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June 29th, 2015

10 Strategies for Building Trust With Prospects (and Parents)

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s the most frequent reason why admissions counselors (particularly younger ones) experience inconsistent recruiting results?

An admissions director who was picking my brain on various topics asked me this question the other day. My response was, “They don’t fully gain the trust of their prospects and their prospects’ parents.” It’s a common, yet critical mistake.

Building trust takes time. The relationship with your prospective student and his or her parents must be cultivated and nurtured throughout the entire recruiting cycle. The greater the level of trust, the greater your number of deposits will be. Mark it down.

Ask yourself this question – Would you invest tens of thousands of dollars in a product when you’ve only known the person selling it to you for a week, or maybe even a month? My guess is, probably not.

When your prospects are reading your letters and emails, and listening to you talk on the phone or in person, they’re trying to figure out if they trust you enough to make that financial and emotional commitment to your school. Some of those same prospects have told us that both they and their parents fear that things sound “too good to be true,” and question whether they’re being misled. You can help them overcome that skepticism by making frequent contact and delivering information that they not only view as valuable but at the same time also proves your school’s value.

Here are a few proven strategies for building trust with prospects and their parents:

  1. Demonstrate empathy. If you don’t empathize with your prospects and their parents how can you expect to understand their problems and objections?
  1. Do your homework. Before you make that first phone call to this next class of prospective students be sure you’ve gathered some basic facts and information about whom you’re calling. I continue to be amazed at the number of counselors who reveal to me that they make these calls blindly. The reason I hear most often is, “I don’t have the time.” The easiest way to build trust is to show your prospect or their parents that they’re not just another name on your list. Show them you know something about them that your competition probably doesn’t (because they, “don’t have the time”).
  1. Be helpful during every communication. I’ve told you this before but it bears repeating.  Your prospects want you to solve their problems…all of them. They’re looking for ideas, information and insight at every turn, especially when it comes to paying for college. If you can leave no doubt in their minds that your intent is to be a resource and help them out, you’ll gain their trust every single time.
  1. Don’t overpromise. The last thing you want to do when trying to build trust is cross the line and sound ridiculous. Kids, not to mention their parents, are smart cookies. Never promise results that you can’t deliver because you think doing so will put you closer to “sealing the deal.”
  1. Display a quiet confidence. Your prospect is looking for reasons why your college is that “right fit.” The admissions counselor who isn’t confident or is afraid to tell their recruit why their school is the best is going to have trouble gaining that prospect’s real trust.
  1. Be honest, even if the truth hurts. It would be great if your school were the perfect fit for everyone. It’s not, and that’s okay. Honesty is one of the key traits that allow others to rely on you. When you’re willing to admit that your institution needs to improve on “A,” or that one of your competitors has a better (fill in the blank) than you do, it’s actually a good thing. Your prospects know both you and your school aren’t perfect.
  1. Be a good listener. The quickest way to destroy trust is to rule the conversation. When you do most of the talking, you make it impossible to discover what is really motivating them to consider your school. Anytime you begin a new relationship with a recruit, make it your goal to let them do most of the talking.  If you want to encourage conversation, use open-ended questions. These will lead to valuable information.
  1. Be a resource, not a salesperson. Each of you is one or the other. Which one are you? (Hint: resource is good, salesperson is bad). Both Dan (Tudor) and I tell our clients all the time that the key to achieving successful and consistent recruiting results is to be a resource rather than a salesperson. If they see you as a resource it’s easier to connect with them. When you connect with them they’ll see you as someone they can trust.
  1. Talk about your success stories. Many of your prospects tell us that real life testimonials and success stories from recent graduates are extremely helpful. These words from people just like them provide real proof that your prospect’s fears can be conquered, and their dream of going to college can and will be achieved. Videos in particular have proven extremely effective because the words are literally coming straight from your student’s mouth.
  1. Demonstrate commitment. Showing commitment is one of the simplest things we can do, yet for some reason many of us fall short here. A common example I hear about is making phone calls later than scheduled. If you tell your prospect 7:00pm, don’t ever assume that 7:10pm is okay. “Oh but I ran late with another recruiting call.” Say that and you’re telling your prospect, or his or her parents, that not only is their time not valuable, but that (insert other prospect’s name) is more important than they are.

