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The “Adobe model” is the reason you want to be in the education channel. Adobe software, founded in 1982, started off in the education market with their software Photoshop. It became a standard with schools, and when students left school after learning Photoshop, that was a product they used in the commercial world.
Many software companies want to increase their sales by selling to the educational channel. The first thing I would do is to find out how many of my existing sales are schools or educators. I would follow up with those sales to thank them and to find out how they are using the software in their classes. I would also ask for references and leads. It cannot be done part-time, and it takes time, effort and money to invest in the channel. You need to know that state education budgets have been cut to the lowest level since the Great Depression of 1929. It can take up to 18 months for a school to adopt your software. You will find that you have a better opportunity to have your software adopted if you have both a Windows and Macintosh version. Timing is very important here. You will need to get the software into the instructors’ hands to review in the Spring before school is out for the Summer. Schools start placing orders for software in August. 30-day demos are not sufficient to be used as a review copy. The availability of lesson plans increases sales of your product. I would suggest giving a full version of your software to the decision maker and following up with the reviewer regularly, for example, every two weeks. The key here is to make sure that you follow up diligently.
It is important to know who your competitors are in the education channel. Education pricing in most cases is lower than commercial pricing. Being the new kid on the block, you need to make sure your education pricing is attractive to the education buyer. In some cases, because your pricing is already extremely competitive, you may not be able to offer a lower education price. In these cases, it may be wiser to wait until you have a new version or product so that you can raise the commercial price. You need to consider the lower education price minus a minimum 30% discount that you need to give the education reseller. Your lab license pricing should reflect a volume discount of 10 to 15% for the dealers.
Now that you have your education pricing, your next step would be putting a press release together. You need to create awareness of your product without spending your total budget on advertising. Here are some of the education magazines you want to include:
- American Educator
- Current Issues In Education
- Education Magazine
- Media And Methods
- Technology In Learning
- THE Journal
You need to take 100% responsibility for the sales of your software. Creating a demand for the product is important so that education resellers will want to sell your software. The most important thing that a dealer has that you do not have, is an ongoing relationship with education customers. They can introduce your software to decision-makers at the district and state level.
Selling to dealers does not mean that you are in the education channel. Dealers will not create sales for your software unassisted. Most salespeople selling your product will not understand it. You need to give them materials that will help them sell your software. I suggest a one-page info sheet that provides an overview of your software and a chart comparing your product with your competitors. Creating an ongoing relationship with the salesperson will help you increase your sales. It has helped me open up doors that I would be unable to do without their help. You want them to know that you are always available to answer any questions that their customers may have.
Here are the names of education resellers in the United States and Canada:
- Learning Services
- Genesis Technology
- Software House International
- Software Express
- PC University Distributor
- Digital River Education Services
- Advanced Academic
The key is growing your user base; a growing market share creates demand on its own. You will need a reason to go back to your user base with new products and upgrades. Commitment is the key. You may not see results for up to a year. You need to realize that this is an investment for your future growth. You will profit enormously in the long-term even if you break even on your initial sales in the channel.
Originally published in ASPects, January 2012. Reprinted courtesy of the author. David Raimondo has been selling to education channel for over 20 years representing software companies in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Reach him at David [at] raimondobusinessservices.com