In honor of the busiest time of year for educators, I thought we’d explore selling against the competition of “time” this week.  Many a sale are lost to this worthy adversary.  You’ll know when you are up against it when you hear the objection, “Our teachers can’t handle One More Thing.”  I call it OMT. After funding, it’s the number one excuse not to buy.  I use the word excuse because like money, time is just a matter of priority.  Prospects that really want the benefit you’re offering can always find a way to make it happen.  Is your sales pitch designed to beat time?

First off, how often are you hearing OMT?  It’s a great idea to track the objections you hear, especially when it causes a lost opportunity.   Chances are OMT is causing early stage opportunities to fall out of the pipeline.  Traditionally it gets raised the most at the demo stage, blocking advancement of your solution into the evaluation or trial stage.  If you are hearing OMT after a trial or evaluation, this is significant news to share with your product team.  Something in the experience is costing schools more time than they thought when they decided to do their due diligence, and that something is costing your company business.

When we’re in that demo/needs analysis stage and get the OMT, it’s generally on we the sales people.  It means we have failed to position our solution as having benefits the prospect can’t live without.  There is an easy sales hack to make sure you aren’t tripping up here.  And as no surprise to you faithful readers, it involves asking the right question early in the sales cycle, and no later than at the beginning of your demonstration meeting. 

The secret question to ask is, “What is your top priority for this school year?”  Chances are this isn’t going to result in a simple answer, and frankly it may wind up being the only question you need to ask as the prospect spouts forth a litany of interrelated goals and plans.  Take good notes, which also helps the prospect to monologue, and if you think they are getting off track, follow up with, “And of these goals you listed, what do you believe is the top priority?”  When you talk enough to have an answer, you have your ammunition as well.

Your new mission is to show how your solution impacts that top priority.  If the goal is to improve reading scores and you sell a math supplement, you’re going to demonstrate how that supplement as saving teachers time achieving math proficiency so that they can focus more on reading.  If the goal is to reduce the number of behavior referrals and you sell Pre-K apps, you’re going to explain the important relationship between success in early childhood education and reduced need for academic and behavior intervention in later grades. 

If you are unarmed and unprepared to explain how your solution relates to the goal, you might be better off taking a step back and living to fight another day.  You’ll say, “I am fascinated by what you’ve shared with me and I have a few ideas for you.  Would you mind if we got together next week so I could show you a short presentation tailored to how our product can support your goal?”  If they agree, that gives you time to do your research and speak to the academic experts at your company.  If they don’t, at least show how efficiency in one area will free up time to more focus on their priority area.  Better to delay and give yourself a shot to win, than to show someone what you both will now be aware is OMT.

Want to avoid being unprepared for a tough mismatch of their goals to your solution?  Check their website or recent news stories about their district.  Often a school improvement plan or district priorities are clearly listed.  It’s important to still ask the prospect because you want to verify which goal(s) are their top priority, but it’s great to have a leg up before you get there.  Think of it as an investment of time—one that helps you beat it at its own game!

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