Developing trust is essential. Without it you significantly decrease your chances of turning prospects into deposits. With it you’ll have an opportunity to cultivate highly profitable relationships. It’s worth the effort.

Jeremy Tiers and the team of recruiting experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies answer questions and work with admissions professionals every day.  If you have a question, just email Jeremy at jeremy@dantudor.com.  

June 22nd, 2015

How To Be the Best Recruiter in the Shark Tank

Ever watch the CNBC show, Shark Tank?

It’s one of my favorite television shows, along with The Profit.  And just like the important recruiting lesson we gleaned from The Profit in a previous column, there’s a fantastic example of how to lead a prospect through the recruiting decision making process from the panel on Shark Tank.

As you watch it, don’t look at this business pitch from the Sharks for a piece of Bobbi’s “FunBites” business.  Picture it as a fairly typical recruiting situation, especially late in the process.

And as you do, copy the strategy that Lori Greiner employs against her competition.  Here’s the breakdown of the clip:

:00 Bobbi is nearing the end of the pitch, and she has offers on the table.

:21 Bobbi gets a smile and nod from billionaire Mark Cuban, who is counting on her letting him come in at the end and make her an offer that she won’t be able to refuse.

:42 Lori comes in with her offer. Whether it’s better than the other offers or not isn’t important. Note her confidence, and clarity. She feels her offer is the best, and she wants Bobbi to understand that.

:50 The noise starts. The other Sharks who have made offers all start talking at the same time, and you can see the confusion and pressure starting to mount for Bobbi as she realizes she’s going to have to make a decision. Confidently, Lori offers her rebuttal with a smile.

1:00 More noise, more pressure. How is she supposed to make a final decision with all of that noise and incoming information from all of the people that want a piece of her deal?

And then, Lori does what I would advise every college to do. If you want to try copying her word for word the next time you want a recruit to make a final decision in your favor, that might not be an unwise thing to do:

At the 1:12 mark, Lori makes her move:

“I’d like you to take my offer now, because I feel like you know whether or not you’d like to partner with me.  So if you want to partner with me, I’d like you to say yes right now.”

It’s brilliant.  Here’s why:

  • She sets a fair, but very firm, deadline. The inventor has multiple offers, she’s heard all the pitches, and is now obviously struggling to make a final decision (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She uses the important word “because” to initiate action. If she didn’t, the recruit would probably seek out just one more good option, delaying the difficult final decision as long as possible (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She focuses on feelings, not facts. Her prospect has all the facts she needs to make a decision. But most of us make our decisions based on the way we feel about something (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She comes back to the deadline again. If she doesn’t, there’s no imperative for her prospect to make a final decision. There’s always one more offer to consider, and it’s intoxicating to be wanted by just one more good option (sound familiar, Coach?)

And, it works. She gets the deal at the 1:30 mark in the video.

Although, if you watched it until the end, you’ll notice that even after Bobbi “verbally commits” to Lori, the other Sharks keep recruiting her.

How does she keep the commitment?  By smiling confidently, restating her position, and then doing something at the very end that more coaches need to put a focus on as it becomes more and more challenging as recruiting commitments get earlier and earlier: Lori tells Bobbi, “I know you’re a person of integrity” as the commitment sticks.

There are lots of ways to close a recruit, and lots of ways to construct the right language to elicit the feelings from your prospect. A multi-millionaire that has built and empire selling products on QVC just gave you another great option as you prepare to talk to your next high caliber recruits.

Have you been trained in advanced recruiting and communication methods? We now offer that resource for college coaches around the country, and will even certify the training to demonstrate your proficiency to your athletic director, head coach, or future employer. It’s called Tudor University, and you can get all the details about this fantastic training option here.

