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Have You Asked These Questions Yet?Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Today’s article will take you about 60 seconds to read and will give you a massive ROI if you follow through. Here we go!

Every time a college brings me to campus to lead a recruiting training workshop, I ask at least a couple of the admissions staff what was most helpful. One of the biggest things I hear goes something like, “I love all the questions that you gave us.”

Asking the right kinds of questions is without a doubt a game changer and something that will immediately separate you from your competitors.

Most of the students you’re recruiting are more than happy to share all kinds of useful and usable information if you simply ask questions about them, their process, their wants, needs, fears, concerns, likes, dislikes, etc. In some cases, they’ll tell you exactly how to successfully recruit them to your school.

With that in mind, here are four questions that you should immediately ask every single prospective student on your list (if you haven’t already)…especially seniors and juniors, and especially those with high demonstrated interest in your school. These questions will elicit a response, and that response can help you to move the process forward.

You can ask these questions during college fairs, high school visits, campus visits, in an email, letter, or over the phone.

  • What’s the biggest fear you have as you’re looking at different colleges?
  • What does the best college look like in your mind?
  • Have you and your parents had a conversation yet about paying for college and financial aid? (Whether they answer yes or no, your follow-up question should focus on the “4 buckets.” If you don’t know what I mean, click that link and scroll down)
  • What do you see as the next step in your college search?

If you ask one or more of these questions and then aren’t sure where to steer the conversation next, email, call or text me, and I’ll give you some immediate feedback. No strings attached.

Good luck, and check out the rest of this week’s newsletter for more tips, strategies, and news you need to know.

Making These Changes Next Recruiting CycleTuesday, May 8th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

In my Inbox among a bunch of “can you help me” emails and workshop contest entries last week was a note from a Senior Admissions Counselor. I led a workshop for the university he worked at a couple of years ago…he’s since moved on to another school.

Emails like his are the reason I put so much time and energy into this weekly newsletter. Hearing from admission professionals who have successfully executed strategies I recommended means the world to me.

This article I wrote about three words to avoid, and this article about questions to ask undecided students really helped this counselor “explode in terms of contacts and deposits.” In fact, his numbers and yield rates this year are the strongest in his office.

I’m sharing this story with you because it’s further proof that making small changes to the way you communicate with prospective students can net you a big ROI…and a lot less stress in the weeks leading up to May 1.

So, as you begin to shift your attention this spring/summer to the next class of prospective students, here are ten additional ideas (small changes) that I encourage you to consider implementing, either individually or throughout your entire admissions office.

  1. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Instead of sending random pieces from the Director of Admissions, the admissions counselor, a current student, faculty, etc., establish a point person right now so that prospective students know who they can turn to for help and advice during their college search. That person, whom I recommend is the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family. That doesn’t mean you can’t send additional ad hoc pieces from other people on campus. When you do that, though, have the established “go-to person” set it up first. Our data continues to show that schools who take this approach and stay consistent, yield more students.
  2. Use keywords/phrases in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much this generation of students wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Say things like, “I appreciate you,” “You’re important to us,” or “I believe in you.” Phrases like those contain powerful words that your prospects will respond to. Word choice also matters, and I would encourage you to use more verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive. Verbs give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of answering the “why.” Lastly, make it a priority to ask them about their biggest fear(s) and how they “feel” about certain things. Doing so will yield important information, build trust, and encourage open discussion.
  3. Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospects, most of whom are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you. As one student said in a survey we conducted, “Be more friendly and use English that everybody speaks every day.”
  4. Establish a timeline with each student/family early on. As I explain when I lead a staff training workshop, establishing a timeline that your prospect or their parents have set in their mind for making that final decision is critical for you to effectively manage the entire recruiting process (and all those names that a counselor has in their territory). It also gives your prospects a checklist to follow from the beginning, which will alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling during the early stages of their college search.
  5. Keep your notes up to date in the CRM. Straightforward and simple. Make it a priority, especially during fall travel season. It will benefit you and everyone else in your office.
  6. Start a conversation about paying for college/financial aid long before you send out your award letter/package. That means now for your soon-to-be seniors. And remember, that initial conversation should be with the parent(s) and/or the parent(s) and their child together…not with just the student.
  7. Explain how your school is different and why your school is better early on. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this point is. If you don’t do it early on, you can expect most students to slip in to “analysis paralysis.” So, instead of just saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care. And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then provide context that allows your prospect to connect the dots and understand why that kind of atmosphere is important and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.
  8. Phone calls are important and valuable. Get used to making a lot of them. This is something I’ve been hammering home over the past year. 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. They’re not going away anytime soon, and the majority of high school juniors who are on your radar right now value them when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want). If you still don’t believe me and need more proof, click this link and read some or all of these articles about phone calls that I’ve written. And as a leader, if you’re not evaluating the phone calls that are made by counselors, student workers, etc., I would strongly urge you to start doing so.
  9. Explain the WHY more often. Not enough attention is given to context and why it’s beneficial for the other person. Throughout the college search process colleges ask students and parents to take action on a multitude of things. They want to understand the WHY or the “because.” Why should they visit your campus? Why should they apply right now? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the FAFSA now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should the student answer the phone when you call? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is and how it will benefit them or make their life easier.
  10. Repeat just about everything you’re telling prospective students to their parents. Ignoring the parents and not involving them deeply in the conversation from the beginning will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with their son or daughter, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them. Always make it clear to the parents just how much you value their input and assistance.

