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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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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.

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13 Things Your Recruits Told Us That You Need to KnowTuesday, September 13th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When an admissions department brings us to campus to lead one of our popular training workshops, part of what we do is conduct extensive focus group research with their student body, specifically their freshmen. The questions we ask produce honest, valuable feedback on a number of different parts of the student recruitment process. Students have no problem singling out a specific counselor on a job well done, nor do they mince words about specific things their school’s admissions team needs to improve/change.

Throughout the workshop I reference the survey results and compare them to what students at other colleges and universities nationwide tell us.

In a nutshell, the college or university we’re working with discovers how this generation of student wants to be recruited and what matters to them most/least when it comes time to make that BIG decision.

Along with that focus group research, I regularly interact with teenagers and those in their early 20’s at college fairs, community events, restaurants, the mall, and yes, even in airports when I travel.

My goal is always the same: I want to hear what your “typical recruit” wants from you during the college search/transfer process…because then I can share this with you (if you’re a client of ours, or if you reach out to me and ask) and you can use that information to become a more efficient, more confident recruiter.

In honor of today being September 13th, I’m going to give you 13 things/themes that thousands of students have told us over the past year as it relates to the college recruitment process. I encourage you to share this information with your fellow counselors and others on your campus:

  1. The majority of prospects still only “seriously consider” two or three colleges.
  2. Most colleges and universities have gaps in their communication plans and students notice. They want more consistent communication specifically between the time they deposit/commit to when they arrive on campus. I would add that conversation should shift from why they should want to pick your school to why they’ve made such a great decision and what they should expect to see when they arrive on campus.
  3. Too many schools exaggerate or “lie” (yes students believe colleges “lie”) when they initially discuss things like cost and the overall “student experience” on their campus.
  4. “More texting, less phone calls.” When asked if they agree or disagree with this statement when it comes to college admissions counselors communicating with prospective students, here are some quotes that contain common themes:

“I think that texting can be useful for students when they are busy. Most seniors in high school are trying to figure out college apps, trying to finish schoolwork, and most likely running around to all the other things they do. Texts can be a much easier way to quickly get a message across. However, I think texting only goes so far. It’s great for scheduling phone calls and such, but having conversations about the school and whatever should be done on the phone. The conversation will flow easier and the prospective student will be able to ask questions as they come to mind.”

“I think phone calls are more important because it is much easier to ask questions however, I think if asked we would say text more often because this way we do not have to respond or feel dumb. Most of us are afraid of the phone call but it does force more communication something that is important in this process even if we do not know we need it.”

“Depends on what the student is comfortable with. Some kids HATE talking on the phone and are much more comfortable talking over text. However, sometimes it can be unclear and it is definitely not as personal. I think it depends entirely on the student.”

“Disagree. Phone calls show u are willing to take time for me as a student and not shoot me an automated txt.”

“I disagree with this statement — phone calls seem more personable, and you can understand the tone of the other person’s voice, rather than just guessing VIA text message. Plus, text messages seem so informal.”

“No, because it is hard to communicate certain things by text message. Things may get lost in translation and you have to wait periods of time before getting a response.”

