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A Very Important 3-Letter WordTuesday, February 7th, 2017

Bballpracticeby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It happened the other day during my daughter’s basketball practice. The coaches were teaching the girls (1st and 2nd graders) how to set and use screens when one of them blurted out, “Why are we doing this?”

I expected the head coach to respond with something like, “This is what we’re working on”, or “Because I asked you to.” Instead he stopped the drill and explained to the girls why setting a screen was helpful to get them open, which then would give them a better chance to score…and that’s something they all wanted to do.

The way coach handled that situation reminded me of an important communication strategy that I need to bring to your attention today.

Think about all the times you ask your prospects, parents, co-workers, faculty, student workers and others on campus to do something for you. Quite often if you only share what you want done, it can come across like you’re giving orders. And if you explain how they need to do it, it’s like you’re micromanaging.

What if you always explained why something needed to get done?

When you provide the “why” to someone, you educate, motivate, and empower that person. And when they feel like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit doing it will bring everyone (including themselves), they’re more likely to move forward.

Here are some situations during a typical recruitment cycle when you need to explain the “why”. I want you to ask yourself if you’re consistently doing that now.

  • When you want a prospect to visit your campus
  • When you want them to complete their application or get you a transcript
  • When you want them to come back for an admitted student day event
  • When you want them to stop by their high school counselor’s office to talk about outside scholarship opportunities
  • When you want them to reply to your email
  • When you want them to give you a phone call or answer your call

When people understand the “why”, they’re way more likely to accept the “what”. Take the time to answer and explain the “why”.

And if you’re in a position of leadership, explaining the “why” will help you get buy in on a task or project from team members as well as build team chemistry. When I work 1-on-1 with admissions counselors, tour guides and office staff, as a part of one of our recruiting workshops, “not explaining why” is a common frustration that gets voiced to me.

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What to Do Next After Your First Contacts Are DoneTuesday, August 9th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s your plan now?

Many admissions departments around the country have officially started the recruitment process with the next class of prospective students. The first emails and letters have been sent, and the first phone calls have been made.

If you’ve been asking the right kinds of questions, and you’re trying to understand your prospects’ individual wants and needs and not just selling your school, maybe you’ve even had some of them engage with you and begin the application process. If you’re shaking your head no, keep in mind it doesn’t have to be that way. We can help.

Regardless, you’re now faced with the daunting two-word question that worries even a veteran, confident college admissions recruiter: “What’s next?”

The answer to that question is critical. In fact, it will undoubtedly determine what kind of results you have in the months to come.

So, you tell me. What do you think should come next? It would be great if there was a simple, one-size-fits-all answer to that question…but there’s not. The answer will vary significantly from school to school.

Having said that, today I want to outline a few successful approaches that we’ve seen work on a consistent basis the past couple of years for our clients. As you read through each of these strategies and key questions, I want you to ask yourself how you can adapt them to your school and your specific situation:

How are you going to start to establish that your school is the smart choice? Our research has uncovered a surprising trend with this generation of students in terms of how they actually make their final decision – They have to justify it logically. It’s true that they can emotionally gravitate towards a college throughout the process, however, at some point in the later stages, either they or their parents start asking, “Is this a smart decision.” What you do with your communication between now and that final decision will determine if your school ends up being seriously considered.

How are you going to start to establish that your school is the emotional choice? Every year in the early stages of the recruitment process we see prospects gravitate to an admissions counselor and college that creates an emotional tie with them. It’s important to have a strategy that will help create that feeling in the first place. One of the examples both Dan (Tudor) and I use when we present our On-Campus Workshops is Starbucks. They have mastered the art of creating and managing a feeling of comfort when you walk into any one of their thousands of stores nationwide. The color on the walls, the music that’s playing, and the inviting, comfy furniture…it’s all done specifically to create a feeling of warmth and comfort. What’s your plan to create the right feeling for your prospects now that the initial contact message is in their hands? If you and your admissions colleagues don’t have one, you’re introducing random results into the recruiting process.

You MUST engage the parents early. Our research also finds that most parents are both polite and anxious as you begin to contact their child. On the one hand, they don’t want to interfere with the process, and on the other hand, their urge is to step in and play a part as soon as possible. A big reason behind their urge to be involved is a result of their child asking them to. While the majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible, and fail to do basic things like getting their prospects’ parents names and cell phone information, I want to encourage you to do the opposite. Establish early contact with the parents of this next class of recruits and work to establish that same emotional connection with them. Call them, email them, ask them questions, and engage them. If you do, what you’ll find is they’re happy to provide you with useful information, and more importantly, they will look at you as the admissions counselor that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter. Do you have a plan to communicate with your prospects’ parents at the beginning? If not, you’re missing a BIG opportunity to create some separation from other colleges.

Work to establish a mutually agreed upon timeline for making their decision. Do everything you can as early as possible to find out when your prospect (and his or her parents) sees a final decision being made. You don’t have to get an exact date. A general time of the year is fine. By simply asking a few effective questions about the prospect’s timeline not only will you find out how long you probably have to recruit that prospect, but you’ll also gain valuable insight into how they’ll be making their decision. Most counselors we observe wait to have this conversation until after a prospect applies for admission. Don’t let that be you. If you’re willing to ask a few critical questions early in the process, you’ll be able to strategically design a messaging plan that earns your prospect’s interest.

Are you establishing control of the process? Are you going to control the recruiting conversation and the decision making process, or will you relinquish that role to them? What I’m suggesting is that you should establish yourself as the counselor that will be guiding them through the recruitment process rather than telling yourself that your job is to give them your school’s information, answer questions, and then stand by and wait politely for their decision. A large part of your job is to guide your prospect’s decision from start to finish. Not trick, not force, but guide. You do that through effective questioning, establishing logical “next steps” throughout the process, and continually providing them with smart reasons why your institution is the right choice. How do you plan to establish that role as the leader of the conversation and their trusted guide?

After reading these strategies and questions, some of you may discover that you need to make some major changes in how you recruit during the early stages of the process. I’m sure some of you other readers may not need to adjust your approach at all.

If you had the feeling with this last class that you were really were ineffective when it came to carrying on a logical, consistent conversation with your prospects and their parents, now is the time to act.

Our Tudor Collegiate Strategies team offers one-on-one help with formulating a research-based approach to communicating with recruits. It will save you time and eliminate a lot of frustrations. The next step is to email me 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.  

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