A few years ago many were predicting the demise of the onsite sales call.
Why should a sales team get on an airplane when Web conferencing was available?
A PowerPoint and Q&A could be delivered as easily through WebEx as in-person.
Reality didn't quite work out as predicted. If anything, the campus sales visit has become more important. With so much access to Web meetings a company now needs to differentiate itself by investing heavily in showing up in person.
Where in the past one or two people would visit from a company, today entire teams will make the trip. Sales professionals are accompanied by product managers, developers, support team leaders, and sometimes high ranking executives.
What was once a a two or three hour meeting has turned into an all day affair.
In part, the growing importance of the edtech vendor campus visit is a good sign. Our industry is extremely competitive. Buyers have choice, whether it be for an LMS, lecture capture software, media management tool, or e-mail and calendaring platform.
Campuses are looking to new technologies to increase productivity, to do more with less people.
The growth of online and blended learning also means new investments in hardware, software, and services.
What are some insights that may help the people that makeup of the visiting edtech vendor teams?
1. Research, Research, and Research:
Your team should do whatever research is necessary to understand the problem that your potential client needs solved. The focus of the visit should be on how your product or serve solves that set of problems. Take the time to tailor your product overview and roadmap discussion around the specific challenges facing the institution that you are visiting.
2. Strive for Partnerships, Not Sales:
A successful academic enterprise sale does not happen in one visit. Rather, the goal should be a long-term partnership and mutual understanding of how together both parties can create value. This partnership needs to be nurtured over time, through e-mail, phone and discussions at conferences.
3. Rehearse Demos for Campus Hosts:
Keep in mind that whoever is hosting you on campus is extending significant capital to gather as many stakeholders as possible for your presentations. We have a strong interest in your presentation addressing our problems and your product meeting our needs. A good campus vendor host will insist on taking the time to preview your presentations via webinar prior to your campus visit. Ask for specific, critical, detailed and actionable feedback to improve your presentation.
4. Understand Your Local Supporters:
The time to worry in a campus visit is if you are not getting hard questions. The people that are championing your company, product or service on campus will want to ask the hardest questions - as they will be asked those questions by other decision makers. Getting pushed hard on your product or company is a really good sign, because it shows that your potential customer takes your seriously enough to gather as much information as possible and to anticipate all possible problems and objections in advance.
Academia places an incredibly high value on the open exchange of information. A successful company / academic partnership requires that both parties understand each others culture, norms, and constraints. It is always preferable to demonstrate your knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of your product as well as your competitors, and to address your company's plans for continuous improvement.
6. Patience and Persistence:
Higher ed sales cycles are long. Decisions are often very collective in nature, and require buy-in from many groups. The good news is that higher ed relationships are also sticky. A sale may take a long time to close, but you are likely to have that customer for a good length of time. Exercise both patience and persistence as the evaluation process proceeds.
How would you improve upon this list?