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My Flight Cancellation Results In Key Advice for YouTuesday, January 17th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Often times, as I head off to lead a workshop with a college or university admissions department and their counselors, I have to deal with the inconvenience of flight delays and cancellations.

My most recent issue was a cancellation in Chicago due to air traffic control…at least that’s what the text message said that the airline sent me. No, “we’re sorry for the inconvenience”, or “here’s how we’re going to help you”. Instead, the text message told me to go to their website to select an available rebooking option, or call a representative and ask for assistance (which you and I both know means call and sit on hold for who knows how many minutes).

After sitting on hold with the airline for the entire time it took me to drive to the airport, I hung up, returned my rental car, and took my place in line with all the other frustrated customers.

In the midst of waiting for the airline representative to come up with my new itinerary, I overhead a mother and daughter (high school senior) standing in line behind me talking about rescheduling their college visit due to the same flight cancellation.

I decided to introduce myself, and we struck up a conversation about the college search process and how their experience was going.

In the 15 to 20 minutes I talked with them, they opened-up about some of their frustrations and also offered some observations about admissions counselors and the process in general.

While I’m not suggesting they speak for every prospective student/parent around the country, I do know this wasn’t the first time I’ve heard similar statements.

Here are three things worth mentioning:

  • They wanted to know what to do next, but no one was telling them.  The two of them had previously visited a couple of campuses. Each visit basically ended the same way with a “thanks for coming, call us if you have any questions”…and they made it clear to me that they had questions every single time, namely, what do we do next and how did that school’s process differ from other colleges they were considering? Nobody was outlining the process or telling either of them what was coming next. Lots of generalized “contact” from admissions counselors and student callers, very little direction.  I want you to be the counselor that outlines a plan and keeps your prospects updated on what’s coming next and what you want them to do next.  Ask your prospects, and their parents, to walk you through their timeline (as best they can).  Figure out how you can help them get from the start to the finish.
  • The student was tired of phone calls and emails that were boring. She was “so over” (her words not mine) counselors calling and emailing, “Hey, how’s it going”, or “Any big plans this weekend?” When I asked her what counselors should do, she told me that they needed to ask better questions that actually mean something to her and are interesting. The lesson?  This generation of students doesn’t just want a school to “check in” with them and waste their time. That doesn’t win points with them.  Have something to say, and show students that you’re reaching out to them for a reason.
  • The parent had all kinds of information about her daughter’s decision-making process that she was happy to share with colleges…if they would just ask. When I asked mom how many admissions counselors had reached out to either her or her husband, she said one. And she added that the one who did reach out literally called the house to let them know that they could fill out the FAFSA earlier than in past years. Let me say it again – If you haven’t connected yet with the parents of your prospects who are high school seniors (especially the ones of your admits), you’re making recruiting much harder than it needs to be. And when you do reach out to parents, not only do you need to ask the right questions, but be ready to prove how your college offers the best “bang for their buck”. How you communicate your value and what your school has to offer counts now more than ever.

Want to talk with me further about one or more of these bullet points? Is there something else that you could use help with right now? Connect with me via email today.

Admissions VIP Extra: January 17, 2017Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Don’t make this mistake with your admitted students: by Jeremy Tiers

Today I want to bring to your attention a common mistake that I see a lot of admissions professionals make later in the process that impacts yield in a negative way.

Too many admissions counselors shift their communication efforts into cruise control after a prospect is admitted.

If you’re having trouble coming up with things to talk to your admits about at this stage of the game then I’d wager you haven’t built a strong enough rapport yet.

Here’s one easy thing that you can start doing today that will make a difference:

Keep giving them reasons to pick your school. Your prospects crave direction. Even after they get admitted, they’re still looking for good reasons to ultimately choose your institution. Make sure you’re giving those to them. If you think you’re going to wait until an admitted student day event and then “close the deal” in one day or one weekend, you’re taking an awfully big risk. Like it or not, other colleges will continue to recruit them, and would it surprise you to know that admitted students have told us that they even start to consider new schools because they just aren’t 100% sure yet that they’ve found that “right fit?” You need to continue to clearly communicate reasons why your school is the obvious choice. Don’t just assume that they know.

8 Ways You Can Evaluate Your Recruiting Phone CallsTuesday, January 10th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Phone calls to prospective students: That was one of the hot topics yesterday during my first admissions training workshop of 2017.

