I attended a local edtech conference last week and was reminded once again of how painfully self-centered B2E reps can sound when hawking our wares.  Listening to the elevator pitches from various booths I heard the mantra, “our product does x.”  I know a trade show chat is a short format sales conversation, but using that brief time to rattle off marketing bullets leaves much to be desired.  It’s the sales equivalent of pick up lines when true romance is what the client wants.  There’s a better way to sell to schools.  I’ve got three little words you can use that will sweep them off their feet next time.  

A sales conversation that’s all about your company, product and its advantages leaves a customer wondering if you understand they have unique needs and are in the middle of dozens of roll outs that new tools must seamlessly weave into.  It’s difficult to turn the focus back on the school district — even when you are asking questions.  Unfortunately some prospects keep their cards close to the chest and are complicit in getting you to cut to the chase by jumping in with the marketing talk before you know much about them.  These words will absolutely put the focus of the conversation on the client.  They will show that you know your product is not one size fits all, and that you are a partner they can trust to help them implement it in a complicated web of existing resources.  The words are, “I’ve noticed you….” 

You can use these words both when prospecting and during sales meetings. In prospecting, take a few minutes to personalize your email to include a sentence such as, “I’ve noticed you adopted new Language Arts Curriculum this year.”  Or “I’ve noticed you are implementing a new teacher evaluation system.”  Then follow through on why that means they should take a look at your offering.   They’ll have two reasons to listen; the one you list and the fact that unlike 90% of reps that approach them, you took time to discern what they care about and what makes them special.  That you intend for them to have a custom experience working with your company.

In a sales meeting “I’ve noticed you,” will impress the prospect that you understand your product will not be operating in a vacuum.  “I’ve noticed you are reducing your AP offerings,” or “I’ve noticed you switched to a standard-based grading model.”  Ask how that is affecting their role, current goals, and what gaps it has opened in their curriculum mix.  These three little words will keep you on track as you patiently wait to tell your product story.  Hold back until you know as much as you can about what is new and different in the prospect’s system.  New and different usually equates to buying needs.

Where do you find out what to notice? 

  • Google alerts for your key issues
  • District home page – letters to community and parents are a goldmine
  • News search for the district: scores, awards, hires, bond issues (read why the district is asking for funds), and press releases
  • Regional Offices of Education news and press releases

Try “I’ve noticed you,” in all your sales contacts for a week and see if it doesn’t set you up for preparing better and connecting better with your prospects!

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