June 22nd, 2015

Winning Over Your Prospect’s Parents

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Breaking bad news to someone is never fun.

Last week during a phone call with an admissions director that wanted to talk about strategies for improving his college’s yield, I had to do just that. The facts of our conversation were pointing towards one big reason why his office experienced completely random recruiting results this past cycle – his entire team (mostly new counselors) underestimated just how important a factor parents are in the recruiting process.

Sending parents an occasional email and talking to them during the campus visit is not a winning strategy. Take that approach, and you’ll be hard pressed to discover what the parents of your recruits are really thinking (yes it matters). Plus, you’ll probably become frustrated at the power you ultimately see those same parents having on their child’s final decision.

Put yourself at your prospect’s kitchen table for a minute. As a parent, would you let your 16 or 17-year old son or daughter call an admissions counselor that’s requested contact, and allow your child to take anything beyond the very basic first steps of communication with him or her?  Not without talking to you, their parent, first right?

You’ll understand then why I find it surprising that many talented, smart college admissions recruiters spend a majority of their time and energy forming a relationship with a prospective student without really talking to the parents first.

Easier said than done, I get it. That’s why today’s article is here to help.

The first thing a number of you will need to do is embrace the idea of talking to your prospect’s parents. The reason is simple. In some of our latest research, we found that 91% of recent incoming college freshmen say that their parents had substantial influence in their final decision making process. Knowing that fact, how can you even consider not making it a priority to start the conversation with the parents as early as possible?

As we explain in our On-Campus Workshops for admissions, one of the big differences with this generation of prospective students is not only do they want their parents to be involved in the recruitment process, but they expect it. More and more, we hear examples of students who tell us point blank that they look for admissions counselors who engage their parents when they have the opportunity to talk to them.  Do you do that?

Furthermore, when we asked the parents if they felt like colleges were doing a good job of including them in the recruiting process only 54% “agreed strongly.” That means 46% are feeling like there could be more done to include them as a part of the process.  Imagine chopping your previous recruiting list in half.  That’s how many parents are feeling like you’re not doing a good enough job of making them feel like they’re important to you.  The scariest part should be that you probably don’t know which of your parents are on what side of the line.

My advice to you then is simple. You need to become okay with talking to your prospect’s parents, sometimes even in place of your prospect. They’ll most often accurately speak for their son or daughter and actually give you a lot of intelligent, useful information.

Next, I want you to ask yourself the following 3 questions as you prepare to begin another recruitment cycle. I would even recommend bringing these up at your staff retreat or planning session this summer. If you’re going to win over your prospect’s parents you’ll need to address all three.

  1. How soon are you incorporating a conversation with the parents of your recruit into your recruiting plan?
  1. What percentage of messaging are you dedicating to recruiting the parents of your prospects? (Yes, separate messaging to parents is a must.)
  1. What kind of questions are you asking parents to get them to reveal what’s important to them as they help their son or daughter make their final decision?

By this point I hope you agree that parents play a pivotal role in the recruitment process.

Here’s some more useful information that we’ve gathered from our research and focus groups at college campuses around the country.

  • Parents want honest answers about how your school is different from the competition. The college brochures look the same, the websites look the same, and the message is largely the same. How are you different from your competition?  I mean really different The counselors who can communicate those real differences to parents will earn their trust. Considering how important the parents’ views are to their child come decision time, this will be a big “win” for you in the recruiting game.
  • The biggest things that parents want content about are cost and ROI. Specifically, how much will your school truly cost, and will their son or daughter be able to get a job when they graduate? Your messaging to and communications with parents absolutely must address these two “wants.” Additionally, I would suggest you include clearly defined qualifications for various scholarships and other aid as well as employment rates and starting salaries. Be prepared to start this conversation early, and make sure what you’re telling them isn’t going to be different when they speak with a financial aid counselor later in the process.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to parents on Social Media. Want to know why more and more teenagers have left Facebook for Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Parents have joined the social media revolution, primarily Facebook (that means it’s not “cool” anymore). Our research has shown that prospects want you to reach out to their parents this way. Some colleges are even taking things one step further by creating Facebook pages specifically for parents of prospective or enrolled students. It’s yet another way to answer questions and increase engagement.
  • Consistency matters to parents. Once you make contact with parents it’s vitally important to know that they expect you to communicate with them as much as with their son or daughter.
  • Enthusiasm about your prospect goes a long way. Parents want to see you pay consistent, serious attention to their kids.  The more passion you show will, over time, cement the idea that you want their son or daughter more than anyone else.