If you want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these ideas, you don’t have to bring me to your campus for us to do that. All you have to do is reply back to this email and start a conversation with me. I’m here to listen and help if you’re willing to take the time to reach out and ask for it.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Important Thoughts for You From My Travels This SummerTuesday, August 22nd, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I’ve really busy since the beginning of June. Outside of the July 4th holiday week, I’ve been on the road at some point every single week except two.

A lot of the trips I took this summer were to lead admissions staff training workshops. As part of each of those visits, I take the time to meet 1-on-1 with each Admissions Counselor, Assistant/Associate Director, Director, VP, and occasionally even the President of the school. I love those individual meetings because it allows me to offer personalized direction and help to each person based on their needs and experience.

Today, I’m going to share with you some of the more popular topics that admissions professionals have been asking me about the past few months, as well as offer some important reminders from my travels that may help you become a more efficient recruiter and/or leader.

  • Admissions counselors, particularly younger ones, continue to voice their frustration about taking ideas to their boss and being told no. The reasons vary, but I think it’s so important that counselors or anyone who repeatedly experiences a situation like this continues to keep bringing ideas to the table. If you stop doing that out of frustration, not only are you hurting yourself and potentially your colleagues, but most of all, you may be preventing prospective students and families from receiving improved customer service or a better overall experience.
  • On a related note, more leaders (Associate Director to an Admissions Counselor or Director to an Associate Director or Counselor) need to provide context to their staff. Explaining the “why” behind a decision, a change in strategy, or when you ask someone to take on a task out of nowhere can make all the difference in the world. Most people rarely buy in completely without knowing why.
  • If you manage a territory, how you keep track of the information you obtain from hundreds or thousands of phone calls, emails, school visits, etc is vital…and I continue to find that consistency is lacking. Very few schools (although yes there are some) are without a CRM. Regardless of where your staff stores this information, it needs to be accessible by your admissions colleagues. When you’re out of the office or busy with another task and someone else there has to deal with a student or parent from your territory, will they be able to “catch up” quickly on the current conversation and truly able to help because they know what’s been discussed during previous communications? If not, everyone can appear to be unorganized.
  • Varying levels of tension between admissions and other offices across campus (marketing, financial aid, athletics) continue to decrease productivity and staff confidence. Without consistent collaboration, it becomes a lot harder to provide outstanding customer service.
  • Intensive tour guide training is slowly but surely becoming more of a priority on campuses. It’s not just about the history of your school and the buildings that make up your campus, it’s about storytelling, creating effective engagement, and getting your tour guides to understand their role in the college search process and why it’s so important.
  • Early in the recruitment process, admissions counselors should concentrate more on developing trust and an environment that promotes back and forth engagement and less about communicating facts and figures about their school. Counselors who take this approach continue to find that the process actually moves faster and not slower.
  • Not having parent information, namely their first name(s), makes it hard for schools to truly personalize those communications. Whether it’s changing out fields on your inquiry card or adding this as a call to action in an early email, schools should be more aggressively seeking out this information based on the fact that parent(s) remain the biggest influencer in their child’s college decision.
  • Setting up a phone call ahead of time via email or text and communicating the “why” behind your call will drastically improve your response rate with students.
  • If you’re an admissions counselor who wants to climb the ladder and advance in the profession, you need a detailed plan to achieve that goal. Regardless of how much, or how little, professional development and mentoring is provided to you in your office, the choice to better yourself is ultimately your responsibility. Take the initiative and attempt to connect with people both inside and outside of your school that hold positions and titles you strive for. Also look to increase your knowledge of all things enrollment management (which is a lot!). You may reach out to 100 people and only hear back from 2…which is better than 0. Listen and take advantage of their knowledge. There’s also your local NACAC affiliate. And when you have an extra 5 or 10 minutes between high school visits or fairs this fall, remember, I’ve written over 150 FREE articles in 32 different categories for this exact reason. I’m committed to helping you!

