Navigating the B2B to B2C international solutions sales marketplace.
SMARTER SCHOOLS | by Michael Spencer
Selling in the international school market can be difficult enough; selling to schools that generally have little understanding of blended learning leads to some especially challenging territory. The success of a curriculum vendor’s international blended learning strategy begins on the learning curve with knowing the market, the international school’s core curriculum, and learning the needs of the individual schools. Then finally, to actually initiate a solution-based sale, someone must educate the school about the customized blended learning solution—a high bar before you get your foot in the door.
A solution-based strategy must be explained and demonstrated to the school owners and the decision maker, and must clearly define how the solution fits the school needs.
An important aspect of successful sales with international schools is the behind-the-scenes path involved to get to the sale, which can be multi-layered. Typically, international school sales are best supported by having a local representative, a reseller. The curriculum vendor/supplier (usually a U.S.-based company) contracts with a local reseller who has extensive experience in the education sector, a team of sales representatives and has a business network in place. This is often referred to as a B-to-B relationship. When the reseller engages and begins to work with a school, yet another B-to-B relationship is established. Finally, when the school, with the assistance of the reseller, engages the parents to purchase the solution, a B-to-C sale, the third connective relationship is established.
Yes, the B (Vendor) to B (Reseller) to B (School) to C (parent /student) international business model results in multi-layered contracts, roles and strategies, and is a bit time consuming—yet results in low cost of student acquisition years two forward and automatic scale and student retention year over year.
A solution-based strategy must be explained and demonstrated to the school owners and the decision maker, and must clearly define how the solution fits the school needs. This is the responsibility of the reseller. The solution should reflect customization, showing the school the uniqueness of this solution and providing the school with a new perspective often over-riding their preconceived ideas. Solution-based sales sometimes requires the vendor and/or the reseller to adapt or repurpose an existing product or program.
International schools are interested in changing their programs to include a blended learning solution so they can:
- gain a competitive edge
- diversify their program offering
- expand their curriculum
- replace underperforming outdated curriculum
- stimulate student’s interests
- be current – offer updated methodologies and delivery modes
- fulfill parent’s expectations of being the best school
- personalize their program based on a student’s needs, pace and ability levels.
Implementing a solution-based sales approach can help schools to identify, focus and improve their weak areas in their academic program. For instance, the reseller can explain how a blended learning solution provides curriculum quality assurances:
- fosters consistency in curriculum – in content and emphasis
- easily adds school-wide specific course(s) to address a specific deficiency
- promotes and assists in meeting accreditation standards.
And blended learning solutions further offer the schools benefits that the reseller can highlight:
- improved student satisfaction
- multi-modal delivery of information – teaching to learning styles
- boosts student enrollment and retention.
- reduced teacher lesson prep time
- the staff training / orientation is usually offered free
- increased one on one teacher student interaction
- saves money – no more investment in books
- staff vacancies can be filled easier with a facilitator/para-professional rather than a teacher
- saves expenditures on teaching staff – can use more paraprofessionals.
Success in utilizing a solution-based model when selling a blended learning solution to international schools is complex, but workable. It requires a flexible vendor, local reseller with in-country connections, reseller knowledge of the local education market and schools, motivated and solution-oriented trained local sales teams, education of the local school decision makers, as well as time and patience.
Michael Spencer is Senior Director of International Business Development at K12. He is past SVP at The American Education Corporation and past president of One2OneMate, with extensive experience building businesses, designing and manufacturing innovative consumer electronic products and successfully marketing them into the US, European and Latin American markets. He is a regular columnist writing the Smarter Schools column for EdTech Digest. Write to: firstname.lastname@example.org