  1. When given the choices of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, students consistently told us that the best social media platform for admissions counselors to use if they want to connect with this next class of prospects is Facebook.
  2. Be up on pop culture, but if you don’t know about people like DJ Khaled, don’t pretend to.
  3. Out of a list of fifteen, the top two factors that were “very important” in terms of how they influenced a student to choose that school over other colleges were the “feel” of the campus,” and “perception of the college as a whole”. The “feel” of the campus was also number one a year ago. “More affordable than some other schools”, which was number two a year ago, has dropped down the list to number five.
  4. During campus walking tours, colleges still spend way too much time talking about the history of the school and various buildings. In that same list of fifteen factors that students use to make a final decision “the history of the school” ranks second to last.
  5. Overall colleges are doing a better job of explaining the financial aid process…BUT only 51.7% of students believe colleges are doing an “awesome” job of it. Instead it’s “okay”, “poor” or “very poor”. Would your school’s President be happy with 51.7%?
  6. Colleges don’t utilize their current students nearly enough during the student recruitment process. Your prospects would love to connect more with them on an individual basis versus you communicating something they said secondhand.
  7. Personal, handwritten notes make a huge positive impression on your prospects…who value the time you commit to doing so versus posting on social media or sending an email. And if you’re wondering when a good time is for such a note, how about right after you talk to them on the phone for the first time or in the first couple of days after the campus visit.
  8. If your school doesn’t communicate with parents consistently throughout the recruitment process (especially during on-campus events), you’re making it twice as hard to get that prospect to deposit to your school. Not impossible, just much harder.
  9. It’s not about your wants and your needs as a counselor. It’s about their wants and their needs from start to finish.

How can I help you grow and win? Seriously, I want to know. If you’re hesitant to connect with me because part of you is worried all I’m going to do is talk about Tudor Collegiate Strategies and push our products…THAT’S NOT ME! So go ahead and email me OR stop by booth 853 next week at the NACAC National Conference, and we can talk in person about #growandwin.

How to Begin Telling Your School’s “Story”Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Whenever we go to lead one of our On-Campus Workshops for a college admissions department, a big part of our job is helping them to develop their “story”.

I think stories are vital to the student recruitment process. And just to be clear, when I say “story” I’m not talking about your marketing materials. Much of that information is dull and uninspiring…your students continue to tell us those exact words.

The stories I’m referring to are a crucial ingredient in your recruiting communication flow. They talk about things like the people on your campus (students, faculty) and your community. They create emotion for your prospects, and they help them visualize themselves on your campus and in your classroom.

So, what’s your “story” that you want this next class to buy into? Have you sat back and considered what kind of picture you’re painting for your prospect in their head through your recruiting materials, phone calls and even on-campus visits?

If you’ve never seriously thought about your “story” before, and need help in creating it so that you can be a more effective recruiter, today I’m going to pass along some critical questions that your admissions team should ask each other. The answers will help you find out what’s unique about your institution and how to present it as a compelling story that any prospective student will want to hear more of:

  1. What are your prospects demanding?  Here’s a hint: It’s not always about the money, so don’t make that the focus.  If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, or you’ve had me on campus to lead a workshop, you know students continue to tell us that personal relationships with you and other students on your campus impact how they will make their final college decision much more than being affordable. They demand attention, and they demand benefits that revolve around them.  What can you do to “meet their demand”?
  2. What do your prospects need?  A really good financial aid package?  Yes.  A degree?  Of course.  To see themselves “fitting in” on your campus?  All the time.  Ask yourself what your prospects need, and you will go a long way towards reaching them with a message – a story – that they will identify with.  Remember: “Needs” are different than “demands”.  Their needs revolve around the realities that they are facing and are necessary for them to overcome those hurdles.  And in most cases different prospects have different needs. Figure out a way to meet their needs (that’s what they care about, anyway…their needs, not yours).
  3. What are they willing to pay for?  This is a challenging and in-depth question. What is it that your prospects view as being a “premium” feature of your school that if they had to pay for it, they would be happy to do so? For example, it might be the brand new dorms or the ability to be a part of the sports culture or the Greek system on your campus (if you have it). Each of those things is a tangible “premium” item that your prospects might be willing to pay for if they had to.  Understanding what the most valuable parts that your college offers them in their eyes is a big key in developing a great recruiting story.
  4. What niche(s) can your school offer that others don’t?  Earlier this month I worked with a university that is developing a specialized niche in the way they prepare their freshmen students to successfully transition to college life. Take a look at what kind of “specialty” niche you can put together for your prospects. What can you offer them on your campus that most of your competitors don’t?  Find an area that other colleges are failing to focus on, and build out that unique brand for your prospect.
  5. Who are the people behind your institution?  I don’t mean just your school’s President. I mean who else on your campus can your prospects connect with on a personal level? A big key as you tell those people’s “story” is to be genuine. Don’t embellish so much that down the line it becomes clear to your prospects or their parents that this person isn’t really who you’ve painted them as. And also don’t forget your audience either because you don’t want to necessarily tell the same “story” to everyone. The goal is for your “story” to be personal and have emotion built into it.

