We are a startup building an e-learning tool for the medical education market, and we had a few meetings with colleges.
One potential client is taking a long time to decide whether to use our product or not, as they know they have a need right now, but are still a little skeptical.
Other clients want to try our product before buying it.
Can you suggest how to proceed now? And also, how to speed up the whole process of conversion?
We are not looking for more clients this year (2011), however, we are still not successful with just one client, and we've been at it for more than 6 months.
Schools can take a very long time to make a purchase decision. Especially if it is for a major amount of money. You need someone to manage the sales process for that client- keep track of where they are in the purchase decision, answering questions, and proding them along the path to buy your software. (Assuming your software sells for enough money to make this worthwhile.)
You should immediately start work on some sort of trial for your product. Many school want to actually test the software as part of their purchase process. If you don't offer a trial you either delay, or lose, the sales decision.
I just closed something with a school that took over 9 months. I definitely agree with the prior posters.
If you're dealing with the medical realm, have you considered opening up your product to those who are studying, rather than those who are established in the profession? Allowing low-cost trials to people studying can help build future adoption. In a similar situation developing a platform for health professionals, we got a lot of great feedback and support from those new to the field or about to join it: they were inherently more receptive to new tools and new methods because they're looking to distinguish themselves.
Nobody ever wants to buy something without first knowing if it works, or meets their needs. Schools have scarce funding and investing in a new software solution is a big risk for a school, let alone anyone.
Let them try it out, a school is hardly going to rip you off.
If someone is having trouble making a decision, it is because they don't have enough information to make the decision. They are broadcasting this to you. They have even told you how to solve that problem for them. Give them a trial product already!
Been there, done that. Expect a two to three year cycle, and longer if the committee members leave and new people join.
If you offer a free trial it will have to be for one semester. 60 days might work for a business but not for a school. If you try to tell them to stop using your software halfway through a class you have just told them you are ignorant of your market.
And validate your pricing model. Is it one upfront fee, annual fee or per student fee? Schools have very rigid budgets and typically a per student fee fits their budget structure better.
You need to get one happy customer first. Then they will help with word-of-mouth to help you get other customers. Everyone will ask 'which other schools are using this?'