Anyone who makes a living selling to colleges knows they’re not dealing with just anyone. Selling to colleges means selling to a group of people who might be more savvy to traditional sales rhetoric than the usual person. It’s not like selling steak knives over the phone. Effectively selling to colleges means knowing the answers to three very basic questions before you even begin writing your pitch.
Whom Should You Speak With? At smaller colleges, assistant professors and lecturers might design their own syllabi. But departments at large universities might require newer profs to teach from an established curriculum — so before you begin selling, it’s best to find out who you should be selling to. Colleges and universities are notorious for having widely differing distributions of clout, and it’s important to get a reliable road map before developing your pitch.
But that doesn’t mean you should only talk to the people who make the final decision. Befriending a course instructor, or a department receptionist, or even a registrar, may enable you to create buzz around your product. It may also get an enthusiastic advocate on your side.
In short: Knowing the lay of the land is vital in selling to colleges.
What Should You Sell Them? When you’re selling to colleges whose instructors set their own curricula, it’s important to know what those curricula are. Obviously you wouldn’t sell science texts to an English teacher, but knowing what kinds of experts you’re selling to isn’t going to be enough. Regular and faithful customers need to be tracked, and their syllabi closely followed — as does the advancement of their career.
Imagine if a regular client at a prominent film school just added a survey of French cinema in the 1960s to his course schedule. Or if one of your most reliable biology clients created an advanced limnology course for five students who needed a new challenge. Now imagine you were right there with new textbooks and course materials to suggest. Imagine how impressed your client would be.
In short: Being successful at selling to colleges means knowing what your clients need — and that often requires an esoteric range of topics.
When Can They Buy? So: You’ve got a great product on your hands. You know how to get in touch with a department chair who’s sure to love it. And you know every syllabus in the department backwards and forwards. Time to make the call, right?
Well, maybe. Now might be a good time to put a whisper in the client’s ear about your product, but don’t be surprised if you don’t make the sale. Don’t take it personally — colleges have strict budgeting schedules, and if you’re late to the game (or too early) you risk losing the sale until the next fiscal year.
In Short: Selling to colleges means knowing your client’s budget schedule.