One of the most important chapters in your playbook should be about budget issues: the talk track to explain your solution’s value and pricing, what funds can be used to buy it, and the key play we’ll discuss today, how the adoption of your solution will save the client money. I talked to a colleague last week who was pondering a pretty good idea. He said, “Hey, have you asked a district to look over their budget with the goal of showing them where they could save enough money to pay for your product?” My honest answer is no, nor has any administrator ever slid me a ledger book and said, “Oh Julie, can you just figure it out?” Let’s assume you are going to get a funny look if you ask outright to manage a school district’s books.
Ideally the budget conversation is going to sound more like: “Denise, most curriculum directors I meet with tell me that teachers are given 2 days a semester out of their classroom to meet with their teaching teams to analyze their formative assessment data. In that case, the cost of the substitutes is around $600/teacher/year. Our platform, which aggregates all that data and simplifies it for teachers in a way that eliminates the need for those frustrating spreadsheet sessions, costs about ½ that amount. I’m sure you have a whole laundry list of other priorities you can spend the other $300/teacher in savings on!” See how nice that sounds? You just wrote them a check for $300/teacher basically. Sign. Me. Up.
Your product solves a problem or you wouldn’t be in business. Typically your value is defined in terms of student outcomes, which as a B2E should be your driving raison d’etre. But budget constraints prevent schools from exclusively looking at performance outcomes. Challenge yourself to also define your value in terms of things a school or district will not have to buy because they have your solution.
Some food for thought:
- As in the example above, are there savings on substitute teacher days because some laborious analysis or curriculum creation is outsourced/automated?
- Are your supplemental lessons more efficient time wise so that a student needs less access to a tablet let’s say than would have to be budgeted with a less efficient competing product?
- Does your technology help prevent theft or things like wear and tear on equipment?
- Do you make specialists, district coaches and/or para-pros more efficient, enabling their time to be spread further, dare I say, cutting a head count? (Try not to make that pitch to the person whose job would be eliminated.)
- This one is commonly used so be careful you can prove it, but can you prevent a low performing student from falling into a Spec Ed designation? If so, that is a huge and quantifiable savings.
- Do you reduce the use of paper and printing? If so quantify it. Presume schools are in contracts for about 2 cents a page. Even so, the high dollar spent on paper and copying may surprise you.
- Do you reduce employee turnover or legal fees due to lack of compliance or documentation? What does that cost a district?
- Do you consolidate the need for other platforms or subscription software licenses that can be eliminated in next year’s budget?
- Do you reduce the need for complex new teacher training due to ease of use or reduction of the number of tools that must be mastered? That includes PD cost, plus any overtime or substitutes needed.
- And lastly, if none of these are an easy case for you, how about student retention? If you keep a student from leaving for a charter or private school, or keep a student from dropping out – this is a bottom line issue for a district. Perhaps you can prove top line growth or at least loss prevention.
You may not even know the best ways districts save money through your solution but I know someone you can ask. Your best proof will come from existing customers. Funnily enough, unless you go out of your way to find out, you may rarely if ever hear about the budget issues behind the scenes of your implementation. That example I gave about substitute teachers is a real world story a principal once shared with me. You may not cover the entire cost of your product like that case, but any substantial savings will be a point in your favor at decision time.
Once you have some tangible examples, create some case studies about savings that districts yielded from your solution. This is just one of a series of reasons why the sale doesn’t stop at delivery. Staying involved with your customers is fundamentally the way to your next sale. The next time a new prospect, or a harried renewing customer asks about funds, you can show them that your product pulls its own weight!