The intricacies of schools and how they buy their computers means it’s not as easy as you might think supplying them, as reseller Ben Parker explains...
Do not think you will get rich quick from selling to schools. You have to first understand their needs, which are very different to working with corporate customers.
You have to understand what the school needs best to deliver its core product – teaching and learning. If a teacher cannot use the technology it will soon sit in the back of a cupboard. If you cannot deliver your service on time and effectively you will not make it to the second year of a contract. Understanding and communicating with the school at all times is in my opinion probably the most important factor when selling to the education sector.
Teachers and office staff want ease of use. They want it to work first time and have things done for them. They do not have the time to go through all your questions whilst preparing their lesson or trying to control 30 children in a classroom who are waiting to be taught, whilst your laptop decides if it wants to log on or not.
Once you have worked that part out, you have to open the door that is usually locked very tightly by the gatekeepers. There is a wave of people that you have to get through just to get a message to the right person, and if that message makes it to the pigeon hole, you are very lucky if they call you back. My advice is getting an appointment and getting in front of that person. Around 90 per cent of my meetings are successful if I get in front of the IT manager; 30 per cent of my phone calls are returned only to say that they are happy with their current provider.
I have been supplying IT equipment and services to schools for over 15 years and have seen them go from having just a few computers in an IT suite to more than most businesses. A regular primary school in London will have an IT suite, teacher laptops, pupil laptops, interactive whiteboards, iPads and a wave of technology to make it all work. This means that an average school when upgrading could easily spend £70,000 in a year if they perform a full upgrade.
And once you have the perfect solution and understand how to sell it effectively, you will find that your product flies off the shelf, as word of mouth from school to school sells your product for you. In my first year of selling services to schools, I went from five schools to 30 without having to do anything other than meet with the ICT coordinator and head to sign my contract.
Back up your product at all times with training and after sales service, but don’t try and set up a box shifting business. If you’re a specialised firm with a unique product, take it to an education show, such as BETT, and get in front of as many local authority advisors as possible.
Ben Parker is director at IT solutions provider Parkertron.