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Avoid Saying This in Your Emails, Calls and TextsTuesday, December 4th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Words matter. Words compel us to do things, and they also bore us to the point where we stop paying attention or listening. This is especially true for every prospective student that you’re trying to enroll right now…traditional undergrad or non-traditional.

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

Over the past few years I’ve identified three words that a lot of admissions counselors and student callers use that provide little to no benefit for them.

They use these words to start a new email. And they use them quite often at the beginning of a phone call or when they send a text message.

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…”

Think about it for a minute. Have you ever said, “I was just calling to see if…” or, “I was just checking in” or, “I was just making sure that…”

So what is it about “I was just” that makes it so bad in a recruiting situation? When you use that phrase, students 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 24 year old, you slide into the conversation by saying, “I was just…”

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

“I was just” can be paralyzing because:

  • It’s not the truth. You weren’t just “checking in” when you called or emailed that last student, were you? You were trying to extract some concrete information or a progress report so that you could figure out what to do next.
  • It conveys weakness. There isn’t much energy behind the phrase, and that gives off the wrong impression to the student.
  • It gives them permission to put you off. If you say something like, “I was just calling to see if you’ve finished your application?”  They might respond, “Not yet, I’ve just been so busy with school and stuff.” 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.

Instead of using that phrase I want you to use language like this:

  • “The deadline for that paperwork is coming up soon <Student name> and I want to make sure that you don’t miss it because…”
  • “I want your feedback on…”
  • “I want you to come visit campus next month because…”
  • “A lot of students tell me they’re scared and overwhelmed at this point, and I want to know if you’re feeling that way?”

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 with prospective students, and parents for that matter. Same thing goes if your school utilizes student callers at any stage.

This is a small thing that will produce a big ROI.

Was today’s article helpful for you? I’d love your two cents. And if it was helpful, then forward it on to a colleague that you think might benefit from it as well.

How Many of These 29 Things Are You Doing?Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

There are a number of different ways that you can create better recruiting stories. While I was doing some fall cleaning, I came across a bunch of them in various documents and notes on my MacBook.

My first thought was to pass along these tips and recruitment strategies to you in this week’s article. Not all of these will apply to you, but a lot of them will.

And whether you’re a long time reader or one of the many new people that have been added to my newsletter community over the past few weeks, reply back and let me know what you think about this article…or about the newsletter…or both. My goal continues to be to help admissions professionals grow, lead, and win. Thank you for your continued support!

  1. Write down three things you know prospective students don’t care about. Stop talking about those things immediately.
  2. You have to decide to tell your story. It starts there. Too often colleges revert to a list of statistics, facts and data that they relay to prospective students. Worse yet, most colleges stop telling their story way too early in the process, thinking (mistakenly) that once they actually begin speaking one-on-one with a student, they don’t need to continue telling their story.
  3. Eliminate the myth that direct mail isn’t effective as a communication tool. I know postage costs a lot, and yes eliminating or minimizing it would also save a lot of time. Too many colleges have decided that this generation doesn’t read mail and/or doesn’t want it. Our ongoing survey research continues to show the exact opposite. Students understand letters take more time to craft, and they use that as tangible proof that a college is “serious about them.” And if you want data to support this point, 58.4% of students in our surveys said they wanted a letter from a college once a month during their college search. Another 25.4% said once per week.
  4. Go through your upcoming emails and letters and take out all of the “big words.”
  5. Be okay with starting an occasional sentence with the word “and” or “but.” This generation of students could care less whether it’s grammatically correct or not.
  6. And use a more conversational tone. That won’t make you less professional, it will actually make you more relatable.
  7. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). That person, who I recommend should be the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family from start to finish.
  8. Start a conversation about fear. A Director (and reader of this newsletter) did exactly that as part of her open house welcome remarks this past weekend. Multiple parents expressed their appreciation to her.
  9. Use Facebook if you want to tell your stories to parents on social media.
  10. Use Instagram and YouTube to tell your social media story to prospective students.
  11. Most colleges do not produce social media content native to each platform.
  12. Facebook ads and Instagram influencers. Google them both right now, and educate yourself if you haven’t already.
  13. Consider having one or more of your current students Vlog their journey during the school year. I’ve been recommending this to colleges for the last two years and the handful that have listened have seen amazing results. This is the next BIG thing. Be an early adopter.
  14. If you want to increase engagement, change your call to action to a question that asks for the reader’s feedback or opinion on something.
  15. Consistency over volume.
  16. The best idea won’t work without the right execution.
  17. If your current students were tasked with convincing their friends from high school (or community college) to choose your school, how would they do that? You should ask them and then discuss their feedback within your office.
  18. Don’t be afraid to talk about cost, value, and financial aid early on with parents (as well as their son or daughter).
  19. Don’t give up on students who don’t seem to be engaged with your story. Many are still listening and just not responding yet.
  20. As the recruiting process moves forward, the story should get more and more narrow, focused on them specifically.
  21. In many conversations, context matters more than you think.
  22. As you tell different stories, your goal right now in October should be to get them to campus…not to apply. Don’t skip this important step, because the campus visit continues to be where feelings occur and where the decision is made for many.
  23. The campus visit is the most important aspect of your story. Does everyone involved in your visits (namely your tour guides/student ambassadors) understand and believe that? What stories can they tell? And how is your campus visit a different feel from your competitors?
  24. Most parents will vote to have their son or daughter stay close to home, or go to the school that costs less, unless you tell them why your school is the better, smarter choice.
  25. It’s hard to continue to tell your story effectively later in the process if you don’t keep track of previous conversations with students and their parents in your CRM.
  26. Look for objections and enthusiastically address them with prospective students.
  27. A large majority of your admitted students need you to tell them why to pick your school over the others on their list.
  28. Recent student outcomes (by major) are becoming more and more important to this generation of students.
  29. Phone calls will continue to offer massive ROI to those who can execute them correctly. “Voice” leads to deeper relationships.