When it comes to recruiting phone calls, I find admissions counselors either love them or hate them…and quite often it’s the latter.

Regardless of which group you fall into, very few counselors adequately analyze the content of their recruiting phone calls and determine what they could do better the next time.

Self-evaluation is a crucial part of growth, so today I’m going to help you with that.

Let’s go ahead and assume that you’re able to connect with your prospect because you set up the call through a previous communication like we’ve recommended in the past.

When you hang up or press end on the call, I want you to ask yourself the following eight questions:

  1. At some point during the phone call, did you make your prospect feel wanted? How? Could you prove it if you had to?
  2. How much talking did you do vs. them? If you spent a lot of time bragging about different aspects of your school or telling them all the reasons you think they’d be crazy not to apply, visit, or submit their deposit, you risk boring your prospect and causing them not to remember the key details and selling points that you want them to…and there’s probably a good chance that the next time you call you’re going to get their voicemail.
  3. Did you start the phone call with a weak, non-specific phrase? In the same way that I recommend your letters and emails be original and have a strong opening sentence, the same holds true for your phone call. Last week I told you to avoid the three words “I was just…” in your recruiting conversations.  Too many counselors start out their recruiting phone calls that way. Phrases like that sound weak, they’re usually not the truth, and they do nothing to set up the rest of your call or create any sort of urgency.
  4. Did you give them the chance to ask questions? You need to create opportunities in each call that allows your prospect to open up and respond to your questions, as well as ask questions of their own.
  5. Did you make them laugh? If you didn’t, research shows that you failed to engage one of the primary ways we connect with each other.
  6. Did you ask them what they view as the next step in their process? Rather than assuming you know what they’re going to do next, I want you to ask them. What a lot of counselors tell me they find is that the prospect’s timeline doesn’t match theirs.
  7. Were you able to come away with talking points for future recruiting calls, letters and emails? If you were trying to multi-task (i.e. reply to emails) the answer is probably going to be no…which is a problem because you may have just missed out on an opportunity to strengthen your recruiting relationship. Always give your prospect your undivided attention, and furthermore, you could even repeat back to the prospect one thing you learned from them as a way to confirm you’ve been listening.
  8. Did you end your call on a positive note? Your prospects tell us that a simple “thank you for your time and input” goes a long way. And, it also increases the chances that future calls will be answered.

Questions? I’m just an email away at jeremy@dantudor.com

P.S. Here’s a picture of my descent into Chicago on Sunday that I thought you might enjoy.  Have a great rest of the week!

chicagodescent

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Admissions VIP Extra: January 10, 2017Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Reinforcing your story to your prospects: by Jeremy Tiers

What are the most effective ways to reinforce your story to your prospects?

Here are three foundational ideas that have proven effective for our clients:

  • Consistency. No matter what admissions staff we happen to be working with, the one consistent measure that we find important to today’s prospect is consistency.  Your message to them has to be consistent, both in timing and in content.
  • Keep it short. Our ongoing research with students continues to show that a shorter, more straight-forward message gets retained more often.
  • Head towards the edge. When I advise you to “head towards the edge”  I mean that you need to come up with a compelling story, told in a different way, and not be afraid to define yourself so precisely that some of your prospects will instantly know that your school isn’t the right fit for them.  While you’ll lose a handful of students that would have said no  eventually anyway, you’ll attract three times more who will gravitate towards your philosophy of being unique and different from every other college that’s communicating with them.  I’ve seen it work numerous times for schools willing to take a leap and tweak their approach.

I Want You to Avoid These Three WordsTuesday, January 3rd, 2017

ncrc16convoby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Words matter. They compel us to do things, and they also bore us to the point where we stop paying attention or listening.

Considering how hard it is to get and keep the attention of a 16 to 21 year old these days, it’s important to know which words and phrases to avoid.

In the past two years I’ve identified three words that a lot of admissions counselors use that provide little to no benefit for them.

They use these words to start a new email. And they use them even more so at the beginning of a phone call.

The problem is, when you say these three words together, you risk slowing down the recruiting process, or worse, stopping it altogether.

Those three words are:

“I was just…”

Have you ever said, “I was just calling to see if…”, or, “I was just writing to check in…”. I have many times over my professional career, and they don’t yield the results I’m looking for.

