Schools, like all public sector bodies and larger private sector organisations, conduct their procurement according to budgets. These budgets are set at the top of the organisation’s tree and filtered down to the budget holders who have been given the responsibility to spend this money.
Spend being the operative word.
School procurement is a little bit like a communist society – spend it or lose it. The idea behind this is that an unspent budget in one period (usually a year) means you didn’t need it, and if you didn’t need it last year, you probably won’t need it next year, and so it will be allocated elsewhere. So, most budget holders will do their very best to plan their spending perfectly so they spend as large a proportion of their money as they can in order to ensure it stays the following year. This is the essence of how schools and teachers buy and goes a long way to explaining the process of school procurement.
So the question for all you school marketers out there is – “How does this affect me, how can I market to schools?” There are a few answers to this question and a few points to understand about school procurement –
1. Teachers are not professional buyers. OK so this statement may seem a little unfair towards teachers. It isn’t meant to be. Teachers are well trained, graduate level professionals who know the difference between a good product or service and a bad one. But, they are trained professionals in their own subject area, not in school procurement. Hence, their purchasing decisions will not be made in the same way as that of a professional buyer whose sole job it is to buy products and services for their company. For some, this may be great, you might have a compelling offer which teachers can’t turn down. For others, it could present problems if your offering requires a little more thought and explanation to get the budget holders to spend. Wherever you fit in, this aspect of the school procurement process certainly needs remembering.
2. Teachers work to budgets. Of course, we have already been over this, but it is true. You are not dealing with someone basing procurement on their last week’s turnover, or their return on investment, or how they are feeling about investing that particular day! School procurement is based solely around a budget which has been set by somebody else, so if they don’t have the money to spend, you cannot sell to them. So, often the best times to sell to schools and teachers are at the start of a budget cycle when they have the money there, or at the end of the budget cycle when they are looking to use up any surplus funds.
3. Teachers are not spending their own money. When you go to sell to a school or to a teacher or head of department, always remember it isn’t their money. Convincing them to spend may therefore not be as hard as you think, and upselling can be pretty lucrative if done right. School procurement by budget holders is done so for the good of the school and the children studying within it and so decisions are made for that purpose, not the saving of cash.
School procurement has many similarities to procurement in any other industry, but these 3 key facts will help your marketing campaigns to schools and how you approach selling to teachers. So remember, they are intelligent people, but not professional buyers. They have budgets they need to spend, but the money is not their own – it is allocated for the growth of the school and the development and wellbeing of the children within it.
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