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It’s as Easy as 1, 2, 3 With Your ProspectsTuesday, July 28th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Throughout the summer I’ve heard from a number of admissions counselors and directors, who are trying to “crack the code” when it comes to connecting with today’s teenage prospect. Everyone wants a competitive edge as they begin to build relationships with this next class of recruits.

If you want to convince more prospects that your school is that “right fit,” then your recruiting communications better be impactful and generate a high level of interaction from prospects. Unfortunately, a large majority of those same prospects continue to declare that most of the material they receive from colleges sounds the same. It’s a primary reason why a lot of admissions departments become our clients. They want to make sure they’re employing the best communication strategies possible.

Today I’m going to offer you a piece of advice. I don’t know if it will solve all your problems, but I do know that this simple technique will increase the chances of making your points stick with your prospects.

It’s all about “the power of three.” It works in writing, and it will also work in phone conversations.  It’s a principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. There’s also evidence that our minds are more likely to remember information when it comes in threes.

Think about it for a minute. Most people have three names. We say things like, “It’s as easy as one, two, three.” In the marketplace there’s “The Three Stooges,” “The Three Musketeers,” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” All of it comes in threes.

Your prospects are no different. They want ideas about your institution grouped in threes because they’re wired just like you and I. So, if you’re interested in getting a better response than you’re used to from your prospects, I highly advise you to use this concept.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re trying to talk or write to your prospects about your school’s highly rated (insert an academic major or school of blank). You might normally talk about the major’s/school’s reputation once, and then expect your prospect to connect the dots themselves.  Instead, try this line of reasoning that groups your argument in a group of three:

“Our Business School was rated one of the strongest in the nation by Forbes this year. The return on investment achieved by our graduates continues to be on the rise. In fact, based on nationally gathered information we ranked in the top 10 in both total 5-year MBA gain, and years to payback.

One of our recent graduates, John Smith, was offered employment at a Fortune 50 company following graduation.  He told Forbes that our Business School and its experienced professors were the reason he was able to land such a high level position immediately.

The best part is those same professors continue to shape the curriculum with the changing landscape, and expand their networks. It really gives our students an edge against other Business School graduates.”

Here’s what you want to do:  Put your strongest proof at the top and devote the most time and attention to that point.  Your goal should be to get them to sit back and take you seriously.  The next paragraph should be about half the length of the first, and the third paragraph should be about half the length of the second one.

When talking to prospects or developing written recruiting communications, make sure you vary the proof that you offer them.  In the example I gave you above, I started with a strong statement that statistically told the recruit why our Business School was top notch. Next, I gave a proof of what the school and its professors did for a recent graduate. Thirdly, I offered up proof that the school is getting even better than it has been in the past.

This technique has been used for decades in business marketing strategies. It will work for you because it meets our wired need for a group of three in the reasoning you present to recruits and their parents.

If you understand “the power of three” and incorporate it in your recruiting communications, your ideas will stick, and you will increase your success rate.

Knowing how to present an idea effectively is the first step towards really connecting with today’s prospective students. Want to discuss this further? Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

And the Winner Is…Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Raise your hand if you watch award shows such as The Academy Awards, The Grammys and The Golden Globes. For my wife, it’s can’t miss television (although I’m convinced she just likes to see who’s wearing what outfit/jewelry).

Last week I watched the ESPYs (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards). ESPN assembles some of the greatest athletes in the world all under one roof and then celebrates and relives the best moments of 2015.

Unlike my wife, I don’t tune in to see what suit LeBron is wearing, or whether or not Russell Wilson’s jacket color will match his girlfriend Ciara’s belt (which it did by the way). Okay, you can stop laughing now.

Award shows highlight the amazing work of people in any given industry or profession.  In addition to that, they bring about healthy competition and allow for both personal and team growth.

In honor of the ESPYs, I’ve come up with the TCS awards for college admissions. There is one small difference. I’m not actually handing out trophies to specific people today. Instead, a detailed reminder or strategy that will help you as you begin to recruit this next class of students accompanies each award.

Courage Award – This award goes to the counselor who isn’t afraid to take an already great campus visit, re-evaluate it, and implement strategies to turn great into flat out awesome. Just because your campus visits have been successful in the past doesn’t mean there isn’t room for tweaks here and there. Let’s start with meetings. Even though you think it’s important to have prospects meet with all kinds of different people on campus, our research shows that very few of those meetings actually factor into the prospect’s final decision. The same thing goes for having them sit in on a class. Almost all your prospects tell us that it’s one of the least effective, least important parts of their visit.

