Education Market Leadership Series: Part 6 of 6

by Joe Caruso

K-12 SalesHow to Help K-12 Decision Makers Shift Their Perspectives (and Boost Your School Sales!)

We've been exploring the Four Rules of Engagement, which I introduced in part three of our six-part Education Market Leadership Series, titled “How Does Your Company Adapt When Markets Are in Rapid Flux?”  In previous articles, I covered the first three rules as they apply to leadership and sales in a K-12 business setting. For context, you can check out those articles, read the series introduction, and listen to the companion podcasts on STS radio, with host Glen McCandless. This article, the sixth and final in the series, focuses on Rule #4, “You can help people shift their perspective.”

Educators Control Their Buying Decisions. You Can Shift Their Perspective.

Before I tackle Rule #4, I’d like to remind you that Rule #3 is, “You can’t change another person’s mind.” So, what do you do if you can’t change someone’s mind? It’s simple: fully, honestly, and sincerely stop trying to do so. When you accept that potential buyers are completely and solely in control of their buying decisions, you can focus on helping them shift their perspective.

When novice salespeople – or even old hands – put too much focus on making the sale, and too little on the feelings of the buyer, they ignore a crucial factor in making the sales process a success. Always remember: how your prospects think and feel during your pitch is more important to them than what you’re pitching. It’s been said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Similarly, the way to a buyer’s “Yes,” is through his nervous system. When you’re highly attentive to what your prospects are thinking and feeling, you’re better positioned to choose words and use examples that will appeal to their sensibilities.

Five Maxims That Will Maximize Your Education Sales

There are rules of conduct I call maxims. I always include five Maximizing Maxims in my sales training events because they are essential to making the Four Rules of Engagement work for you, rather than against you.

  1. Don’t pitch your product or service without considering your prospect’s personality and proclivities. Cognitive scientists contend that we have the capacity to throw off up to 72,000 bits of information per minute. Nearly all these signals reveal something about the person sending the signal. Learning to be aware of and to respond to even a fraction of these is a critical sales skill that will help you speak to the personality of prospects and resonate with them.
  2. Avoid making assumptions about K-12 buyers, including their likes or dislikes. If you make bad assumptions, you are likely to alienate potential customers. It’s better to state your assumption as a question and allow the prospect to agree, disagree, or clarify. This allows you to learn more about prospects while keeping them positive.
  3. Don’t draw conclusions for your prospects. Allow them to discover for themselves. It’s always better to provide information to potential buyers and let them form a conclusion on their own. They will literally sell themselves. 
  4. Honor without pandering. Many people are flattered by compliments. But when a salesperson pays a compliment, it may sound insincere. If you respect something about your prospect or the prospect’s organization, say so, but also say why. Sharing the “why behind the what” adds the weight of thoughtfulness and sincerity to your comments.
  5. Don’t ask “set-up” questions. When you ask questions designed to lead to your next point, the prospective buyer may feel manipulated or used. No one likes that feeling. Make the transition to your next point less obvious. You can still ask questions around the notion you are leading to, but do so indirectly and conversationally.

Advice to K-12 Sales Pros: Practice Makes Perfect

If it doesn’t feel natural for you to apply the Rules of Engagement and the Maximizing Maxims in your daily conversations, you’ll struggle with them when you’re in front of sales prospects. That’s why I recommend to sales professionals in the K-12 market that they carry the Rules of Engagement and the Maximizing Maxims with them every day. Try applying them with servers at restaurants, with people you meet at social gatherings, and with your co-workers. You will not only notice people liking themselves more when they’re with you, but you will also experience the power of The Rules of Engagement working for you in virtually every conversation.

About the Author

Joe Caruso is owner/founder of Caruso Leadership, a management consulting firm that advises education companies, as well as CEOs, Admirals, and Leadership Teams from every industry on optimizing outcomes by applying the principles of The Quintessential Process. An author and frequent education industry keynote speaker, Joe’s best-selling book "The Power of Losing Control" has been featured on PBS and an audio series from Nightingale-Conant. Learn more about Joe and his work at www.carusoleadership.com/education.