Asking these five questions can help your admissions team develop the beginnings of a great recruiting strategy.

If you want to achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical part in today’s student decision-making process, effective storytelling is a must.

Ready to take the next step?  Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Let us help you develop and execute your story saving you time and increasing your yield results. Click here for more details. Our system works, and we’d love to tell you why.

And the Award Goes to…Monday, July 18th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

For many people, like my wife, award shows are can’t miss television.

Last week I watched the ESPYs (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards). Once a year ESPN assembles some of the greatest athletes in the world all under one roof and then celebrates and relives the best moments of the past calendar year.

Award shows highlight the amazing work of people in any given industry or profession.  In addition to that, they bring about healthy competition and allow for both personal and team growth.

In honor of the ESPYs, last July I came up with the inaugural TCS Awards for college admissions. There is one small difference. I’m not actually handing out trophies to specific people today. Instead, I’m going to give you some very important reminders and strategies that will help you as you begin to recruit this next class of students.

Here we go.  And the award goes to:

Courage Award – This award goes to the Admissions Director who scrutinizes their recruiting communication plan every single year. I’m not referring to your marketing materials…they aren’t one in the same. You can’t expect to increase enrollment if you don’t have a consistent comm. flow plan that contains messages that engage both prospects and parents all year long. Even if you only fine-tune a few emails and letters, it’s vital that you figure out what messages are resonating and which ones are falling short. For many directors, that may very well mean you have to forget the letter writing rules of the past.

Best Breakthrough Counselor – This award goes to the counselor who made a significant breakthrough in their recruiting techniques. Instead of using the “blanket approach”, they understand that different recruits have different problems as well as different wants and needs. If you ask the right questions at the right points in the process, you will obtain useful information that will aid you in their individual recruitment.

Best Championship Performance – This award goes to the counselor, new or veteran, who has delivered the best performance turning admits into deposits. They create an emotional tie with their prospects early in the process because prospects trust those feelings as they make their final decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through the various methods of recruiting communication as well as the feelings they get when they visit your campus.

Best Director/VP of Enrollment – This award goes to the Director or Vice President of Enrollment who creates and maintains a motivated and confident admissions team. They understand that, just like today’s recruit, each of their staff members is different and has different motivations. As a leader, they are consistent with their message, ask for input and new ideas, and understand the importance of both ownership and recognition. This year’s winner also values collaborating with other offices on campus, specifically financial aid. They set up cross training between their counselors and those in financial aid so that skill sets are expanded and time is used more efficiently.

Best Upset Award – This award goes to the counselor who isn’t afraid to go up against the big name competition because they know they have a winning strategy. That strategy uses multiple communication channels to deliver a consistent series of short, logical, fact-based messages as to why your school is the “right fit.” It also contains an explanation of why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. The academic reputation at your school, the smaller class sizes and individual attention…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit. It needs to be something.

Best Comeback Award – This award goes to the counselor who doesn’t avoid talking about objections and instead confronts negatives that they consistently hear about their school early on. They anticipate the common ones (like financial aid), get clarification, acknowledge and add information, and become a problem solver for their prospect.

Best Moment Award – This award goes to the counselor whose hard work is rewarded in a major way when they get a big YES after they “ask for the sale”. Most admissions counselors rarely “ask for the sale”, instead assuming that their prospect will just tell them whenever they make their final college decision. I want you to remember that if you’ve built trust, understood your prospect’s individual needs, and answered any objections, the next logical step is to ask for this.

Thanks for being a part of the 2nd Annual TCS Admissions Awards, and enjoy the rest of your day. We’ll see you next year with more awards for admissions professionals.