While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection.

It’s critical that you develop recruiting plans for your prospect’s parents. You need to schedule calls, send emails, and probe the parents regarding their wants and needs for their child. If you do, they will look at you as the admissions professional that respects their opinion and input and sees them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter.

Need help creating effective recruiting letters and email messages that will win over parents (and prospects)? We work with admissions clients year-round doing just that! Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

June 22nd, 2015

Trust Over Price

542242_10201795155827901_994503587_nby Michael Cross, UltimateSportsInsider.com

Recruiting is a euphemism for sales, and sales isn’t for everyone. But we are ultimately all in sales – selling yourself, your institution and your program. Selling isn’t easy and you probably hear “no” many more times than you hear “yes.” People in sales often resort to price as a primary means to get a commitment. If you are selling a commodity (such as gasoline) price and location are a strong determinant because only the most sophisticated consumer can determine the difference between Mobil and Shell. You don’t need a high level of trust.

Two family purchasing decisions – cars and pet care – come to mind where trust is essential.

The other day I took our car for an oil change and new tires at Mike Miller Auto Park in Peoria, Illinois, a purchase that was going to approach $1000. Many people think there is no more expensive place to have this type of work done than the dealership. But Mike Miller’s service and relationship building is legendary. He’s given Green Bay Packers tickets to people who have purchased cars from him. He remembers birthdays. He is fair and honest. He is personally invested on a daily basis in making sure that the customer is always right and feels valued. Most importantly, he established TRUST from the day we purchased a car, when we left feeling great about the purchase rather than beaten into submission. Today we never even think of comparison shopping to save a couple dollars and the volume of people having work done at his dealership the day I went said we weren’t alone. In fact he singlehandedly saved the Cross Family as a customer for Hyundai after a horrific car purchasing experience at a counterpart dealer several years before that left us swearing we would NEVER buy another Hyundai.

The other example is Play All Day Doggie Day Care. We love our English Golden Retrievers, Jocelyn and Clara. We trust they are safe and happy when we travel. How do we know? When they first went to Play All Day, the dogs (and my wife and kids) were skittish. We had recently adopted them and they were older and a little shell-shocked from the transition into our home. To aid in their transition, the day care owner had both dogs stay at her house for multiple nights until everyone was comfortable with the new environment. She groups dogs by size and demeanor, has birthday treats, and posts daily facebook videos for the owners to see that they are having fun. Yes, it’s a little over the top and it costs a few dollars more – but the peace of mind is priceless. We would never go anywhere else.

So as you try to figure out how to get a recruit to commit focus on trust over price. In fact, if you are recruiting someone who is solely focused on where they can get the best deal, I’d encourage you to thoroughly evaluate their fit for your program. While college is a very expensive investment, the long term value of building trust with recruits and honoring your commitments when they are current athletes will provide the results you are seeking year after year and create a more enjoyable and differentiating recruiting approach. College and your team are more than a commodity – they are priceless opportunities where trust is paramount.

Michael Cross is an intercollegiate athletics consultant with an emphasis on athletic department evaluations and organizational culture development, as well as career development for coaches and administrators. You can read other similar posts and subscribe to his blog at UltimateSportsInsider.com.   You can contact him through LinkedIn or connect with him via Twitter @USinsider.

June 18th, 2015

NCRC 2015 Highlights

Take a quick look at the outstanding 2015 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville!

