Want to see a cool magic trick? While completely blindfolded, I will now attempt to tell you the three top objections you hear in your sales meetings! Drumroll please…
- Not enough money
- Not enough time to implement
- We have something else that does the same thing
Ta Da! Three for three? If you are a B2E rep, in some form or another these might be the ONLY three objections you’ll hear. Unfortunately once one of these hard to argue with objections has been voiced, the buyer thinks their job of brushing you off is complete. The best way to reverse these objections is therefore to avoid them in the first place. The prospect will have no choice but to play along with your expert need assessment, and just might find out that they actually like what you have to say!
Overcoming the Money Objection
Considering they are not trained purchasing agents public school principals, curriculum directors and even teachers are tough cookies to sell to. This stems partly from the fact that when they say their hands are tied, sometimes they actually are tied. Businesses can generally find a way to fund an investment in a product that will bring them more in profit. B2B sales people throw around the term “ROI” all day. In B2E, ROI is measured not in dollars but in improved educational outcomes. But it’s still a zero sum budget.
Except for competitive grants and fund-raising, for our customer there is no immediate financial return that comes along with working harder or smarter. Lest you think me terribly cynical, I am aware there is a proven long-term financial return from being a top performing school, and even greater intrinsic reward in developing young minds. I’m just saying, if in a previous role you overcame financial objections with an “it pays for itself” argument, you’re in need of a new bag of tricks.
First and foremost, realize that in education there is simultaneously no money and a ton of money. It’s all a question of priorities. Use these tips to move up the priority ladder.
Tip 1 – You can’t establish value without a conversation about need. Never quote prices until you’ve determined the priority needs for that school. Need is something you determine by getting the prospect to talk freely. You need an appointment to do this. It can be by phone, virtual meeting, or face-to-face, but it’s the only way to avoid the “no money” objection. I tell reps that until you sell the appointment, you’re not selling anything else.
Tip 2 – It’s probable that your product or service provides many benefits to schools. The benefits that meet the school’s highest priorities are the only ones that make your product valuable. I suggest you start every sales meeting by saying, “Tell me about your highest priority needs for your students.” When you have explored all the details behind these needs, you can present how your solution meets them. Now no matter what your price is, you’ve got a chance.
Tip 3 — If you are finding you can’t even get in to see educators because they respond to all your prospecting efforts with, “We have no money!” try changing your request. Rather than ask for a meeting to “discuss their needs,” ask for a chance to get their opinion on your offering. “We have no money!” is not a valid response to that request. It doesn’t always work, but if you could only meet with schools that claimed they had ample budget, you’d have about 40 free hours on your calendar each week.
Tip 4 – If the buyer is convinced that you can supply a critical outcome, but she doesn’t have the money available, she might use a common strategy which is to dip her toe in with a small group of students or classrooms. In selling B2E, this is a fine way to open an account, sometimes it’s even the most beneficial in the long run because implementation kinks are worked out before going building- or district-wide. Be sure to identify the process by which this paid pilot could turn into a larger program. Start working those decision-makers early because in B2E only the early bird catches next year’s funds.
Overcoming the Time Objection
The last thing you want to hear in a meeting with an administrator is “one more thing.” As in…our teachers can’t handle one more thing. I hear these words so much that I just call it OMT now to save myself some T. The person giving you the OMT objection is determined to not even listen to your value proposition because he has two or three other new systems or new curriculum or some other upheaval that has fried his staff. OMT would surely be the straw that breaks the camel’s (his) back.
Tip 1 – At every given moment in education the next thing is the last straw. Remember that timing is indeed everything and get way out in front of your sales cycle. Even transactional products might have to wait for just the right implementation date, which could be the following school year. When you approach your education customer, approach them as if there was a lot to be done to evaluate your B2E offering. “No doubt you are already doing strategic planning for next school year. I’d love to get your thoughts on…” That way, you diffuse the OMT objection before it can be raised. Once you’re in there, you might be able to advance the timetable.
Tip 2 – Consider how your B2E product or service saves time. Remember how we can’t really pull the ROI trick out of the bag? We can and should emphasize time savings with schools constantly. Prepare case studies with formal measurements of steps and hassles reduced for teachers, students, parents and other stakeholders. When you lead with these as your marketing message, it’s pretty hard to write you off as OMT.
Tip 3 – Fear is a great motivator. Even when we are busy, low on funds or otherwise reluctant to make certain purchases, we make them because the alternative is worse. Life insurance is a perfect example. When you position your B2E offering as equating to peace of mind, you are less likely to hear the OMT response. Make sure your claim is specific, rock solid and a great enough concern that it equates to peace of mind. “Kindergartners using our equipment had 30% fewer playground accidents,” might get a second look.
Overcoming the We Already Have That Objection
Most B2E companies think we have a unique solution. Even if your product is a commodity, such as office supplies, the service and pricing options you offer are probably in your opinion somewhat unique. The fact is, schools think we are all commodities in our given broad product categories. I like to think of a district administrator prospect as a woman buying new kitchen appliances. She has to fit each of her appliances in an existing cut out in her kitchen. If she had a combination range/oven before, that’s all she has room for now. Selling her a double wall oven, even though it has a lot of advantages, causes a stressful domino effect that could lead to a full remodel. School districts do their best to avoid remodeling, especially in mid-school year.
When you walk in an educator’s shoes you realize you have only so many minutes in a day. If you are pitching any learning tool you have to realize this function is already being fulfilled in some way at this school. It’s not like a teacher is just not teaching math waiting for you to come along. And frankly, funding is tied to functions. If something new is coming in, the old thing will likely have to be eliminated first, and teachers might be quite satisfied with the current tool. You are an agent of change, and sometimes that’s as unwelcome as a perky personal trainer.
Tip 1 – Prepare messaging that hits head on how your B2E company complements or improves upon the mosaic of resources they are already using to meet student needs. If your meeting request says you would like to discuss how your product supplements a district’s existing assessment programs by rolling them into a much easier to read dashboard, you probably won’t get the response, “not interested—we already have an assessment system.” Just don’t forget to also offer to save them time and money or you’ll get those objections instead.
Tip 2 – Know your competition well. If you don’t want to get the “we already have one” brush off in your next sales meeting, be sure to understand their priorities so you can state, “You already have x, but it only addresses two of your highest priority needs, while ours covers all three.” Incidentally, if you get caught unawares about a competing product, simply ask the prospect how product x meets each of their highest priority needs. It’s risky but why would they list something as a need if it was already well covered by product x? If they try to back pedal, you can gently point this out. See how important establishing their priority needs is?
Tip 3 – Another great trick I once heard is asking the question, “What does world class [blank] look like?” For example, if a principal listed that one of her highest priorities is improving 3rd grade literacy, and this is something your B2E can help with, you would say, “What does world class 3rd grade literacy look like?” If she stares blankly, add “I just want to know what the target is.” After she lists a few items, you’ll hear things that your product can achieve. NOW give your pitch. Keep referring to how your product “supplies the outcomes that define world class 3rd grade literacy, which I know is your highest priority.”
Keep honing your marketing message and your questioning skills with these techniques and over time you’ll find you hear these “big three” objections less and less. Hearing other objections we can help with? Comment below and we’ll try to give you a magic trick to make them disappear!