Updated: Oct 12, 2020
While E-Rate may not be the most exciting subject with summer on the horizon, you should already be thinking what’s to come in September. Getting a head start on E-Rate planning is vital to being able to get out in front of the competition once the school year rolls around. When it comes to E-Rate, meeting deadlines and working ahead of timelines are what agents need to be doing before September.
Some agents and vendors have a bad habit of waiting until the competition is already out working with schools, and that’s a recipe for a sales disaster. The goal is to have agents start moving towards winning the bid by presenting the materials at the beginning of the school year, not towards the end of the calendar year.
The Critical Timeline
There are seven steps the school systems cycle through in order to partake in E-Rate, and agents and vendors both have a role to play in most of them. The first two steps are the most crucial times for agents if you want to make the sale.
Step 1: Technology Planning (September) Where you should be: This is the time that agents should get out in front of potential schools to sell the technology and physically put the demo equipment in the client’s hands. Part of this step is being prepared with the Form 470 already filled out to show the schools your vendor’s products.
Step 2: Competitive Bidding (January) Where you should be: At this point, agents are replying to the bid requests and filing all the appropriate paperwork. Timing and accuracy with documents are the key to moving forward to the Selecting Service Provider step.
Step 3: Selecting Service Providers (28 days after the bid is due)
Step 4: Applying for Discounts
Step 5: Application Review
Step 6: Starting Services
Where you should be: Here, the vendor has started with the installation process and the agent can be involved with this step, but it is not always necessary.
Step 7: Invoicing
The Moral of the E-Rate Story
While E-Rate is still a ways off, it’s important to be prepared for the upcoming school year. This means getting your demo equipment in order and knowing the timeline of events. Meeting deadlines and being able to return bids quickly are key to successfully winning a bid from a school and cashing in on E-Rate.