Establishing an effective sales model in the K-12 school market presents many challenges and is a frequent topic of discussion with many of our clients. Recently, there has been increased interest in independent sales reps (ISRs) among those responsible for education marketing and sales. This is especially the case with start-up companies or financially constrained companies. This approach is often perceived as a fast, effective way to increase sales by leveraging professional sales people without incurring overhead costs in salaries and benefits.
Although ISRs are not on the payroll, there are significant expenses and channel-management resources associated with deploying an effective ISR strategy. As a result, it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for and set the stage for success.
ISRs like being independent. Obtaining territory updates, reports, and sales forecasts and mindshare from them is usually difficult and frustrating.
Long-term customer loyalty service and post-sales customer support is typically not a priority for ISRs.
Carrying more than three product lines diminishes an ISR's success potential with your products.
Provide commission, incentives, and products compelling enough to gain an ISR's full attention.
Provide commission on renewable and subscription sales for at least three years to incentivize commitment and engagement.
Assume company ownership for fostering customer relationships and providing post-sales customer support.
Make your company visible and well known to attract top ISRs.
Select ISRs based on their expertise in relation to your products and the complementary aspects of the product lines that they are currently selling.
Invest in training, support, and lead-generation and other education marketing programs to increase results.
Establish clear agreements in advance regarding communication and reporting to minimize frustrations later.
A frequent concern of ISRs is that once they achieve success and the large commission checks are paid, the company may not renew their contract. The company may then decide that it’s more cost effective to have their own salaried rep and pay reduced commissions while obtaining the additional longer-term benefits of developing their own team.
Leveraging ISRs for all or part of your school sales efforts can be a smart way to increase territory coverage for increasing sales. However, most established education companies still prefer to employ their own sales team. Among other benefits, direct sales gives companies greater influence in developing and building strong customer relationships through company employees who are fully engaged and accountable to long-term success.