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Advice On Talking About Cost With Prospects and ParentsTuesday, November 29th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

You and I both know that talking about paying for college is a stressful and complex topic for most families.

In our focus group recruiting surveys on college campuses across the country, we ask freshmen students which of the following three things was “most stressful” for them during the college search process – Thinking/talking about paying for college, filling out applications, or waiting for decision letters/emails. The number one answer every single time (close to a 70% overall average) is thinking/talking about paying for college.

Unfortunately I continue to both read and hear a lot of stories about college and university admissions counselors waiting until their school’s financial aid packages are distributed before starting a real conversation with a family about cost…unless you count sending out reminders to fill out the FAFSA and other aid forms (which I don’t, and neither should you).

So, if you’re not sure where to begin, or you’re willing to consider a different approach, let me share with you some strategies that we’ve seen work over the past year that you should think about putting to use with families of this current recruiting class.

  • Start the conversation early. Too many counselors do the exact opposite. They avoid talking about cost until a family brings it up in conversation mainly because, they tell us, they’re worried it will lead to an objection.  Your ability to clearly explain the process early on will lead to a greater comfort level and a lot less questions down the road when you try to convert those admitted students. I would also recommend that initially you have separate conversations with students and parents about cost and financial aid, not the parents and your prospect together at once. It’s a sensitive topic, and we’ve found that when a school does it this way, both conversations end up being more productive.
  • Ask the parents what kinds of challenges this process creates for them. That type of question is one of the effective questions that I recommend to admissions teams when I lead an on-campus training workshop.  You need to understand what obstacles the subject of cost creates when it comes to considering your school.  By engaging the parents in that conversation, you’ll help them connect the dots which is something they value.
  • Focus on what you can offer them instead of what you can’t. Our ongoing focus group research also continues to show that more often than not, multiple other factors rank ahead of “being more affordable than other schools” in terms of their importance of influencing your prospect’s final decision.  The “feel” of your campus, how your admissions staff and students treat them on their campus visit, the perception of the college as a whole, and other non-monetary factors play a huge part in the final decision.  Are you directing your conversation with your prospects back to those factors?
  • Be their guide and always keep them in the loop. I’ve talked numerous times in previous articles about how important transparency is with this generation of students (and parents). The college selection process is confusing and stressful. Both you and your admissions colleagues need to be their guides from start to finish. Be sure and reiterate key dates and deadlines well in advance. If you want to avoid “sticker shock,” explain to them how the bottom-line total is calculated and why that’s the important number to remember. Also, try and touch on how a financial aid offer might change in years two, three, and four as well as how your school can help them manage their student debt. Don’t just pass these things off to your financial aid office. I want you to strive to be an honest guide who makes the details easy to understand. If you do that, you’ll quickly gain their trust.
  • Be prepared to provide detailed student outcomes. You can’t expect a family to commit to taking on any sort of debt unless you can provide a detailed outline of the potential return on their investment. For example, if the student wants to major in business, show them how many graduates have been produced by your school as well as where those recent alumni live and work and what they earn on average in the first few years after graduation. A detailed account like that will help prove your school’s value in easy to understand dollars and sense terms.
  • Understand that they might have the money, but they don’t know if they want to spend it on your school. When a family talks about not being able to afford your school, remember that in some cases they can afford it, they just haven’t decided that they want to. Ask yourself what would happen if a bigger, prestigious brand name school with a perceived higher academic reputation entered the picture for your prospect and offered the exact same financial aid package. Chances are that family would find a way to “make it work” financially. Just remember that more often than not your prospect has the money, they just aren’t sure yet if they want to spend it on your school. It’s your job to consistently and creatively find ways to get them to justify the expense and why it’s worth the investment.
  • Collaborate with your school’s financial aid staff. The days of directing all “money” questions to your financial aid office are quickly coming to an end. If you haven’t already done some cross training with the folks in financial aid, now is the time. You need to understand what financial aid officers look for and how they make their decisions. Be able to navigate your school’s financial aid website because if you can’t do it, you can guarantee your prospects won’t be able to either. Cultivating these relationships will make a tangible difference. Remember that both offices are working towards the same goal of enrolling those “best fit” students.

At the end of the day there will be times when, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to overcome the reality that some families just cannot afford your school without taking on what they consider significant financial debt.

I’m confident, though, if you start the conversation earlier and focus more on the value of your institution and not the dollar amount, you’ll avoid a lot of confusion and frustration by your prospects and their parents.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this week’s article. If you’ve got a question about any aspect of student recruitment, let’s schedule a time to connect. All you have to do is email me directly at: jeremy@dantudor.com

Admissions VIP Extra: November 29, 2016Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

How to Make a Better Recruiting Argument: by Jeremy Tiers

Every time you recruit a student you’re making an argument.