Best Breakthrough Counselor – This award goes to the counselor who made a significant breakthrough in their recruiting techniques. For example, they understand that different kinds of recruits have different problems. Traditional, non-traditional, and international prospects all need different things from you. In some cases that means developing separate messaging.   Speaking of your letters and emails, stop trying to follow “letter writing rules” of the past. Your goal should always be to get your prospect’s attention. That means less formal and more conversational. Finally, don’t forget to involve the parents (and do it early). Once contact has been made, understand that parents, just like your prospects, expect you to be consistent with your communication.

Best Championship Performance – This award goes to the counselor, new or veteran, who has delivered the best performance turning admits into deposits. They create an emotional tie with their prospects early in the process because prospects trust those feelings as they make their final decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through the various methods of recruiting communication as well as the feelings they get when they visit your campus.

Best Director/VP of Enrollment – This award goes to the director or VP who creates and maintains a motivated and confident admissions team. They understand that just like today’s recruit, each of their staff members is different and has different motivations. As a leader, they are consistent with their message, ask for input and new ideas, and understand the importance of both ownership and recognition. This year’s winner also values collaborating with other offices on campus, specifically financial aid. They set up cross training between their counselors and those in financial aid so that skill sets are expanded and time is used more efficiently.

Best Upset Award – This award goes to the counselor who isn’t afraid to go up against the big name competition because they know they have a winning strategy. That strategy uses multiple communication channels to deliver a consistent series of short, logical, fact based messages as to why your school is the “right fit.” It also contains an explanation of why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. The academic reputation at your school, the smaller class sizes and individual attention…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit. It needs to be something.

Best Comeback Award – This award goes to the counselor who doesn’t avoid talking about objections and instead confronts negatives that they consistently hear about their school early on. They anticipate the common ones (like financial aid), get clarification, acknowledge and add information, and become a problem solver for their prospect.

Thanks for being a part of the inaugural TCS admissions awards, and enjoy the rest of your day. We’ll see you next year with more awards for admissions professionals.

This is the time of year when some admissions staffs know they need to change their recruiting approach but aren’t sure how to do so. We can help. We offer multiple plan options that will best fit your needs and your department’s budget. You will start to see a difference immediately! Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com to learn more.

We All Need to Be Better At This and Here’s HowTuesday, July 14th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Have you ever watched the TV show “House Hunters?” Thanks to all the rain we’ve been getting in central Indiana this summer, last week was a great opportunity for my wife and I to view the backlog of episodes on our DVR.

During a house tour in the suburbs of Chicago, something that the homebuyer said to her realtor caught my attention. To make a long story short, this particular homebuyer had a unique wish list. When it came to the kitchen, she had to have white appliances and a corner pantry. It didn’t matter how perfect the location was, if the home didn’t have both of those characteristics then she wasn’t buying.

House number one had white appliances, but no corner pantry. House number two was the exact opposite. Both seemed like great options, but this homebuyer wasn’t budging. When they got to the third and final home, the realtor had found a match (which was over budget of course). Immediately after walking into the kitchen and seeing that both of her needs had been met, the homebuyer turned to her realtor and said, “You actually listened to me.”

Studies say that humans’ listening skills are poor on average. We retain less than half of what we hear, and evidence shows that these skills are getting worse.

Here’s why that should be cause for concern for you, the college admissions professional. Being a good listener is one of the key principles we stress with our Admissions Recruiting Advantage clients. Doing so is often the difference between developing a superior relationship with your prospect and being just another college representative in their eyes.

When you do most of the talking you make it nearly impossible to discover what’s really motivating your prospect to consider your institution.  You‘re also cheating yourself out of valuable information that you can discover from the comments your recruit gives when they feel like they’re a part of an informal conversation.

A good rule to follow is to try and let your prospect do 80% of the talking during any conversation.  That means asking great questions and then giving them ample opportunity to talk afterwards.  You should also be ready to ask a lot of follow-up questions.

In my on-going effort to equip you with the skills that every elite recruiter and sales professional that I’ve ever met possesses, today I’m going to give you some effective ways to improve your listening skills.