Recruiting, like story telling, is a process. Respect that process, manage it, and remember, it should always be about them.

Evaluating All Those Phone CallsTuesday, January 9th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

It’s official: Making phone calls to prospective students (and parents) continues to be a hot topic, and we’re not even two weeks into 2018. Last week my inbox had a handful of emails from admissions counselors and Directors seeking advice on the subject.

When it comes to student recruitment calls, counselors tell me they either love them or loathe them…typically it’s the latter.

As I’ve explained before, I believe that phone calls are still a core part of any successful recruiting communications plan. They’re not going away anytime soon.

The majority of high school juniors and seniors in your funnel right now find phone calls from admission counselors valuable when they’re done correctly (i.e. after some relationship building and not just out of the blue). Students continue to tell us via surveys that those phone calls make them feel like your school truly cares about their opinions, and they also appreciate having the opportunity to ask questions.

Regardless of which group you fall into (love or loathe them), I continue to find that not enough counselors adequately analyze the content of those recruiting calls and determine what they could do better the next time.

Self-evaluation is a crucial part of growth, and in case you’re not a frequent reader of my newsletter, personal growth is something I’m extremely passionate about, regardless of your job title. So, today I want to help you when it comes to evaluating all those phone calls.

The next time you hang up or press end on a recruitment call, I want you to ask yourself the following ten questions:

  1. Was your prospect comfortable during your phone call? One easy way to determine this is did they ask you any questions without you prompting them? Trust me when I say that just about every student has one or more questions regardless of where they’re at in the process. If they don’t ask you something, you need to establish more rapport before your next call.
  2. At some point during the phone call, did you tell your prospect how important they are to your school? They know you’re calling other students, so what are you doing to make it clear that they’re a priority? This is especially important with admitted (but still undecided) students.
  3. Who talked more – you or them? The more they talk and you listen, the better chance you have of moving them to the next stage in the process. Conversely, if you do most of the talking and brag about different aspects of your college or recite countless facts and figures, not only do you risk boring your prospect, but there’s probably a good chance that the next time you call you’re going to get their voicemail.
  4. 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 calls. Do you remember the three words I told you to avoid in your recruiting conversations? If not, click that link. 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.
  5. Did you give them the chance to ask questions? You need to create opportunities during each call that allow your prospect to open up and not only respond to your questions but ask questions of their own.
  6. Did you ask them one or more specific, targeted questions at some point? Building off point #5, are you constantly speaking in generalities or do you find ways to ask a targeted question that ties in with the big reason for your call? For example, if you’re about to start making financial aid calls, instead of just diving into the award letter and asking if they have questions, consider first asking, “Have you and your family talked about how you’re going to pay for college yet?”
  7. 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.
  8. Were you able to come away with talking points for future calls, letters and emails? The biggest goal of any phone call should be to set up the next communication (email, letter, another call). If you didn’t come away with anything to help you do that, then you likely either talked too much or didn’t ask the right kinds of questions.
  9. Did you get them to take action? Unless you’re just calling to check in with a committed/deposited student, how are you going to help keep the process moving forward, and in your school’s favor? Whatever the action is (filling out your application, setting up a campus visit, starting the FAFSA, getting the answer to a specific question and then contacting you, etc.) don’t assume they’ll figure it out on their own. Ask them to take that action and make sure they understand the WHY behind your ask.
  10. Did you enter your call notes into your CRM? If you didn’t, not only do you risk confusing student A with student B down the line, but you’re also making life a lot more difficult for your colleagues if and when that student or family reaches out and you’re unavailable. Simply uploading a sentence or two (or a few bullet points) about the call makes everyone’s life easier.