150+ coaches, experts and speakers who devoted their weekends to the core part of their job as college recruiters.

 

 

If you couldn’t make it to NCRC 2015, please make plans to attend the next NCRC in June 2016. Stay tuned for the dates and location coming soon!

 

June 15th, 2015

How Good Are You at These 8 Things?

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When’s the last time you did a self-evaluation? If your answer is “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember,” then today’s article is definitely for you.

If we’re sharing, my last self-assessment was this past week. It came on the heels of our National Recruiting Conference. After three days of learning and networking with college coaches, admissions professionals and business/marketing experts from around the nation, I re-evaluated some the approaches that I use. Why, you ask? It’s my belief that true professionals never stop learning. Research is always discovering new things, and trends are always changing.

One of the most popular parts of our Admissions Recruiting Advantage Workshops is the 1-on-1-counselor consultation. During these meetings one or two counselors inevitably ask me what skills and traits I believe separate a high performing recruiter from an average one.

If you’re expecting to see bullet points like “organized,“ “friendly,” and “good communicator,” that’s not where this list is going. Those are givens. Instead, I’m going to share some skills and characteristics that I see consistently, not just in top admissions recruiters, but also in nearly every elite recruiter or sales professional that I’ve met.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Problem solver. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with teenagers who want to have their problems (chiefly – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. Approach those problems, and any other objections, with the frame of mind that you are a problem solver. Counselors who do that will be the ones who turn admits into deposits.
  1. Translator. Don’t ever assume that a 17 or 18-year old student, and quite possibly many of their parents, know what FAFSA, EFC, COA, ROI, Early Action and Rolling Admission all mean. You will need to translate those industry terms into layman’s terms, quite possibly more than once. You’ll also need to do so in such a way that doesn’t make your prospect (and his or her parents) feel inept.
  1. Listener. One of the biggest mistakes a lot of salespeople make is they give information before they get information. They provide more information than is necessary, and in many cases they give out the wrong information (based on their prospect’s wants and needs). Want to know how to determine if you’re a good listener? The good ones, and I mean the really good ones, ask effective questions that get their prospects to not only reveal their “wants” and “don’t wants” but also how they would like the process to play itself out.
  1. Closer. Simply put, effective “closers” (those who turn admits into deposits) understand it’s about the relationship just as much as it is about the sale. Your average recruiter only focuses on closing the sale. Selling is also about building a relationship with your prospect (and their parents) throughout the recruitment cycle. When you prove you’re a resource and come up with ways to answer their wants and needs, you develop trust and loyalty. That will lead to positive recommendations and future deposits.
  1. Empathy. Some people are born with this skill while others have to develop it over time. Truly understanding your prospect, their life situation, fears, motivations, and dreams isn’t an easy thing. The counselors that struggle with this skill are generally the ones that are more concerned with what they need from their prospects and not what their prospects want from them. Let your recruit know that you understand his or her “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want.”
  1. Always look to improve. With success often comes comfort. When a person reaches a goal, there can be a tendency to assume that if they repeat the exact same steps again it will produce the same results. It’s a common mistake. Those that rise to the top value both positive and negative feedback and are willing to invest to improve their skills and attitudes. Be proactive, and seek out learning opportunities. Utilize professional coaches and mentors.
  1. Remain in control of the sales process. A common mistake that counselors make is losing control of the sales process at some point. The high performing recruiter takes his or her prospect through an orderly, planned, systematic process of agreeing that their college is best suited for their prospect’s needs and goals.
  1. Remain passionate. There’s that magical word again that can help you win over recruits. As I’ve said before, passion is not an act. Real passion for who you are and what your institution provides can make all the difference in the world. The passionate person consistently says, “I’m going to make a difference today,” whereas everybody else thinks, “same (insert nasty word), different day.” Passion will lead to meaningful long-term relationships with your prospects (and their parents) every single time.

Want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these eight critical skills and attributes, and how you can incorporate them into your recruiting strategy? Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com or give me a call at 612-386-0854.

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