Why Don’t Education Decision Makers Call You Back?

Market Insight
LeiLani Cauthen

Why don’t education decision makers call you back? Let’s just say it’s not them, it’s you.

In the K12 market we are now past the point of 85 percent of students having a computing device to use for a significant portion, or all, of the school day. Of those, many are in a 1:1 deployment and using devices consistently. Choosing the hardware and configuring the network is part of the early stages of discussion now, but the real game has shifted to what to do for curriculum delivered over digital devices.

There are over 7,000 companies in the digital curriculum space, just like you, all vying for the attention of district and school decision makers. Because of this, executive time is a factor to consider, and not a minor one, considering the changing aspects of this market. Knowing this, the Learning Counsel has been surveying education leadership at our Live Discussion Events in the past year about their “spare time” to consider all possibilities coming at them from the vendor community, or guide custom instructional design. The response? Let’s just say everyone laughs about “spare time,” and no one says they are “under-whelmed.” At our recent event in Boston, one senior education executive even blurted out, “We’re in a war zone!”

The fact is, nearly every education company is sending an increasingly frustrated sales staff into the crowded education field. Consider how tradition has changed for education decision makers. Not long ago, a School Board, Superintendent or Head of School would do a really big deal with a single big publisher once every five years or so for all their textbooks and workbooks. That simple era is gone, and digital content and curriculum opportunities are hitting these decision makers from every angle.

When you consider what they are up against, you’ll understand it’s not about education executives having bad manners, it’s that they are all experiencing more phone and email traffic demands on their time than ever before. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to think of any other field that has the volumes of sales traffic that the education industry has today. The whole marketplace is undergoing a shift in how it does business.

Be kind and be persistent. Your education prospects absolutely need your information and your solutions.

From our experience working within the education industry, we know that it takes your sales staff an average of nine phone calls or emails to reach the top-level decision makers today.

The good news is there are ways you can reach your prospect to increase your odds.

One of the easiest ways to up your odds is to connect through social media. In LinkedIn, you can send a connection request to anyone that is a 2nd connection (a connection of a connection) without having to be a premium member. After he or she has accepted your invitation, send a message suggesting a phone call. Do NOT send information about your company or your latest offer. Send a simple message such as “Hi John, I’d like to grab a call and share some ideas.” This is very important: Do not send sales messages through social media. You will appear to be an annoying salesperson and your prospect will never take your call.

With any first phone call, your goal is to connect on a personal level. You’ll want to find a common passion around education. Get to know your prospect as a person and an equal. Ask questions but do it in a conversational style. The days of asking question after question to lead your prospect down a path to a sale are long past. Your prospect will recognize this immediately. Connect with your prospect around human issues, around your shared passion to help learners, and around what the needs of his/her district are.

When you have connected on this human level, then you can basically tell your prospect what to do. It is as simple as, “Here’s what you need to do. My organization has a program/App/product that can really help you solve that. Let’s set up another call and I’ll give you a quick overview about the gains your district can expect, and then if it has value, we can pull in whoever needs to take a look at this.”

Whether or not you set up a phone call through social media, you’ll want to build your various networks through your prospects. Your social networks say a lot about you. If your Twitter and Facebook connections are mainly superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum directors and other education leaders, it says you travel in good company and you are on your prospect’s level. Keep your posts limited to education-related news and developments and avoid personal posts.

Your prospect will be more likely to take your call if he/she is familiar with you and has seen you through social media. Here’s a very famous McGraw Hill ad that says it all.


About the Author

LeiLani Cauthen is CEO of the Learning Counsel, and author of “The Consumerization of Learning.”

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