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

P.S. Here’s one more – Did you end your call on a positive note? A simple, “Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with me” goes a long way!

More About Phone Calls to Prospective StudentsTuesday, December 5th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Back in June I wrote an article about the value of phone calls in student recruitment. That article included some interesting statistics and direct student quotes about phone calls from incoming and current college freshmen. It’s since become the second most read newsletter article of 2017. If you missed it or you’d like a quick refresher, click that link above.

The biggest point I tried to drive home in that article was that despite how digital and social this current generation of students has become, phone calls still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. The majority of high school juniors and seniors that are on your radar right now find phone calls from admission counselors (and current students/staff) valuable when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want).

Today, I want to go even deeper on this topic with you. Since I published that article on June 20th, Tudor Collegiate Strategies has accumulated new survey research from more than 650 incoming and current college freshmen. On top of that, in late July we partnered with CollegeWeekLive to do even more focus group research. One of the three surveys we conducted together was with incoming college freshmen.

In both our TCS surveys and the partner survey with CollegeWeekLive, we asked students, “In terms of communication, tell us how often during the college search process you wanted colleges to contact you in each of the forms below.” Those forms are by phone, mail, email, text and on social media. And the options to choose for each are once a day, once a week, 2-4 times per week, once per month, and never.

The results in the “never” category remain noteworthy. Of the more than 1,600 incoming and current college freshmen surveyed by TCS and CollegeWeekLive between May of 2017 and December of 2017, more students told us they “never” wanted to be contacted during the college search process by text and social media than did the number who “never” wanted to receive a phone call.

  • 44.51% never wanted colleges to contact them on social media
  • 34.58% never wanted colleges to contact them by text
  • 33.68% never wanted colleges to contact them by phone

I’m sharing these numbers with you not to try and say that text messaging and social media aren’t important communication tools, because without question they are. Instead, I really want to debunk this idea that students don’t answer their phone because they think phone calls are a waste of time. Sure, that is the case for some, and many of those students would much rather receive a text message from a college admissions counselor. But that group is not the majority in 2017.

As I’ve explained before, the problem isn’t the phone per say, it’s what you’re doing (and not doing) with phone calls that has created this disconnect.

So where do we go from here?

In each of the surveys I referenced earlier, we also asked those same students to tell us how college admission counselors could be more helpful and improve the phone calls they make to prospective students.

The responses below highlight the biggest themes. Here are your answers straight from the source:

“They could have been better by giving notification about the call a few days prior so students can have questions prepared.”

“Phone calls are good if they are pre-planned via email. If they are spontaneous they can be inconvenient and put students on the spot.”

“Sending a text prior to a phone call would definitely be more effective.”

“Alert them when they are calling via email. I get so many spam calls that I naturally ignore unrecognized numbers.”

“I would tell the counselors to just become like a friend to the students and make them feel comfortable. We always have questions even when we say no, we just don’t feel comfortable asking them sometimes with a stranger!

“Be less formal. When I say that I mean be like a friend that makes the student more comfortable and be a good listener so you know what concerns the student has.”

“Less structure, more flow of conversation.”

“They could have been more helpful if they started the call with the reason because the counselor was ready to help but I didn’t know what I was supposed to talk or ask about.”

“They should explain in detail the reason for the call.”

“Have a specific purpose. Don’t just call asking if we have any questions.”

“Throw out example questions or general questions for the students because they don’t really know what to ask but the examples could give them ideas.”