We continue to help admissions departments GROW and WIN by taking a systematic, research-based approach to developing the right recruiting messaging. If you’d like to talk about how we can do that for you and your admissions team this year, email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Which One of These Are You?Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Here’s a fact: Prospective students (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good).

The key to successful selling, otherwise known as student recruitment, is to be a resource rather than a salesperson.

I’m constantly asked, “What do my prospects really want from me?” The answer is actually rather simple. They want to feel that you’re genuinely trying to help them achieve their goals.

Here’s what I mean. A lot of admissions counselors believe they have to “sell” their school early in the process and try to move prospects as fast as possible towards applying, visiting, and ultimately making a decision. Each of those is important, but what if I told you I think there’s a more effective approach that you could take. It’s one that will still allow you to achieve those goals and at the same time do it in a way that consistently makes your prospects feel like you’re actually making them a valued partner in a process that’s supposed to be about their wants and needs in the first place.

If you approach your prospects with information and bullet points about your school, they’re going to view you as a salesperson.  However, if you ask your prospects effective questions about them, and provide them with ideas and answers that help them meet their goals, they’re going to see you as a resource. And, in the process of taking that approach what you’ll find is you still have the opportunity to discuss key things that make your college or university unique and a good fit for that student (aka selling).

There are huge benefits that come from being a resource for your prospects. For starters, it’s much easier to connect with them.  If you connect with them, they’ll see you as someone they can trust.  When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice.   Add it all up, and you significantly increase the chances of your prospects applying, visiting, and choosing your institution.

When you’re a salesperson it’s all about you, what you want them to do, and why you think they’d be crazy not to pick your school.

Does that mean if you’re a salesperson you won’t be able to connect with and gain your prospect’s trust? No, but I promise you it won’t be easy, and it’s going to take a lot more time and effort than you probably have available.

Like we outline with new clients, early in the recruitment process it’s vital that you connect with your prospects. If you don’t connect with them, it makes it much harder to convert admits into deposits.

Sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer has a great rule to remember when you’re in a selling (recruiting) situation: The percent of time your prospect does the talking dictates your chances of securing their commitment.  If they talk 20% of the time, you’ll probably have a 20% chance of enrolling them.  If they talk 80% of the time, you’ll probably have an 80% chance of enrolling them.

Gitomer’s point? If you want to sell your prospect that your school is the “right fit” for them, you need to give them the answers they need.  You need to be the resource they’re searching for, and you need to do it by making everything you do and say about your prospect and not about you.

The minute you cease to be attentive to their wants and needs, you run the risk of losing them to a competing school that will be.

Here are a few additional things you can do to become a resource for your prospects:

  • Respond quickly & deliver information in an easy to understand, engaging format
  • Stay current on trends and pop culture
  • Continually polish your sales and problem solving skills
  • Consistently network and exchange ideas with other admissions professionals
  • Admit when you don’t know something (then let them know you’ll find out)

Here’s my recommendation to you: Check your brochures, your recruiting letters, and your talking points during phone calls and campus visits.  How much of each is centered on your prospect, and how much of it is stuff you’re pushing about you and your school?

If you like the advice you’re getting in our newsletter you’ll love the one-on-one access you have to our staff and the extra training you and your colleagues will get as one of our clients. Click here for all the information.

How to Use This Winning Strategy in Your Recruiting MessagesTuesday, September 15th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During a recent discussion about our letter and email creation work that we do with clients, an admissions counselor said the following – “Why do I need to send recruits that many letters and emails after they visit campus? Once they’ve been here they already know pretty much everything they need to know.” (Insert Family Feud “X” sound effect)

My response to that counselor was the same thing that I’ve told other admissions professionals who feel they don’t need to communicate as consistently with a prospect after the campus visit. Your prospects tend to forget a lot of what they’ve heard before (if you have a teenager you know what I mean), and they retain only a small percentage of what they hear and see on a visit to your school. You need to repeat things over and over if you want your prospect to retain it.

