From education to employment

How to successfully sell apprenticeship training to employers in 2023

Shutterstock, 2022

A new year always provides an opportunity to reflect on what’s gone well over the last twelve months and what changes can be made in the next twelve months to improve things still further.

How we sell our apprenticeship provision to employers is worth putting under the spotlight on a yearly basis, as what worked yesterday won’t always work tomorrow.

In this blog, SDN Employer Engagement Associate, Phil Golding, gives you some food for thought around how you might update what your existing sales and marketing functions are articulating to employers and where improvements could be made to win new business in 2023.

How can your apprenticeship provision solve business challenges this year?

Firstly, it’s fair to say that times are difficult for businesses. So, although most training providers can explain the business benefits of apprenticeship training, there are a couple of specific challenges that are worth considering this year:

  • The cost-of-living crisis hasn’t just hit households and consumers, but companies too. Employers face higher energy bills and difficult decisions around increasing salaries in response to inflation.
  • It’s a candidates jobs market. Employers looking to recruit skilled workers are struggling because there are lots more vacancies than usual, meaning experienced staff can often choose between 3 or 4 different job offers.

These challenges, although difficult, can provide opportunities for training providers – the more you understand what a business is experiencing, the more you can relate to their concerns and identify where your apprenticeship provision can add value.

For example, helping employers to see that:

  • Hiring entry-level staff and giving them a package of apprenticeship support might be more economical than leaving a vacancy unfilled for several months whilst they hunt for staff with previous experience
  • Providing existing staff with apprenticeship training can increase loyalty, productivity and bring new ideas to the table which could stop staff from jumping ship for a slightly higher salary elsewhere, as they see the investment their employer is making to their personal development

Ultimately, your marketing content should articulate the business benefits of apprenticeship training, but your sales team should be able to tease out specific business problems that are relevant in the here and now to your client group and be comfortable explaining how apprenticeships can help to make life easier for the company in the coming years.

Review the reasons why employers work with you to target new clients

It’s also worth reviewing which employers you can target this year and why they might choose you, by looking back on the success stories of 2022.

There are hundreds of apprenticeship providers working across England, so understanding the business benefits of apprenticeships isn’t enough. It’s also important to know what sets you apart from your competitors and why a business should buy from you. Understanding why people bought from you last year, can help you increase market share the following year.

If you have data on the organisations you currently work with, it’s worth reviewing to see if any meaningful intelligence can be garnered. For example, are they all SMEs? Do they work in a specific sector? Do they need a specific order of training to support their roles?

It’s also worth contacting them and asking why they chose to work with you in the first place? Was it price, expertise, customer service? This insight can help you sell in future and may also tease out a couple of case studies for you to put in front of prospective clients.

Once you understand ‘why you’ from your existing clients, you should be able to convert more leads this year. This exercise may also help you to uncover new sectors or employer groups that need similar support to your existing clients – opening new markets for you too.

Check you are delivering your promises for repeat business

It’s always worth remembering that winning new business is harder than renewing old business – which is why it’s so important not to oversell and underdeliver.

It’s better to attract fewer new clients, who are likely to repeatedly use you for apprenticeship training, than to onboard new clients under false pretences that may not work with you in the following years or put others off from working with you in the future.

To improve how you sell, it’s important that your sales and marketing functions are regularly conversing with your curriculum teams to check that your sales pitch is the reality on the ground.

For example, if the sales team are telling employers that the order of training can be adjusted to suit their needs, but the reality is that it can no longer be done in this way because of cohort size, the sales team need to know. Taking some time to talk to the curriculum staff and get their feedback on how you’re selling is a worthwhile investment.

Growing apprenticeship starts webinar series

For more in-depth support register for SDN’s webinar series starting 17th January: Growing apprenticeship starts and your work with employers – approaches, tools and techniques

In this series we cover:

  • Market research – understanding the short and long-term workforce needs of your target employers
  • What makes your offer special?
  • Pitching your offer to employers – marketing and communications
  • Developing your business development cadence and sales approach
  • Building and maintaining effective relationships
  • Seamless handover – business development and curriculum / delivery teams

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