Polar Bears & 2018 Ed-Tech Sales Target Attainment

Market Insight
LeiLani Cauthen, Publisher

“Target attainment” is such a military term, wouldn’t you agree?  We hear it in military movies, and sometimes from sales leaders.  The term makes us feel so ruthless. Like we must make whatever the target is come what may, gritting our teeth and pushing deals through to a done despite clients we have to drag by the hair kicking and screaming.

If you’re in Ed-Tech, though, kicks and screams are rare because you just can’t reach the decision makers.  Why is this happening to reps across the nation?  Why are many companies exiting into the consumer markets and spending all their marketing money on fewer reps and more search-engine optimization and online ads?  Why do IXL Learning and many other Ed-Tech companies pop-up as ads if you do any sort of digital curriculum search? 

Two things: 

  1. Target attainment means you know your target.  The target has shifted in Ed-Tech, so pay attention. 
  2. Target attainment means you push.  You disagree with “can’t be done” and do it anyway. 

The target buyer in Ed-Tech for a long time was mostly teachers.  This is dramatically shifting.  Teachers are almost universally losing their “power of say” for purchasing anything ed-tech.  They are even losing power when it comes to what they have students use for free.  There are myriad reasons, but they add up to a consolidated purchasing in upper management, the same as other types of technology, janitorial services, food service and everything else.  Distanced from the classroom equals distance in time and attention for any sales.  A basic structural reason is student security and privacy, a less commonly known one is that the overwhelm of options has led to waste and administrators are reigning that in.  If you are a major consumer brand also selling to schools, you might be provoked into ignoring this sales-consolidation trend and still try to engage teachers directly like Google has done in recent years to create such a major ground-swell for their products.  However, this is a double-edged sword because upper management may like “free” but they are exceedingly wary of threats to student privacy -- and free sounds like an inherent threat.  In this they would be entirely correct.  As was stated to Learning Counsel by a Boston Superintendent in 2015 “Free is like a puppy.”  Recent reveals by Facebook have also proven that free can be a whole new kind of infiltration with unwanted agenda. 

Reaching the target means playing pretend and living the life they are having to live right now – overwhelmed with options and without clear context behind what they need versus what is nifty.  To imagine being in their shoes can be an extremely helpful preparatory moment for sales staff to get themselves into the zone to be effective.  How does this executive want communication from you and in what form?  What tells your story and makes an offer that turns into a deal? 

Pushing does not just mean repetitive reaching out.  It means relevancy, each communication offering something of value in return for an ask.  Are you doing that?  That is the big secret to getting something done with sales.

And lest you forget, selling ed-tech at one time was like selling the proverbial refrigerator to an Eskimo (no offense to our native tribesmen), it wasn’t “necessary” to their existence.  To achieve a sale in that scenario, the product needed to be necessary in the eyes of the buyer.  If you were living in the frigid north, what possible argument would cause you to buy?  Here’s one:  buy this refrigerator because it is heavy-duty enough to thwart polar bears when you go on a hunt for seal. If you leave meat out in your hut that could be smelled, bears could seek it out.   In fact, put anything you want of value in there and lock it. (Salesperson brings an extra latch with lock when he sells refrigerator, smart guy.)  See what this refrigerator sales person did?  He converted the product’s appeal to meet a need – now that’s pushing a target through to completion. 

Pretty much all Ed-Tech is not absolutely necessary to learn something or teach.  There are work-arounds. But there are bears.  All around education in a wider world is moving at a faster pace than schools towards a new automated modality.  This is the bear, the boogeyman of education that almost universally, school leaders will agree is there and necessary to appease.  They want to be relevant in the current economy.  They might not always understand where they are going as a total picture but can be shown the necessity.  They are buying what most tend to think of as buzzwords:  1-1, personalization, STEM, social-emotional, single sign-on, analytics.  Behind each of these, education leadership attaches great meanings of equity and necessary modernity.

Learning Counsel is the only national media and events organization leading the conversation about the bears in education.  We have developed a “change continuum” showing a well-lit path starting with strategy and moving through successive new maturity to arrive at a real transition to compete with the rather ruthless world of consumerized learning emerging on our landscape.  It’s the bear we most often trot out city-by-city in our events tour that school leaders react to with an urge to buy more ed-tech.  It’s a fiercer animal than competition from charters or private schools who are just other tribes on the frozen tundra, and the proof we so often cite is Amazon, Uber, AirBnB, Facebook, Google and the disruption that has steamrolled many once great industries. 

Our clients are touting monumental shifts in their sales patterns from working with us because we’re truly helping lead Education into the next century.  Citing a handful of leads closed for systems that are otherwise quite spendy and typically have year-or-more sales cycles in under six months, and smaller-deal sized product companies picking up 2-5 deals per city with us on our tour.  Companies who sponsor whitepapers or other publications with the Learning Counsel find themselves swamped with highly valuable leads.  The Learning Counsel brand is unprecedented in reaching the right Ed-Tech target.  Join us for one of our programs to see your own target attainment come true.

  • Digital Transition Discussion meetings – 25 cities
  • National Gathering – Houston, 2018
  • EduJedi Leadership Development
  • Custom Publishing
  • Knowstory Learning Groups

Contact:  Kristina Hall at her email address: Kristina@LearningCounsel.com

Kudos by Learning Counsel clients:

“2gnoMe is thrilled to be working with The Learning Counsel to effect real change with personalized professional learning for teachers. This is a dynamic and forward-thinking group respected by Education leaders across the country. And it produces results: the Issue Brief written by The Learning Counsel generated great leads and helped set 2gnoMe apart from competition.”

  • Ilya Zeldin, CEO, 2gnoMe

“We have 20,000 students.  We looked at every district that got an award from Learning Counsel in 2016 to revisit our strategy, and one thing was flipping the definition of personalized learning to include being adaptive to the individual and being truly responsive.  This is not just jargon – but a true transformation.”

  • Rebekah Kim, Director of Instructional Supports, Highline Public Schools, Seattle  (Note Highline won a Top 10 National Digital Curriculum Survey Award in 2017 from Learning Counsel.)

“I attended one of your Learning Counsel Discussion events. These types of activities are important for both sides—educators and industry providers like me. Hearing LeiLani laying out the map; ‘Hey, this is the mountain, this is the valley, these are the pitfalls, this is where everyone is going, and this is where you are at,’ kind of like an outsider view was very, very helpful. In the professional development, we are doing across the country with schools, we see them struggling and shooting in all directions. Schools are trying to get their hands-on technology, on digital stuff, because they hear buzzwords and they’re trying to stand in front of the board and say, ‘Yes, we do that!’ It’s not going anywhere, and you feel it. You feel the confusion. 

What LeiLani laid-out is ‘This is what’s going to happen, this is what is happening, this is what needs to happen if you’re going to solve this tangled situation which you are at right now.’  I really think this is like putting a mirror in front of us all and saying, ‘Look at the mirror,’ this is the picture, this is what it is, now let’s take it somewhere else.”

  • Elad Inbar, CEO, RobotLAB

“Thank you very much for inviting and including me yesterday. I found the day to be a great use of my time and look forward to more work together in the future.”

  • Brian Gatens, Superintendent, Emerson School District, NJ



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