You make an argument that they should visit your campus.  You make an argument that they should fill out your application.  And, some of you make an argument as to why they should pay more to attend your school.

Here’s the problem: Many of you “argue” with your prospects, and their parents, from your point of view.

You have deadlines to meet, applications to get completed, and so on and so forth.  As a result, many of you get so wrapped up in the procedure that your school uses to recruit students that you forget one important aspect of the recruiting and decision-making process – Your prospect usually doesn’t care about your school’s process.

Ask yourself, “How often am I arguing from my point of view, rather than empathetically from my prospect’s point of view”?

It’s not about just sharing what you believe. It’s about what the listener (your prospect) believes.

Here’s a simple three step plan for you to revamp pretty much any argument, recruiting pitch, or conversation with your prospect:

Define what you want to tell them from your point of view. Before you can react with empathy, you need to narrow down what exactly it is that you want to tell your prospect. Be specific.

Reverse sides – How is your prospect going to hear your argument? I want you to think worst case scenario here.  What’s the least positive way your prospect would hear what you’re telling them?

Now redesign your argument that takes your prospect’s point of view into account. Any argument, recruiting message, or sales pitch you’re hoping to make needs to focus on “what’s in it for them”.  Nothing to do with your school’s priorities, deadlines or process…everything to do with their perspective, hopes, dreams and fears.


If Your Recruiting Communications Plan Doesn’t Do These Two Things…Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

ncrc3by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…then I think you’re making student recruitment harder than it needs to be.

Throughout the year we’re constantly reviewing comm. flow plans and individual pieces for clients and non-clients alike. When Mackenzie Mulligan (TCS Communications Director) and I compare notes, there are usually two consistent themes – the emails and letters inform but don’t encourage engagement (outside of apply or visit), and there’s an overall lack of continuity.

One of the follow up questions I ask the admissions and/or marketing and communications leadership is, “What do you want a letter or email that you send to a prospective student to do”?

The answers I get most often sound something like:

  • “We want to give them information about our school”
  • “We want it to help them move to that next step”

Both answers are good and make sense, but I think there’s an even better strategy that you should employ. It’s a simple, yet highly effective approach that we help our clients execute on a weekly basis.

When we create our clients’ personalized recruiting plans and messages, we always aim to get them a response to the email or letter, and to have that communication set up the next message.

Here’s why both of those strategies are vital to any effective recruiting campaign:

  • Generate a reply. The point of an email or letter shouldn’t just be to inform and convince a prospect to choose your school based on what’s written in that one communication.  That’s not realistic. It’s also unrealistic to expect a prospective student to take a big step like apply or visit campus without having some consistent interaction with you or someone in your admissions office first, during which a comfort level is created. That’s why the focus of each of your written communications should be to generate a response from your prospect, be it via email, text, or a phone call. I would even encourage you to specify the response you want.  Without that response, you can’t expect to truly understand your prospect’s overall mindset or their opinion (positive or negative) on the information that you just sent them.
  • Set up the next message.  One of the biggest findings that resulted from our research study on how today’s prospective students make their final decision was the importance of the prospect knowing what to do next throughout the process.  When you send an inquiry, a prospect, or an admitted student an email or a letter, make sure that you let them know what’s coming next.  In other words, a message that goes out next week should set up an expectation that another communication is following in the coming days.  Your recruit should be expecting the next step, not wondering when it will come.  And as I mentioned at the very beginning, your recruitment emails and letters need to connect with each other and provide a continual flow.

It’s imperative to establish this system as early in the recruitment process as possible.

Now I’m going to ask you to do something small for me that will actually benefit you. Take 15 minutes over Thanksgiving break and review some of your most recent emails and letters. As you’re looking them over, I want you to ask yourself:

  • Are they too formal?
  • Are they just a bunch of facts, figures, and fluff?
  • Is there one big idea in them and not three or four?
  • Are they prompting the right kind of engagement from recruits (and parents)?
  • Is there a continuous flow in what’s being sent?

I promise you the answers to those questions will tell you whether or not you currently have a high probability of keeping your recruit’s attention, and successfully recruiting them.

If you’d like an outside perspective on your comm. flow plan or some feedback on a few of your individual emails and letters, email me at jeremy@dantudor.com. I’m here to help.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Anticipation As a Student Recruitment StrategyTuesday, November 15th, 2016

christmasanticipateby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

There are just over 40 days left until Christmas. Sorry, but my 7-year old daughter decided to start the countdown this past weekend. She came across a toy that she wants, and now she’s full of anticipation.

