by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Like many of you, I just finished my fall travel season. Last week’s admissions training workshop was my final one until the New Year.
A big part of every workshop I do is the individual meetings. I flat out love them. It’s an opportunity to meet one-on-one with the counselors, assistant directors and the director and provide them personalized training and direction based on their individual needs and experience.
One of the first questions, if not the first, that I always ask is, “You tell me, what can I help you with?” Inevitably the discussion topics vary based on a college’s location, institution type and the level of experience of the staff member. Needless to say, there’s a lot of great discussion and strategizing…usually to the point where I have to end the session because it goes past our scheduled time.
Today I’ve taken eleven of the most popular topics from those meetings and turned them into helpful reminders just for you. Each one is something that you can use right now (if you’re not already).
- Regardless of where the student is in the process you have to vigorously and continually cultivate a recruiting relationship with each recruit. It starts with understanding or remembering that different recruits have different problems and motivations. I have counselors tell me all the time that they understand the importance of personalizing the recruitment process…yet when I ask them to share some of the strategies they’ve come up with to do that, most times I get, “I’m still working on that part.” It’s your job to try and put yourself in each recruit’s shoes and develop a plan that will explain why your school is the right place for them to spend the next four years. Also, just because a prospect has applied and/or been admitted to your school doesn’t mean that you can ease up on developing that recruiting relationship and focus extra time on new inquiries or prospects who haven’t responded to your communications.
- Make sure you are communicating foundational, logical facts about your school to your prospect every six to nine days. Remember that those messages should be sequential and contain short, fact-based pieces of information with the goal of creating anticipation and engagement. Our research firmly indicates that when a prospect sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also feel valued. Your recruiting campaign should consist of a regular flow of letters, emails, phone calls, personal contact and social media. During those communications, make it a goal to write or speak in a conversational tone as if you’re talking to a friend.
- The reason why many of your inquiries/prospects aren’t paying attention at the start of the recruiting process is because they don’t know who you are. No, you don’t have to be famous, but you do have to be “known.” One of the simplest things you can do to become “known” to your recruits is be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many counselors just don’t pay attention to. In the way you communicate – the text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages – you need to make it easy for your recruit to actually reply to you. If that’s not happening with new names, it might mean that you aren’t “sounding” like you are easy to talk to. Which means they aren’t going to ever really get to know you.
- Leaving voicemails that get a response. How are you going to set your message apart from all of the other messages your prospect is receiving from your competitors? What are you really saying when you leave a prospect a voicemail? Anything worthwhile? Informative? Interesting? Or, is it the same old, “Hey, sorry I missed you, give me a call.” I want you to focus on creating curiosity by keeping your voicemail messages shorter – much shorter in fact. When you do that you avoid overloading your prospect with so much information that they lose track of what they’re supposed to do in replying to you. I’ll even go so far as to say that the less you tell them about why you’re calling them, the more likely it will be that they will call you to ask you for more information. We’ve recommended that strategy for years, and it works.
- Having more productive phone conversations when they do answer. Do you know what you’re going to talk about if your recruit answers the phone tonight, tomorrow or next week? I mean other than asking them how their day went, how school’s going, or if they’ve finished their application to your school. Your prospects tell us it’s questions like those that cause them not to want to pick up the phone when it rings. We find the best kind of questions right now should not be about declaring who their top school is or anything that pressures them to give you information about what they’re thinking. Instead, ask questions about their approach to the process or anything else that keeps the focus on them.
- You need to become the “go-to” counselor. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Your prospects (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good). There are huge benefits that come from being a resource for your prospects. For starters, it’s much easier to connect with them. If you connect with them, they’ll see you as someone they can trust. When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice. Does this sound like you right now?
- Time management. Let’s talk specifically about multi-tasking. Often many of us forget that there’s a limit to how many things we can do at once without taking away from the quality of our work. In fact, experts estimate that when you start and stop a task it can increase the time necessary to complete the task by as much as 500%. That’s why it is very important to focus on one task at a time. I understand that other things will come up throughout the day, however starting five different things and completing none of them isn’t an efficient use of your time. Instead, at the end of the work day, take your new list and prioritize things for the next day.
- The parents. We all know the important role that they play in their child’s decision-making process, yet many admissions professionals still don’t establish early contact with the parents. You need to be okay with talking to mom/dad in place of your prospect. They’ll almost always offer accurate, useful information that will help you in the weeks and months ahead. More importantly, when you call them, email them and ask them questions, they will view you as someone that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter.
- Campus visit follow-up. What you say to your prospects in the first week after they visit, and the information you ask them, can not only help set you apart from your competition, but it can yield some of the best information possible during a critical point in the recruiting process. Here are a couple quick examples that you can use to gain a deeper understanding of your prospect’s mindset:
What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?
What did you guys end up talking about the most on the way home?
- Handling objections. This will be an extremely important topic over the next couple of months. First, I want you to understand that you should want to hear objections from your prospects. Whenever I make that statement during a workshop I often get puzzled looks from some of the admissions staff. “You mean I want people to object to something about our campus or our school?” That is correct. An objection usually indicates that your prospect is actively listening and processing the information that they’re seeing or hearing from you. Your initial reaction and re-direction is key to keeping them listening to you.
- Don’t try and prove to your prospects that you want them. Prove to them why they should want you.
Want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these 11 things and how you can incorporate them successfully into your recruiting strategy? Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 612-386-0854.
I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends later this week!