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Student Recruitment TiebreakersTuesday, March 7th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s that time of year again…you know, the time when students take to social media and share how stressed and confused they are about making a college decision. One student even joked on Twitter this past weekend, “I give up I think I’ll make my college decision based on who has the better snapchat filters”…at least I think she was joking.

I know, playing the waiting game isn’t much fun for you these days. You’ve spent months, or maybe more than a year putting time and effort into recruiting all your students. Now the question becomes will those students, many of whom have been bombarded with information and sales pitches from other colleges besides yours, ultimately pick one of those schools for a less than logical reason?

Hopefully at this point in the process you and your colleagues have a good feel for how your undecided students will make their college decision. I talked about that in last week’s newsletter, and if you’re a first time reader, you missed that article, or you just want a refresher, go ahead and click this link.

These “recruiting tie-breakers”, as Dan (Tudor) and I have come to call them, can be something insignificant to you as an admissions professional but important in the eyes of your prospect.  With so many colleges and universities still looking and sounding the same, a lot of your prospects will break the tie in their minds by choosing something that appeals directly to them personally.

Before I jump into some things that will increase your school’s chances of winning those tiebreaker situations, I want to remind you what students continue to tell us when we do focus group research ahead of coming to a campus and leading a training workshop.

When asked to rate 15 different factors in terms of how they influenced a student to choose their college over the competition, the 2 most important factors continue to be:

  • The “feel” of campus
  • How the admissions staff treated me throughout the process

Now that you’re armed with that knowledge, here are two things that a large majority of students tell us they need if the recruiting tie is going to be broken in your favor:

  1. Emotional connections. As I’ve told you many times before, your prospects trust their feelings as they make their decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through your recruitment communications, the recruiting relationship you develop (or don’t develop) with them and their family throughout the process, and the feelings they get when they visit your campus. How are you and your colleagues capturing their emotions and creating emotional connections between them and your campus community (students, professors, other staff)? Those emotional connections create a feeling of comfort, they create trust, and they offer a sense of acceptance and belonging which is what just about every single student is scared they won’t be able to find.
  2. A clear understanding of WHY your college is better than what they could get somewhere else. When I say “somewhere else”, that means everything from another 4-year institution, to a community college, to an alternate life course that doesn’t include college. If I asked you right now to make a clear case that what you offer at your school is far and away superior to those other options (outside of just saying you’re a cheaper option versus other colleges), could you? If not, that’s a major problem! Value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both. I would also add that you won’t be able to present the same case to every single student. Sure, there will be common threads, but part of executing this point correctly is having a clear understanding of the wants, needs, and fears of your prospect and his or her family.

You may have noticed I didn’t mention affordability. That doesn’t mean price (or location as another example) isn’t important and won’t in some cases be the biggest tiebreaker for a student/family. But, and this is a big but, in a number of those cases where a family says they need you to increase your aid, they’re simply employing a negotiating tactic. I’m telling you, people are continuing to pay more when the value is there for them – Starbucks, Beats, Nike, Mercedes, Apple, and on and on I could go. Being able to sell the idea that your net price is higher than a competitor and that it’s actually worth the extra investment to be at your school is a recruiting skill that separates great recruiters from average recruiters.

Earlier in this article I touched on the focus group research we do with regards to factors that influence a prospect’s final decision. One of those 15 factors we list is affordability, and over the last two and half years its average finish on our surveys (regardless of a school’s location or public vs. private) is that 4-6 range.

Again, I’m not saying things like your location or price aren’t vital in the decision making process.  Different students have different wants and needs. The real challenge for you is to create compelling reasons for a prospect to see clearly that you are his or her top choice before it gets to the tiebreakers.

If you found today’s article helpful, go ahead and forward it on to a colleague. That way both of you can grow and win!

And while you’re at it, follow me on Social Media:

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Do You Care More Than Your Competition?Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

jer2017by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s your answer to that question?

I’m asking because what you do during the next month or two will in large part determine whether or not many of your undecided admits select your school.

If you’re wondering if “caring” more than your competition can actually impact a student’s final decision, look no further than our ongoing focus group research on college campuses nationwide. Students continue to consistently tell us that how the admissions staff treats them throughout the college search process influences their decision more than factors like affordability, location, and the prestige of the name of the school.

“I loved how my admissions counselor (counselor’s name) made a point to communicate with me and get to know me personally. It really feels like he cares about me and my concerns. And I feel like he made a point to not only know me, but also remember me from the first time he met me.”

I see quotes like that one all the time from students when we administer our recruiting survey as a part of our on-campus workshop with a college/university.

Your teenage prospects and their parents are trying to figure out if, and how much, you care. And it’s not that different for the growing population of transfer students. They’ve been through the process once before, and in most cases, they’re now paying extra close attention to your customer service.

Best selling author and business marketing guru Seth Godin makes the same point when it comes to what we look for as adults:

“We’re hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we’re sold.

The truth is that it’s what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn’t show it, you’ve failed. If you care so much that you’re unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we’ll walk away from it.”