How is it that my 6-year old daughter can recite the GEICO slogan or tell you that Lily is the name of the AT&T store manager in their television ads? There’s psychology behind it. Advertisers have done studies about the use of repetition. Mark Young, the Chairman of Jekyll & Hyde Advertising, a firm that creates and places much national advertising said this about repetition and advertising, “We know that we need 3.7 impressions before a viewer will really “get” the message. We also know that you can deliver up to 15 impressions with continuing good results.”

The moral of the story is pretty simple: Repetition in advertising works.

Now let’s get back to you and your recruiting message. The trend we see most often when it comes to how college admissions tends to communicate with their prospects involves cramming as much information as possible about their school into one email or letter. That’s the wrong way to do it – and deep down, most counselors, directors and VP’s know it.  It’s just always been done that way, or they’re worried modifying their approach will be a massive undertaking.

Today I’m going to change that.

There are several rules we follow when we work with an admissions department one-on-one as clients in helping them create a consistent, interesting recruiting campaign for their prospects. I encourage you to use them to develop your own brand of repetition and consistent messaging with this next recruiting class:

  • Make sure you are communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every six to nine days.  Without this first point in place you risk inconsistent recruiting results.  Our research solidly indicates that when a prospect sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that your school is interested in them and values them.  Those feelings are what you should want your recruits to feel.
  • If you have negatives associated with your school or big objections that many prospects bring up in the recruiting process, address it early and often.  Don’t run from it, and don’t wait for them to bring it up (or sit back and hope they don’t bring it up).  Consistent, early discussion about a perceived negative gives you the chance to redefine that objection. “So Jeremy, you want me to address our school being expensive or in a small town even if the student doesn’t bring it up?” You got it! Doing so early on will give you a greater chance to change their mindset and also demonstrate that you understand it’s a concern they may have.
  • Short, logical, fact-based, repetitive messages.  That’s what your prospect needs in order to get to the point of being able to choose you over your competitors.  Instead of cramming all that information about campus life and housing into one message, address each from many different angles.  Spend a few weeks talking about just one topic, and take your time in repetitively making your point to your recruit.
  • Repeat your recruit’s name and the name of your institution often. This is a small tip that we’ve seen make a big difference. It’s part of “branding.” Advertisers have followed this psychological principle for decades. Why? Repetition of who you are and associating that with positive connotations produces results. For example, during a campus visit use the recruit’s name a lot during conversation. In your messaging when you ask them to envision themselves living in your dorms or eating in your cafeteria, use both their name and your school’s name.
  • Mix it up.  Your recruiting campaign needs to feature a regular flow of mail, email, phone, in-person contact and social media.  This generation reacts to a good combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you focus only on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.  Our studies show that this generation of students wants, and needs, a variety of communication types.

Repetition is one of the least used and most effective strategies that you can utilize in your recruiting message.

The counselors who produce and execute a consistent, ongoing message before, during, and after the all-important campus visit will get more consistent high level recruiting results.

Jeremy and the team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you develop a consistent, research-based message for your recruits. It’s not too late to see results during this recruiting cycle. Contact me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

4 Things American Pickers Can Teach You About RecruitingMonday, August 31st, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

TV shows, and movies for that matter, affect our lives more than you might think.

Each time you turn on your television to relax and unwind, there’s a pretty good chance that you, the admissions professional, can either learn a valuable lesson or stumble upon an important reminder that will make you a better recruiter.

Don’t believe me? Start by reading this article that I wrote earlier this summer about Johnny Shelton, a contestant on America’s Got Talent. It’s one of the most read admissions pieces on our website.

The latest recruiting tips come courtesy of “the pickers,” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. They travel the back roads of America looking for amazing things buried in people’s garages and barns. Each item they pick has a history all its own.