If you want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these bullet points you don’t have to bring me to campus to do so. Each week at the bottom of this newsletter I give you my cell phone number and my email address. Let me say it again – I’m here to listen and help if you’re willing to take the time to reach out and ask.

Have a great day, and I’ll see you back here next Tuesday.

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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Christmas time is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holidays, and thank you for your attention.

How You Can Be More Interesting to Prospective StudentsTuesday, May 31st, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Challenges. We all have them.

One of the biggest challenges that many college admissions teams face in this highly competitive environment is coming up with something interesting to say.

Furthermore, there’s the challenge of writing things in a way that actually connects with this generation of prospective students. Both hurdles are extremely challenging for many college admissions recruiters who are being asked to do more with less time.

In my ongoing effort to help you become a smarter, more efficient recruiter, I want to pass along some proven ideas on how to actually be interesting to your prospects, specifically with what you write about in letters, your emails and on social media:

  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong (within reason, of course).  This is part of an overall strategy of being transparent.  Being wrong means you’re human, and that’s a quality that our research says today’s prospects, and their parents, value significantly.  Talk about a part of your application process or your campus visit that your institution is trying to improve.  The honesty will be refreshing to your recruits.  Of course, exercise reason when you do this.
  • Don’t be afraid to be right.  Build yourself as an expert, and give away your knowledge to prospective students and families. We’re all drawn to people who we believe can help us get to where we want to be. Your prospects are no different. When they accept you as an expert admissions counselor, it goes a long way towards erasing any doubts that may exist about your school in their mind.
  • Surprise your prospects.  Jim Belosic, CEO and co-founder of ShortStack, a company that helps build engaging social media contests and marketing campaigns, says that one of best ways to deliver exceptional customer service and be more interesting is to constantly be on the lookout for ways to “surprise and delight”. There are so many different opportunities throughout the recruitment process where you can make your prospect’s day. Are you trying to do that now? When you surprise and delight, your prospects and their parents will stop and pay attention. In a marketplace overflowing with colleges and universities that look and feel the same, setting yourself apart from the competition is a key factor in winning over a student.
  • Make your prospects laugh. Successful communicators have been doing this for ages, and as long as it’s appropriate for your prospect, humor can get them to pay attention to your recruiting message.  Easier said than done, of course, but I encourage you to look for ways to get your recruit to smile and laugh.
  • Make sure you are ALWAYS telling a great story.  I’ve talked about this over and over again, and we use it as a foundation for creating our Total Recruiting Solution (TRS) plans for our college admissions clients.  At their core, stories support your key recruitment points, make solid openers, and teach your prospects while entertaining them.  And, a good story can make you a legend in recruiting. I’m not talking about the occasional anecdotes on social media or in one of your letters or emails. I’m talking about the story that gets told over and over again for years to come. Forget about all the others…tell me that one.  As you tell those stories, don’t forget to explain how your prospect fits into them.

Being interesting isn’t easy, and converting that interest to your letters, emails and social media posts is even more challenging.  If a counselor can master the art, there is almost nothing that they won’t accomplish in the competition for the best students.

Strive to be interesting creatively, and watch what happens to your recruiting results!

