The Kindergarten to 12th grade – K 12 education segment comprises of the three million schools’ catering to one billion learners on the planet. Most EdTech startups are started with the vision of bringing about positive change and being instrumental in the rapid learning growth curve of the future generations.
However, no matter how noble the idea is, EdTech startups also need to be generating profits to remain sustainable and continue their great work. This is exactly why EdTech Sales development representative (SDRs) have a very important role.
A good solution sold by an EdTech SDR will not only bring in revenue for his/her company but also shape the future of thousands of students who benefit from the solution.
The K12 Education space in EdTech startups:
In essence, EdTech sales mostly fall under the B2B or B2B2C selling strategy. You’re either selling to the school or expect the school to push its use down to the end user – The students. Therefore, the K12 EdTech startups broadly fall under two categories:
1. Edtech startups that are selling support solutions e.g. Attendance system, fee collection solutions, Progress report software etc.
2. Edtech startups selling student and teacher solutions – e.g. self-learning solutions, teaching aid, AR VR classroom solutions etc.
Here is a blueprint of the level 1 strategy that EdTech startups could follow to successfully sell in the K 12 Education space:
1. Find and understand your target segment:
Who are the actual beneficiaries of your solutions? E.g., are you selling teaching aid? Then it’s the teachers, if it’s a self-learning solution then it’s the students. As Comptia shares in its blog, have clarity on the local dynamics at play like:
- Procurement procedures and schedules,
- The RFP and bidding processes,
- What certifications are required from your end
- The volatility of school budgets.
- Any language preference?
Selling K12 Education solutions often requires you to geographically segment your solution. Use empathy mapping to create target personas for the school’s decision makers (principals or school boards).
Since geography and region have a stronger role to play in purchase decisions, make lists based on state, city, district levels with publicly available data on this. e.g. Indian ICSE schools list – state wise
2. Timing is key:
Edtech Startups selling solutions to the K12 segment must understand that sales cycle averages around 6 months and EdTech sales is also a seasonal thing. Majority of the schools run on budgets and do not make year-round purchases. Understand the cycle of your target segment. It will be different for schools that close in winter vis-à-vis that close in summer.
The generic rule of thumb is that the final purchase decision happens 2-3 months before the school’s session begins and the lookout for solutions happens about six months before the final decision is made. Yes, it’s a long sales cycle!
3. Build your list of decision makers
Know who your target audience is, where do they hang out and what influences them. Once you know what personas you are after, you need to invest in a good CRM to step up the gas pedal on your selling journey. This will help you assess how fast or slow your sale pipeline is moving and at what stage of the sales cycle your deals are at, who needs more nurturing and who not. Most CRMs have a free trial period so this should give you time to figure out your need and flow. (and here’s where I proudly propose you try out Alore CRM to see the difference !! )
Here are some ways to make your initial sales pipeline:
a) Generic search:
A simple search query for the contact name of the school principal shows this as a result. That’s a start:
The issue with this is this isn’t a scalable process and needs manually typing out school names. But still, it’s a start!
b) Prospect smarter:
Step 1: Example go on Twitter and search for school associations.
Step 2: Thereafter see the followers list. Most of the followers of a school association are likely to be “prospects”
Step 3: Use technology to rescue:
Use an email finder to find the relevant email IDs. We’ve used the Alore chrome extension to go to profile and extract the email ID in the example below:
4. Creating a connect with the decision makers and nurturing leads:
Once you have a sizable list to begin with that comprises of about 500 names at least, you’re ready to start. Slice and dice the list into segments and schedule a tailored DRIP campaign to break the ice and create a connect. Ensure you speak the language of the customer.
If you’re using an integrated sales platform like Alore, you will be able to auto-update the CRM with your prospects and create DRIP campaigns for them from within the tool.
eMail 1: <Introduce yourself and your business in not more than 7-8 lines. Keep it short and crisp and make only one ask (a meeting/call/ video watch/ webinar link etc.). Always add social proof in the first email (testimonial link/ number of current solution users/ a common friend etc.)
email 2: Check if they’ve had a chance to look at your previous email and share one extra bit of info in this email (It helps if you can outline how you worked for others in a process so they can imagine for themselves how it would be for them)
(Free email Templates available on Alore CRM for you to customize and begin sending emails)
5. Having multiple decision makers and overcoming inertia
As an EdTech SDR, you will encounter a flood of concerns and questions the moment you propose your solution. You need to be prepared for it thoroughly.