  • Stop doing other things. Easy and obvious, right? In a world that loves to multi-task (myself included), the ability to stop everything you are doing and give 100% of your attention to your prospect (or their parents) is going to be a challenge for most. When you’re on a phone call this fall don’t try and also answer an email or input notes into a file. You may tell yourself you can do both effectively, but here’s proof to the contrary. Focus on your prospect and nothing else when he or she is speaking to you.
  • Listen without a hidden agenda. The college search process is not about you and your wants and needs, it’s about your prospect. When you have a hidden agenda or become so caught up thinking about yield you tend to push too hard and that affects your ability to listen clearly. Stop trying to sell to them. Instead focus on connecting with them.
  • Become an active listener. Most people begin thinking about how they’re going to reply while the other person is talking. Next time that happens to you I encourage you to try something that a good friend of mine who’s a successful small business owner taught me. Imagine that at the end of the conversation you’ll have to take a test to see how much of what your prospect said you truly heard and understood. Becoming an active listener also goes hand-in-hand with asking really good questions.
  • Acknowledge your prospect. Acknowledging what your prospect is saying is another way to listen more effectively. Using phrases such as “Good point,” “I understand,” and “That’s interesting” will show your prospect that you are tuned in and paying attention.
  • Listen and look for emphasis. We all use tone and other facial expressions to convey likes and dislikes. It’s difficult to discover what your prospect is placing emphasis on if you’re not listening intently during a phone call. Both pace and volume can give you clues about a prospect and their feelings. Body language is just as important to conveying meaning. If you’re face-to-face with a prospect and listen but don’t look, you’ll miss half the message.
  • Ask great questions. Earlier in this article I mentioned you need to ask great questions. By great I mean open-ended. Those types of questions get you an explanation from your prospect and provide you with insights that will aid in your recruitment of them.
  • Don’t interrupt. If you don’t understand something that a prospect is communicating to you there’s nothing wrong with asking for clarification. Don’t interrupt, and instead wait until the person pauses. At that point, you could say something like, “Earlier you mentioned (blank). Can you help me understand that a little better?” Not only are you being respectful by not interrupting, but you will also come across as someone who genuinely cares and wants to form a deeper connection.

Becoming a good listener takes time. It’s a skill that can be honed each and every day. When you improve your ability to listen, you immediately become more effective. You will also earn trust and grow those recruiting relationships faster. (Oh, in case you were wondering the homebuyer picked house number three)

Are you being an effective recruiter? If you have questions or need help, e-mail me at jeremy@dantudor.com.

5 Critical Things You Need In Your Recruiting PresentationTuesday, July 7th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

As a college admissions recruiter you’re tasked with managing one or more recruiting territories. To be an effective, consistent recruiter who gets more “yes’s” than “no’s” from his or her prospects, you must be able to plan and execute both on and off-campus recruiting presentations.

“Presentation” might not be the appropriate word actually. I say that because you don’t give recruiting presentations to prospective students and parents the same way that a business/sales professional might to a prospective client. If any of you are currently doing it that way, stop right now. There are fundamental differences in what you want to do as an admissions counselor who’s trying to connect with today’s teenager.

Having said all of that, “presentation” is the best word that I could come up with because it really brings together all the elements of the process that you use to recruit a prospective student. We’re not just talking about the opportunities you have to go into a prospect’s school and talk to them about all the great things your college/university has to offer or speaking briefly with them at a college fair. “Presentations” can include a lot more:

  • The letters and emails that you write. That’s part of your presentation.
  • The phone calls that you make. That’s part of your presentation.
  • Things that are said about your school (and possibly even you) on the world-wide-web. That’s part of your presentation.
  • When a prospect comes to visit your campus. That’s a part of your presentation.

You can’t overlook one area of your overall presentation and expect consistent success.

Here are 5 things that I recommend you incorporate as a part of your next recruiting presentation.

