January 21, 2021
District IT leaders are tasked with fishing through an ocean of the latest sleek and shiny EdTech products to pull out a winning pearl for their district. There are too many EdTech solutions for a busy CTO or Network Admin to know them all inside and out — and unfortunately, many EdTech vendors count on this to work to their advantage.
Hasty salespeople love speaking to uninformed buyers, because these buyers are more likely to do things that work against their best interests and make a salesperson’s job much easier.
As an IT purchaser, it’s important to remember that many EdTech vendors are incentivized to place their profit over your district’s best interests. Be diligent in your conversations with vendors and informed about the EdTech market, to keep the focus on your district’s needs and achieve a solution that benefits your organization.
Here are five things that your EdTech vendors want you to do, that aren’t in your best interest as a purchaser.
Poor salespeople love when you buy their software product without testing it. This is particularly true when they are promoting a product that’s newer to the market and hasn’t been tested or reviewed by a large audience yet.
For an inexperienced salesperson, having you agree to purchase after just one pitch is a dream come true. It’s important to look beyond a shiny pitch, and dig under the hood to ensure that you’re investing in a cost-effective solution that will provide the greatest value to your district.
After an initial pitch, always ask the salesperson what options are available to test the product. Do your due diligence to ensure that their solution can handle the size of your network, and that all of your stakeholders — students, parents, teachers, staff — will see value from the product.
Some vendors love nothing more than a customer who simply plugs in the product or installs the software and chooses to buy right then and there.
Checking that the product works on your device is a great step, but just because it works doesn’t mean it works best for your needs. When evaluating any EdTech solution, consider the impact this product will have on your organization. Take the time to define what success means to your district, and measure the product’s features against your criteria for success. Ross Young, North American VP at Linewize advises, "I can’t tell you how many folks that evaluate our product do not define success criteria. We tell our employees to help the customer define what success means to them."
It’s important to identify these on your own as a purchaser, because most vendors won’t bother to ask you — in fact, many will hope that you will skip the success criteria conversation entirely.
A salesperson’s job becomes much easier when the purchaser isn’t aware of any competing products. When you attend a pitch meeting with a potential EdTech vendor, research their main competitors. Take time after hearing the pitch to compare their product’s features to other products on the market — including the products your district currently uses.
Your district may already pay for a product that can do similar tasks to the one you’re evaluating. District tech budgets are tight, and if you aren’t aware of the capabilities in your current tech stack, you risk investing in duplicate or overlapping solutions.
Additionally, it’s smart to look into competitor roadmaps. Are there features of the product that will be developed in the future that can really help solve issues at the district? Does the current vendor you’re assessing have those features now?
Evaluate a new EdTech vendor against competing products to ensure that if you do choose to invest, you’re getting added value for a reasonable price.
Many school district purchasers, including those who have purchased our own Linewize products, don’t ever negotiate on price. Most CEOs, CFOs, or Superintendents know that every single expense matters. Even a small difference in price, particularly for SaaS products with a recurring cost, can make a big impact on the district’s financial health.
Many EdTech software deals are signed and finished without ever negotiating on price. A salesperson will typically start by offering you the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP), which is standard in the software industry. A hasty salesperson hopes you will accept that initial price and face value, and request the budget for it.
Be diligent with your EdTech vendors when discussing price, and always ask if they can come down from the initial MSRP. Understand that every software vendor makes a margin on their product. In the SaaS space, that margin can range anywhere from 10% to 40% of the MSRP. It never hurts your case to ask about pricing options, and it may make the difference between getting budget approved for the solution. A savvy salesperson will respect you for asking.
In the SaaS space, there are no ‘one and done’ deals. Vendors need to earn your continued business, year after year, in order to be successful. Negligent account managers love to send a renewal quote within a week before a contract expires, in the hopes that you will simply submit a Purchase Order without much thought.
Be hard on your EdTech vendors to ensure they earn your renewal. Your SaaS providers should be touching base with you every 30, 60, or 90 days. A reputable account manager will check in to see if you’re satisfied with the solution, if your success criteria has changed, and if the roadmap still aligns with your organization’s goals.
To watch Ross Young, VP, North America at Linewize, discuss this in more detail, click here for the video.
The following article is a guest post by EdTech expert, former district administrator, and author Carl Hooker. Carl has 20+ years in ...
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