Here are four things that you can take away from their recent “picks” in New Hampshire:

Be honest and authentic. During most of their trips Mike and Frank usually come across somebody who’s trying to get rid of all the stuff that they’ve inherited from a family member who has passed away. Typically those people don’t know how much some of that “rusty gold” might be worth. If Mike and Frank find something that they know is worth more than what the person asks them for, they’re consistently honest with them and tell them they will pay a higher price because the item is worth more. This generation of recruits is looking for that same type of honesty from college and university representatives. Too often counselors get so caught up in “sell, sell, sell,” that they forgot what resonates with their prospects – an authentic discussion where you listen, let them get to know the real you, and prove you have their best interests in mind.

Good stories impact buying decisions. When I lead an on-campus workshop, I encourage admissions counselors to become a master storyteller. Stories are a big component of how each one of us makes buying decisions. Frequently, Mike and Frank will pay more for an item when the seller shares a great story about it.  You have to give your listener (your prospect) a story to buy into. The best recruiters take time to create stories about their institution that their prospects can visualize and understand.  Are you doing this right now?

Don’t despair if your prospect says “no” to something. One of the people that Mike and Frank met in the Granite State was Walter. He had been collecting for over 30 years and from the start made it clear to “the pickers” that he rarely sold anything. Despite hearing “no that’s not for sale” more than once, Mike and Frank didn’t give up. Instead they worked on cultivating their relationship with Walter. They proved to him that many of his passions were also their passions. In doing so, they established a comfort level. Subsequently, as Mike put it, “the deals got easier.” If your prospect tells you, “I need more time,” that’s probably code for you not making a strong enough case. Just like Mike and Frank, don’t get discouraged. At the same time, however, you may need to analyze the situation and move on. Mike and Frank do this all the time with items that they really want because the seller believes it’s worth more than what the market says.

Being different and unique is a good thing. There are two scenarios I see play out way too often every recruiting cycle. First, you have the admissions director who’s frustrated that their recruiting communications aren’t producing high response rates. Second is the counselor who doesn’t understand why their recruits don’t answer the phone when they call. The reason behind both of these situations is almost always identical – it all sounds and/or looks the same. Mike and Frank are always looking for stuff that’s different and unique when they go “picking.” Your prospects are the same way during the college search process. If your emails and letters look and sound the same as most other schools, and your counselors ask the same early questions as everyone else, don’t be shocked when it’s a struggle to consistently turn prospects into applicants. I encourage you to get creative and try something new with your letters, emails, phone calls and even your interactions at college fairs. I think you’ll be surprised with the results.

Do these four things throughout the recruiting cycle with this next class of prospects and watch what happens.

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5 Critical Things You Need In Your Recruiting PresentationTuesday, July 7th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

As a college admissions recruiter you’re tasked with managing one or more recruiting territories. To be an effective, consistent recruiter who gets more “yes’s” than “no’s” from his or her prospects, you must be able to plan and execute both on and off-campus recruiting presentations.

“Presentation” might not be the appropriate word actually. I say that because you don’t give recruiting presentations to prospective students and parents the same way that a business/sales professional might to a prospective client. If any of you are currently doing it that way, stop right now. There are fundamental differences in what you want to do as an admissions counselor who’s trying to connect with today’s teenager.

Having said all of that, “presentation” is the best word that I could come up with because it really brings together all the elements of the process that you use to recruit a prospective student. We’re not just talking about the opportunities you have to go into a prospect’s school and talk to them about all the great things your college/university has to offer or speaking briefly with them at a college fair. “Presentations” can include a lot more:

  • The letters and emails that you write. That’s part of your presentation.
  • The phone calls that you make. That’s part of your presentation.
  • Things that are said about your school (and possibly even you) on the world-wide-web. That’s part of your presentation.
  • When a prospect comes to visit your campus. That’s a part of your presentation.

You can’t overlook one area of your overall presentation and expect consistent success.

Here are 5 things that I recommend you incorporate as a part of your next recruiting presentation.

