Last week at the BETT Show, there were thousands of companies vying to win the attentions of buyers from education authorities and schools all over the UK.
You can’t blame them for trying of course, but how can you stand out from the crowd? How can you, as a reseller, show teachers and IT staff from schools that you have a keener understanding and ability to deliver than the next? It isn’t easy.
There are a few home truths that I think it’s really useful all resellers keep front-of-mind when it comes to selling to education. Some of these may be pretty obvious but even so, it does no harm repeating them; on the other hand, some of them might not have occurred to you before.
Teachers want to do a great job, for their students: We need to remember that teachers have a vitally important job to do and they are 100 percent focused on that job. Their only desire is to achieve better outcomes for their pupils. They see IT as just one tool that helps them to do that. They don’t want just any technology – they want technology that works for them. They just want to know how to use the technology to best effect. If you can show them how to do that, without patronising them, they will be grateful.
Schools DO have money to spend on IT: Budgets have been cut, educational institutions are under pressure, but budgets have not disappeared. Schools will definitely invest in technology that helps teachers get better results. Or in systems that make the school more efficient. There have been a lot of cut-backs, there are more to come, but the ICT capability of a school is often one of the things that most parents look at when they are assessing where to send their kids. It’s vitally important to the effectiveness of the school and it matters to parents.
Frameworks can and do work: We’re seeing opportunities with the National Server and Storage Agreement (NSAA), for example. If you make the effort to become an approved supplier on a public sector framework agreement, it will almost always give you a great return on your investment – and put you in a good position to become a supplier for other agreements as well.
Space is at a premium in schools: If you can offer systems and solutions that don’t clutter-up the classroom and give kids space to work, that’s attractive. One of our resellers has done some great business taking our ESPRIMO Q510 PC – which slots onto the back of a standard flat-screen display so it takes up no room on the desktop at all – into schools, just in one part of the country. There must be many more schools that are looking for something exactly like that.
Spending to save is a reality: LEAs and schools will invest in IT systems if they can save money. A lot of schools have installed virtualised servers already – but there are many more that could save money by doing so. A lot of schools are seriously looking at private and public cloud options. They are willing to embrace new technologies and solutions if they can reduce their operational costs.
ROI is key: More schools are running PCs and laptops over a five-year lifecycle now. Being able to offer extended warranties and to demonstrate the build-quality and reliability of systems is really important. You have to do it all for schools – give them a competitive deal on the initial capital outlay and exceptional ROI over the lifetime of the systems.
Teachers are talking about tablets: Touch has real potential to change the learning experience for kids, so don’t listen to all the doom and gloom about Windows 8. The tablet form factor, with multi-touch capabilities, is really appealing to schools and they are starting to look seriously at good propositions here.
You can win good business: The education market is a really good place to focus right now. Schools and colleges are continuing to invest in ICT, despite the cutbacks – they need to in order to compete. If you can make sure you have a good understanding of what schools need, get your proposition right and communicate it in the right way, you can and will win good business.
In summary, the education sector offers good opportunities for channel partners. But is those who are prepared to invest in new ways of solving the evolving challenges presented in today’s challenging marketplace, which will be in a position to achieve the greatest success.
Michael Keegan is executive director, Technology Product Group at Fujitsu UK and Ireland