While GraceWorks is strongly suggesting a return to safe in-class instruction, in some parts of the country, this will simply not be possible.
If that is you – if you are forced to sell online instruction – here are five strategies, and answers to three common objections.
Online Learning Selling Strategy #1: Organize Learning Pods
If you are forced into online education, the only real question will be who is organizing home-based pods – you or parents – and how quickly it happens. Many parents will struggle to do this on their own, either in your school or a public school.
There are really two issues to organize learning pods: (1) The people part – understanding who needs learning pods, who can host, and who can teach, and (2) The safety part – both COVID-19 related and the normal ways we protect children through background checks.
Online Selling Strategy #2: Better Online Learning Technology
GraceWorks’ lead consultant Dr. Ray Webb is partnering with Zoom, DTEN, and Starin to provide the very best in zoom-based virtual learning technology. The next best thing to being there, these solutions provide:
1. Advanced technology with a 16-microphone array, a 4K touchscreen whiteboard, and student monitoring – like being in the classroom
2. One-on-one teacher/student interaction
3. 100% teacher/student engagement
4. Individualized student monitoring and support
5. A recording feature for replaying presentations.
It is the closest thing to in class you can get, without actually being in class.
To pursue these advanced online selling technologies, the next step is:
Learn more by contacting Ray at (719)278-9600, ext. 600.
These first two solutions are based on real programmatic change. The next three have to do with the nature of K-12 Christian education, and what we know from over 750 Christian school surveys.
Online Learning Selling Strategy #3: Character First
All of education boils down to developing character, skills, and academic learning and wisdom. As any number of articles have pointed out, clearly academics are the main concern for public schools who, like you, are forced into online learning.
What is clear from all the research is that the correct priority of these three is (1) Character , (2) Skills, and (3) Academics. In fact, in the COVID-19 survey, we ask parents which of these three (and faith in Jesus) has helped them the most in coping with the pandemic.
After faith in Jesus first, the order we get in survey after survey is character, skills, and academics.
Whether teaching, selling, or consulting, it is hard to argue with your own data. As you deal with parents who are wavering on paying full tuition for online learning, ask them which of these four objectives is most important in their child’s education. Ask them where they are most likely to get it.
The need for faith and character first will not change whether you are online or in class. Faith transformation through the teaching of the Bible and the working of the Holy Spirit will be happening either in class or at home.
When you make a statement like that, be sure to back it up with self-evident facts. Character is Job #1 because:
1. We use a Christian curriculum,
2. Our teachers are strong, ministry-minded Christians,
3. Our families are primarily Christian families.
Of course, Christian character will be the first thing. And Christian character is precisely what your child needs more than ever in an uncertain world. Say it. Connect the dots.
A comment is in order here. A significant program with Christian school communication is that we go into specifics without connecting the dots. This is particularly dangerous when we get into the specifics of our online learning program.
To admissions personnel: Do you really know that the mechanics of your online learning program is significantly better than public schools?
They say 3 hours online, you say 4, and your competitor down the street is 4.5. Does it really matter to parents how many hours you are online? If I am considering leaving you, does it really matter that you pick up your child’s learning packet every Monday between 7 and 9?
Your online learning IS better almost certainly – but the difference is probably not in the mechanics, unless you’ve done something like #2 above.
The idea here is to reinforce an important big idea (“Character is Job #1 at our school”) with self evident specifics not true of your public school competition:
Some parents need to work. All students need connection with other students and adults. That’s why our school has taken the lead in organizing learning pods for the entire school.
Online Learning Selling Strategy #4: Better Learning Outcomes
With no exceptions to date, a consistent finding from our COVID-19 survey is that parents consistently praise the quality of virtual learning compared to the public school version of the same. It’s not just character that is better, but skills and academics also.
But every statement like that needs to be backed up with meaningful, self-evident specifics. So why do our students do better in online learning than the “Free” options? Here’s several specific, self-evident truths:
1. All our families want to be here. They are highly motivated and insistent that their children do ALL the work. Therefore, there are very few role models for students to “check out” for a semester year.
2. Our teachers are very ministry minded. They go the extra mile and won’t give up on students.
3. Our teachers have less students to deal with than most public-school teachers. This gives them more time to teach because they are spending very little time “tracking students down.”
