Setting the stage for selling to more schools

As Shakespeare famously wrote in his play As You Like It:

“All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players.”

As a business selling products or services to schools, you need to be treating the world of education as your stage: if you aren’t shouting to the heavens about your business, who else is going to?

For World Theatre Day, we are taking the opportunity to offer some tips about making yourself heard above the din of the education industry and giving your customers a show to remember. It’s time to stop hiding behind scenery, drop your props and delight your clients.

Act 1: The hero’s quest

In Shakespeare’s ‘All the world’s a stage” speech, he goes on to observe that people, “...have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts.” Never is this more true than when you’re selling to schools.

You need to be many things to the school leaders and business managers you’re selling to:

  • A source of trust
  • Easy to contact
  • Reliable and fast-acting
  • A knowledgeable expert
  • Good with data
  • Good with people
  • A provider of results.

In short, you need to be a hero to your customer. Your aim is to take them on a journey with you, from hearing their pain points through to delighting them. The sooner you show your value, the further they’ll come along on that quest with you – but remember, there are many ‘exits and entrances’ in the world of schools, so get some quick wins under your belt to prove your worth.  

Act 2: The rising action

Once you start working with schools, you need to show them how invested you are. Don’t get contracts signed and then drop off the face of the planet for two weeks; nurture the school with plenty of contact and opportunities for questions.

One of the most common errors is “getting on” with work without feeding back to school leaders about it. Don’t just do good work, show them the good work you’re doing. Set up reporting systems where you can regularly check in with them and show them what is being achieved.

This might come in the form of:

  • A ten minute phone call
  • A short Skype or Zoom video
  • Visit them on site for a day (if geographically possible)
  • Set up a training day with staff
  • Send an email update
  • Use Loom to send a video about what you’ve achieved
  • Send an analytics report

No matter how you display this “rising action”, keep in regular contact with your customer. Quiet businesses are suspicious businesses in the eyes of a school – even if you’re reporting something that hasn’t worked well, school leaders will want to hear about it and your solution for fixing it.

Act 3: The villain enters

Inevitably there will be teething problems along the way when you start working with schools. Unrealistic expectations are some of the most common to face and difficult to manage: schools want to see your progress, and fast.

No matter which form your “toad: ugly and venomous” takes, there is likely to be a moment where a villain rears its head and you need to be prepared to fight it.

Some of the most common villains to watch out for are:

  • The dwindling budget – ever decreasing, the school’s budget will hold them back from doing a lot of the wonderful things you both envisage.
  • The absentee – teachers are busy people: they may have six lessons, break and lunchtime duty, then an after-school meeting. Reaching the right person can be tricky.
  • The evidence obsessive – schools are data-driven places, this character is obsessed about proving your worth to their headteacher, governors and parents from Day 1.
  • The resistor – change is scary: some schools will drag their heels, making the migration to your product or service time-sapping and far from smooth.

Spot the ‘villain’ in your customer’s school as early as possible – it might not be a person; it may be an outdated process or challenging piece of software they use, or it may be an attitude or ethos.

Identify the potential pitfalls and arm yourself with ways to deal with them ahead of time.  

Act 4: The comedy relief

Instead of “star-cross’d lovers”, you may find times when contact with schools is more a case of stress-crossed wires. Try to maintain your professionalism and authority through these discussions, remembering that you are only a small part in the day of that teacher. Make it a pleasant and memorable moment.

Where possible, offer elements of delight – encourage them to sign up to your blog or social channels, then give them sparklets of happiness through the day. Offer content that they’ll want to read. High-stress jobs can result in losing sight of the joy – many teachers feel jaded and it’s easy to forget why they came into this career. Remind them of their importance, show them you understand and above all, prove that you care about them.

Ways to incorporate some light relief into teachers’ days could be:

  • An entertaining blog post about how teenagers learn.
  • Funny tweets about real-life things children have said in class.
  • A friendly personalised email about some of the positive trends you’ve noticed in the school’s data since they started working with you.
  • A Facebook post linked to their school saying what a joy it is to be working with them.
  • An article you’ve read online that you think the school leader might find interesting and relevant.

Showing teachers that you’re thinking about them as humans, not just as a money-making tool,will pay dividends – not only will they become easier to work with but they’ll be more likely to renew with you, so give the audience what it wants.

Act 5: The happy ending

Once you reach the stage where you’re delighting customers, they’ll let you know (or, at least, your NPS surveys will tell you). And if they don’t, but you know they’re in a stronger position as a school than when you arrived, ask them for feedback. Teachers are used to giving feedback to students, so ask for some yourself.

When you have become “such stuff as dreams are made on” to your customers, they will start attracting more prospects to your business as they spread the word about how brilliant you are. 

Remember, it costs 25 times more to acquire new customers than to retain old ones, so really – in an ideal world – there is no “happy ending”: you want to find a happy continuation. You can build an ongoing relationship by:

  • Addressing the renewal process ahead of time
  • Offering an upsell option
  • Discussing training opportunities for staff.

If you’re looking to develop your customer-retention strategy in the education sector, then why not book a call with ESM Inbound, where a member of our team will help you to identify ways to measure and promote the happiness of your school customers.

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