  1. Believe in, and be enthusiastic, about your school. As part of your overall recruiting presentation you must have complete confidence that your institution is the best option for your prospect. This is something I see newer counselors struggle with, specifically when it comes to competing against bigger name colleges for the same students. If you don’t believe that you’re going to win those battles then neither will your recruits. Today’s prospective student is looking for someone who is confident that his or her college offers that “right fit.” If you don’t display enthusiasm about your school don’t expect them to be excited about the idea of spending the next four years there.
  1. Share stories. The most successful public speakers tell stories to get their points across. Each of you has success stories with past recruits. Sharing those relatable stories with your prospects will make a much greater impact than relying on statistics, rankings and PowerPoint slides.
  1. Focus on helping your prospects reach their goals. Every single one of your prospects has goals. Are you helping him or her connect the dots, as well as showing them how you and your school will help them achieve those goals? You need to be! Make it your goal to explain how what you do each step of the way during the recruiting process helps your prospect achieve their goals. If you’re not sure what your recruit’s goals are, go ahead and ask them.  Always remember it’s about them, not you.
  1. Ask amazing questions. I want you to come up with one for your first letter, your first email, your first phone call, and for when you first meet. I’m talking about questions that make your prospect stop and really think about the answer before they give it to you. Whenever you’re able to ask a question they haven’t been presented with before, that’s a sign of a great presentation.
  1. Anticipate objections. In the past I’ve shared strategies for dealing with various objections. Rarely will you not get at least one objection. You know what the common ones are. Once you’ve started cultivating your relationship with your prospect, try putting yourself in their shoes and asking yourself what you might be concerned about. Then, develop your response and be ready to address it at the appropriate time.

These five principles can help you form the basis for a really effective recruiting “presentation,” which will help you make a big impact on this next recruiting class you’re starting to contact.

Do you have questions?  Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

10 Strategies for Building Trust With Prospects (and Parents)Monday, June 29th, 2015

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.  

Winning Over Your Prospect’s ParentsMonday, June 22nd, 2015

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.

How Good Are You at These 8 Things?Monday, June 15th, 2015

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.

How to Make Sure Your Recruiting Emails Are Opened and ReadMonday, June 8th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When you log into your email account how do you decide what messages to open?

Unless it’s from your boss, most of us use the subject line as the deciding factor. It’s a quick and easy way to decide whether to read the email now or later (which means it probably gets deleted without ever being opened).

That same type of decision-making occurs every time one of your prospective students goes to his or her email inbox and finds messages waiting from you and your competition. Which ones do they read? Which ones do they scroll past?

Just like you, it often comes down to the subject line. The more creativity and thought you put into your email subject lines, the greater chance you have of getting your message opened and read by your recruits.

It’s something we factor into the messaging that we create for our clients as part of the Admissions Recruiting Advantage. Why?  Our job is not only to improve the click-through rate but also generate a response from recruits for our clients. Great subject lines are a big key to doing both of those things.

For those of you that are wondering if today’s recruit still uses email, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” One of the questions we ask in the focus group research survey we conduct as part of an on-campus workshop is, “What was your preferred method for admissions counselors to contact you?” Email is the leading vote getter every single time.

Before I give you some ideas that we’ve seen work, there are two key questions that you need to ask yourself if you’re serious about improving this part of your recruiting campaign:

  • Is your content useful to the prospective student that is reading it?
  • Has your communication up to this point built anticipation of what’s coming next?

For your messaging to be effective, what you talk about has to matter to that specific recruit. For example, sending out information on student housing isn’t going to be helpful if your prospect lives in town and is strongly considering commuting from home due to finances.

Regarding anticipation, your recruit will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message. Simply put, one message should set up the next message and so on. This is something that we see a lot of counselors struggle with.

Okay…If you’re ready to improve this aspect of your recruiting in an effort to get more prospective students to open more of your emails, here are some subject line ideas that will produce results.

  • Make it clear exactly what the email is about. Subject lines should clearly convey something important or timely to your recruits. In a nutshell, you want to communicate that if they don’t open and read this email, they’ll miss out on something of real value.
  • Don’t make it so formal. If you’re sending out information on your student housing, don’t make the subject line “ABC College student housing information.”  That’s what most of your competitors will do. You need to STAND OUT. Get creative and write something like, “Here’s where you can live next year!” See the difference?
  • Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases are attention getters.  In this case, because most subject lines are long and rather mundane, you need to use a few well-chosen words. Effective keywords include “New,” “You,” and “Deadline.”
  • Create curiosity by asking a question. To increase the chances that your email is opened it needs to offer intrigue. Using student housing as an example again, you could say, “Is your room at home as nice as our new on-campus suites?” Keep in mind, however, that the body of your email must deliver what you promised in the subject line, or your future email messages will lose credibility.
  • Cut off half the sentence. It might prompt them to wonder what the other half says.  For example, “My admissions director wanted to know if…”
  • Be different every single time. Do not become a repeat user no matter how effective a particular subject line was previously. We’ve found that there’s a noticeable drop in open rates when you do. Take a few minutes to be creative.  Don’t be boring.