So your child will learning character and faith much better than public schools, along with better skills and academic obtainment.
That brings us to one other very important advantage your Christian school has over public schools, if both are you are in online learning.
Online Learning Selling Strategy #5: Continuity Matters
If you are selling current parents on online learning, remind them that continuity matters. Sometimes it seems hard to imagine, but eventually COVID-19 will pass. And your school will have largely the same teachers, families, and classmates.
A year of virtual learning is very hard, but remind your parents that at the end, their child’s friends and favorite teachers are all likely to be there. And that matters – continuity matters.
A key specific backing up the big idea of continuity mattering is the fact that ultimately learning is so very relational. The relational nature of education is why your school should be organizing learning pods, and why you need the best virtual learning technology you can afford.
Now let’s consider three problems that you might run into if forced into online education:
Virtual Learning Problem #1: Online Education Should be Cheaper
I love how Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson speak to this issue in their fabulous book Challenger Selling:
If your customer is dead set on buying the cheapest option today, then changes are pretty good they’ll be dead set on buying the cheapest option tomorrow as well. And that may or may not be you …. In that game, loyalty is essentially irrelevant, as customers aren’t looking for a partner, they are looking for a bargain. P. 50.
If a current parent starts talking about discounting, you should point out that fundamentally your school is looking to partner with parents. It is through the partnership with parents (and church) that students have the best real-world outcomes.
This would be a natural segway for the continuity matters point, above. We don’t just want to be your partner for a year, but for as many grades as we offer. COVID will pass, and we will still be your partner in raising up rock-solid disciples of Jesus.
If prospective parents tell you they will only enroll if you offer the discount, then BEWARE. Beware the mindset, the lack of loyalty. And confront it, again with the idea that our goal is to partner with parents. That your school is not right for all parents. Including parents who think it is more about the deal than a long-term relationship.
To schools that automatically discounted your tuition because you went online, I think you are wrong in two fundamental ways:
1. For prospective parents, your discounting is likely to attract parents who are not loyal,
2. For current parents, you are training parents who think partnership and continuity are important to think transactionally, not transformationally, not Biblically.
Do we, as leaders, really believe that at the end of the day, it really is only about the deal? If so, what does that say about how we view our parents? I think your parents are better than that.
I am deeply concerned that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of K-12 Christian schools discounted their online learning rates to deal with a concern that really didn’t exist in the minds of most of their parents.
Again, this is something we test for all of $995 in our COVID-19 survey. You can know, in 14 days and less than a grand, if you really need to discount your online learning rates.
Virtual Learning Problem #2: Your Competitor is Discounting Online Education
Let me be blunt. If it was me, this would be the #1 reason I would launch learning pods and the best online learning technology I could afford – and not discount a dime.
Let your competitors attract price-motivated parents who will largely NOT stay when COVID is over. Let your competitors try to explain how their discounting is congruent with a partnership / continuity philosophy. (Hint: They won’t be able to.)
When a parent brings this up, this is your opportunity to explain the very real, noble, and correct philosophy behind your decision to not discount. You are in it for the long-term, looking for parents who are likewise in it for the long-term.
You and your teachers will be around for your families long after the bargain hunters are back in their public schools.
In short, all discussions about discounting the price of online learning should end up being a discussion of long-term partnership.
Virtual Learning Problem #3: We Simply Won’t Pay for Online Education – and Will Home School.
There are just two types of families who will say this: (1) Families that have home schooled and (2) Families that have not home-schooled.
Remember the Dunning-Kruger effect for families in the latter category. Practically everything seems easier if you have never done it before.
Ask the never-home-schooled families who won’t pay for your online learning specific questions about: (1) Registering with the state, (2) Curriculum, (3) Curriculum standards, (4) Instructional issues, and the like. Think of it as doing a community service, helping people who have never done home schooling come to grips with reality.
Then move the conversation back to better outcomes, and continuity.
Obviously if these parents are moving to a public school, go back to the character-first logic.
Greater Revenues for Healthy Christian Schools,
P.S. Offering a financial discount because you are forced into online education is both unnecessary and inelegant. The strategies above are elegant.
A final reminder – what we are talking about here is easily a problem for the entire school year. There is really no guarantee we will be back to normal in 21/22 either.