So, how can you show your admits, or any other prospects in your pool, that you care more than the competition? Here are five basic strategies that have consistently worked for our clients:

  1. Stay consistent and keep them updated. A lot of admissions counselors make the mistake of not communicating regularly with their admits during this nerve-racking time of year.  I’ve had counselors tell me that they can’t think of anything new to talk to the student about, or they don’t have anything of substance to say to the student until the financial aid package is completed. That’s fine, but you need to consistently give them an update on what’s going on.  Even if your latest update goes something like, “nothing new to report, but I’m calling over to the financial aid office every day and I’ll keep you updated.” I can’t stress this key point enough. When your admits (and their parents) see ongoing, regular contact from you, they make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.
  2. Give them examples of how you’re working behind the scenes to help get them the best possible financial aid package. The more that you can use this time to demonstrate how you and everyone else at your school are doing some heavy-lifting behind the scenes for that student goes a long way towards getting them to perceive that you care more.  Remember, what we perceive is even more important than what we’re doing in many instances (actually caring and working hard behind the scenes is important too, of course!)
  3. Ask them what objections or questions they need answered.  Just because you’ve been consistently communicating back-and-forth with your admits doesn’t mean they’re close to saying “yes”. Take this time to ask them these two questions: “Can you give me one or two big questions about our school that you’re still trying to figure out?” and “What do you see as the next step in this process?”  Those two questions might just open up a new conversation and even reveal an objection or question that they’re struggling with.
  4. Connect them with your current students. “Your students made me feel like they wanted me more than all of the other colleges combined” and “The more I talked to students the more it became clear that everybody is just one big community that looks out for each other.” Those two quotes hammer home a theme that I see often when we ask students what the deciding factor was that led them to pick their current college. Your current students, specifically your freshmen, just went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that many of your undecided students are dealing with right now. You need to create opportunities to help them understand how they will “fit in” on your campus.
  5. Use this time to get to know the parents (if you haven’t already). Yep, here I go again. Parents, parents, parents. All this month I continue to hear from, and have talked to, admissions counselors who tell me that they have admitted students whose parents they have yet to connect with. You cannot and should not expect a student to commit to your school if you haven’t spoken with their parents at least once…and honestly it needs to be multiple conversations. Not sure what to ask them? Click this link and email me right now. I will help you. Spending time with the parents is critical to setting yourself apart from other counselors who don’t have a deep relationship with family members.

If you have any questions about this article or the strategies that I’ve recommended, I’m happy to have a discussion with you. The next step is to send me an email.

Follow Jeremy Tiers and TCS Admissions on Social Media:

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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!

Follow Jeremy Tiers and TCS Admissions on Social Media:

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@CoachTiers

 

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@tcsadmissions

Do You Excel at These 7 Things?Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

All summer long I’ve offered you a series of articles that I hope will aid in your professional development.

Remember, doing some critical self-evaluation is important if you want to improve a particular skill and ultimately become a more dominant admissions professional.

One of the most popular parts of our On-Campus Training Workshops is the 1-on-1-counselor consultation. During these meetings a couple of counselors always ask me what skills and traits I believe separate a high performing counselor/recruiter from an average one.

If you’re expecting to see words like “organized,“ “friendly,” and “good communicator,” that’s not where this list is going. Those are givens. Instead, I’m going to share some skills and characteristics that I see consistently, not just in admissions counselors who excel, but also in nearly every elite business professional that I’ve ever met.

How good are you at these 7 things?

  1. Problem solver. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with teenagers and young adults who want to have their problems (chiefly – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions at the right time.  If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from the competition.
  2. Translator. Don’t ever, ever assume that an 18 or 21-year old student, and quite possibly many of their parents, know what FAFSA, PPY, EFC, COA, ROI, Early Action and Rolling Admission all mean. You will need to translate those industry terms into layman’s terms, quite possibly more than once. You’ll also need to do so in such a way that doesn’t make your prospect or their parents feel incompetent.
  3. Listener. One of the bigger mistakes I continue to see a lot of admissions counselors make is they give information before they get information. They provide more information than is necessary, and in many cases, they give out the wrong information (based on their prospect’s wants and needs). Want to know how to determine if you’re a good listener? The good ones, and I mean the really good ones, ask effective questions that get their prospects to not only reveal their “wants” and “don’t wants” but also how they would like the college search process to play itself out.
  4. Closer. Simply put, effective “closers” (those who turn admits into deposits) understand it’s about the relationship just as much as it is about the sale. Selling is about building a relationship with your prospect (and their parents) throughout the recruitment cycle. When you consistently prove you’re a resource and come up with ways to answer their wants and needs, you develop trust and loyalty. That will lead to positive outcomes.
  5. Empathy. Some people are born with this skill while others have to develop it over time. Truly understanding your prospect, their life situation, fears, motivations, and dreams isn’t an easy thing. The counselors that struggle with this skill are generally the ones that are more concerned with what they need from their prospects and not what their prospects want from them. Let your recruit know that you understand his or her “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want.”
  6. Always look to improve. With success often comes comfort. When a person reaches a goal, there can be a tendency to assume that if they repeat the exact same steps again it will produce the same results. It’s a common mistake. Those that rise to the top value both positive and negative feedback and are willing to invest to improve their skills and attitudes. Be proactive, and seek out learning opportunities.
  7. Remain passionate. It’s a magical word that can help you win over recruits. As I’ve said before, passion is not an act and is hard to fake. Real passion for who you are and what your institution provides can make all the difference in the world.  Passion will lead to meaningful long-term relationships with your prospects (and their parents) every single time.

If you’d like to talk in greater detail about one or more of these critical skills and attributes, and how you can incorporate them into your recruiting strategy, don’t hesitate to email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

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