If you’ve got kids, or even a young niece or nephew, you know that the thought of toys and other presents under the Christmas tree can almost be too much for them to handle. That anticipation can really be a powerful thing. Much like it does during the holiday season with my daughter, it can change our emotions and our way of thinking.

Which brings me to your current student recruitment strategy. Are you using anticipation? The reason we talk about the importance of creating a “feeling” in the stories that you tell prospective students is because they rely on those emotions to make their final decision just about every time.  I know it isn’t always the smartest way to choose a college, but according to our ongoing research, there’s little doubt that it occurs on a regular basis across the country.

That means building anticipation, and understanding the components of why it’s such a powerful force, should be something that you aim to do in all of your recruiting messages.

Here’s how you can do that:

  • Your prospect will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message.  This is a foundational strategy that we use when we create our clients’ monthly recruiting message campaigns. Your emails and letters should be ongoing and sequential. One message should set up the next message…and so on, and so on.  Too many communication plans that we’re asked to review contain singular messages that try to cram every key point about a certain topic into one email or letter. The result is something that feels pieced together, is way too long, and overwhelms and bores the reader. Instead, focus on breaking up those longer messages into shorter, easier to digest stories that build into the next message rather than answer every single question right away. At the end of your email or letter you could say something like, “Keep an eye out for a letter from me next week”, or “I’m getting ready to send you more information about this soon”.  Create that anticipation.
  • Your prospect will anticipate that next phone call from you if you exceed their expectations.  Too often admissions counselors jeopardize future phone calls with a prospect when they fall back on the same tired, boring, run-of-the-mill conversation points that students tell us they dread: “How was school this week?”, “Do you have any big plans this weekend?”, “What music are you listening to these days?”…You get the picture. When you have a one-on-one conversation with your prospect, you need to have a plan to engage and amaze them if you want to keep positive anticipation on your side.  Much of that begins and ends with the types of questions that you ask. Whatever you choose to discuss with them, make sure you’re providing value and creating excitement and anticipation during their conversation with you.
  • Your prospect will anticipate coming to campus if they’ve been given a sneak peek at what awaits them.  If you want your prospect to take time out of their busy schedule and visit your campus, you have to provide them with a concrete reason why. Why should they look forward to walking around campus, or touring the dorms, or eating in the dining hall or attending a campus event? Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that anticipation in the minds of your prospects when it comes to the idea of committing to a campus visit.  Even students that have applied for admission will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own or a picture that you’ve painted for them over a period of time.

Let me add one more thing. Since I started this article with a reference to Christmas and presents under the tree, think for a second about what happens after they open the presents. There’s almost an immediate “crash”.  The anticipation and excitement disappears quickly, and all that’s left is a pile of toys and a ton of wrapping paper and empty boxes scattered across the room. Sound familiar?

I want you anticipate that “crash”.  For example, that means after they visit campus you need to anticipate that they will need a clear picture of what the next step in the process is in order to maintain their focus and excitement about your school. Otherwise, the anticipated now becomes the familiar, and they’ll search out a new source of anticipation and excitement…like say a competitor who entered the picture late thanks to the fact that your prospect’s friend is having such an enjoyable recruiting experience with that school.

Your job is to manage their recruitment experience and continue to build that anticipation in their mind from start to finish.

How Transparent Are You With Prospects and Parents?Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I’m really excited about this week’s admissions newsletter! In addition to my article on transparency during the student recruitment process, I’ve also included links to terrific pieces written by my good friends Amber Rich and John Brubaker. You’ll find those right below this article, so check them out after you’re done reading my latest offering…here we go.

I’ve had enough of the election commercials. Seriously, thank goodness they’re just about over. My biggest gripe might be the same as yours. I feel like from the Presidential election down to my local races, instead of answering a question about policy or a mistake they may have made, the candidates just resort back to criticizing the other candidates(s). Everybody has done a bad job of being transparent. One CNN senior reporter has even called this national election, “the no-transparency election”.

We respect transparency. It matters in the political arena, and for you, it’s extremely important throughout the student recruitment process. The more colleges I visit, and the more students and parents I talk to, the more I see how crucial it is for all college admissions team members to be 100% genuine and honest in the way he or she approaches a prospect…not 85%, or 95%, or even 98%, it needs to be 100%. That applies for the leadership all the way down to the student tour guides and workers.

Here’s another example. Think about the last time you booked a plane ticket or bought concert tickets online. Was it annoying to arrive at the last page and then discover the extra taxes and fees that were added on to your final price? Been there, done that.