“Make sure the phone calls come at convenient times.”

“Please do not call during school/class time!”

“Try and put yourself in the student’s shoes: It’s a very stressful time and all we want is for someone to tell us that it’ll be okay. A nice tone and some encouragement work excellently. Don’t be so scary to talk to.”

“Be friendly and enthusiastic and make them more personal.”

“When we ask questions be ready to answer them with more detail and not just the same information we’ve already seen on your website.”

“Much of the phone calls I received from numerous colleges are people who are paid by the school to call me but aren’t affiliated with the school or know much about me or the school. I believe callers representing the school should be actually affiliated with the school.”

“Don’t bombard potential students with your personal opinions about the school and pay more attention to the questions being asked.”

“I think that they need to find ways to be more personal and connect with the students because it always seemed like the calls were the same. No one is going to buy a car from someone who says the same thing every time, so why am I going to spend about the same amount of money to go to a college that can’t find a way to stand out?”

“They should make sure that they ask about the prospective student’s situation and values. This way they can tailor the call to the student and help them learn more about the school.”

My goal in sharing all of this information with you today is to:

1) Reiterate that phone calls are valuable and they aren’t going away anytime soon

2) Give you ideas that you can use immediately to increase your call answer rate and the effectiveness of your phone calls

If you have a specific question about phone call strategy, send me an email right now and let’s start a conversation.

The Value of Phone Calls in Student RecruitmentTuesday, June 20th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

I get emails about it. It comes up during conversations with clients. And somebody, usually more than one person, asks me for my thoughts about it when I speak at a conference or lead one of our admissions training workshops.

The “it” I’m talking about is phone calls.

You and I both know that this generation of students loves to use text messaging and social media. It’s also no secret that just about every admissions counselor in the nation hates making phone calls to prospective students. Because of these two facts the assumption seems to be that the value of phone calls has drastically decreased, and the value of text messaging and using social media has vastly increased when it comes to admissions communicating with a prospect during their search (specifically in the early and middle stages).

Today, I’m going to tell you whether or not phone calls are still worthwhile including giving you some interesting quotes and survey numbers straight from students themselves.

Prior to each admissions workshop I lead, we have the college or university send out an in-depth focus group recruiting survey to their incoming or current freshmen.  We research a number of different aspects of their recruiting experience including how they wanted to be communicated with and what they think about phone calls from admissions.

One of the survey questions we ask is, “In terms of communication, tell us how often during the college search process you wanted colleges to contact you in each of the forms below.” Those forms are by phone, mail, email, text and on social media. And the options to choose for each are once a day, once a week, 2-4 times per week, once per month, and never. The last option of “never” was newly added this spring.

Since adding “never” as an option we’ve conducted four surveys with four different colleges located in either the Midwest or East Coast. All happen to be private schools. Two of the surveys are complete, and two remain active and will be completed in the next few weeks.

Although it’s a small focus group size to this point, the results might surprise you. More incoming freshmen (Class of 2017) told us they “never” wanted to be contacted during the college search process by text and social media than did the number who “never” wanted to receive a phone call. The exact averages so far look like this:

  • 43.27% never wanted colleges to contact them on social media
  • 33.09% never wanted colleges to contact them by text
  • 29.81% never wanted colleges to contact them by phone

Another survey questions is, “Were phone calls from admissions counselors helpful during your college search?”

Here are some direct quotes in response to that question from those same students:

“They were really helpful. Every time I called the admissions office always gave me the information I needed and additional information they thought would help me.”

“I liked receiving calls from admission Counselors because it felt like they really cared for my opinions on the school and it was nice talking to them if I had any questions.”

“When you talk on the phone the conversation can take 5-10 minutes and everything is clearly layed out. Texting everything gets confused and it takes forever to have an actual conversation.”

“They were helpful, because they showed me that (School name) actively wants to help make my transition into college easier.”

“It showed me that the admissions counselors actually cared about me and were not people behind a screen and that they truly wanted me to go to (School name). Though the phone calls did catch me off guard because I did not know a phone call from the admissions counselor was something I could expect.”

“The phone calls were great and enormously helpful in preparing me for the admissions process.”

I would also add that very few students have indicated in these surveys as well as previous ones we’ve conducted over the past year, that they didn’t want to receive phone calls, or that they wanted more texting and less phone calls.

