The Five Biggest Problems in Ed-Tech Sales

Market Insight
LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher

The biggest problems in the Ed-tech sales space right now are as follows:

  1. You’re complex.  Schools and teachers want simple solutions. In the past, they had textbooks that helped give a scope and sequenced steps to teaching and learning. As textbooks depart the scene, educators are faced with the great breadth of digital learning objects and options. They fall into despair.  They want simple and simple no longer exists. No human alive can possibly look at the sheer volumes of available options without their eyeballs falling out.
  2. You’re internally complex.  There is very little real looking going on inside the software curriculum that’s fast and easy to do.  I’ve been to 15 regional discussion events already this year and in each one I am finding education leadership fails to inspect what’s happening inside the software their schools are purchasing. Inspection requires log-ins. It requires talking to a representative. Doing a whole lot of surfing and creative word searches to find an ever-increasing list of options. Again, despair. As a default, instead there is a whole lot of self-creation of relatively flat digital lesson plans that may, or may not, infringe on numerous copyright laws and largely use links and videos.  
  3. Market Maturity.  Companies making awesomely cool materials are finding that the major trade shows, and even smaller events built for executive curriculum directors and all the association events are waning in attendance. Why? Teachers are being told to stop meddling and let the central office do their work to lay out a master curriculum plan since it’s high time there was a whole transition to full coverage models of digital. This is so budgets can be swung over in full…eventually when things are all figured out. See (1) and (2) and you have an idea why the market has hit a point of inertia. There is a maturity of the market happening, a consolidation of power in the hands of far fewer individuals. This is normal.
  4. Highly inefficient market.  Go-to-market costs to reach education executives in a time of power-reign-in and lots of options is a bottleneck, and so costs of reach are going up. They are harder and harder to reach.  Just as in the early days of technology when everyone went to every event and trade shows were huge in every industry, a moment came for other industries when top executives realized there was a cost to have everyone go that was too high and they put the kibosh on that and assigned emissaries. Or, bailed from going at all in favor of hiring specialists. Again, fewer people, even while total spend in those industries went up. I watched this happen in the general government and business tech markets. I had a front-row seat.  It’s now happening in Education. 
  5. Training.  Sales staff in most Ed-tech organizations are not formally trained sales people. They are personable, but not always highly polished and skillful closers. The majority in this sector are former teachers. Sales is a profession, with a great deal of technical skill underlying it.  If its non-skilled, it gets a bad rap, a.k.a. the stereotypical car salesman.  Competition scares the non-skilled whereas it exhilarates the skilled. When times get tough, poor skill shows up in demands for leads or just poor performance. (Since I’ve run and trained thousands of people in sales, both who worked directly for me or for other companies, I can speak to this with a lot of certainty.)

This all boils down to new market dynamics for vendors on all fronts. This is a major problem that will now cause a new wave of consolidations of companies, new marketing maneuvers and the rise of a specialist class of executives in schools. This is the new target for Ed-tech. 

Because this education shift has become such a storm of chaos, I made it my business to watch closely, to question, to speak with every stakeholder on the industry and school sides, to distill the major and minor changes and bring context to it all in The Consumerization of Learning. Pick it up if you’re ready for a deep dive into the disruption at hand for the way leaders lead education digitally. It highlights consumerization as the act of making something desirable and consumable by the individual. Something of a key understanding for any publisher or developer on the business side of Ed-tech.

About the Author

Leilani Cauthen is CEO of the Learning Counsel, and author of The Consumerization of Learning.


Recent Articles


Join us for this frank and often revealing inside look at the thinking behind the digital transition at Denver Public Schools, arguably one of the top districts in the United States


Don’t miss the fascinating look at building an integrated digital learning solution


“Smarty Ants is our foundational literacy product for pre-K through second grade. It's gamified, it's adaptive learning. It's fun. It's motivating for kids who are in that foundational literacy area"