From education to employment

Selling courses is getting harder – how to increase your sales to busy businesses

There was a time when providers could go into a business and sell courses relatively easily.  In fact, often they didn’t need to meet their prospect as a posted leaflet or advert resulted in sales.  In some senses, filling courses was much easier in those days.

Now we live in a time-poor society and our prospects are rushing around 24/7, “doing things” on their time saving smartphones.

The Sales Resistance Profile

If you profile these business people, there are some common features.

1.     They are apparently busier than ever before. The result is they don’t have the time for reading leaflets, adverts, unsolicited post or email.  Most don’t attend networking events and they are certainly adverse to giving up their time for speculative meetings to get to know you as a potential new supplier

2.     They are resistant to being “sold to”

3.     They have more choice available to them than ever before

More choice, an aversion to being sold to and less time to dedicate to purchasing our products and services: It isn’t good news for our business development targets.

So with this many problems should we give up?


People Listen to Friends & Experts

The reality is businesses are made up of people like you and me.  We all take advice from others.  When faced with buying decisions .. and huge amounts of information to wade through …  we listen to other people.

For example, when thinking of going to a new restaurant, we’ll listen to what our friends say about their experience or read a restaurant review from an “expert”.  We’ll even look at websites like TripAdvisor and take advice from total strangers!

The reality is that “People are silently begging to be advised …… or even led”.  I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense.  But when faced with a decision it often makes sense to listen to the opinion of experts who’ve some experience of the product or service.

Often we even “look over the fence” and copy our competitors (how many times has someone said to me that as a competitor is advertising on radio/TV, or a local paper, on bus backs etc. they will do the same?).

In many cases, if I can find an expert I trust I’m more than happy to take their advice.  I bet you do the same on occasion … and so do most businesses.  We all listen to experts that we trust.

Of course there are levels of trust and not all purchases are made purely on the advice of a third party.  But this is part of the process in the majority of cases.

The question is how do we demonstrate expertise?

Demonstrating Provider Expertise

1.     When sending out newsletters don’t write about your organisation or try to sell.  Customers aren’t interested.  Instead, offer some help or advice on something they will find useful.  The rule is ten pieces of advice and one sales promo. This marketing campaign advice I supplied to a provider for their provider newsletter is a prime example of information that employers responded to.

2.     Don’t send template emails to customers and prospects .. they look like sales documents and have a low click through rate.  A simple email with a handful of hyperlinks often works much better.  Test and Measure this via a split test.

3.     Ensure you are featured in magazines, trade press, on websites and on radio on a regular basis .. it proves your expertise and is easier to arrange than you might think.  Find out how by reading my next article in FE News Exclusives!

Stefan Drew is a marketing consultant, and was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges. He now works with providers throughout Europe and the US. Visit:

Related Articles