Educators make a living by communicating information and ideas to their students. You would think that people who want to sell products and services to educators would make it a priority to communicate their information and ideas to educators in a compelling manner. Amazingly enough, most do not. Becoming compelling is my advice to you to upstage your competitors. Read this article to start that process. My other advice is to listen to my interview on STS Radio with host Glen McCandless.
The majority of companies train their salespeople to present their value proposition in the same manner. They focus on the company history and reliability, their devotion to customer satisfaction, the features and benefits of their offering, along with a demonstration of the product capabilities. But here's the key point: The majority of presentations are the same. The details may vary, but the message and the way the message is presented is nearly identical. After several presentations from potential suppliers, all the solutions and the people who present them tend to look and sound alike. When decisions are made some hours, days, or weeks after presentations, it is hard for buyers to differentiate among products and services they may be considering, and even harder for them get excited about any of them.
Decision-makers in our schools are tired of sitting through endless PowerPoint slides, listening to feature comparisons, and watching product demos that result in solution overkill. In a recent survey, 67% of buyers said they would prefer to buy from someone who created a “buying experience." More than 90% of decision-makers say they would rather have a conversation than watch a slide show. This situation creates a real opportunity for you to differentiate yourself from your competition simply by upping the ante for the way your value proposition is communicated.
Do you struggle to get hold of school principals or district administrators who control the purse strings? One of the key issues in education today is the fact that today’s students demand a meaningful experience. Most students can't stay interested with information being delivered with lectures, can't engage with facts and data written on a black (or white) board, and find content delivered from a textbook boring. They want multimedia, interactive sessions, rapid delivery and an explanation of how information is relative to their lives. The same sea change is happening right now in educational sales. Busy school administrators say it's no longer acceptable for salespeople to deliver mind-numbing presentations and to occupy their time with the same old selling approach. The expectation of a dull sales pitch is one reason why it's becoming so tough for you to gain access those who run our schools.
Managers for education-market companies believe they will create competitive advantage by investing in new product features, improving services, creating new marketing campaigns, and training their sales force about product innovations and product benefits. However, they spend precious little time and money to ensure that the delivery of their message is impactful, engaging and memorable. Just as students are responding to new delivery methods, so too are education market decision-makers responding to a new buying experience. So, how do you change the game?
Here’s an example. A software company was trying to sell a major upgrade to their education customer base. This upgrade was feature-rich, allowed for shared usage from a single, centrally-managed application, and was expensive. In order to justify the substantial cost, they presented lots of detail about all the great new features. But they were getting very little traction, so they stepped back and looked at the big picture. What was the real motivator for decision-makers? It was the efficiency of the centrally managed single application. So, instead of a PowerPoint slide show that highlighted several features, they sketched out one simple diagram on a whiteboard, which showed how the centrally managed shared application would benefit the entire education system. They stayed with the big picture. Sales increased 300% over the next 12 months.
The investment you will make to get professional help to upgrade your presentation and to improve the communication skills of your sales team is minimal compared to the cost of product upgrades and marketing campaigns. Distinguishing yourself with an engaging presentation will also result in a much higher return on investment than most of the sales and marketing activities you are spending your time and money on right now. Unlike pitching product features, by outperforming your competition when you're in front of them, making your message simple, powerful, and memorable is an advantage that your competitors won't be likely to match. Your goal should be to have decision-makers remember you and your compelling message long after your presentation is over. If they remember you and how you respected them, they will be much more likely to expect you to also be able to help them solve problems. They will embrace you and your solution instead of your competitors if you are memorable and compelling in the way you deliver your value proposition.