Too many schools speak vaguely, or worse they complicate, exaggerate, and yes believe it or not some even lie when they discuss things like cost and the overall “student experience” on their campus. That’s not me telling you that. Improved transparency is one of the big things your students continue to tell us that they feel you need to improve on as you communicate with this next class of students. In fact, here are a handful of recent student quotes from our focus group research that touch on common complaints:

“Please give detailed, well-explained information. If I didn’t have a sibling who attended <XYZ College>, we would have had no idea about anything like financial aid.”

“Constant communication with parent and student is a must.”

“Contact more, and do more explaining so the incoming class has a better idea on what to expect.”

“Admissions counselors should continue to provide honest information to students and their parents.”

“If you don’t know the answer to something just be honest and say that.”

“Faster responses, more communication with the financial aid, and transparency between the department and the prospective student.”

“Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it is helpful to hear the issues that the school is working to improve. It shows a humble honesty, as well as shows that the school is interested in continuously improving itself.”

So, instead of being scared by transparency, be willing to embrace it as a way to improve customer service and increase customer loyalty. If you’re on board with that line of thinking, here are some ideas you might consider:

  • At every turn encourage students and parents to provide you with feedback. If you’re truly trying to help your prospects find the school that’s the “right fit” for them, you should always want and encourage them to provide you with feedback. Even if it’s something negative about your school or something that they wish they could change after they’ve visited your campus, tell them early in the process that you’re okay with that, and explain your reason why. Remind them that you know the college search process is about them, and you’re here to help in any way.
  • Explain the WHY. A lot of people ask somebody to do something for them without offering an explanation or a “because”. Why should they visit your campus and not the competition across town? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the new FAFSA right now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should they set up a time to meet with their high school guidance counselor and ask about outside scholarships that might be available to them? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is you’re asking them to do. (Hint: Your WHY should explain how it will benefit them)
  • Give them inside access. Here’s a strategy that I recommended to a client last year as a way to help develop trust early on while also demonstrating transparency. Give them inside access to something or some process that you know they’re wondering about that very few schools discuss. For example, during the campus tour or high school visit, replace your information session for students or your usual speech with an inside look at how your campus helps freshmen make the transition from high school to college smoothly. Be specific about the programs in place and the activities that occur on your campus.
  • Hand over your social media accounts to your students. Too many colleges and universities continue to offer “forced and fake” instead of “real and raw” when it comes to social media. Prospective students can tell 10 times out of 10 when an admissions staff member posts something on your Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram account. Your students tell us that they want to see what’s happening on your campus from the student vantage point and not just what the admissions office wants them to see. Create and encourage student-generated content, especially around school traditions. Those genuine interactions and images are powerful and can help create an emotional connection.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your negatives. When there’s a big negative about your school that you’re consistently running into, you have two choices: You can avoid talking about it and hope that your prospect doesn’t see or hear about it from somewhere else. Or, you can own it. And, you can define it for them. I strongly encourage you to talk about your negatives with prospects and parents. Say, for example, that your college is located in a small town with little to do. Don’t hide from that fact, own it…and then explain why your students love their college experience and actually view your size as a positive. Also, show confidence in the way you explain it to them so that they see you aren’t worried about it.
  • Stop using admissions/EM jargon. You cannot expect teenagers and parents who have not gone through the admissions process before to be aware of the technical terms in your industry. What do “highly selective” and “holistic” really mean? How about terms like articulation, early action/decision, grant aid and need-blind? Furthermore, acronyms like FAFSA, EFC and COA also shouldn’t be used without a full explanation in order to make sure that you are on the same page with your prospects and their parents.
  • Listen to them. Many customer complaints boil down to the fact that no one listens to them. Your goal should be to get and keep two-way communication throughout the recruitment process. You don’t need to “sell” at every turn. When you listen, it lets your prospects and their parents know that someone is trying to make their experience better.

If your prospects and their parents come to trust you and your institution through transparency, they’ll be far more forgiving if and when you make a mistake.

I would also add that even though this article focused on recruitment strategies, don’t forget that transparency can significantly improve the culture within your office. The more informed colleagues and staff members are, the more invested they will be.

As always, thanks for your attention! And if you’ve got a question about transparency or another aspect of student recruitment, let’s talk. Email me directly at: jeremy@dantudor.com

Right After They Visit Campus You Should Be…Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…(Fill in the blank). If I asked you what those next few words should be, what would you tell me? What do you think your admissions team, specifically counselors, should be doing right after a prospective student visits your campus?

I’m asking you this question because in my conversations with admissions directors and counselors this fall, many of them have told me that while they put a ton of time and energy into getting a student to visit campus and making sure the visit goes well, very little time is actually spent on developing a post-visit strategy…and by post-visit strategy I’m not talking about sending a “thank you for visiting” note. There’s more to it than that.

