opinion

How to Have the Right Conversation With an Edtech Salesperson

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I sell an edtech product, so I guess that makes this a sales call.

Don’t hang up. I’m not going to try and sell you a product. (Revealing yourself as a salesperson can clear a room, as if you’re Harold Hill strolling into town to sell everyone trombones that they don’t need.)

My company makes a learning management system, so I spend most of my days talking with educators about their LMS needs. Sometimes you hit a homerun and really connect with a school. Their big picture completely aligns with where our product is headed and it’s a done deal.

And sometimes that doesn’t happen. You spend 20 minutes talking about whether or not your platform can include digital badges because one biology teacher lives and dies by them.

There are things that I don’t say when in sales mode—things that overstep or come off as patronizing. But if you’re shopping for a learning management system—any edtech platform, really—you should hear these things.

Big picture, big picture, big picture

Are you looking for a band-aid solution or a long-term answer to your tech and learning needs?

I’m so ready to talk about individual features; it’s a vital part of the conversation and there are always reasonable dealbreakers. I wholeheartedly understand why some schools need to have a system with rubric-grading ability or Google Drive integration. Right on.

But to focus an entire procurement process on a shortlist of features created by a handful of more vocal users isn’t how you identify a long-term solution. It’s how you appease a handful of more vocal users.

The best conversations I’ve had with educators—even when my product is ultimately not a match for them—are ones where we can talk about a school’s vision for learning. Understanding the big picture about how technology can, and will, play a role in a student’s development helps me understand how my product can help you. Or it might help me understand that my product can’t help you.

I want to make a sale

But I really want to find a school that’s a match for my product.

On that note, let’s be honest. I’d love to sell my product to you. That’d be aces. But I’m more interested in connecting with schools that have a sense of what they want to do with technology and to have that vision match the product I make.

It’s not a good idea to try and make a product that is everything to everyone. By trying to please everyone, a company will please no one. So that’s not what we try to do. Chalkup isn’t a fit for some schools, and that’s okay.

I hope anyone shopping for new school technology is willing to think about things in terms of finding a fit. It’s reasonable as to be skeptical of any person who is trying to sell you something. But I won’t tell you my product does something that it doesn’t.

Let’s make the most of our initial conversations by feeling out who one another is. If it’s not a fit, I’m not going to force it. Please know that.

This is a Conversation

I’m always uneasy in situations where I’m talking for 10, 15, or 20 minutes straight. There’s a lot of cool stuff I could demo in that time, but an uninterrupted monologue does not a good demo make. This is going to work so much better if it’s a conversation.

Related to my earlier points, it’s easier to get down to business if I have an understanding of your needs, culture, and vision. Interrupt me. Throw your bottom line at me. Stop and redirect me so that we’re talking about the things that are most important to your school. Don’t know what that is? Tell me. We’ll feel it out.

You might ultimately need a product that I don’t create, but we’ll understand that so much faster if there’s a dialogue happening instead of a presentation on what my LMS can do. I don’t expect you to believe a salesperson when I say that my job is “ultimately to ensure that students are using edtech that makes their school experience better,” but that’s the way I see it. 

Eli Jameson currently runs the Educational Partnerships division at Chalkup, a student-centric learning app designed for class-wide collaboration.

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