The Dos and Don'ts of Selling to Teachers

If you have a product or service to sell to teachers, then you need to have an understanding of what makes them tick, and to know what will turn them off. Our guide to the dos and don’ts of selling to teachers will help you make the grade and, ultimately, make that sale.

Do go paperless

When I was a head of department, the more experienced I became, the quicker I got at discarding promotional material delivered to my pigeon hole. After the novelty of receiving post addressed to 'Head of MFL' wore off, I developed a system for dealing with the bulk of letters and brochures I had to sift through.

If I recognised the company’s logo, I would usually throw it straight in the bin without opening, because either I had used the product or service before and been disappointed, or I knew what the company had to offer and wasn’t in the market for it at the time.

If my name wasn’t on the envelope and it was simply addressed to “Head of MFL”, it went in the bin in record time. If the logo was unfamiliar or there wasn’t one printed on the envelope, I would open it to check I wasn’t missing out on a brilliant new resource. Nine times out of ten, the contents then went, yep, you guessed it - straight in the bin.

On the rare occasions that something caught my eye, it would go in the in-tray on my desk to be dealt with later that week. In other words, I never acted immediately on a piece of paper I received in the post. Why not? Because it was never urgent.

A head of department can have any number of things on their to-do list which must be completed by the end of that day, and I can assure you that filling in an order form is almost never one of them. I say almost never, as there are occasions when a resource is needed asap. However, in those cases, the chances are that the budget holder has already decided exactly what they need to order and who from.

Don’t send endless bulk emails

You will start to look like a nuisance very quickly if you send monthly bulk emails to promote your products. Sending an initial one to introduce yourself is fine, but you should then make an effort to build a more personal relationship with your potential clients. You can begin to do this by addressing them by name, and by using their school's’ name. This will start to break down barriers.

Take an interest in what they are doing in their department, and ask them questions such as how they plan to tackle reforms to the curriculum. Engaging them in conversation in this way will help you to stand out as an organisation who understands the pressures they are under and they will be far more likely to consider your brand when they are deciding how to spend their budget.

Do keep up to date on developments in education

You will score huge brownie points with your existing and potential clients if you do your homework where Education news is concerned. Showing your clients that you are aware of the challenges they face will gain their respect and build their trust in your brand. Spend some time each day checking the Education News - the following websites are a good place to start:

This will only take a few minutes and could pay enormous dividends later. Use your presence on social media to show how up to date you are with the latest news in the Education sector. Share any links to interesting blog posts or news articles you have found, and ask teachers what their thoughts are. This is a great way to engage with your target audience and to find out more about their needs, as well as adding value by sharing relevant and up to date information which teachers might not even have been aware of.

Do ensure your sales reps know your product and how it meets your clients' needs

If you are sending a representative out to schools, remember that a busy teacher has set aside time for the meeting, so the rep needs to be properly prepared. This may sound obvious, but it needs to be said.

As a head of department, I had some incredibly frustrating meetings with sales reps from large publishing houses. On one occasion, I was considering making a substantial order of textbooks to accommodate the new National Curriculum requirements for Modern Foreign Languages. I asked some simple questions about how the book developed pupils’ translation skills and the rep proceeded to flick through the book until she found a translation exercise to show me. I then ended the meeting and ordered from a different company. I had come to the meeting ready to sign an order form there and then, but the rep lost the sale because I lost confidence in the product.

Here are some ways you can train your reps to avoid a similar fate:

One: Ask the client what they need at the time the meeting is booked. This should not be a time-consuming exercise for the teacher - do not give them a proforma to fill out but just ask a couple of basic questions to establish what resources would be most appropriate. For example:

  • Which languages do you offer?
  • Which year groups do you currently need resources for?

Two: Once you have decided which resources you are selling, read them against the national curriculum requirements for that subject area. Then make a list of bullet points as to how your resource delivers them. You should do the same with the current Ofsted Framework for that subject and highlight how your product could help teachers meet the requirements.

Three: Do your homework - ensure you have looked at the latest developments in Education and in the subject area the head of department is responsible for, and prepare to answer questions about how your product can help them to adjust to changes to the system.

You would also do well to look at the school website before your meeting, especially if there is a page for each department which shows what their current provision is and what the department has been up to. Make a point of mentioning this in the meeting. Eg: I see from the Drama department's page on the website you are offering A Level for the first time - how’s it going?

Four: Be ready to close the sale in the meeting. If a busy head of department has set aside time in their day to speak to a sales rep, the chances are that they want to make a purchase. Of course, if they are not ready to make a decision and need some time to think, you shouldn’t push them. However it can be frustrating for a budget holder if they have decided to go ahead, only to be told you will email them the documents for them to print, sign and scan when you get back to the office. Make sure you are ready to give them the option either way.

And finally, whatever you do, don’t give teachers extra work

Teachers and heads of department are incredibly busy, and onerous admin tasks are one of the main culprits. So why add to the load? Here are some ways you can make teachers’ lives easier:

  • Make your online order form as quick and easy as possible
  • Avoid asking for things to be scanned or faxed. Make all your processes possible via email if you can
  • Avoid sending out ‘free’ samples which teachers then have to return
  • Ensure your social media feeds add value to what teachers are doing - use social media to build your brand rather than as a sales platform
  • Give teachers the documents you know they will need: eg, if you are a trip company, make your risk assessment and emergency contact details available on the homepage of your website
  • If you are asking for information, make sure there is something in it for the teacher - eg: ‘Fill in our 5-minute survey to receive your free pack of reward stickers'
  • Instead of sending emails or letters about your latest resources, offer one free resource each month - eg: podcast of the month - to keep your brand in the minds of teachers and budget holders

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