There’s one final fact that I want you to keep in mind about the way today’s recruits process email from colleges and universities: At the end of your message, they want to know what’s next.

If you’re a client of ours or a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how important it is to have a clear call-to-action. We recommend you narrow it down to just one thing.  Make it simple versus complicated and time-intensive.

Remember, early in the recruitment cycle your goal is a conversation, not a conversion.  Aim to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Getting this next class (and future classes) of recruits to open and read your emails doesn’t have to be a constant challenge. It all starts with an effective subject line.

Now is the time to schedule Jeremy Tiers to come and speak at your college this fall.  Our On-Campus Workshop has trained numerous counselors and admissions professionals on more effective ways to recruit this generation of prospects (as well as their parents).  Get the details by emailing Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com with the subject line, “We want to hear more about you coming to campus!”  He will respond with all the details.

5 Recruiting Lessons for Admissions Courtesy of Johnny SheltonMonday, June 1st, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you didn’t watch the season premier of America’s Got Talent last week you probably have no idea who Johnny Shelton is.

Hopefully after this article you’ll remember him for what his story and stand out performance can teach you as you strive to have more meaningful conversations and develop a deeper connection with your prospects.

Shelton is a 25-year old singer/songwriter. In a segment shown by AGT before he went on stage, Shelton shared his story about his son who lost his battle with cancer on his fifth birthday.

When Shelton came out on stage, he explained that he wrote the song he was about to perform as a tribute to his son and uses it as his special way of communicating with his child. Once the crowd learned the entire backstory, it quickly became clear that everyone felt a connection to Johnny Shelton.

His performance was nothing short of remarkable. Emotions ran very high. The next day his Facebook page was filled with supportive comments from people around the country. No doubt about it, Johnny Shelton had captured the hearts of many.

In the midst of watching his performance some very important recruiting lessons for college admissions surfaced. Since my previous “lessons from my daughter’s soccer practice” article is one of the most read on the admissions portion of our website, I thought it would be good to write a follow-up article that another real life lesson can teach you about effective recruiting:

  • Capturing your audience’s emotions. Shelton delivered a moving performance that inspired the AGT judges and brought members of the audience to tears. Judge Heidi Klum said his song, “made me very emotional.” Your goal should be to create those same feelings and emotions in the hearts and minds of your prospects. Our national study of how recruits make their final decision revealed one solid fact that every college admissions professional should be aware of when it comes to developing a winning recruiting strategy – Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through the various methods of recruiting communication as well as the feelings they get when they visit your campus.
  • Everyone talks about the “good.” Don’t be afraid to talk about the “bad.” Admissions counselors who only talk about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat. It would be great if your prospects never had an objection to your school…but who are we kidding. Johnny Shelton could have just come out and sang his song. Instead he didn’t shy away from talking about a very difficult time in his life. This generation of students (and their parents) are looking for someone that can demonstrate honesty during the recruitment process. As we’ve said in the past, it’s good to show your school’s “cracks” to your prospects. Think of it this way. If you try and present the “perfect” college situation for your recruit in everything you show and tell them, you likely run the risk of making the prospect question whether they are getting the real story from you.  In other words, it’s best to show them your “cracks” (the bad) before a competitor paints that picture.
  • Passion wins. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know that I think this 7-letter word is the most underrated tool you have at your disposal. Shelton received a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges, thanks in large part to a very passionate performance. If you prove you’re a passionate recruiter who sincerely cares and takes the time to understand the wants and needs of your prospects, you’ll come out victorious more often than not.  This is especially true when the final decision is a close race.
  • Great recruiters understand the importance of storytelling. The lyrics of Johnny Shelton’s song told the heartbreaking story about his son. Afterwards, judge Howie Mandel said, “I’m speechless when you told us your story.” Effective stories are essential to the recruiting process. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to make up something that’s untrue or embellish the prestige of your school so you can gain a prospect’s commitment. What I want you to do is give your prospects something they can connect with when it comes to what your institution is all about. Your recruiting materials, phone calls, and even campus visits have to tell a “story” that you want them to buy into. Are you doing that right now?
  • Go ahead and be gutsy. It took a lot of guts for Johnny Shelton to come on national television and perform a song as personal as one about losing a child. It also takes some guts for an admissions counselor to ask their prospect an effective question like, “Right now, where can you picture yourself going to college next year?” Some of you won’t feel comfortable being so forward, but this effective question can yield a gold mine of information when asked correctly. It’s important to note that you’re not asking them to make a decision on the spot but rather what their thoughts are right now in terms of where they can picture themselves attending college next year. There’s a big difference.