Taking all of this into account, I would argue that phone calls to prospects and parents still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. When done correctly, they will strengthen your recruiting relationship.

So, assuming you’re in agreement with me, let’s talk for a minute about how you can get the most out of those phone calls:

  • Keep your phone calls to 10 minutes or less. Once you hit that mark when talking to a prospect, you’ve crossed a line in terms of the effectiveness of connecting with him or her…unless the student or parent is the one controlling the conversation and asking questions.  The source of that information is thousands of survey responses Dan (Tudor) and I have collected from students around the nation. Students have told us that in many cases they get bored with recruiting calls that go past that mark.  They’ve even told us that they will put their phones on speaker so they can do other things while you’re talking. Their biggest complaints centered around long recruiting calls taking them away from studying, delaying their ability to respond to text messages from friends, and being too “sales” driven and pressuring.
  • Make sure you’ve been following the flow. As I’ve explained before, the natural communication flow for your prospects begins with letters and emails. Both are easy to take in and low risk in the mind of your prospect. One student’s survey response summed things up perfectly. “Being called on the phone is good after having an email or letter because it gives the student time to do their own research on the school before talking to an admission counselor.” If you want the prospect to answer, work on establishing trust and value through those letters and emails first. Then, set up the phone call in an email or even by text. Giving them notification a few days prior allows them to have questions prepared, and this way you’re not calling at a time that’s inconvenient for your prospect.
  • Make the phone call 100% about them and 0% about your school. Come up with a list of great questions that are original and all about them. For example, ask them about their approach to the process or what they want to see and hear from you as they learn more about your school.
  • Go ahead and talk about your school IF…they ask you about it. If a prospect asks you about something specific, then talk about it and “sell” all you want.

I hope your biggest takeaway from our discussion today is that, when done correctly, phone calls still offer a ton of value and are a clear sign in the student’s mind that the school is serious about them.

How valuable do you think phone calls are? Send me an email and let me know.

Are You Following This Recruiting Call Rule?Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

The next time you make a recruiting phone call I want you to check your watch.

Once you hit the 10-minute mark when talking to a prospect, you’ve crossed a line in terms of the effectiveness of connecting with him or her.  The source of that information is several hundred survey responses we’ve collected from students around the nation. Their answers to our questions can give college admissions staffs some key insights regarding the importance of keeping recruiting calls short and sweet.

The basic rule I’m recommending that you follow is easy:

Keep your recruiting phone calls to ten minutes or less.

Here’s why. Those same survey responses revealed that prospects get bored with recruiting calls that go past that mark.  They’ve even told us that they will put their phones on speaker so they can do other things while you’re talking.

Your prospects’ biggest complaints centered around long recruiting calls taking them away from studying, delaying their ability to respond to text messages from friends, and being too “sales” driven and pressuring.

So, how can you get the most out of those ten minutes? Here are a couple of thoughts:

  • For starters, make sure you’ve been following the flow. As we’ve explained before, the natural communication flow for your recruits begins with letters and emails. Both are easy to take in and low risk in the mind of your prospect. One student’s survey response summed things up perfectly. “Being called on the phone is good after having an email or letter because it gives the student time to do their own research on the school before talking to an admission counselor. With doing this, the student knows what exactly to ask and what to say. Without their own research, the student will not know exactly what to ask, think, or say via phone.”
  • Make the phone call 100% about them, and 0% about your school. Come up with a list of great questions that are original and all about them. For example, ask them about their approach to the process or what they want to see and hear from you as they learn more about your institution.
  • Go ahead and talk about your school IF…they ask you about it. If your prospect asks you about something specific, then talk about it and “sell” all you want. According to our surveys, the time limit goes out the window as long as your prospect is the one driving the conversation.

Observing the ten-minute rule can completely change the way your recruits view you.

By the way if you’re reading this and worrying that the length of the phone call is going to hurt your chances of enrolling that prospect, fear not. A large majority of students confided in us that the length of the phone call made no difference in their overall interest level. However, they did rate regular frequency in phone calls as a sign that a school was serious about them. (Our research over the past year indicates that during the college search process over 75% of recruits wanted to receive a phone call only once per month.)

Confusing?  Sure, a little.  Just understand that there’s a definite right way and a wrong way to execute successful recruiting phone calls with this generation of recruits.

