What exactly do I have to do in order to
sell successfully to schools?
In the end selling to schools comes down to a series of points – and all of them have to be met for the sale to work. In short summary they are:
1. Do you have a product or service that schools want at a price that they will pay?
The answer might be yes, because you know they are buying it from others or because you think they ought to want it – but one way or another you need to be sure. If you are not sure, a little research among the audience is needed.
This is usually done with a simple questionnaire to relevant teachers, often sent through our subscription service (where teachers subscribe to receive our emails). It is not a question of “if this were available would you…” but rather “Do you buy this?” “What type of supplier do you use?” “How often do you buy this?” “If you are not buying this what are you doing?” That sort of thing.
It gives you a feel for the market place, rather than asking about your particular approach, and can be enormously helpful in getting the answers you want as to why your product is not selling well.
2. To write successful adverts you need to be well versed in being creative – which is not something that we can all switch on or off.
I believe almost all of us can be creative writers, just like we can all learn to dance or play the piano or put on a credible performance on stage, but like any other skill it takes practice. Most of us can ride a bike, but we need to practise quite a lot at first before the everyday easy skill arrives.
If the writer of your adverts has had no tuition in creativity then you might like to read some articles on the topic – starting here And above all you need to take time. It really cannot be turned on without having done it before. Allow plenty of time to practise.
3. After that the creativity has to be applied to the particular task of writing emails, web pages, postal letters, brochures, etc.
This means you need to spend time writing subject lines and headlines that really do grab the attention of the recipient who has a finger poised over the delete button. You have to get your thoughts in order, but never descend into bullet points or basic descriptions. You must never lose the buzz.
4. Emails and letters that go via the school administrator need to be written in a specific way.
The emails that go via the generic lists and leaflets that go to the school in shared postal mailings must first persuade the administrator to pass the note on, and then sell to the recipient. This is a very different technique from just reaching the decision maker.
5. In many cases although the head might be the final arbiter of the purchase it can help if another member of staff takes up the cause.
So sometimes you have to email two people to get them to talk together, but I would only get into this once you have honed the creative writing skills as it is quite tricky to get right. However do remember that on occasion you need to get two people interested before making a sale.
6. The body of the text of the advert has to take the right approach.
Simply announcing a service doesn’t sell it – you have to use one of the other approaches such as asking interesting questions, selling on benefits, being humorous, appealing to emotion, etc, etc.
What’s more you have to be very careful indeed when trying to sell on price. Most people underestimate the extra sales they need to get to compensate for a price cut – and the effect it can have on business when the discount is removed. 10% off is not a selling point.
7. The final part of it all is the way the email is set out – this is the application of the psychology of perception, and is another complex matter in itself.
The fact is that the brain works in particular ways, taking in information in different ways from what we might expect. You need short paragraphs that open with words that make it look as if this is the paragraph that gives all the information you want.
Remember, you are not writing something that people will read – you are writing text that people will skim, and you have to know how to deal with that skimming, and how the left and right hemispheres of the brain work in this regard.
An example of an email written in this way appears at www.emails.gs/email.html. In the coming weeks more details of this will be included in the series on creating successful adverts which starts here
So what to do?
The prime issue is whether you spend the time and money experimenting to do it yourself or take on the alternative approach.
This alternative is to work with a company, such as ourselves, where you can be guided. Some people let us write the adverts all the time, others ask us to write three or four promotions and then take over the writing, comparing results with what we get, and then discussing with us why advert a) got a good response and advert b) didn’t.
That is probably the most effective way of all. They study the methods with us, and then gradually see how it is that we are getting better response rates than they can.
The two processes we offer in which we can write some and you can write some are Velocity and Payment By Results. The former allows us to work together, the latter puts the effort in the learning process on your side.
I hope that helps. Do get back in touch if I can offer further information on any particular topic I’m on 01536 399 000 or at Tony@hamilton-house.com