By Marc Netka, Co-Founder and CEO of STS education, Co-Founder of K-12F
You finally did it. After years of planning and development, you launched your new software — a program that has the potential to make a tremendous positive difference in K-12 education. You know your software is miles ahead of everything else on the market, and you’re already dreaming of watching the sales roll in. But, several disappointing meetings later, you start to wonder if you’ll ever sell a single license. No one is willing to even consider your platform.
If this has happened to you, you’re not alone. Selling software to schools is notoriously difficult, especially if you’re new to the industry. But fortunately, there is a simple, proven solution that can help you save time and money while also boosting your sales.
Selling New Software Isn’t Easy
K-12 software providers face significant competition. There are a wide variety of programs available to meet practically every need, and even the most innovative software concepts can get lost in the clutter.
Not only that, once a school or district has selected a software program, they are typically highly resistant to changing it. Implementing new software requires an exceptional amount of time and effort on their part — including educating key stakeholders on the benefits, getting the necessary buy-ins and approvals, training those who will be using the program, etc. — so they often feel it isn’t worth the hassle, even if they aren’t satisfied with their current software.
The Challenge for Sales Teams
When it comes to meeting the challenges of selling software, one approach many companies take is to simply hire a sales team. At first glance, this may seem like a pretty straightforward solution, but many times, software companies find it to be overly expensive and time consuming and, quite frankly, ineffective.
Often, the company’s leadership team is comprised of engineers with little to no sales experience, which makes it difficult for them to effectively train and guide their sales force — especially if the sales team doesn’t fully understand the software and/or the education industry. To add to the challenge, sales team turnover rates are high in this industry, so companies end up having to continuously train new employees, inadvertently contributing to a process that isn’t set up to produce the desired results.
Over time, it becomes costly to hire, fire, manage and house a sales team, and the return on investment is not always worth the expense.
The Problem With Relying on Resellers
Another option for selling your software is to go through a reseller. But this isn’t always a perfect solution either.
Typically, a reseller will be willing to include your software in their catalog or on their website, but they won’t go through much extra effort to promote it. This is especially true if the reseller also sells hardware. The time it takes to close a hardware sale in the education industry is usually less than 12 weeks, whereas it can take as long as 18-36 months to close a software sale. As a result, resellers tend to focus their sales efforts on hardware, neglecting software in the process.
A Simple, Successful Solution
In the challenging world of selling software to schools, companies often find that neither hiring a sales team nor working with a reseller is an ideal option. If this is the case for you, don’t lose hope — there is a third option that truly gives you the best of both worlds, without any of the downsides.
The solution is simple: outsource your sales to a company that specializes in selling software to the education industry and has a track record of success with K-12 customers. This gives you access to a dedicated, industry-experienced sales team — with strong relationships in K-12 education — that can be trained on your product and managed on your behalf. With this sales-as-a-service approach, you no longer have to put time and effort into developing your own sales force, giving you the freedom to focus on other priorities.
Not only does this approach connect you with comprehensive K-12 sales expertise and a well-established customer base, it also allows you to save money by conveniently scaling your sales force up or down as needed. In K-12 education, the buying season is January through June, and sales tend to accelerate and lag accordingly. If you have an on-staff sales force, this can create cash flow difficulties during slower times. In contrast, with an outsourced sales force, you can easily and cost-effectively adjust the size of your team to match market conditions, and even get ahead of the buying season to address the longer lead times.
Selling to schools certainly isn’t easy, and often the most obvious approaches — hiring your own sales team or working with resellers — don’t deliver the desired results. If this sounds like your situation, outsourcing your sales, to a firm with established K-12 experience and customer relationships, might just be the perfect solution to help your software get the sales it deserves.
About Marc Netka
Marc Netka and his company STS education have successfully sold more than $150,000,000 worth of education technology to K-12 customers over the last nine years. Backed by more than 30 years of experience, STS education partners with schools to select and implement the right technology from a curated set of products and services that revolve around collaboration, STEAM and operational sustainability.
Building on STS education’s K-12 connections and expertise, Marc co-founded K-12F, a sales outsourcing and consulting firm that serves software companies focused on the North American K-12 market. K-12F’s sales-as-a-service offering allows companies to quickly penetrate the market using a proven methodology that has generated hundreds of millions of dollars in K-12 revenue.