A certain percentage of the educators you contact will respond with the “we’re all set” brush off.   I’m sure All Set Guy honestly believes he is “all set.”  He secretly is thrilled that he has a good reason not to have to spend time with you as your product is something he’s already got covered.  He will congratulate himself on giving you this water tight brush off; irrefutable evidence that your services are not required.  We’re all set, case closed.  Should you politely thank him for setting you straight on this matter and move on? 

Of course not.  Does Dish Network stop contacting you because you have cable?  That’s laughable.  People change suppliers all the time based on price, features and services.  Education buyers are no different in most of their purchasing categories.  So the question isn’t if you should keep after All Set Guy, it’s how.

First, swallow your disappointment.  If the brush off is happening live, don’t for one second let your face fall or Mr. All Set will use that momentary defeat to walk you to the door or hang up the phone.  You need to train yourself to expect his response because it’s very common.  By definition schools operate in a state of all set.  Unless you sell roofing tiles and only visit customers that have rain dripping into their offices, whatever you’re selling is something that school or district is currently functioning without. 

Instead of hesitating or packing up, maintain eye contact and confidently continue the conversation in a matter of fact way that demonstrates, “Nice try, but you’re not getting rid of me that easy. We’re just two adults talking about educational best practices. No need to run for cover.”  But don’t say that.  You want to use whatever engagement time you have left to, as gracefully as possible, plant a seed or at least gather intel to assist your future attempts at a sales conversation.  It’s even possible one of these statements will give All Set Guy pause, and crack open the door of opportunity.  It’s always worth a shot.

Say something more like:

“Of course.  Tell me when the review for improved materials will be taking place so I can follow up with you then.”  If the prospect doesn’t insist there is never a need for “improved materials,” (and how can they do that without sounding ridiculous), they open the door for you to follow up with questions about what they’d be looking for in an upgrade.

“That’s great.  Would you mind telling me what will be the number one requirement on your list the next time you’re in the market for [xyz]?”  Your next move is to demonstrate, either on the spot or in your follow up material, that your service is the market leader in that feature.  Alter this question to match your strengths.  Perhaps it’s “what would be the most important system to integrate with” for example.

“Oh, awesome!  I’m glad you were an early adopter of [the function]. I’d simply like to share a few of the options you have in [the category] so you’re aware of advancements/improved technology/latest thinking out there the next time an opportunity to upgrade should come along.”  This strategy is obviously to plant the seed of doubt when they have an outdated supplier.   All Set Guy may be impatient with this as a waste of his time, so be cautious here and don’t push your luck. Body language could indicate you should offer to email that later or invite him or “his technology team” to watch a webinar at their convenience where your company discusses advancements and best practices.

“No problem, I wouldn’t expect you to be without a [xyz] supplier.  It would help me a lot if you could tell me what you feel are the most important deliverables in the area of [the function].” This might open the door to some follow ups that could lead to further qualifying questions or just arm you with fodder for your next attempt to sell him down the road.  As in, “Hi Mr. All Set, last spring when we spoke you listed [abc] as your highest priority in [function].  I thought of you when I received this case study discussing how our [abc] was a big improvement for our client over their previous supplier.”

“Got it, no problem.  The next time you are in need of [xyz], are you the right person to speak about it with?”  Follow up with more about purchasing process, key players, and timing.  Your efficient and matter of factness reminds the buyer that there are no hard feelings here, and in the even they are hanging on to a supplier out of unmerited loyalty, that changing vendors is an every day occurrence.  

“I’m glad you mentioned that.  Many schools are surprised to find out that they have been doing [function] for years without realizing that [big differentiating benefit] is available at a lower cost.” Obviously here you’re taking a risk that you really do have a shockingly better offering/price.  It’s best used when they mention a competitor is in place that you are well rehearsed on.

All these responses have in common that you are brushing off the prospect’s brush off.  While this tactic can lead to an open-minded prospect second guessing their earlier dismissal of your service, the wrong tone behind these questions could be perceived as antagonizing.  Acquire a nonthreatening demeanor by role-playing this technique a few times with a co-worker or your manager.  The goal is to cheerfully persevere without sounding the least bit sour grapes that they aren’t considering your offering.  And, since you’ve already pushed the envelope by not giving up after the first dismissal, the next time during this conversation that the prospect attempts to wrap it up, it’s time to get out. Thank them for their time, and as soon as possible, update your CRM with those important nuggets you just learned. 

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