Did you know that each month we give our clients talking points for counselors that not only build on the messaging their prospects are currently receiving but also work to strengthen the counselor-prospect bond? If you’re wondering what being a client is all about, email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com  

6 Tips for Starting a Recruiting Call the Right WayTuesday, September 22nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s still happening a lot, and that’s not a good thing.

During each on-campus workshop that I’ve led over the past year, I’ve taken a straw poll with many of the admissions counselors. The question I ask is, “What’s the most frustrating part of your job?” The winning vote getter and to be honest it’s usually by a landslide is (drum roll please)…making recruiting calls.

There are two statements that counselors make frequently:

  • “Only one or two out of every ten students answers the phone”
  • “I feel like I’m always doing most of the talking”

Let me start by addressing the first one. It’s a classic mistake that many of those counselors, and their counterparts at other institutions, have made a hundred times before: They jump right to the phone call as their first point of contact with a new prospect. Ask yourself this question – What do you do when your phone rings and you don’t recognize the number? You let it go to voicemail. It shouldn’t come as a shock then when a majority of your prospects do the exact same thing.

Why is that?

Our research, which is feedback from your prospects, says the Natural Communication Flow for your recruits should begin with mail. A letter is easy to take in, and there’s not a lot of risk for the student. It’s a safe interaction. If they don’t like what they read, there’s no pressure to respond. Skipping right to a phone call on the other hand often leads to a very uncomfortable situation. The teenager gives one-word answers, and at the end of the call you know little if anything more than when you started.

So, what should you do as you prepare to contact a prospective student, especially if its the first time you’re talking to them?  Here are a few vital tips I want you to keep in mind:

  1. Have a purpose. There are two things our research has uncovered when it comes to how prospects decide which schools they’ll listen to at the beginning. First is the importance of being very clear on what the recruit needs to do next. Second is to clearly communicate whether or not your school has a serious interest in them. When you call a prospect, have a clear purpose that guides your conversation with him or her.  Calling them without a plan just because they’re on your call sheet is setting yourself up to fail.
  1. Communicate that purpose. Tell them the reason for your call, and make sure it’s centered around them.  If you’re doing more than 20% of the talking with your prospect on the phone, you’re talking too much.  The most effective phone calls are ones where the recruit feels comfortable to ask questions, and more questions, and even more questions.
  1. The first 10 seconds of your call should be incredible. How do you do that?  By scripting an amazing opening as to why you’re calling them, and what’s in it for them. In the same way that we recommend your letters and emails be original and have a strong opening sentence, the same holds true for your phone call.  Actually, it’s even more important because unlike letters, phone calls don’t have the visual component to help make an impact and keep your recruit’s attention. Are your first 10 seconds incredible?  Are they engaging?  Do they create curiosity and excitement?  Most importantly, do they stand out from the other calls they will be getting from counselors?  If the answer to any of those is no, it’s time to re-work the opening of your prospect call.
  1. Don’t be a salesman. When you first contact a prospect, don’t assume they’re going to automatically be interested in your school and what it can offer them.  Students tell us time and time again that they want the focus to be on them. The last thing they want is a sales pitch from you.
  1. Share a laugh, gain an advantage. Study after study tells sociologists that we love to laugh and are looking for a “connection” with the people we meet.  Your prospects are no different. If you can create a little lightheartedness in the phone call and share a laugh with your prospect, that will go a long way towards deepening your relationship and making them feel like they know you and like you.
  1. Always set up the next conversation. This tip is so important I just had to include it even though it’s got nothing to do with starting a successful recruiting call.  You MUST end the phone call with a clear idea – both in your mind and in the mind of your prospect – of what comes next.  When will the next call take place?  What needs to happen between then and now?  What is their “to do” list? For the same reason you don’t want to start the call weakly, you don’t want to end the call weakly.

The phone remains one of the main recruiting tools that every admissions counselor uses. It’s also becoming one of the most challenging communication methods because of some of the unique, ever-changing traits of today’s teenager.

Want to be even more prepared when it comes to making recruiting phone calls? Each month we give our clients specific talking points that build on the recruiting messages their prospects are currently receiving. Email me  for more details!

Recruiting Calls: How to Make Sure Your Prospects Remember YouMonday, May 18th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Spring yard work. That’s what I’ve spent the past two weekends doing. Trimming, planting, burying my down spouts, and mulch…lots of mulch. Does this sound familiar?

