Businesses have their work cut out when it comes to selling their products and services to schools.
- The decision makers they need to reach are busy.
- Their budgets are limited – every purchase they make has to be justified.
- They’re already bombarded with suppliers trying to sell their unique products and services.
These three factors combined make selling to schools a challenge, no matter how beneficial your offering is to them. But there is hope and with the right approach, you can cut through the noise.
We’ve put together 7 quick tips you can use to reach your prospective customers more effectively.
Tip #1: Know Your Audience
Before you can sell your products or services to anyone, you need to know who you’re selling to.
As a commercial business selling into schools, you need to understand who’s involved in the purchasing decision. It’s not just the Headteacher you need to convince. Most of the time, it’s the School Business Manager who signs off on the decision.
With this information, you’ll be able to tailor your marketing to your actual target audience. For example, you may need to reference cost savings, time saved by teachers, increased productivity or other benefits staff will experience from using your product or service.
Tip 2: Use “Free” to Your Advantage
Getting heard by your target audience is hard enough in the first place… But if there’s a sizable price tag attached to working with you, selling gets even harder.
If you can, figure out a way to give schools a way to test out your product or service at no risk to them. A two-week free trial, a free demo, a 30-day Money Back Guarantee: whatever makes sense for your business. Do that and you’ll have a much easier time getting your foot in the door…
And a much easier time turning them into a long-term, happy and profitable customer.
Tip 3: Respect the Buying Cycle
Selling to schools takes time.
With multiple stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, it could take a while for the key decision-makers to give you a definitive “yes” or “no”.
Trying to rush them and force an answer will almost certainly lead to rejection – so don’t worry if you feel it’s taking time. It’s all part of the process.
Tip 4: Make Sure You’re Listed in Education Supplier Directories
As the old marketing saying goes: “No one likes to be sold to, but everyone likes to buy”.
And there’s a lot of truth to that. Research has indicated that 76% of school customers prefer to search out suppliers themselves rather than having the suppliers approach them.
With that in mind, you need to make sure your business will be visible in those searches. It’s crucial that you’re listed in directories such as The National Register of Education Suppliers, BESA and Edu Suppliers.
Being listed on these platforms gives you credibility and makes it easier for buyers to find you.
Tip 5: Use Testimonials For More Credibility
Positive testimonials are critical for reassuring prospects that you can solve their problems.
Word-of-mouth is the cheapest and most effective form of marketing out there. Collect testimonials from past customers, then put them everywhere you can: your website, directory listings, social media, in tender documents (where appropriate) and so on.
Tip 6: Build & Protect Your Reputation
All marketing exists on a spectrum.
- On one side, you have purely outbound marketing – you contact prospects using methods like cold calls and cold emails.
- In the middle, you reach them using social media advertising and content marketing (when they’re interested in a solution, but not necessarily your solution).
- On the other side, you have inbound marketing – customers come looking for you because they’ve heard good things about your business via word-of-mouth.
Your reputation is a real asset – one that pays huge dividends if you can build it over time.
Having customers come seek you out because you’re known and trusted in your industry gives you a distinct advantage over the competition. You’ll be able to focus on constantly improving your offering and building stronger relationships with your clients (vs. always seeking out more).
With a strong reputation, you bypass the barriers that hold back so many businesses just like yours.
Tip 7: Manage School Accounts Properly
Your school contact is accountable to many different decision-makers and stakeholders. Their structure requires clear timescales, frequent communication and precise standards to be met. This is particularly true of state schools, who are constantly being scrutinised by the government.
When you work with schools, you need to respect that structure and work with them. Help them to complete their duties more easily and you’ll build a much stronger relationship with them.
Selling to schools isn’t always simple. No matter how compelling your product, or how beneficial your service would be, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
With limited budgets, demanding schedules and offers from other businesses just like yours, it’s easy to see that getting your message across could be a challenge.
But it’s not a lost cause. With the tips we’ve outlined, you’ll be well on your way to standing out from the competition, having productive conversations with key decision-makers, and increasing your market share in the weeks and months to come.