Articles Posted in Sales Management

0808_ecpEducation Channel Partner published a story I wrote about partnerships for companies that serve the education market. Whether you are a textbook publisher, an education technology developer, a fellow management consultant, or a reseller/dealer I hope you will find some useful ideas in the article. Think of it as Business Development 101 for education.

Too many partnerships fail because the partners didn’t work through all the questions they needed to address individually and mutually. This article attempts to lay out a process for evaluating partnerships and a partnership taxonomy to help determine what kinds of partnerships are right for your company. It draws on my experiences at Apple, Chancery, Pearson, and Harcourt.

From the blurb:

DSC01549.jpgWhat do large school districts need from ed-tech providers? Michael Casserly Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools spoke at the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) conference this week in San Francisco. The speech was direct, honest, and well balanced in tackling some difficult issues like NCLB.

Towards the close of the speech he made the following 10 requests of the Ed-Tech community. I’ve added my perspective from the industry’s side of the conversation.

1. Provide tools that build academic vocabulary and develop high order thinking skills. I found this an interesting request given that all the major publishers and several mid and small sized publishers have materials that do all of these things. Either we are not meeting the real need with our products or we are not getting the word out effectively. This should give all of these providers cause to reflect on their offerings and their go-to-market strategies.


Busking teaches fundamental business concepts. As a young man I saw the world by tossing open my banjo case and belting out a few tunes. I played in Boston, Montreal, Tokyo, New York, Paris, San Francisco, Seville, New Orleans, and Amsterdam to name just a few spots.

Along the way I absorbed some interesting lessons that have helped me be more effective in the business world.

1 – Make people feel something. People respond to musicians who make an emotional investment in their performance. Laugh, sigh, get that ache in your voice, and share your joy.


Marketing and selling in the era of infinite input feels like howling into a gale. The average urban dweller is subject to 4,000 ads a day, 1 every 14 seconds. The only sane defense is to tune it all out, to turn it into wallpaper for your world.

Earlier in this series on Information Overload we looked at our broken paradigms of information management, a new personal productivity paradigm, and 10 ways to build instructional products for today’s learners. Today we look at what this means for those of us in the persuasive professions. The suggestions here are not just for education publishers – they are what I consider best practices for all marketers.

The fundamental problem is that the signal to noise ratio has gotten completely out of whack. I have an email account that I’ve been using for several years. Spammers have gotten their grubby little mitts on it and I now get over 3,000 spam emails a week at this address. I have great filtering – less than 100 make through so that isn’t the problem. The issue is that I no longer bother looking for false positives – I just delete it all and hope/pray that if it is important the person will find another way to reach me.

Picking a target market is one of the most fundamental decisions a sales and marketing team makes. Your target market determines what products you build, where you promote them, and how you talk about them. Socratic Marketing in the budding conversation economy demands a rigorous approach to this question as part of your Big M Marketing approach..

Target-Market-Forces.gifPicking a good target market is a balancing act. The smaller your market the higher your odds of success in targeting specific needs. However, that has to be weighed against the financial objectives of the business. You can’t get so small that you define yourself out of a job! Think of this as two forces that are inversely proportionate. Your goal is to find the right balance point.

So why do so many companies get this wrong? They define markets based on granfalloons, a concept coined by Kurt Vonnegut which means “a proud and meaningless association of human beings.” For example, have you seen segmentation schemes based on geography, district size, or % of free and reduced lunch students? If you are engaging in data driven selling and/or socratic marketing these are good starting points, but they are not the most powerful way to define a market.

It is easy for a sales force to fall into a comfort zone. Data-driven decision making techniques can help insure that Reps are reaching beyond their current contacts.

In many companies there is a great deal of data about the market. The challenge is to drive this into your field organization so that the Reps and their Managers are probing for untapped market potential on a regular basis.

There are some simple and quick ways to start using data in selling to schools and school districts. This post outlines some ideas for how to encourage your sales force to adopt a more data driven approach.

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