  1. Believe in, and be enthusiastic, about your school. As part of your overall recruiting presentation you must have complete confidence that your institution is the best option for your prospect. This is something I see newer counselors struggle with, specifically when it comes to competing against bigger name colleges for the same students. If you don’t believe that you’re going to win those battles then neither will your recruits. Today’s prospective student is looking for someone who is confident that his or her college offers that “right fit.” If you don’t display enthusiasm about your school don’t expect them to be excited about the idea of spending the next four years there.
  1. Share stories. The most successful public speakers tell stories to get their points across. Each of you has success stories with past recruits. Sharing those relatable stories with your prospects will make a much greater impact than relying on statistics, rankings and PowerPoint slides.
  1. Focus on helping your prospects reach their goals. Every single one of your prospects has goals. Are you helping him or her connect the dots, as well as showing them how you and your school will help them achieve those goals? You need to be! Make it your goal to explain how what you do each step of the way during the recruiting process helps your prospect achieve their goals. If you’re not sure what your recruit’s goals are, go ahead and ask them.  Always remember it’s about them, not you.
  1. Ask amazing questions. I want you to come up with one for your first letter, your first email, your first phone call, and for when you first meet. I’m talking about questions that make your prospect stop and really think about the answer before they give it to you. Whenever you’re able to ask a question they haven’t been presented with before, that’s a sign of a great presentation.
  1. Anticipate objections. In the past I’ve shared strategies for dealing with various objections. Rarely will you not get at least one objection. You know what the common ones are. Once you’ve started cultivating your relationship with your prospect, try putting yourself in their shoes and asking yourself what you might be concerned about. Then, develop your response and be ready to address it at the appropriate time.

These five principles can help you form the basis for a really effective recruiting “presentation,” which will help you make a big impact on this next recruiting class you’re starting to contact.

Do you have questions?  Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

10 Ways to Improve Phone Calls to Prospective StudentsMonday, November 10th, 2014

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I’m a frequent channel surfer. It’s a bad habit I know. During halftime of a recent college football game I came across the sports movie classic, Jerry Maguire. For me the 1996 film is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again. The key message in the film centers on personal relationships. At its core, the college admissions process is about making those same types of connections.

As college admissions professionals you are continually counseling prospective students on the admissions process and opportunities available at your institution. In this day and age a bulk of that guidance will occur primarily through phone calls and emails. I’m sure each of you has a preference, but remember that a well-balanced mix of communication is key.

One of the questions I always ask a college-bound student is whether they would rather receive an email or a phone call from a college that they’re interested in. Regardless of where the student is at in the process nearly all choose a phone call. Their reasoning is simple. It’s more personal and to them demonstrates genuine interest.

In talking with numerous admissions counselors and enrollment managers, engaging with prospective students on the phone is an all too frequent frustration. Most secretly admit they don’t enjoy it, particularly if it’s the first time in the admissions process that they’re interacting with the student. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that they’re not alone. The teenager on the other end often feels disconnected, in large part due to poor communication and lack of enthusiasm during the call. Too often admissions counselors become so focused on selling their school that they fail to display any personal attributes that would separate them from their competition.

Where do we go from here then? Just like in the movie it starts with forming that connection and showing a more likeable human side to your recruits. Here are 10 areas that you and your staff can target to help improve phone conversations and yield the results you’re looking for.

Etiquette. Eating, chewing gum, having music on, hearing other phones ringing in the background, or worse, other people yelling on their phone while you’re on a call are all impolite. Find a quiet area to make your phone calls from where you can be totally focused. Another common etiquette issue is speaking volume. Some people just don’t know how loud they are. Finally if you’re going to put the other person on speakerphone let them know.

Slow down and speak clearly. I’ve done my share of public speaking over the years. Early on I received some great advice. Speaking slower doesn’t make you boring but just the opposite. Slowing down makes you appear more articulate and knowledgeable, but be mindful that low energy will bore the other person. This is a skill that takes time to master so don’t get frustrated. Enunciating is also critical in conversation. You want to make sure there’s no chance that the other person didn’t understand the information you’re sharing.

