Articles Posted in Sales Management

Over the last 30 years I’ve lead dozens of teams through strategic planning as a CEO and as an outside facilitator. I’ve learned there are three essential characteristics for a good facilitator.

  • Strong listening skills
  • A coherent framework

In January 2001 as the dot com boom burst online education site wwwrrr.com went out of business overnight, literally. Coverage tended to focus on the employees – who ultimately filed a class action lawsuit for back pay and 401k contributions.

Lost in that ugly coverage was the blunt reality for teachers and schools that the new era of on-line content had a very dark side. Teachers who were relying on wwwrrr’s materials on January 9th were left with absolutely nothing on January 10th. They had no warning.

When schools buy a textbook they own the thing. If the vendor stops offering the book the school still has the thing. With cloud-based solutions schools are buying a license to a service. If the vendor stops offering the service it evaporates. Teachers rightly want some assurance that if they integrate a useful solution into their lesson plans that they can use it for several years.

One of the hard lessons I’ve learned over my career is that anything worth doing needs to be done several times before you can evaluate it.  The Experience Curve as a concept has been with us since 1885, yet many are still unaware of this common sense insight on how people learn and what it means for management decisions.

Here are a couple of examples, one from observing schools adopt new curriculum materials and one from my experience as a CEO.  Both are relevant to education companies.

New Curriculum Materials

r67ye5tertgrgtreBooks, iPads, and the Kindle are changing the fundamental structure of the publishing industry. From a strategic perspective they are having the largest impact on the development and pricing of products. In other words it is affecting the “what” deeply. The “how” has not changed all that much, regardless of whether you are selling print and/or technology.

There are four fundamental strategies for a growing a company in the K12 sector because even in the best of times K12 is (mostly) a zero sum game. In 2008 I wrote a post about this competitive dynamic:

In normal times education budgets grow at 2%-5% a year. Most start-ups or new products need to grow at a huge multiple of that – 30% to 300% or even more. Mathematically in order for you to grow someone else is must lose out.

We are most definitely not living in “normal times” these days. Any growth strategy in today’s market is fighting gravity as school budgets are expected to fall next year after the stimulus has expired.

IMG_4955.jpgOK – admit it, trade shows are fun. Sometimes traveling to a distant city, circulating with your peers, and dining out on the company can be a kick. You are learning too – about competitors and about your customers. The deadlines around a trade show can produce drama and tension, and some people thrive on that.

By comparison web marketing can be a daily slog and there isn’t much direct contact with the customer. Web marketing requires persistence and patience. Success is metered in small steps and delivered incremental improvements over time.

In this article I explore who should prioritize shows and who should focus on web marketing and I share some ideas about how to compare the two.

In this second of a two part series, guest blogger James Mayfield Smith responds to my post on Storyline in Textbooks and Video Games. James is an educational consultant, sales executive, and trained applied mythologist.

Part 1 can be found here.

Part 2 of 2: The Tactical Use of Story to Sell

In this first of a two part series, guest blogger James Mayfield Smith responds to my post on Storyline in Textbooks and Video Games. James has the coolest job title I think I’ve ever seen – Applied Mythologist. We worked together at Pearson several years ago, he speaks about Education Publishing from direct experience on the front lines of selling and authoring.

Part 1 of 2: The Strategic Use of Story to Sell

By James Mayfield Smith

125x125This article is based on notes from a panel at the Ed Tech Industry Forum in New York that took place in December. The insights the panelists shared are no less relevant now that we are into the new administration and sorting out the economic stimulus.

The panel consisted of:

The panel members are operators which stood in contrast to most of the investor oriented agenda at the ETBF.

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Can a new product enter the education market and generate organic growth in the market? Not really. This is one of the core issues new entrants have to wrap their heads around as they think about how to sell and market to schools. Education is (mostly) a zero sum game.

Today we tackle issue #3 in our series on selling and marketing to educators.

Part 1 – Obey the Calendar

1068068_hortensia_leaf_with_old_key_1Rookies in the education market make a set of common mistakes. There are five concepts you need to grasp about selling to schools that will help you avoid execution error as you enter the learning market. Consider these the iron laws of marketing to public schools. Accept them, nay embrace them, and your job will be easier.

In my consulting practice I go through these topics with almost all clients who are entering this market from other industries or countries. In this series I will post my thoughts on each of these rules and I welcome your comments and reactions. We will cover:

Part 1. Obey the calendar. Schools buy on a regular schedule, design your business around it.