The famous song lyrics of Pink Floyd claims, “We don’t need no education. All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.” However, in reality, we all do need an education, and within higher education levels at colleges and universities, the learning environment should be of the highest quality possible.
Selling to higher education comes with many challenges, especially with its organizational structure and technology. There are many considerations to be addressed before blindly going through the process of meeting with faculty, decision makers, and other influencers and making product/service recommendations. An important element for selling to higher education is to really understand the issues faced at colleges and universities to achieve a thorough assessment of their situations and challenges, upon which you can then solidly base your recommendations.
As a simple primer for selling to higher education, consider these four basic actions:
- Understand the Typical Roles at a College/University – The three main role categories are: Senior Administration (top officials, including President and board members); Departmental Administration (managers of department operations including VP-Administration and Safety Officer); and IT Management (oversees deployment of information technology, includes Chief Information Officer and VP-Information Technology). These roles are all responsible for and influential in areas tied to 21st century higher education and technology trends. Get to know the various members in each of these roles, their passions and how the individuals can influence buying decisions.
- Do your Secondary Research on the College University – The goal is to thoroughly perform research on the College/University for all decision makers, news and more, noting key contact information, statistics, budget information, mission statement, etc. Search news, web and then individuals you find. Document your findings as if you would be presenting the organization to an audience.
- Primary Research of the College/University – To really understand the challenges, you will need to meet with the decision makers. The approach is to get a sponsor to make formal introductions for you to conduct a series of interviews on the impact of your solutions to each of the departments/organization in the College/University. Develop an assessment form that reviews every area of a higher educational institution and the issues and challenges faced as a whole, as well as leverages your expertise and solutions. An approach to perform this assessment should explain that its ultimate purpose is to help the school achieve goals, meet budget, and improve the educational experience. Within the “assessment” there are two sets of questions for management administration and influencers in the discovery process. The first is used to gather facts and data of the situation and customer. The second question set is used to understand how your product or service can fix their problems. This also helps you compare and contrast the responses from the departments. The second is to ask questions to address issues specific to the decision makers and influencers – Question topics to Senior Administration and Department Administration include administration, education, facilities, safety, technology, plus human resources for the latter role. Question topics to IT Management include general IT and IT administration; email systems, data storage, wireless devices, and data center.
- Develop your Recommendations – this should be in a formal manner and show all responses (and non-responses) to demonstrate the comprehensiveness of your recommendations. As you can show benefits to the various departments, you can then leverage budget from multiple departments, thus making the larger sales easier.
Remember, the more groundwork that is done, the better the selling outcome. Therefore, it is important to gather—unassumingly and with clarification as needed— as much detail as possible to capture a complete picture about the College/University in order to fully understand their unique circumstances and challenges. Your taking this time to ask tailored questions will be appreciated. You’ll then be able to create a final report making intelligent, relevant, and trustworthy recommendations.
Okay. You’ve been educated. Now, go out there and sell that “NOT just another” brick, but rather that essential building block in a rock-solid wall of educational structure.
Want more details? Reach out to me and let’s chat!