Why is that?  What is it about “I was just” that makes it so bad in a recruiting situation? When you use that phrase, your prospects all know what you want: You want information, or you want an update.  You need to find out if the student is close to completing their application, finishing the FAFSA, picking a time to visit campus, or making a decision.

And, since you don’t want to pressure that 16 to 21 year old, you play it cool and slide into the conversation by saying, “I was just…”

When you use those three words together, what you’re doing in most cases is giving your prospect the unintended message that they don’t need to take action right now.  Or, depending on the topic of the discussion, you might be telling them (believe it or not) that they aren’t all that important to you.

Here’s why starting a sentence with “I was just” can be so paralyzing:

  • It conveys weakness.  There isn’t much energy behind the phrase, and that communicates all the wrong things to your prospect.
  • It’s not the truth.  You weren’t “just checking in” when you called that last prospect, were you?  You were trying to extract some concrete information or a progress report so you could figure out what to do next.  You weren’t “just checking in”, and your prospect knows it.
  • It gives your prospect permission to put you off for a while longer.  You say, “I was just calling to see if you’ve finished your application”?  They say, “No, sorry, I’ve just been so busy with school, and I’m going to need a little more time”.  And since it sounds like there’s no urgency on your part, they figure they’ve got more time, and it’s no big deal.

So, what should you replace these words with?  Here are a few ideas:

  • “The deadline for that paperwork is coming up soon and I wanted to talk to you about it…”
  • “I need your feedback on…”
  • “I wanted to know if you can come visit campus next month because…”
  • “I know a lot of students are scared and overwhelmed at this point and I wanted to ask you if…”

Each of those phrases is strong, and they’re going to prompt action.  But even more importantly, they’re going to demand a reply.

Moving forward, I encourage you to really focus on how you start out your sentences when you begin conversations.  I know it sounds like a small thing, but you and I both know that it’s the small things that often make the biggest difference. That’s especially true when it comes to how your prospect (or their parents) responds to you and what information you get from them.

Want even more tips and strategies to use in your everyday recruiting?  Bring me to campus in 2017 to lead our popular admissions training workshop.  Don’t wait until your new budget kicks in to have a discussion about it. Email me now at jeremy@dantudor.com to start the conversation, or CLICK HERE for more information on why it’s a game-changer.

P.S. Here’s another three words you should avoid using – “I will try”. When you say them together it automatically makes you sound unsure.

Admissions VIP Extra: January 3, 2017Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

How you can get those cold inquiries interested (again): by Jeremy Tiers

This time of year, most admissions counselors and enrollment leaders are desperate for some ideas on how to re-kindle interest from those inquiries who haven’t responded to previous communication attempts.

Here are two “basic” ideas on how to approach this group of students:

Apologize for the lack of communication.  I would recommend you do this even if you think you’ve done a great job of consistently communicating with them up to this point.  As the person who is initiating the contact, and as the “authority figure” in the relationship, you need to be the one to apologize.  Doing so will take the pressure off of them, and open the door for ongoing communication.

Be a little pushier.  Ask them if there’s something that you need to answer for them (or their parents) before they’ll take the next step (apply, visit).  If their response is something like, “I’m not sure”, be a little more forward and ask them what that means.  You need to find out if they’re dragging their feet in general, or just with your school.  In fact, I think you can even tell them that it’s okay for them to tell you “no” if they don’t think your school is the right fit for them.

I would add that if you’re struggling to get these students to answer your phone call or reply to a targeted or personalized email in the first place, you’re going to have to create some serious urgency, and fast!  If you want more ideas on how to do that, email me.

 

Your Admissions Wish List for SantaTuesday, December 20th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Christmas time is here.

You’ve managed to get through a crazy fall that was full of school visits, fairs, campus visits, phone calls, emails, reading applications, and so much more.

How are you feeling right now about this next class of students? Are you excited…nervous…frustrated…or secretly freaking out a little on the inside?

Regardless of how you’re feeling today, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to come up with one wish for Santa. Other than more time or a bigger budget, what’s one student recruitment problem or professional skill that you could really use help with right now?

Got it? Okay, on to the fun part. Start a new email to me by clicking this link. In the subject line put “admissions wish”. Write down your wish and click send…and then come back and read the rest of this article. If you do click send, you’ll get a helpful response from me before Christmas day.  That’s right, free help for the holidays!

If you skipped over that part and didn’t just send me an email, that’s okay. I’ve been keeping a wish list all year long based on my conversations with VP’s, Directors, Assistant Directors, Counselors, and other admissions professionals. Maybe your “admissions wish” is on this list.

