“It is easier to call a CEO of a listed company than a headmaster from a primary school”

Why is it so hard to get a meeting with a head? Most sales people from school suppliers immediately say it is because of the gatekeeper – the secretary, who protects the principal’s time and prevents anyone from getting close to the head.

Before we give you our top tip to get a meeting with a head, it is important to understand why the gatekeeper blocks you. The reason is simple, a head has limited time. 

You need to understand that principals have a wide focus lens. Involvement, procurement and buying products and services are just some of the things that fall in with the many other things they do. From managing the school, to overseeing staff, appointing new staff, and managing pupils and parents. The principal has enough to keep them occupied before they can even dream of looking at your product or service.

When it come to products and services, one also needs to understand the scope of products they have (think classrooms, staff rooms, grounds, tuckshops, boarding houses, swimming pools, vehicles, outings, sports equipment, technology). It is not unusual for a school to have 100 – 150 creditors – companies that are presently providing products and services to the school.

If every one of these companies wants to visit the school once a year, as a courtesy, the principal is already inundated with meetings. Now add to the fact that for everyone of these companies, there is most probably two others also vying for the business of the school. By the time you call the head to schedule a meeting, the secretary has already weighed up all of this and blocks you. The bottom line is: Can the secretary trust that, when you meet with the principal, it will not be a waste of time?

So how do you get through the secretary, aka, the gatekeeper?

Let’s firstly assume that you have a great product/service that will be of value to the schools. But if you can’t meet with the head, you are limiting your chances of the school using your great product/service.

To initially schedule a meeting, you have to do that dreaded cold call. We all know cold calling really sucks. The good news is that there is a better way! 

This brings us to our number 1 tip for getting a meeting with a head: instead of a cold call, we would like to introduce you to a little something called the ‘warm call’.

This is how a ‘warm call’ works:
  • Speak to one of your present principals that values your product/service.
  • Ask them if they can recommend any other schools in the area that should use your product/service.
  • Then ask for permission to use their name when you present to that school.

Schools are very referential and value the input of other schools – schools trust other schools. You can even look at your reviews on SchoolAdvisor to see which schools you should ask for recommendations.

Now that you have permission, call the school. And now, if the secretary answers, say the following simple line: “Principal ‘xxxx’ at school ‘yyyy’ around the corner recommended that I speak to your principal to let you know what we are doing for their school and how it would work for yours.” Immediately the secretary knows that they can trust you and that you are not going to waste their time.

Now your chances of speaking to the head and getting a meeting have just increased exponentially. When the secretary puts you through to the head, simply say the same line: ” ‘xxxx’ at ‘yyyy’ school said I must come present what we are doing for them to you. Do you have time tomorrow?”

A ‘warm call’ over a cold call is only one simple change can make to get more reviews. If this tip was valuable to you and your company, we recommend that you check out our Effective Selling to Schools Workshop that will be held on the 20th of October in JHB. At the workshop, we will delve into more tips like this one and give you hands-on tools from people who have real experience in the industry. Find out more about the workshop here.