by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
If you didn’t watch the season premier of America’s Got Talent last week you probably have no idea who Johnny Shelton is.
Hopefully after this article you’ll remember him for what his story and stand out performance can teach you as you strive to have more meaningful conversations and develop a deeper connection with your prospects.
Shelton is a 25-year old singer/songwriter. In a segment shown by AGT before he went on stage, Shelton shared his story about his son who lost his battle with cancer on his fifth birthday.
When Shelton came out on stage, he explained that he wrote the song he was about to perform as a tribute to his son and uses it as his special way of communicating with his child. Once the crowd learned the entire backstory, it quickly became clear that everyone felt a connection to Johnny Shelton.
His performance was nothing short of remarkable. Emotions ran very high. The next day his Facebook page was filled with supportive comments from people around the country. No doubt about it, Johnny Shelton had captured the hearts of many.
In the midst of watching his performance some very important recruiting lessons for college admissions surfaced:
- Capturing your audience’s emotions. Shelton delivered a moving performance that inspired the AGT judges and brought members of the audience to tears. Judge Heidi Klum said his song, “made me very emotional.” Your goal should be to create those same feelings and emotions in the hearts and minds of your prospects. Our national study of how recruits make their final decision revealed one solid fact that every college admissions professional should be aware of when it comes to developing a winning recruiting strategy – Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their 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.
- Everyone talks about the “good.” Don’t be afraid to talk about the “bad.” Admissions counselors who only talk about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat. It would be great if your prospects never had an objection to your school…but who are we kidding. Johnny Shelton could have just come out and sang his song. Instead he didn’t shy away from talking about a very difficult time in his life. This generation of students (and their parents) are looking for someone that can demonstrate honesty during the recruitment process. As we’ve said in the past, it’s good to show your school’s “cracks” to your prospects. Think of it this way. If you try and present the “perfect” college situation for your recruit in everything you show and tell them, you likely run the risk of making the prospect question whether they are getting the real story from you. In other words, it’s best to show them your “cracks” (the bad) before a competitor paints that picture.
- Passion wins. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know that I think this 7-letter word is the most underrated tool you have at your disposal. Shelton received a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges, thanks in large part to a very passionate performance. If you prove you’re a passionate recruiter who sincerely cares and takes the time to understand the wants and needs of your prospects, you’ll come out victorious more often than not. This is especially true when the final decision is a close race.
- Great recruiters understand the importance of storytelling. The lyrics of Johnny Shelton’s song told the heartbreaking story about his son. Afterwards, judge Howie Mandel said, “I’m speechless when you told us your story.” Effective stories are essential to the recruiting process. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to make up something that’s untrue or embellish the prestige of your school so you can gain a prospect’s commitment. What I want you to do is give your prospects something they can connect with when it comes to what your institution is all about. Your recruiting materials, phone calls, and even campus visits have to tell a “story” that you want them to buy into. Are you doing that right now?
- Go ahead and be gutsy. It took a lot of guts for Johnny Shelton to come on national television and perform a song as personal as one about losing a child. It also takes some guts for an admissions counselor to ask their prospect an effective question like, “Right now, where can you picture yourself going to college next year?” Some of you won’t feel comfortable being so forward, but this effective question can yield a gold mine of information when asked correctly. It’s important to note that you’re not asking them to make a decision on the spot but rather what their thoughts are right now in terms of where they can picture themselves attending college next year. There’s a big difference.
Remember these five lessons that I’ve laid out as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects. They will pay dividends.
Want to speak further about these or other valuable recruiting lessons? Email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org