Need help developing your story?  From our customized On-Campus Workshops to one-on-one personalized recruiting message creation as a part of our Total Recruiting Solution plan for college admissions departments, we have a lot of resources that can help counselors become more effective recruiters.  If you’d like to learn more, just send me an email directly.

A Magic Formula to Getting a Read On Your RecruitsTuesday, April 12th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Last week a veteran admissions counselor who reads this newsletter reached out to me for the first time. It quickly became clear that she was really frustrated, mainly with a handful of her undecided recruits.

“These teenagers,” she said. “They know all they want to know about us and it still takes them forever to make up their minds…Do you have a magic formula or something that will clue me in on what they’re thinking?”

My reply to this counselor: “Tell me what kinds of questions you’ve been asking these students lately.”

“I’m just trying to see if there’s anything else they need, and when they think, they will make a decision.”

Are you facing a similar situation?  You’re asking questions of your undecided students, and all they’re giving you is one-word or short answers or maybe even not getting back to you at all anymore.

Not a fun scenario, right?

The good news is, after you read this article you will have a strategy to use, and you won’t have to wonder about it anymore. In fact, there is a magic formula, of sorts, that you can use at any time during the recruitment process that will help erase all the mystery when it comes to what your recruits are thinking.

It’s called a follow-up question.

That’s it? You got it.

When we want to get a read on someone we ask that person a question. They proceed to respond, and typically many of us just accept their answer and move onto another topic.

Now, how many times after the fact have you thought to yourself that those responses to your questions actually revealed very little, and when it comes down to it, you learned nothing new about the other person?

The key to getting a true understanding of people and their thought process lies in asking a good follow-up question. Why then don’t more admissions counselors do that? In my experience, many counselors aren’t actually paying close enough attention to ask a detailed follow-up question. Maybe you’re on your sixth call of the night with a bunch more to go, and you’re trying to keep things moving along (I’ve actually been told this exact thing before by multiple admissions counselors). It’s really hard to ask a good follow-up question if you’re not truly “locked in” to how your recruit (or maybe their parents) responds to your initial question.

Another possibility is the “I don’t want to be pushy” justification. Often newer counselors tell me that they’re hesitant to probe further because they don’t want to seem pushy or have the recruit feel nagged.

Let’s go ahead then and put our plan into action. Here’s how a typical conversation right now with an undecided student could go. Start by asking them:

“How will you make your final decision?”

Cut to the chase and ask the student upfront how they will be making their decision on which college to attend.

After the student answers, here’s the next question I want you to ask:

“And then what?”

They’ll tell you more. And then you ask, “And then what?” again.  And they’ll tell you more. And on and on until you finally get to the real source of their decision – the financial aid package, their parents’ input, or maybe a school’s location or size. The bottom line is, you’ll know what their decision rests on.

This strategy will also work at other key junctures of the recruitment process (not just the end).

Here are a couple of other effective follow-up questions that we’ve recommended to our clients:

  • “What does that mean?”
  • “Can you help me understand that a little better?”
  • “Why is that important to you?”

I can’t stress how important asking a follow-up question is. It’s an essential tool for any business professional to use when they seek to understand how a sales decision is going to be made, or when you’re wondering what a recruit is thinking or where your school ranks versus your competition.

Try it. I’m confident you’ll like the results.

By the way, if you have a particular question, problem or recruiting issue that you want addressed and answered, don’t hesitate to email me just like that veteran counselor did last week. I’ll get right back to you.

How You Can Take the Early Lead With JuniorsTuesday, March 29th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Are you ready to tackle the Class of 2021?

Yes, I know…you’re still working on this current group of students which is why each of my articles over the past six weeks has focused on conversion and yield. So, if you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking down the stretch or what the silent treatment from recruits might mean, click those links because I’m here to help.

Having said that, I also know that many of the admissions counselors reading this either just started spring travel, or are about to. My goal today is to make sure you get started on the right foot with this next class of prospective students.

Spring college fairs and high school visits with juniors, or other underclassmen, should never be undervalued. Often times counselors tell me they find themselves going through the motions during these events and visits because all they can think about is converting seniors and hitting their numbers. I hope that doesn’t sound like you, but if it does, email me. I’m happy to listen and offer advice.

Your follow-up communication in the weeks after spring travel is extremely important. Early in the process many prospective students are looking to see which schools maintain consistent contact. In their minds, it’s an indicator of just how serious your school is about them.