Put them at ease right away. It’s a documented fact that speaking to an admissions counselor is a stressful experience for most prospective students. They really want to attend your school and are fearful that one wrong sentence could jeopardize their chances. Remind him or her that your job is to help them manage the college selection process. Your goal needs to be to get the other person comfortable enough to open up, ask questions, and then maintain a steady dialogue. One way to accomplish this is to have talking points prepared ahead of time. These need to be questions that focus on the student – not your institution. Showing genuine interest in them is more important long term than trying to get an answer to where your school ranks.

Questions, questions, questions. Most students who indicate that phone calls are helpful as part of the college selection process have similar reasoning. It allows them to ask questions, and more questions.  In short it personalizes the call.  Your counselors can also get a feel for the other person’s comfort zone by introducing a topic they want to discuss in a neutral way. Then it’s time to sit back, listen, and take notes. You will be amazed at the volume of information students are willing to share if they feel in control of the conversation.

Avoid information overload. Research shows that although our minds can amass limitless amount of information in our long-term memory, we can only focus on a small amount of information at any given time. The worst thing you can do is start spouting off facts about your school. This will overwhelm the other person, and as we just mentioned, students won’t remember everything they’re told anyways.

Short vs. long. As a college basketball coach I always found it helpful to ask a recruit about their recruiting experience once they had committed. What I consistently discovered was that prospects got bored with recruiting calls that dragged out. A few recruits even went so far as to tell me that with some colleges they found themselves putting their phone on speaker and playing video games or watching television while the coach continued to chatter on. So, how do avoid the boredom and that lull? Feel things out. If a recruit is asking questions there’s nothing wrong with letting them dictate how long. Asking questions means they’re intellectually involved in the conversation, so don’t cut them off. If you sense that the other person is no longer engaged, be willing to wrap things up even if you haven’t had a chance to convey your selling points.

Handling objections. Objections are inevitable. Always remain calm and don’t become defensive. Students can tell when your tone changes during a phone call. Even if you have facts and figures to prove your school’s business degree is better than that of college “X,” if a recruit says they believe the opposite, meet that objection with a question to find out why. Once you’ve done that, listen to their entire reasoning and then you can present a solution and lay out facts to support your point of view.

Stop trying to be a mind reader. I’ll admit it. I’m guilty of doing this more then I should, especially with my wife. We’ll be having a conversation and I assume to know what point she’s trying to convey. More often than not, I’m wrong. When your recruit makes a statement you infer to be negative or questionable, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead write it down and gather information to determine if the statement is sound and justifiable. You can then determine if reasoning exists to support your assumption.

If you don’t know, just say so. There’s no shame in telling someone that you don’t know the answer to a question. Convey that you will get an answer as soon as possible. As I’ve said in previous posts, the last thing you want to do is exaggerate the facts only to have the recruit discover you did so.

Parents. When mom or dad answers the phone and says their son or daughter isn’t home, what do you do? Believe it or not this presents a great opportunity. Parents are not only more involved in every aspect of the college admissions process today, but in many cases their child wants and even values their input. Therefore, my advice is you must be comfortable talking to your prospect’s parents. Mom and dad can provide you with useful information, and studies are showing that more parents are actually doing a bulk of the work for their child during the admissions process.

 Near the conclusion of Jerry Maguire, Jerry and Rod Tidwell embrace and show how their relationship has progressed from a strictly business one to a close personal one. For your office to secure enrollment, that same relationship needs to be cultivated between prospective students and your staff. It’s imperative that phone calls are more about the student and less about the college.

 Try following these simple but proven communication strategies the next time you or your staff picks up the phone to talk to a prospect. They will help deepen your connection.

 Our clients get even more advice and direction on an ongoing basis.  Want to have access to one-on-one expertise as you approach this next recruiting class?  We’re ready to help.  Click on the link for all the details, or email Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

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