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Three things to consider when selling to schools on the phone

The telephone is still a vital tool when it comes to sales. While some products suit an ecommerce model, others depend on human interaction. A simple call with the right gatekeeper can make the difference between making the sale and losing it. But teachers and school leaders are notoriously busy - how are you supposed to get them on the phone?

On a typical day, school staff are unlikely to have the time to stop and take a break - let alone a phone call! Next time you find yourself selling to schools on the phone, consider these three points to avoid getting the cold shoulder...

Why are you calling?

Any school receptionist or office manager worth their salt will be an expert at protecting  staff from unnecessary interruptions.

Receptionists are key decision makers in the school - they decide if you will speak to your contact! To stand any chance of getting past this gatekeeper, you’d better have a good reason for calling.

Have one simple sentence ready to explain why your contact will want to talk to you. The ideal reason? You made an appointment to call.  

Failing that, you might want to highlight a new resource, a training opportunity or a previous conversation that you'd like to follow-up on.

Keep your message short and to the point - the receptionist is busy too! 

When are you calling?

We'll be honest with you... there is never really a ‘good’ time to get in touch with teachers.

That said, certain points in the day are worse than others. First thing in the morning, break time and lunch... Although you may see this as time when teachers will definitely be ‘free’, these times are often the biggest pressure points in the school day.

You would be better off finding out when they're timetabled for a free lesson (or you could use teacher speak and say 'when does (s)he have PPA time?') and call back then.

Let's look at those moments to avoid: 
  • First thing in the morning  - this is when most teachers will be getting themselves set up for the day or in a team briefing
  • Morning break - this lasts around 20mins and takes place between 10.30am and 11am. It is a relatively short amount of time for teachers to grab a quick cuppa (if they’re very lucky!). They won’t thank you for eating into this precious time!
  • Lunchtime - if you call at lunch, don’t forget to apologise for interrupting their break. Also consider that they may be busy with extra-curricular activities, extension activities or intervention sessions. 
  • Straight after school - most timetables finish between 3pm and 3.30pm. Teachers will need a few minutes to breathe and reflect on the day before they’ll be ready to take anything in. Try calling between 3.30 and 4.30 instead. Again, many will have other duties in these time slots. This will be especially true for PE, music, drama and dance teachers. 

Who are you calling?

Increase your chances of getting past the gatekeeper by asking for the right person. Build on this by using your knowledge of your contact. Have they previously mentioned that they'd be 'on their way out of an SLT meeting'? Drop that fact into the phone call. You can even have a look on the school website for news or calendar information that will give you an insight into the day - 'is he involved in the debate club? If so, I'll just call back in an hour'. 

Once you’ve got the right person on the phone, try to build a rapport. The better you have done your homework, the further you will get with your call. Most schools have information about their curriculum on their website, so if you are selling resources you can use this to your advantage.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t try to keep a teacher on the phone if they say they are too busy! Offer to call back another time or email them some information instead and get off the phone.

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