Determining those early talking points can be a challenge for many counselors. In fact it’s one of the biggest reasons that admissions departments start working with us. They’re tired of sending the same first letter and viewbook and not generating any back and forth conversation.

It starts by defining what gets them to keep talking to you after you make that first contact.   Our research shows that when a prospect and his or her parents are comfortable engaging in conversation with an admissions counselor, that school immediately moves up the list.

Here are six things that current high school juniors want and need to know from your initial messages:

  • If possible, remind them where you met. This is a great example of the obvious getting overlooked. Most counselors don’t even think to mention where they first met a prospective student. And yet, recruits tell us it’s one of the easiest ways for them to determine that your school is serious about them initially.  It gives them context for why you are reaching out to them and more importantly why they should take the time to reply back to you.
  • Tell them what you like about them. This generation of students wants to know what you like about them. Why? Believe it or not, some of your prospects aren’t sure they’re good enough to be considered by a school such as yours. Pointing out two or three specific things a student mentioned to you, or you saw from their information, is another important way to tell them they “have what it takes” to be considered for admission to your school. If you include these first two points in your initial letters and emails, you will see an increase in replies versus a more generic, non-specific message.
  • Create curiosity. If you’re a frequent reader of my newsletter you understand that the worst thing you can do early on is cram tons of information about your college into a letter or an email. If you want a response from your prospect that is. By being short and to the point, you will leave room for their curiosity to take over. It’s also important to craft messages that after being read by your prospects leave questions unanswered. Are you doing that now?
  • Share the positives and the negatives.  Counselors that talk only about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat.  This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process. Remember, students and parents are coming into the conversation with biases for and/or against your school. If you paint a “perfect” picture in everything you show them and tell them, you run the risk of making them question whether they’re getting the real story from you. It’s best to show your “cracks” before they show up in unexpected places or at unexpected times.
  • Engage the parents. Our research finds that many parents are anxious as you begin contact with their child. They want to play a part in the recruitment process, and naturally they too have questions they want answered. While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents for as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection. If you do, you’ll find that they’ll be more than willing to contribute useful, usable information during the process.
  • Have a call to action. This is essential if you want them to respond to you. I’m not talking about asking them to visit campus or fill out your application. There’s a time and a place for those, and it’s not always right out of the gate. Instead, try asking your prospect at the end of your email if what you’re saying matches up with their list of priorities and “must-haves.”  Not only will this demonstrate that you understand the process is about their wants and needs, but you’ll also be making them feel more comfortable engaging with you.

Early communication with a prospect is about getting a response. Your goal should be to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Is your admissions team stressed about converting those admits or preventing summer melt? They don’t have to be. Bring me to campus to lead one of our famous two-day training workshops. Your team will leave with more confidence and better tools that they can use immediately with recruits. The next step is to send me an email.

11 Recruiting Reminders: What You Need to KnowTuesday, November 24th, 2015

workshopby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Like many of you, I just finished my fall travel season. Last week’s admissions training workshop was my final one until the New Year.

A big part of every workshop I do is the individual meetings. I flat out love them. It’s an opportunity to meet one-on-one with the counselors, assistant directors and the director and provide them personalized training and direction based on their individual needs and experience.

One of the first questions, if not the first, that I always ask is, “You tell me, what can I help you with?” Inevitably the discussion topics vary based on a college’s location, institution type and the level of experience of the staff member. Needless to say, there’s a lot of great discussion and strategizing…usually to the point where I have to end the session because it goes past our scheduled time.

Today I’ve taken eleven of the most popular topics from those meetings and turned them into helpful reminders just for you. Each one is something that you can use right now (if you’re not already).

