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10 Steps to sell online courses to big companies as a knowledge entrepreneur

It’s an exciting time to be a knowledge entrepreneur. The global e-learning market is projected to reach $240 billion in 2022 and $374.3 billion by 2026. This is an excellent opportunity to grow your business and make a profit. However, the money isn't just there for the taking, as you have to differentiate yourself from the competition and explore different markets. For example, a big market often unexplored by knowledge entrepreneurs is the corporate one. In today’s article, we’ll explore the opportunity to sell online courses to big companies as an independent course creator so you can decide if this is a good path for you to explore in the future. 

Why should you sell online courses to big companies?

Selling your courses in bulk, as a subscription, or through a gated membership website dedicated to corporate clients is not only lucrative but takes less effort in the long run.

There are three top reasons for choosing this business strategy when you want to grow and increase your market share:

Greater cash flow 

Big companies have large training budgets and hundreds or thousands of employees. Even if you offer discounts for bulk purchases, it’s much easier to turn a profit. More money allows you to grow your business, develop more courses and invest in marketing. 

Brand strength 

Customer testimonials are great for convincing potential clients to work with you. Your visibility and credibility grow when you associate your business with a popular company. Having their vote of confidence will make it more likely for you to close deals with other big players.

Useful industry insights

Knowing your audience is always necessary before designing a new course. Training is crucial in any business, so once you become a third-party provider, you will learn many things about a particular industry. This knowledge will put you well ahead of the competition.

Read more: How to make your e-learning portfolio stand out

Ten steps to sell your courses to big companies 

Once you decide that this is the path want to take, there are several ways to get there:

  1. Do your research

    You need to know precisely who your target businesses are and what is relevant to them. If you already have a portfolio of courses you want to sell, start from there – see who is most likely to benefit from them. You need to be very thorough and also scout out the competition. 

    Know who already has contracts lined up and whether there’s room for negotiation. The value of the contracts is confidential, but you can still get an idea of where there's a better opportunity to sell.

    Read more: Using focus groups to get a competitive edge as a knowledge entrepreneur

  2. Become a visible expert in your field

    The emphasis here is on visible. You may already be an expert, but unless other reliable sources back this up, it will be tough to get in the door. Become involved in the business community, speak at conferences, be featured as a guest on podcasts, and write blog articles for established publications. When you pitch your offer, you want the people there to have heard of you or find you instantly when they look you up. Big companies don’t like taking chances, so you’ll need to prove that you can deliver.

  3. Tweak your content to fit the needs of your audience

    In the best-case scenario, you already have designed some online courses to fit a corporate audience. If your focus has been on selling to individuals, you probably need to adapt it for business-to-business (B2B). For example, competencies and learning objectives are equally crucial to individual learners as well as businesses, but the latter also care about KPIs, so it's a good idea to include them when presenting your online courses. 

    Read more: 4 Awesome apps to track learner data and make the most of it

  4. Upgrade your delivery options

    If you’ve sold online courses to individual learners before, you've probably used a learning platform. You can keep doing that as long as that platform allows you to scale your business.There are several options:

    • Build a dedicated learning portal for one business. This means including the branding elements of that company. The client may also require access to this and the possibility to manage the enrollments and see the various types of reports since they need to demonstrate the ROI of your courses;
    • Upload your courses to the company’s learning management system (LMS). Big companies usually have LMSs that allow third-party content. While this seems like an easy solution, you first need to ensure that you build your courses using e-learning industry standards such as SCORM, so they can be imported and exported;
    • Use a gated membership website. Businesses can buy courses anytime and their employees can start learning right away.

    The latter option is great because it enables you to sell the same course to multiple businesses. It also means that you can adjust your offer anytime and generally have more control over the business through the website’s e-commerce feature. 

  5. Figure out your e-learning business model

    There are three main types of e-learning business models that course creators can use to sell their learning products: the night school model, the academy model and the combined model. Of course, this depends on whether you want to work with just one company or several others simultaneously and how much time you have to dedicate to course creation and learner engagement. 

    All three have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore them:

    • The night school model - this means selling bulk seats for access to just one online course at a time, an e-commerce feature that your learning platform should have. At first glance, the night school model seems best, especially if you plan to start selling just one course or a bundle of courses to one or a few companies; 
    • The academy model - allows you to create and sell subscription plans. This is a more hands-on model since generally speaking, learners expect more varied digital products such as online courses, e-books, white papers, podcasts, etc. It’s not ideal for businesses that want content tailored to their preferences;
    • The combined model - if you want to give businesses more flexibility, you can use the combined model, which uses a mix of subscription plans and one-time course purchases. 

    To demonstrate how the combined model works, let’s say that company A has only 100 employees and is interested in only one or a few courses at a time. A good option for them would be to bulk buy 100 learner accounts on your website, which gives their employees access to just one course. On the other hand, company B has 1,000 employees and you already have a few courses and e-books lined up in your catalog and plan to add more. It may be more convenient for them to purchase several subscription plans. 

  6. Adjust your offer and your pitch

    Selling to businesses is very different than selling to individual learners. For starters, businesses have professional purchasing specialists who do their research and have top-notch negotiation skills. Bring your A-game if you meet clients personally and have several offer versions ready. Since big businesses buy in bulk, they expect the discounts that come with this, so make sure to be flexible. 

  7. Offer only what you can deliver

    Big businesses have major goals and the tools they need to measure whether they are met. Ask many questions in the negotiation stage to figure out what you can and can’t do. 

    On the other hand, if they provide specific goals and you feel they are overly ambitious, try to renegotiate them or step aside. You can't afford the negative feedback if you promise to do something you can’t deliver. 

  8. Be prepared to wait

    Big organizations have a lengthy decision-making process. There are usually several departments involved and a number of procedures to follow. The back-and-forth can go on for months, and you need to be available for any clarifications or modifications they need to make. Don't consider the deal is done until you have everything signed and approved with a set start date.

  9. Up your sales game

    Dealing with big businesses is different from addressing individual clients. If you feel like sales are not your strong suit, you should consider hiring professionals skilled in this field to help you. They already know the ropes and can get into places you'd have difficulty accessing. Furthermore, they usually work on commission, so they don’t have to pay until a deal is closed.

  10. Adapt your e-commerce procedures

    When your customer base is primarily individual clients, the financial part is easy and can mostly be done online. Going B2B means you'll need to learn about invoicing, purchase orders, and other corporate procurement policies. Do your homework on this beforehand, as it can be a major dealbreaker. Of course, it also helps that learning platforms allow you to integrate with a major payment processing platform such as PayPal or Stripe, track purchases and even and even check e-commerce analytics in real-time. 

    Read more: 6 E-commerce hacks for getting higher sales on your online courses

Are you ready to sell online courses to big companies? 

The B2B e-learning market can offer great rewards but is also fiercely competitive. You need to look for opportunities and seize them before anyone else. The best way to achieve this is to pay attention to the trending conversations and be actively involved in the learning strategy of your clients.

However, if you also have a good business plan and the tools to offer professional online courses, you are on the right track.

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