Whatever edtech publication you read, whatever edtech conference you go to, whatever edtech sales pitch you listen to, you are bound to hear about many products causing incredible advances in student learning. With so many products showing great results for students, why aren’t they scaling; why aren’t they ubiquitous?
It’s not easy to go from pilot to widespread success.
What do we at Academic Business Advisors recommend to our clients?
First of all, here is what to avoid:
- Do not devote the majority of your resources to product development.
- Do not go out and get booths at conferences.
- Do not hire outside sales people.
What should you do?
First, plan before the pilot even begins. Your job is not to get pilots, your job is to make sure the pilot-customer is wildly happy during and after the pilot, that the implementation is complete and widespread in the school, and that you can use the pilot as a springboard to expansion.
Second, get close to as many contacts as possible at the school; to be successful a product needs many champions. If you are close, you can guide the technical contact, administrator, and educators when they hit the inevitable bumps along the road. Be as present as possible without being intrusive.
Third, know how you will monitor usage and results, and then keep key personnel aware of what is happening. If usage and results start to lag, intervene. Find out what the obstacles are and fix them. During the pilot you need to track what is going right? What problem is being solved? How are you helping with compliance? Where are you saving the school or district time or money?
Fourth, plan, as part of the initial planning, how you and the school are going to share successes. Will there be press releases? Case studies? A white paper? Conference presentations? Referrals? A booth at a conference rarely generates quality leads that translate into sales, especially if a product requires administrative or district approval. A booth, combined with a pilot school talking about how they boosted student achievement and with other sponsorship visibility, will be substantially more successful.
Fifth, use news of the pilot to drive leads to sales people. Outside sales people need qualified leads coming in to them. Don’t hire a sales person and expect their rolodex to generate sales. Our rule of thumb is that at least half of a sales rep’s business should come from company generated leads. Only hire sales people when you’ve got procedures in place to provide them with a steady stream of leads.
Sixth, invest in sales and marketing. There are always improvements you can make to whatever product you produce. But sales and marketing require substantial investments of time, effort, and money, and you never really know if your product meets a need until you have gone through hundreds of sales cycles.
To read more on going from pilot to success, see Farimah Schuerman’s article on the Selling to Schools website.
And to fine tune your sales and marketing efforts to drive growth, contact us. Let’s discuss how your product can have the reach and success it deserves.