Too many admissions counselors tend to slip into the mindset that once a prospect has completed their visit to campus, all of the prospect’s questions have been answered.

Our research continues to show that your prospect has a completely different mindset after their campus visit than they do both before and during.

That means what you say to them after they visit, and the types of questions that you ask them, can not only help set you apart from your competition, but it can provide you with some of the best information possible during a critical point in the recruitment process.

In many cases, your prospect is ready to reveal all kinds of new information about their timeline as well as new feelings (both likes and dislikes) they may have following their visit to your campus…but only if you ask them the right kinds of “effective questions”.

Now, you might be wondering when I say right after do I mean immediately after the walking tour before they leave campus, or am I referring to that first week following their visit? It depends. Recruiting is situational. You know that, and I know that. And because that’s the case, you’re going to have to rely on your instincts in terms of when to ask certain questions after the campus visit.

For example, if you’ve had all of the following: consistent back and forth conversations with a prospect, it’s the second time they’ve visited your campus in the past 12-15 months, they clearly demonstrate a high level of excitement on the visit, and you’re able to speak 1-on-1 with them after the tour/meetings. Then, you should be a little more aggressive with your questions before they depart campus.

On the other hand, if it’s a new inquiry or prospect that you just started communicating with in the past 4-6 weeks and it’s a big group setting during the visit, and they haven’t said much to you or anyone else during their time on campus, you should give them a few days to process everything before following up and asking some of the questions I’m about to recommend to you. Do however go ahead and set up a follow-up phone call with them before they leave campus.

Here are some examples of “effective questions” that we’ve recommended to our clients that have produced valuable, usable information (both positive and negative). Again, let me reiterate that recruiting is situational and that should dictate the types of questions you ultimately ask.

Questions you might ask your prospect:

  • Can you walk me through what happens next for you?
  • What are two or three things that you wish you could change about our campus now that you’ve seen it?
  • What did your parents say about the visit during your trip home?
  • Do you feel like there’s something you’re going to try and pay attention to better on your visit to another school?
  • Did your visit to our school change anything about your timeline?
  • Are you planning to visit any other colleges right now?
  • What do you think the best part about living on our campus would be?
  • If you came back for another visit here, what would you want to see or experience again?
  • What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?
  • What do we need to talk about before you will consider taking that next step? (Ex. applying)
  • What do you want to see us talk about next?
  • Are you feeling like you’re ready to commit to our school?

Questions you might ask the parents:

  • What advice did you give _____ after the visit?
  • What did you talk about the most as a family on the way home?
  • As his/her parent, what were the big positives that stuck out to you about your visit to our campus?
  • If _____ ended up picking another college, why do you think that would be now that you’ve visited our campus?
  • What surprised you the most about our campus?
  • As his/her parent, what do you see as the next step in the decision making process?

If you need clarification on any of these questions, just email me at jeremy@dantudor.com

Each one of them holds the possibility of really giving you some valuable insights into how your prospects and parents are viewing, not only your institution, but for that matter you. Based on their answers, you can then develop what your next set of actions with that prospect and family needs to be.

Good luck!

P.S. If you have an effective question that works really well would you mind emailing it to me?

P.P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your colleagues and friends

Are You Making These Recruiting Mistakes? (Ask Yourself Today)Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

She took a big step. Scratch that, I think she took an enormous step, and I was excited to be a small part of it! Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Earlier this year we partnered with this particular admissions counselor and the rest of her admissions team. During my individual meeting with her as a part of our on-campus workshop this summer she admitted to me that she was an introvert. I asked her then if she felt like her personality impacted the way she recruits. She didn’t have an answer and she said it wasn’t a big deal. I encouraged her to think more about it, and then I did what I always do…which is the same thing I do for you every Tuesday at the bottom of this newsletter – I gave out my cell number and told her to feel free to connect with me at any time.

Fast forward to this past week when I received an unscheduled and unexpected call from that counselor, who by the way I hadn’t spoken with since my visit to campus. Her first words to me were, “Jeremy, I’ve finally got an answer for you and yes it’s a problem”.

She proceeded to tell me that this fall she’s really had a hard time getting any sort of engagement during her high school visits and college fairs. One night in her hotel room she was catching up on email and just happened to come across my most recent admissions newsletter. She told me it triggered a memory from our conversation during the summer, and that was enough to push her to schedule some time to talk about things with her Director when she returned to campus. What ensued was an important discussion between the two of them about self-awareness.

Being able to accept that you struggle at or with something is hard for many of us to admit. So is breaking a bad habit or admitting that there might be a better strategy or solution than the one you’re currently using.

Building on that, today I thought it would be beneficial for you if I shared some common recruiting mistakes that I see a lot of admissions professionals continuing to make right now. And while not being self-aware isn’t on this list, it’s definitely something that I want you to think about.

