The Pandemic has forever changed the education sales call. During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools around the world were forced to pivot and buy their EdTech entirely online. And now that the pandemic is past? Schools still prefer to do business online.
In today’s teaching and learning, I’m seeing a blended model that combines in-class instruction with online components[MS1] and resources. Where schools once developed their curricula for face-to-face instruction using online resources for support, this hybrid model is based on group instruction or individual study online, with in-class time focused on a one-on-one or small-group support. I’ve seen several international institutions make tremendous progress towards hybrid and blended learning as well, but what does that mean for the publishers and technology companies that are trying to find their place in a transformed tech landscape?
Relationships Before Sales
When schools first closed, there was a concerted, industry-wide effort to move content online and provide teachers the tools they needed to keep the learning going. Many companies showed themselves to be good corporate citizens by offering their resources for free, while schools soon concluded that the balance of the year was going to be spent troubleshooting the new online model.
Now, as we approach the second half of the post-pandemic year, schools are starting to look downstream. Of course, this comes at a time when many schools globally are focusing on implementing technologies that can truly drive individual outcomes and be used in multiple blended learning models, while schools here in the U.S. are trying to decide how to spend the enormous windfall of COVID stimulus funding, so it would be my highest recommendation to education companies that they understand not only how to sell their technology, but also how to make it available in multiple blended learning models.
The goal is not simply to[MS2] make a sale, but to establish a relationship and to keep the dialogue going[MS3] . As an EdTech provider, you need to be very transparent at this stage, and the most effective way to get buy-in from the decision-makers at the school or district is to go the extra mile to help them understand how your product or service fits[MS4] into their hybrid/blended learning environment.
What Do Schools Need Now?
In this market, schools will be looking for solutions that can be engaging on their own, putting less of a burden on live session instruction while still moving each student down his or her learning path.
I also see the device business as staying hot[MS5] to the point of becoming economical. Chromebooks, notebooks and tablets are essential tools in blended learning, and serve as Internet-enabled devices that students use to log onto the platform that houses the content they need to learn.
Addressing Digital Inequity
Whenever educators talk about online learning, equity is an issue. There will going to continue to be inequality all over the world, be it a lack of devices, lack of Internet access, or lack of money to pay for other resources. However, what I am seeing internationally is a tremendous amount of corporate resolve and involvement from entities that provide communications, Internet access, devices, and content in providing access to those populations that didn’t have it in the past.
They’re doing so to provide a philanthropic resource to the schools, but they also know that, at some point, these resources won’t continue to be free. The calculation they are making is that if they grow their user base and create goodwill now, there will be a larger base to pay for their products and services down the road.
Diversifying Additional Revenue Streams
In my work with EdTech companies looking to move into the international education market, I see tremendous opportunities outside the United States for online solutions. Companies simply need to understand what to do—often, it doesn’t take a lot of heavy lifting.
The sales cycle is a year to a year-and-half, just like in the United States. But in the international space, you have less likelihood of getting to the end of that sales cycle and being told there’s no more funding or hearing other various versions of “no.”
In the United States, the decision-making is fragmented, and can vary from district to district, and even school to school within a single district. In my experience, the more people involved in a decision, the better chance that one of them will be unwilling to leap into working with a new company or technology.
In the international space, by contrast, the decision-making is usually led by a very small team, which gives EdTech providers a better chance to establish that all-important relationship and offer a comprehensive vision of what they can offer. When we promote products internationally, not only do we present the value proposition to the entire management team at the school or ministry, but we also talk to them about economics and academics. In a time when not only budgets but the very structure of education is in flux, extolling the features of your product just won’t cut it. You’ll need to be ready and eager to explain how everyone that touches it—teachers, students, parents, administrators—will benefit.
The Best of Both Worlds
Right now, EdTech has never been in greater demand. The domestic market is stacked with cash, and the second half of this school year is likely to show you the greatest sales year of your life. And although the international market doesn’t have the stimulus funding, it is, nonetheless, a very hot market with a strong sense of immediacy and an excellent long-term prognosis.
About the author
Michael E. Spencer is the CEO and Founder of Global Expansion Strategies, a Silicon Valley based international, advisory, growth and investment firm working with education companies to expand globally. Michael Spencer is an education executive with more than 28 years of global leadership, management, operational, business development and investment experience in the K-12 marketplace. In addition to serving as CEO at ASSIST Education, Senior Director of International Business Development at K12 Inc. and Senior Vice President of American Education Corporation, he has founded, co-founded and been a board member for numerous EdTech companies, including ASSIST Education, One2OneMate LLC, QuickPAD Technology Corporation, H45 Technology Corporation, and The Minden Group LLC. All achieved 100%+ growth year-over-year since inception, received multiple awards for innovation and led to A and B rounds of funding as well as successful exits. His expertise spans from developing international strategic channel partnership, targeting the private, public, virtual, charter education sectors to the development and implementation of large scale blended / hybrid learning models for global school operators. He has published numerous articles on international expansion and blended learning models all highlighting the benefits, economic impact and achievement of optimum student outcomes when going global.