Here are 5 common wishes along with my recommendations for creating a winning solution to each:

  1. Figuring out how to best communicate with prospects/parents. What’s the most effective method of communication according to your prospects – phone calls, email, text messaging, social media, or direct mail? Our ongoing research still ranks email as a student’s preferred method of communicating with you, but you always should ask your prospect which one they prefer most. Keep in mind that each form of communication has its place in the recruitment process. Ultimately what you need to do throughout the entire cycle is create a good mix and have a consistent flow. This generation of prospects will react favorably to a good combination of all the above. If you choose to believe that direct mail has no value for prospects any more or that a separate comm. flow for parents isn’t necessary, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor (especially if they’re a client of ours) that will employ all of their communication resources.
  2. The perception of your school at the beginning of the process. It’s a proven fact that today’s prospect and their parents start the college search process with biases against most schools. If you refuse to accept that notion, or you don’t think you need to address those biases, you’ll be fighting a major uphill battle.  Your prospect’s mind is like a whiteboard. Whatever goes up there first is what they usually believe even if it’s not 100% accurate. You need to tell your prospects as early as possible what to think about various aspects of your school.
  3. Turning those admits into deposits. When we talk to prospects about their final decision, there’s usually a common thread. The school they chose constantly asked questions about their wants and their needs and was able to connect all the dots throughout the recruitment process not only for them, but also their parents. If you missed my article last week about getting “little yeses”, then click that link because you need to gain agreement at different points in the process before you can realistically think that it’s time to ask your admits if they’re ready to submit their deposit. As far as your communication plan goes, you should NOT significantly decrease the information that you send a student after they’re admitted. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that they have all the information they need to make an informed decision at this stage. And don’t use the excuse that you’ve got nothing left to talk with them about.  One more thing – what’s your school doing to connect admitted students with current students and recent graduates? Organizing networking events for admitted students to interact with those two groups offers a ton of value…and don’t forget about the parents!
  4. Truly differentiating your school from your direct competition. Aside from the actual dollar amount, what makes your school different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling your prospect’s wants and needs? This generation craves a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them. Are you helping create a logical and emotional connection for them? In my article a few weeks back I gave you all kinds of ideas on how to truly stand out. Click that link if you missed it, or if you need to read it again.
  5. Talking about price and demonstrating value.  If you don’t think that a large majority of families are willing to pay more for that “right fit”, you’d be wrong. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’ve done the same for something at least once in your life…coffee, your car, your house, a dinner out…I could go on and on.  When it comes to talking about price, you need to do it early, be 100% transparent about your school’s entire financial aid process (and how it compares to other colleges they’re considering), figure out what kinds of challenges this process creates for them, and work hard to be their guide. A big part of demonstrating your value is creating a connection and cultivating trust. You do this by constantly asking questions so that you can understand what they’re looking for and how you can best meet that need. When you create and nurture that connection, you separate yourself and your school by delivering the most memorable customer experience. Proof of that continues to pop up in recruiting surveys that we conduct when we partner with a college.  Students will state their college wasn’t the cheapest option, but they chose it because they felt a sense of community and belonging on campus, and their admissions counselor was such a fantastic go-to person throughout. You do those things by providing valuable content that helps them navigate the college search process smoothly, while also explaining what makes your student experience so incredible. You explain how your students learn, the relationships they have with faculty and others on campus, the opportunities your campus offers them to grow, and what your institution does to prepare them for success upon graduating. Don’t just tell them about the R.O.I. they can expect, show them recent results and explain what that means in terms of their investment. Value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both.

Happy Holidays, and thank you for your attention.

Admissions VIP Extra: December 20, 2016Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Questions and talking points for parent conversations: by Jeremy Tiers

“I’m not happy to admit this but I haven’t been good about talking with parents. Can you help me start the conversation?”

That’s the text of an email I received from a counselor last week and it got me wondering how many other counselors haven’t spoken yet with the parent(s) of their admitted students.

Let me suggest several questions and talking points that have worked well for our clients.  In addition to establishing credibility, asking these kinds of questions will get parents to open up and allow you to determine just where your school stands at this point in the process:

  • “What are you trying to get out of this whole college search process?”
  • “What is it about our school that makes it a potential good fit for <child’s name>?”
  • “What are you trying to get <child’s name> to focus on at this point?”
  • “What do you see as the next step in this process?”
  • “What’s your biggest fear as a parent as you help <child’s name> choose a college?”
  • “What’s one big question that I could answer for you right now?”
  • “Has your family talked about a timeline for a final decision?”