Understand that you may not be the first one to pitch to them or the only one. In fact, the school may have burnt their hands in the past with a bad solution provider and might be wary of what you have to offer.
Once you’re in a conversation with the decision makers, figure out the chain of command in place. Who are the influencers who controls the budget etc. In school decision making happens in groups generally – The principal, a panel of experienced teachers, IT Staff and in some cases members of parent associations and student councils. That’s a lot of people with varying level of interest, inclination and IQs to appease.
Tips from an ex-EdTech VC on handling multiple stakeholders:
a) Online demo or free/freemium trial is useful in such situations
b) In your pitch, subtly try to answer the question “What can I do with it that I can’t already do now?” for each stakeholder.
c) For every meeting Edtech SDRs must :
- Go prepared
- Take your prototypes with you
- Answer every question
- Dress the part
Also, take into account that often people might be wary of your solution for something as simple as unstable internet connectivity or the teachers not being tech savvy. Make sure you’ve figured out your solution to cater to such glitches.
E.g., If you can demonstrate that your solution can work even on mobile hotspot connection, the teacher doesn’t need to be running around to the IT department for wi-fi issues. Better still, you could provide a portable Wi-Fi device for the classroom or concerned department.
There is often friction arising from teachers who often treat technology as an unwelcome nudge from the way things have been working so far. Some even find EdTech as a threat to their jobs. This needs artful handling where SDRs of EdTech startups need to come across as friendly and playing for the same side.
Instead of phrasing your solution as “I can do this for you” phrase it as “We can help you do XYZ for your students/school”
6. Customer Support: Under Promise – Over deliver!!
EdTech is not an entirely new industry. Chances are high that the school has had a bad experience with an EdTech startup. This is difficult to overcome but not impossible. The thing is schools still want the best solutions to offer to their students and smoothen school administrative functions.
Here, customer service will make the biggest difference beyond the relevance and robustness of your solution. Here are some of the things EdTech SDRs can look into:
a) Offer the school value in terms of training the teachers/staff how to use the solution effectively and to its full potential.
b) 24/7 accessibility or extended hours at least.
d) Offer a feedback mechanism in place with shortest turnaround time possible.
e) Offer customized feature(s) if possible
f) Exhaustive documentation or video library on how to use the solution.
7. Testimonials sell
The hardest sell is the pilot project so give your heart and soul into getting the first one. (You will mostly get this one via great networking and the initial faith you can generate in your solution.) Thereafter, ensure you have testimonials and case studies of already implemented solutions to show.
Nothing creates more trust in a solution than to have seen someone else already successfully using your product elsewhere.
Try to have a one-page testimonial or a video testimonial of your current solution users.
8. Reach out to channel partners:
Within the EdTech space there are different kinds of players. E.g., you might be selling teaching aid. You could partner with the company who sells fee processing solutions and you both could exchange some referral introductions into each other’s networks.
Beating the competition:
With the global education market set to reach at least $10T by 2030, the focus on learning is transitioning towards experiential, interactive and immersive learning than the centuries-old theoretical learning. Where there is creativity and money – there is competition.
Here are some ways SDR’s can stand out from their competitors:
a) Attend or sponsor school networking events and conferences.
b) Figure out who holds the strings and who holds the purse – generally they are the same person
c) Build initial rapport with newsletters – Even if people aren’t buying today, they might tomorrow.
Use tools like Layouts By Alore to send beautiful mass newsletters and e-magazines in less than 60 seconds for $9.99/month.
d) Send in free reports – The aim is to be in touch regularly and be seen as a value-driven company rather than someone aiming in the dark. Always offer value.
e) Blog and mention – All schools like public applause. Remember there is also an inter-school rivalry thing that’s more real than you’d care. Never belittle any institution but try to give some social media cheer to your pipeline when needed. It helps create a positive rapport in the long run.
f) Create an inbound effect:
Setapp.pl has a great strategy here. They have an EdTech newsletter called the “The EdTech World” where they discuss everything about EdTech. They’ve amassed a decent following in their niche and growing this community bu nurturing it well on multiple channels – Medium, Twitter etc.
EdTech SDRs tool stack:
CRM: Alore CRM ( Not because it’s our product but because it’s actually super easy to scrape emails of prospects, auto-update the CRM database and then schedule DRIP campaigns based on tags – and also record and track calls via Twilio when needed)
Customer Engagement – Typeform,
I’d love to hear your take on how you go about sales in EdTech and what worked/didn’t work for you. Drop in a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. – The next article in this series will talk about selling LMS solutions. Do subscribe to the blog to get it delivered straight to your inbox !!