Remember these five lessons that I’ve laid out as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects.  They will pay dividends.

Want to speak further about these or other valuable recruiting lessons?  Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Tips For Enhancing Your Social Media Connection With ProspectsMonday, May 25th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Connecting with today’s prospective student has become a new and more complicated adventure for college admissions departments nationwide. Social media is a big reason why. It has changed the way that high school students approach the college selection process.

According to a new study from Pew Research Center, 71% of teens use more than one social media network site. Those same teenagers are using the various channels to not only gather information on colleges but also to help them make their decisions. Not fully convinced? Here’s how both Twitter and Instagram have helped students find that “right fit.”

Most colleges and universities are active across multiple social media platforms. Your admissions office and/or staff likely have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and possibly are on Instagram. My question is, “Are each of those platforms being used effectively?” While social media is unlikely to make or break your college in the minds of your prospects, it can help deepen your connection and allow you to stand out from your competition.

Today I want to provide you with some basic tips on how to use social media to your advantage with this next class of prospects.

  • Remember that it’s only one part. To start with, let me be clear that social media is only one part of an effective recruiting communication strategy. Just because a large portion of your target audience is constantly on their smartphones doesn’t mean that you can substitute social media contact in place of hand-written letters and phone calls. Your prospects continue to tell us that a regular flow of mail, email, phone calls, personal contact and social media is what they’re looking for.
  • Don’t forget our golden rule. Our expanding research on social media has produced one very important rule that this generation seems to gravitate around: There are different rules and comfort levels for different prospects. Here’s what that means. Some of your recruits will have no problem with the admissions staff communicating with them by following them or sending a direct message on social media. Others however have a greater need for privacy and don’t want you to venture into this part of their world. My advice: Ask each prospect what they’d be okay with. Keep it simple and let them know why you’re asking that question. Explain that you want to communicate with them the way they want to be communicated with. You might be surprised how much they will appreciate that.
  • Less news, facts, and figures. We continue to see colleges and admissions departments use their Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines to primarily post school press releases. There’s also a group that relies heavily on facts, figures, and statistics. If your school falls into either of these categories you should know that you run the risk of boring your recruits early on. A mix of these with more personalized posts is fine, but using social media to pass along news or brag about rankings won’t consistently sell your prospects on your school.
  • More visual behind the scenes content. The social media content that we see working best is visual, normal everyday stuff that you probably take for granted. By visual I’m referring to pictures and videos. These capture the attention of your prospects and their short attention span better than text. Go ahead and showcase the personality of your campus and the student body. The more relaxed and uncut the better. Encourage student-generated content, especially around school traditions. Those genuine interactions and images are powerful and can help create an emotional connection that is hard to accomplish over the phone or through a letter with your recruits.
  • Come up with creative and attention getting headlines. Remember that short attention span I referenced? If your headline or post isn’t east to read visually or worded the way that your prospects want it, they’ll just tune you out. Create a headline that makes a statement and offers the reader an idea of where you’re going and what’s in it for them.
  • Post consistently. The worst thing you can do is create social media accounts and then post randomly. What message do you think it conveys to a prospect or his or her parents if they search for you or your school on social media only to discover there hasn’t been a post in over a month? If social media content is to aid in your recruitment it’s important to post consistently. That consistency will build recognition and memorability. (If you want to know how often the research says you should post on the various social media platforms, click here)

Social media should be an important part of any effective recruiting communication plan for admissions. It’s free, simple, and it’s the future of communicating effectively with your prospects in conjunction with the right mix of letters, emails, and phone calls.

If you have questions about any of this feel free to email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

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