Gone are the days when a school would have only a bursar handling finances. Now it is not uncommon to walk into a school and be faced with a debtor, a creditor, bursar and a business manager.

More and more private schools and top end former ‘model C’ schools are employing business managers and this is changing the way in which suppliers interact with schools.

The Guardian reported ‘Few professions have risen so far so fast as that of school business manager. As recently as 15 years ago, the post was virtually unknown in the maintained sector; now it is an integral part of senior leadership teams in many schools, with its importance only likely to grow’.

The appointment of a business manager helps the school cope with a large amount of suppliers involved with servicing it and allows the institution to make the most informed decision from a business perspective.

Principals and other decision-makers rely on their business manager to advise on new purchasing decisions and to facilitate the purchasing process.

While the traditional bursar is focused on handling the financial aspect of paying, ordering and tracking orders, the business manager oversees the process of sourcing and appointing suppliers.

This makes them a crucial decision-maker for any suppliers wishing to enter the field. In lower fee-paying schools the principal is still the decision-maker when it comes to purchasing and suppliers.

This is what your salesperson needs to know when facing the business manager:

  • If the school is going to spend money on your product the decision will have to go through the business manager
  • He or she has corporate experience
  • They want to see the figures
  • Try to see them personally, don’t rely on the head or the decision-maker you are dealing with to represent your product. They are going to get a question that they might not be able to answer, which might lose you a sale
  • They will negotiate the price, the SLA and the value you offer them, so be prepared to defend your position
  • Certain schools still call the business manager position a bursar, so watch out

The good news is that is often easier to meet with a business manager than the principal. In most cases, you are still going to need the principal’s approval but with the business manager behind you, it is an easier sell.