution. And after many years of chasing public schools, he got very clear on who he wanted to talk to. And that actually is private schools and charter schools. He got this clarity by going through the Ed sales elevation experience. He saved himself a lot of time in the end by pivoting and beginning to focus his transformational process on the heads of schools at private schools. So Brent is using the top down approach to talk to principals at private schools. He has his decision maker. Now, the challenge is that decision maker, that head of school, that principal at a private school is very busy, just like every other principal. And believe it or not, that principal still needs to get buy-in from their staff. He has reached his buyer, he has reached his main stakeholder. But he will still need to share the benefits to the staff so that the principal can get their buy-in to use the product and make it a good investment.

On the other hand, the bottom-up approach takes a different approach. Instead of going to the big boss first, companies focus on winning over influential people within the school community, like teachers or parents. These folks can then talk up the product to the decision maker, hoping to persuade them to give it a shot.

Nick from Weebly is currently going through our course. He uses a bottom up approach trying to get teachers and parents to adopt his platform. By doing this he hopes that the parents and teachers will put the foundations in place by creating a buzz around the product, getting the Principal and Superintendents to bring Weebly into the school district. The challenge there is that he's got to get the teachers to implement it and get a premium account. Next he has to give them all of the benefits, so that they can convince the principal that this is the product that they want to use in their classrooms. 

Getting in front of your Decision Maker is not always easy, in fact it can be rather challenging to break through the noise and get noticed. This is a slower method (sometimes you can get people excited)  but there's easier adoption because when you demonstrate to the teacher how this will work inside their classroom, they are more inclined to try it.

Both approaches have their good and bad sides. With the top-down approach, you might get a quick decision from the boss, but it can be hard to get their attention and convince them the product is worth it. With the bottom-up approach, it takes longer to get results, but you can build a lot of support from people who really believe in the product.

No matter whether you decide to use a top down or a bottoms up approach, you need to choose ONE stakeholder to focus on and get in front of. This is really important to be able to build a lead generation system with a steady flow of leads. I call this the Power of One. Because when you choose one person, you can really hone your messaging and your pitch so that it converts. But when you’re trying to pitch to everyone, your messaging becomes wishy-washy and weak and you struggle to clearly communicate your value proposition and actually get the sale.

Tailoring the Pitch:

Once you know who you’re talking to, it’s time to start a conversation and start pitching. Tailoring your pitch is super important. Remember, your ideal client gets tons of pitches every day from different companies. To get their attention, you need to make your pitch fit what they care about. This means understanding their challenges and goals, and showing how your product can help solve their problems and achieve their objectives. 

An example that I like to use is the Ipod. Now the ipod had one of the greatest marketing slogans in history. “1000 songs in your pocket”. 

The benefit to the kid. Imagine the kid at a party. They got their iPod. They plug it in and everybody's jam into their music. They're feeling good about themselves. Imagine the benefit to a 40 year old father who wants to work out and get some quiet time in the gym. That father could be listening to their podcasts, listening to their favorite music without having to listen to their daughter playing Taylor Swift. You do have to have a different message, but you can't have a message for five different stakeholders. You need to pick the one person that you're going to focus on and notice. Notice that we didn't focus on features, not eight gigabytes, not the screen, not the mechanical wheel. We focused on the “1000 songs in your pocket”, the benefits.

When creating your pitch, your messaging needs to be direct and clear and focus on that ONE stakeholder and WHY he would want your service or product and how it would benefit him. 

It should include your signature solution which shows them HOW they will transform from their problem to getting a result.

It needs to talk about the benefits to you and other potential stakeholders. It is really important to be able to demonstrate the benefits so that everyone can see that this is a great investment all around. This is where the signature solution comes in. You can read more about the signature solution here.  

This is something I work with clients on all the time: getting clear on who their ideal client is, who the stakeholders are and who the decision maker is. As well as how to package and position their pitch to stand out and sell out. Want to know more, get on the waitlist for 3E Ed Sales Elevation Experience and be the first to know when doors open again. 



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