Here are seven other things on my list:

  1. Interrupting. Stop interrupting prospects, parents, high school counselors and other people you come in contact with every day. Even if you think you know what the other person is going to tell you, have the courtesy to hear them out and let them express their point of view. Listen first; talk second when someone else engages with you.
  2. Selling too fast. Too many of you are in a rush to skip steps and just try to push the student to the next stage of the process. Slow down. You’re moving faster than your prospect most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for meeting department goals, but would you believe me if I told you that I’m confident you’ll get more applications and campus visits when you slow down the sales process? Build the relationship first; sell your school later, especially in the early stages with a new prospect or inquiry. Take the time to ask probing questions like where the student and family are at in the college search process, and who else is going to be involved in the decision. When you slow down the conversation you’ll have more time to demonstrate why your school is the best fit for their needs.
  3. Not recruiting the whole family. For the past six months or so I’ve been mentioning in article after article why you need to start the conversation with family members, namely parents, earlier. Stop waiting until the financial aid discussion to connect with them and create dialogue. It’s a big reason why you’re not converting as many admits as you’d like. Create a long-term plan to develop a relationship with, and recruit, a prospect’s family. In addition to parents, that can also extend to siblings and grandparents.
  4. Giving up too easily on prospects that don’t reply right away.  Just because a new prospect or inquiry doesn’t respond to your early letters and emails doesn’t mean your messages aren’t making an impact. Some experts contend that a consumer won’t take action on something until he or she has been a part of your campaign 7 times. Others say that 20 is the magic number. Sure, there’s always a time to move on, but too many counselors give up too easily on students before exploring all of the different communication avenues.
  5. Making phone calls that don’t have a purpose.  You need to have a game plan for your recruiting phone calls.  Dan (Tudor) and I talk in detail about that during our on-campus workshops. Getting through your list is great…but how many of those conversations are actually helping you move the needle in your favor? Successful phone calls have a plan of attack. Key pieces of that plan need to be asking really good questions, gaining usable information for future calls and messages, and setting up the next phone call or communication.
  6. Making excuses. Particularly when it comes to responding to emails in a timely fashion or inputting your notes into your CRM so that if you’re out of the office and a colleague has to deal with one of your students, he or she can quickly and easily get up to speed. Stop trying to find reasons why you can’t get these and other critical things done, and instead focus on finding a solution or figuring out a way to manage your time more effectively.
  7. Not understanding how to “close the deal”.  You have to keep asking the right questions.  You have to keep gauging the prospect’s interest.  You have to seek out and effectively handle objections. You have to get those “little yeses” I’ve talked about before. No matter how good of a position you think you’re in with a student you should never just sit back, wait, and hope they choose you.  The really good admissions counselors continue to develop their relationship with their recruit, and do so in such a way that furthers their connection with you and your institution.

Are you making any of these common mistakes? Are there one or two other areas in your approach that need some tweaking and adjusting?  E-mail me at jeremy@dantudor.com and let’s discuss what we can do together to fix the mistakes that might be hurting you in your recruiting efforts.

Determining If Your Prospect’s Objection Is RealTuesday, October 18th, 2016

NCRC1by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

They usually come up earlier rather than later – “Your campus is too small”, “It’s too close to home, and I already know everything”, “The food options aren’t great”,”The weather stinks”. The list goes on and on.

Your prospects list objections as to why your school isn’t going to be the right fit for them. Sometimes, they’re right. Much of the time they’re wrong. And I think the reason they’re wrong most of the time is because you haven’t corrected them about the common misconceptions that exist about your school.

Objections are okay…in fact I would argue you should actually seek out what a prospective student doesn’t like about your school. When was the last time a prospect or parent didn’t have any objections, hesitations or arguments with you about your school?

There’s an often overlooked secret that college admissions counselors tend to ignore when it comes to seeking out and overcoming their prospects’ objections.

The secret involves listening. I mean really listening.

Why is that so important?

Easy: If your prospect’s objection is real, they will usually repeat that objection more than once during your conversation.  That’s a big indicator that whatever the objection is, it’s real…and it needs to be overcome before you can expect your prospect to take the next step and move closer towards any kind of commitment to you and your institution.

When you listen closely and let your prospect talk out their feelings without interruption, you’ll also be able to determine if your prospect is stalling. Recognizing “stalls” is a skill that you need to develop. Stalling by your prospect usually indicates that they’re objecting to something, and they want you to explain why they should think differently.