I’m clearly a bad judge when it comes to mulch because I ended up making not one, not two, but three trips to the local garden center in the same weekend. As I was checking out with the last round of mulch, the cashier (same one as the previous two times) asked to see my card so she could verify the signature. Upon doing so she says, “Oh I remember you…you’re the guy with that ugly signature.”

I’ll be the first to admit that my signature is a little messy and hard to read. Truth be told this isn’t the first time either that a store employee somewhere has pointed those facts out. The point I’m trying to make is simple. My ugly signature gets me remembered.

In this age of smartphones and social media, it’s amazing that so much of the recruiting relationship with prospective students still hinges on making a great old-fashioned phone call.

Making effective phone calls is a challenge for many admissions professionals, particularly those early recruiting calls. Instead of trying to cultivate a meaningful relationship with the nervous teenager on the other end, many counselors end up focusing on one thing – selling their school. As I’ve touched on before, that’s the wrong approach. You risk your prospect becoming annoyed, bored, or even worse, both.

Your goal during those early recruiting phone calls should be to “plant the seed,” grow the relationship and find ways to be memorable. When you accomplish that your prospects will look forward to that next recruiting communication. If you do it over time your school will be the one on their mind when they’re ready to make a decision.

Here are 5 strategies that will get your prospects to remember you:

  1. Eliminate their fears early in the conversation. One of the things we discuss during our on-campus training workshops is just how present your prospect’s “fear” is throughout the recruiting process. As a result, you should expect them to have their guard up during the onset of any initial conversation. One of the easiest ways to remove that fear is to demonstrate right out of the gate that you’re a passionate recruiter. Passion is both hard to fake and contagious. Tell your prospects why you think they’ll be a good fit at your school. Ask him or her questions that will reveal things that excite them. You can then use those in future recruiting communications. Demonstrating passion will remove any doubts and provide a level of comfort for your prospects.
  1. Be authentic. I know it can be tempting to list every single reason why your institution is the “right fit” during those early conversations with prospects. The problem is most of your prospects tell us that method of selling comes across as pushy and doesn’t make for an enjoyable conversation. What resonates with today’s recruit is an authentic discussion where you let them get to know the real you, and you really listen to what they have to say. Be honest, open and direct about the recruitment process. It sounds easy enough, but the reality is few counselors have completely mastered this skill.
  1. Stay current. Pop quiz. Do you know who Calvin Harris is? Are you familiar with ‘Pitch Perfect 2’? (If you answered “no” to either I recommend you click on the links after you’re done with this article) Effective recruiters who want to be remembered are “students of the game.” They keep up on trends and what’s popular with their target demographic. That knowledge then allows them to engage in and develop deeper connections with their prospects, who by the way love to talk about movies, music and celebrities. Make a statement or ask a question about something from the current pop culture landscape. You might be surprised by the response you get.
  1. Listen and then prove that you were listening. Your prospects have a lot of questions they want answered. Will you allow them to have control of the conversation? (Hint: It’s okay to do so). Assuming that you’re on board with me, sit back, listen, and take notes…lots of notes. You can then use that information in future letters and emails. For example let’s say your prospect shares who their favorite music artist is. Why not take one of that artists’ current songs and change a verse or two to contain lyrics about your prospect and your college. Cheesy, right? You’re exactly right, and it works! The lyrics you come up with are insignificant. The fact that you took time to listen to your prospect and come up with something unique about them immediately differentiates you and will be remembered.
  1. End your conversation with something impactful. Pick your favorite television drama. There’s a reason at the end of every episode something big happens or a question is left unanswered. It causes you the viewer to feel something and/or create anticipation for next week’s episode. That same rule can and should be applied to your recruiting contacts. You should always set up your next communication. Ask yourself, “What can I get them to anticipate next?” If you’re a client of ours you know how important it is to have the flow of the recruiting process move as efficiently as possible toward securing a campus visit. What about telling them a story or making an impactful statement. Those are the kinds of things that are committed to memory.

Try putting one or all of these strategies into practice with this next class of recruits during those early communications. Doing so will make your prospects take notice and achieve more positive results for your recruiting efforts moving forward!

Need help formulating a strategy and putting proven ideas to work for you and your admissions team?  Become a client of ours. We work with you one-on-one to create and execute a recruiting plan that will get results.   Email me directly for more information.

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