Successful selling to schools: the six steps

Step 1: The obvious

No one can buy from you unless they are aware of what you sell. So step one involves making sure the customer is aware of what you offer.

This can be trickier than it sounds because, unfortunately, just telling the customer what you have got doesn’t necessarily make them remember.  Yes if you sell books to encourage slow readers you might get a few sales from announcing this but that’s about it. What you really need to give is a reason to buy this product or service from you, now.

Step 2: Engagement

Thus the teacher or manager in the school needs to answer the questions, “Why should I buy this?” and “Why should I buy this from you?”

The problem is that there is a tendency to answer these vital questions in very simple terms – such as “because it will make your teaching easier,” and “because we’re the cheapest” or “because we are the best”.

Real engagement goes much further. It puts you, the seller, and the teacher on an equal footing, discussing the merits of the proposed purchase.  In short the image is of intelligent people working together devising practical routes to delivering good education.

That’s why advertising that SHOUTS at teachers, and involves lots of bullet points and simplistic statements with lots of !!! don’t work very well.  That’s not engagement.

Step 3: Evaluation

Teachers and managers need to evaluate your claims for your product, and you’ve got to give them a chance to do this, by offering illustrations, a free preview, a chance to discuss, extracts from the book, and most of all BENEFITS not features.

But remember two things here.  Comments from other teachers about how good the product is are ok, but not enough on their own.  For teachers need to believe that your product or service will benefit their school.

Step 4: The purchase

This needs to be made easy and, if at all possible, with guarantees of return if not happy. Allow the school to order by phone, fax, email or post. Allow them to be invoiced or pay up front for a discount. Offer credit card facilities. Give a guaranteed date of despatch if possible.

Step 5: Post Purchase

98% of companies selling to schools have no post-purchase policy. The best approach however is to write and ask if all is ok. Write and offer another product that goes with the first one. Write regularly to find out how the product is working and if other teachers might like to know about it.

You can also offer them reports, insights, and other information relevant to their purchase.

Obviously what is said varies depending on the product or service but post purchase is important. It is about making sure your customers like you.

Step 6: Advocacy

If you can get those who have bought from you to tell others how good and helpful your product or service is, then the sales will continue to roll in.  You might offer a discount on another purchase if the school does something. Or you can ask for nice comments.

But basically you are getting the teachers in one school to do your advertising for you.  It is not always possible, but when it works, it can be a brilliant final part to the strategy.

We’re always happy to discuss these steps with your company to see how they might apply, and, of course, if you wish to be part of one of our Velocity programmes we make this part of the on-going work.

You can read more about Velocity on our website or call 01604 880 927 or email

Tony Attwood

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