If you think your prospect might be stalling, and you want to uncover a real objection, try using some questions like these:

  • “<Prospect name>, you’ve told me that you’re having a problem with _________, but I get the feeling you might actually have something else on your mind. What could that be?”
  • “Usually when a student tells me that, it means that they (objection). Is that the case with you?”
  • “I find that a lot of students have a question about (objection). Is that something that’s on your mind?”

Those three questions have helped our clients determine whether a prospect is really objecting to something or just stalling. I encourage you to try them out.

Overcoming objections is a key factor in successful recruiting. That’s why we’re making sure admissions staffs that take part in our On-Campus Workshops are getting the best training possible when it comes to overcoming objections. Whether you get training from us or another resource, learning to overcome objections is vital for your admissions career.

Last thing today: I’ve got an important question for you – I want to know what objection your admissions team is dealing with the most this fall.  Email me that objection right now…and as always thank you for your time and attention!

How to Make the Most of All Those New Prospect NamesTuesday, October 11th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

As your admissions team navigates through college fairs and high school visits I’m sure everyone has been accumulating plenty of new names to add to your database.

A popular question I’m asked this time of year goes something like, “How do we get these new students excited enough that they complete our application?”

That early impression, specifically the first one after a college fair or school visit, is something you don’t get a second chance to make. How are you going to begin creating those feelings that convince a new prospect (namely a high school senior or transfer) to take the next step in the process with your school?

Here are some things I want you to keep in mind as you begin communicating with those new prospects. To be clear, I’m not just talking about the letters and emails that you’ll be sending out.  Your follow-up, ongoing communication over these next few weeks will be almost equally, if not more, important.  Why?  Your new prospects are looking to see who contacts them consistently early on. In their minds this is a strong indicator of just how serious you and your school are about them.

If you want to make all those new prospects and inquiries count…

  • Deliver that first communication right away. Don’t start your recruiting relationship off on the wrong foot. There needs to be a system in place to get those new names into your system quickly. If that’s not happening right now you need to make changes, and fast.  Sending a new prospect their first communication in a timely fashion is extremely important. You also need to determine what type of communication you’re going to send. In most cases, we recommend our clients send a first contact letter instead of an email. It’s a tangible, safe interaction and one that our research finds effective.
  • Limit the selling.  This isn’t new advice, but rather a reminder, if you want to experience early reach-out success. Take it easy on all of the statistics about your school. Our research shows that prospects aren’t interested in being “sold” on your school right away. In fact, you can’t realistically do that in a first email, letter or phone call, so don’t try. The goal of your first contact or two should be finding out as much as possible about how the prospective student sees himself or herself going through the college search process.  Avoid asking them what other colleges they’re considering or which schools they’re most excited about at this point. Too much, too soon…that’s what your prospects tell us.
  • Tell them what you like about them (and be specific).  That’s the top thing young people want to know right away.  It’s also something that your competition probably isn’t doing, so you’ll stand out. Why do you think they’ll have no problem fitting in at your school? How can your school help prepare them for success after graduation? Those are the questions that you need to answer for your prospect early on.
  • Stay consistent. Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every six to nine days through a variety of communication methods.  If you don’t do this you risk inconsistent recruiting results. Our research solidly 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 make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.  Those feelings are what you should want your prospects to feel.
  • Come up with more effective questions.  As we’ve discussed before, your prospects are nervous or in many cases scared to have a conversation with you…especially early on. If you want to change that then don’t ask questions like, “What do you want in a college?” That’s a question that gets a vanilla, untrue answer much of the time. Instead, ask them to walk you through how they’re going to make their college decision or ask them who else they’ll be leaning on to help them make their decision. The better the questions, the greater chance you have of connecting with your prospect, understanding their mindset, and ultimately coming up with a strategy to successfully recruit them.
  • Create curiosity. We frequently remind our clients about the importance of crafting a message or ending a phone call with unanswered questions, especially early in the process.  You want to create curiosity and prompt them to want more interaction from you…something that makes them want to go to the next step in their communication with you.  Ask yourself, “Am I creating curiosity when I talk with new prospects?”  (Hint: Creating curiosity is done by giving less information, not more).
  • Have a call to action. A call to action is what gets them to respond to you.  You need to tell your prospects what to do and how to do it.  Want them to call or email you?  Tell them that very clearly.  Tell them when to call, and let them know what you want to talk about.  Want them to reply to your email?  Be crystal clear on when to reply and what information to include. Not consistently having a clear call to action is the number one reason most communication flow plans fail. I’d also strongly recommend that you avoid asking new prospects to visit campus or complete your application in those first couple of contacts. When you do that it jumps several spaces ahead on their recruiting game board, and you risk coming off as disingenuous and too hurried according to our research. You need to build to that point. Only bring it up once you have either a) spent two or three conversations asking them questions and getting to know them, or b) they bring it up (that would apply to their parents as well).