Why You Need to Get “Little Yeses” From Prospects and ParentsTuesday, December 13th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s vitally important to take your time and lead prospective students, and their parents, through the process of understanding why they should want to come to your school, and why they’ll feel proud to put on that sweatshirt.

That involves persuasion, and another “P word” that I’ll get to in a minute.

Way too often I see admissions counselors try and skip steps and accelerate a prospect’s college decision-making process. Sometimes it actually works, but almost always the end result is either not in their favor, or it increases the length of time for the result.

Along with persuasion you need to lay the groundwork for agreement. Consistent messaging is a big part of the equation as our clients discover on a regular basis.  That takes the other “P word” – Patience.  It’s the idea of building something great brick by brick. Patience is also at the heart of this next strategy that I want you to adopt, if you’re not doing it already:

Gaining agreement through small wins or as I like to call them, “little yeses”.

That means rather than trying to jump to the end of your argument (“You should pick our school and submit your deposit now”), focus on earning as many “little yeses” as you can throughout the process.

When you get a prospect or parent to offer agreement to something and give you that “little yes”, versus you telling them what they should do/think, they’re more likely to move forward because they were the architect. For example:

  • Get them to agree that your location or school size (big or small) is actually a positive
  • Get them to agree to follow you on social media
  • Get them to agree to set up a follow-up phone call with you
  • Get them to agree to talk to their parent(s) about visiting campus
  • Get them to tell you that they can see themselves living in your dorms, eating in your cafeteria, attending events on your campus, or enjoying all that your surrounding community has to offer
  • Get them to agree that filling out the FAFSA now can benefit them
  • Get the parent(s) to agree that your campus is a safe environment and you have programs in place to help their son/daughter successfully transition to college
  • Get them to agree on what the next step in the process will be
  • Get them to agree when they’ll make their final decision, and how

I would classify all of those things as small wins. Once you get enough of those small wins or “little yeses”, it makes asking for the big yes (their intention to enroll at your school) a hundred times easier. You won’t have to worry about being pushy or scared to “ask for the sale”, because they’ve already given you a bunch of “little yeses” along the way.

Remember though, for you to get one of those “little yeses” you need to cultivate those relationships and consistently ask the right questions (sometimes more than once) in the right way at the right time. Don’t ever assume you know what their answer to a question is going to be, or that the answer won’t change over time.

Getting those “little yeses” will be a real difference-maker for you, and it’s another way to stand out from your competition!

P.S. Did you know I started the “VIP Extra” a couple of weeks ago? You can find it at the bottom of each newsletter. When I asked you, “How can I help you more?” I got a lot of emails saying give me more strategies and information that I can use immediately…so that’s what I’ve done. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Admissions VIP Extra: December 13, 2016Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Mastering the art of persuasion: by Jeremy Tiers

Just about every successful admissions recruiter I’ve ever met has mastered the art of persuasion.

If you want to do a better job persuading this next class of prospects then try implementing these two persuasion-boosters into your conversation:

  1. Figure out whether you need to talk faster or slower.  Did you know that it’s better to talk faster if your prospect is likely to disagree with you, or have doubts about your school?  That’s because it gives them less time to formulate their own counter-opinions, and makes it more likely that they’ll accept your super confident talking points as truth.  Plus, it also makes it less likely that their mind will wander and they’ll stop paying attention.  Conversely, if you’re talking to a prospect who’s likely to agree with you, or is excited about you and your school, you should slow your rate of speech down.  If you want more proof, here’s an insane amount of research that backs up the points I’m making.  Being persuasive involves giving off the right “feel” to your prospect.
  2. Share both the positives and the negatives.  As I’ve said before, this generation of students, and their parents, are looking for people who are transparent and demonstrate honesty throughout the recruitment process.  It’s okay to show your cracks…in fact I’d encourage you to do so.  I don’t know of any college or university in the country that’s perfect in every way.  When you don’t touch on those perceived negatives understand that many of your prospects assume that you’re trying to hide something.  Don’t lend credence to that notion by not having a conversation when the time is right.  If you don’t, I assure you that someone else will, and who knows how they’ll frame that discussion.
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