  1. Regardless of where the student is in the process you have to vigorously and continually cultivate a recruiting relationship with each recruit. It starts with understanding or remembering that different recruits have different problems and motivations. I have counselors tell me all the time that they understand the importance of personalizing the recruitment process…yet when I ask them to share some of the strategies they’ve come up with to do that, most times I get, “I’m still working on that part.” It’s your job to try and put yourself in each recruit’s shoes and develop a plan that will explain why your school is the right place for them to spend the next four years. Also, just because a prospect has applied and/or been admitted to your school doesn’t mean that you can ease up on developing that recruiting relationship and focus extra time on new inquiries or prospects who haven’t responded to your communications.
  1. Make sure you are communicating foundational, logical facts about your school to your prospect every six to nine days. Remember that those messages should be sequential and contain short, fact-based pieces of information with the goal of creating anticipation and engagement. Our research firmly 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 feel valued. Your recruiting campaign should consist of a regular flow of letters, emails, phone calls, personal contact and social media. During those communications, make it a goal to write or speak in a conversational tone as if you’re talking to a friend.
  1. The reason why many of your inquiries/prospects aren’t paying attention at the start of the recruiting process is because they don’t know who you are.  No, you don’t have to be famous, but you do have to be “known.” One of the simplest things you can do to become “known” to your recruits is be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many counselors just don’t pay attention to. In the way you communicate – the text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages – you need to make it easy for your recruit to actually reply to you. If that’s not happening with new names, it might mean that you aren’t “sounding” like you are easy to talk to. Which means they aren’t going to ever really get to know you.
  1. Leaving voicemails that get a response. How are you going to set your message apart from all of the other messages your prospect is receiving from your competitors?  What are you really saying when you leave a prospect a voicemail?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or, is it the same old, “Hey, sorry I missed you, give me a call.” I want you to focus on creating curiosity by keeping your voicemail messages shorter – much shorter in fact. When you do that you avoid overloading your prospect with so much information that they lose track of what they’re supposed to do in replying to you. I’ll even go so far as to say that the less you tell them about why you’re calling them, the more likely it will be that they will call you to ask you for more information.  We’ve recommended that strategy for years, and it works.
  1. Having more productive phone conversations when they do answer. Do you know what you’re going to talk about if your recruit answers the phone tonight, tomorrow or next week? I mean other than asking them how their day went, how school’s going, or if they’ve finished their application to your school. Your prospects tell us it’s questions like those that cause them not to want to pick up the phone when it rings. We find the best kind of questions right now should not be about declaring who their top school is or anything that pressures them to give you information about what they’re thinking.  Instead, ask questions about their approach to the process or anything else that keeps the focus on them.
  1. You need to become the “go-to” counselor. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Your prospects (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good). 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. Does this sound like you right now?
  1. Time management. Let’s talk specifically about multi-tasking. Often many of us forget that there’s a limit to how many things we can do at once without taking away from the quality of our work. In fact, experts estimate that when you start and stop a task it can increase the time necessary to complete the task by as much as 500%. That’s why it is very important to focus on one task at a time. I understand that other things will come up throughout the day, however starting five different things and completing none of them isn’t an efficient use of your time.  Instead, at the end of the work day, take your new list and prioritize things for the next day.
  1. The parents. We all know the important role that they play in their child’s decision-making process, yet many admissions professionals still don’t establish early contact with the parents. You need to be okay with talking to mom/dad in place of your prospect. They’ll almost always offer accurate, useful information that will help you in the weeks and months ahead. More importantly, when you call them, email them and ask them questions, they will view you as someone that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter.
  1. Campus visit follow-up. What you say to your prospects in the first week after they visit, and the information you ask them, can not only help set you apart from your competition, but it can yield some of the best information possible during a critical point in the recruiting process. Here are a couple quick examples that you can use to gain a deeper understanding of your prospect’s mindset:

What are your parents telling you to do at this point in the process?

What did you guys end up talking about the most on the way home?

  1. Handling objections. This will be an extremely important topic over the next couple of months. First, I want you to understand that you should want to hear objections from your prospects. Whenever I make that statement during a workshop I often get puzzled looks from some of the admissions staff. “You mean I want people to object to something about our campus or our school?”  That is correct. An objection usually indicates that your prospect is actively listening and processing the information that they’re seeing or hearing from you. Your initial reaction and re-direction is key to keeping them listening to you.
  1. Don’t try and prove to your prospects that you want them. Prove to them why they should want you.

Want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these 11 things and how you can incorporate them successfully into your recruiting strategy? Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com or give me a call at 612-386-0854.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving with family and friends later this week!