Communication with new prospects and inquiries should result in one thing at the start of the recruiting process – a response. Your specific goal when a new student enters the funnel over the first few weeks should be creating an environment where they feel comfortable enough to communicate back and forth with you.

If you feel like you’re off to a slow start with this recruiting class, we can help. You’ll start to see a difference immediately after you implement our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program…just ask our clients. Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com to learn more.

Recruiting Reminders During My Daughter’s Campus TourMonday, October 10th, 2016

College visit picYour perspective on effective recruiting techniques always reach a new level when you experience it personally, through the eyes of one of your children.

My daughter is a high school junior, and we took her to visit a college for the first time yesterday.

Statistics, research, and all the data we accumulate for college coaches and admissions departments is important, of course. But as we always teach, these decisions are about feelings. And perceptions. Or misconceptions.

And all of those things are defined, on purpose or by accident, by the individuals leading a visit and the tour of campus.

Now, let me just say, the college staff was organized, friendly, knowledgeable, and generally put on a terrific day. Still, it was interesting to listen to other parents and kids going through the visit, as well as the comments from the prospective students on the visit. And there were several good reminders of what anyone showcasing a college should be doing to effectively reach this generation of teenager – and their parents:

Parents are running the show. We have a pretty long article history of outlining our research and advice when it comes to incorporating the parents of your recruit into the process. That was on full display as I walked around campus with other families. Parents were leading discussions, prompting their kids with the right questions to ask, and generally handling all of the tougher topics related to choosing a campus. And, as our focus group testing has shown in the last several years, the kids were fine with that happening; they were looking for their parents to provide direction and help them make decisions about whether or not that particular school would be a good fit for them. So, as we continually ask, how are you incorporating the parents into the recruiting conversation, and giving them a lead role in the decision-making process?

The more crowded the visit, the less effective the emotional connection. Let me say first that large group visits on big recruiting weekends are sometimes unavoidable. One of your recruits in a large group on your campus versus no recruit on your campus? No contest, get the recruit there. However, I was reminded again how hard it is to emotionally connect to a place (or to a coach, or a new group of friends on campus) in a large recruiting visit or tour group. There were parts of the visit that were crowded, difficult to hear the guide, or see everything there was to see. And it didn’t prompt many in-depth, personal questions from those of us attending (most families don’t want to interrupt the flow of the tour with the questions they really want to ask, based on our research). Again, that’s no fault of the organizers, it was just a byproduct of the numbers in attendance. My recommendation? Aim for as many one-on-one visits as possible. They have the highest closing percentage rates, and give your recruits the best overall emotional connections that you need them to experience.

Go deep with your questions. Speaking of parents and your visiting prospects not wanting to answer your questions in big groups during a tour: It’s up to you to take your upper-tier prospects aside at some point during the visit, and ask them questions. Deep, probing questions. It was striking to hear, towards the end of the tour and visit day, how many parents were talking with each other about the questions they had that they needed to investigate further – even though they had college representatives standing ten feet away. Why? It wasn’t the right setting. Had they been taken aside privately and asked questions about their experience, what hurdles they saw as a part of the process, and other decision related issues. Unless you focus on 1) creating a private, one-on-one setting, and 2) asking questions that require deep answers, don’t expect to take most recruiting experiences to the next level. They need you to lead them.

Talk about money as soon as possible. One of the most interesting observations of the day came in the general recruiting fair, where all of the different college departments had tables set up in order to answer questions. The table with the least amount of traffic? The college’s financial services table. Wait, you may ask, “if parents are so gung-ho on talking about money, why wasn’t that the most popular table at the fair?” Simple. Parents want to talk about their specific situations, privately, over an extended period of time. For athletes, they want that to be with their coach as often as possible – at least to kick off the conversation as a transition to speaking with someone else in financial aid (assuming you’re a non-Division I that isn’t offering a full athletic scholarship). The point is, parents are looking for financial definitions sooner, rather than later. Don’t disappoint.

Nothing is universal when it comes to how every single visiting recruit coming to campus is going to react to how your visit actually is produced. But there are some definite general rules we see being effective over and over again in the work that we do with our clients around the country. Use these four proven concepts as a starting point for re-evaluating how you execute your recruiting visits, and what needs to change to accommodate this new generation of prospective families visiting your campus.

Our staff works with college athletic departments, as well as admissions staffs, to help them communicate their recruiting message more effectively. We work with hundreds of programs around the nation, and have for the last decade. If you’re a coach or athletic director, contact Dan Tudor at dan@dantudor.com, and if you’re an admissions professional contact Jeremy Tiers at jeremy@dantudor.com.

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