We All Need to Be Better At This and Here’s HowTuesday, July 14th, 2015

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

Have you ever watched the TV show “House Hunters?” Thanks to all the rain we’ve been getting in central Indiana this summer, last week was a great opportunity for my wife and I to view the backlog of episodes on our DVR.

During a house tour in the suburbs of Chicago, something that the homebuyer said to her realtor caught my attention. To make a long story short, this particular homebuyer had a unique wish list. When it came to the kitchen, she had to have white appliances and a corner pantry. It didn’t matter how perfect the location was, if the home didn’t have both of those characteristics then she wasn’t buying.

House number one had white appliances, but no corner pantry. House number two was the exact opposite. Both seemed like great options, but this homebuyer wasn’t budging. When they got to the third and final home, the realtor had found a match (which was over budget of course). Immediately after walking into the kitchen and seeing that both of her needs had been met, the homebuyer turned to her realtor and said, “You actually listened to me.”

Studies say that humans’ listening skills are poor on average. We retain less than half of what we hear, and evidence shows that these skills are getting worse.

Here’s why that should be cause for concern for you, the college admissions professional. Being a good listener is one of the key principles we stress with our clients. Doing so is often the difference between developing a superior relationship with your prospect and being just another college representative in their eyes.

When you do most of the talking you make it nearly impossible to discover what’s really motivating your prospect to consider your institution.  You‘re also cheating yourself out of valuable information that you can discover from the comments your recruit gives when they feel like they’re a part of an informal conversation.

A good rule to follow is to try and let your prospect do 80% of the talking during any conversation.  That means asking great questions and then giving them ample opportunity to talk afterwards.  You should also be ready to ask a lot of follow-up questions.

In my on-going effort to equip you with the skills that every elite recruiter and sales professional that I’ve ever met possesses, today I’m going to give you some effective ways to improve your listening skills.

  • Stop doing other things. Easy and obvious, right? In a world that loves to multi-task (myself included), the ability to stop everything you are doing and give 100% of your attention to your prospect (or their parents) is going to be a challenge for most. When you’re on a phone call this fall don’t try and also answer an email or input notes into a file. Focus on your prospect and nothing else when he or she is speaking to you.
  • Listen without a hidden agenda. The college search process is not about you and your wants and needs, it’s about your prospect. When you have a hidden agenda or become so caught up thinking about yield you tend to push too hard and that affects your ability to listen clearly. Stop trying to sell to them. Instead focus on connecting with them.
  • Become an active listener. Most people begin thinking about how they’re going to reply while the other person is talking. Next time that happens to you I encourage you to try something that a good friend of mine who’s a successful small business owner taught me. Imagine that at the end of the conversation you’ll have to take a test to see how much of what your prospect said you truly heard and understood. Becoming an active listener also goes hand-in-hand with asking really good questions.
  • Acknowledge your prospect. Acknowledging what your prospect is saying is another way to listen more effectively. Using phrases such as “Good point,” “I understand,” and “That’s interesting” will show your prospect that you are tuned in and paying attention.
  • Listen and look for emphasis. We all use tone and other facial expressions to convey likes and dislikes. It’s difficult to discover what your prospect is placing emphasis on if you’re not listening intently during a phone call. Both pace and volume can give you clues about a prospect and their feelings. Body language is just as important to conveying meaning. If you’re face-to-face with a prospect and listen but don’t look, you’ll miss half the message.
  • Ask great questions. Earlier in this article I mentioned you need to ask great questions. By great I mean open-ended. Those types of questions get you an explanation from your prospect and provide you with insights that will aid in your recruitment of them.
  • Don’t interrupt. If you don’t understand something that a prospect is communicating to you there’s nothing wrong with asking for clarification. Don’t interrupt, and instead wait until the person pauses. At that point, you could say something like, “Earlier you mentioned (blank). Can you help me understand that a little better?” Not only are you being respectful by not interrupting, but you will also come across as someone who genuinely cares and wants to form a deeper connection.

Becoming a good listener takes time. It’s a skill that can be honed each and every day. When you improve your ability to listen, you immediately become more effective. You will also earn trust and grow those recruiting relationships faster. (Oh, in case you were wondering the homebuyer picked house number three)

Are you being an effective recruiter? If you have questions or need help, e-mail me at jeremy@dantudor.com.

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

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