By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Over the past two months I’ve written a number of articles designed to help you convert undecided students. If you missed any of them, click here and start scrolling.
Today I want to talk with you about a “closing” technique that continues to work well for both our clients and other admissions professionals that I recommend it to.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. Right now you’ve got a handful of undecided students who haven’t officially told you that they’ve picked your school, but you feel really good about your chances.
If the student has everything they need from you (you know because you’ve asked them), and hasn’t told you that they’re waiting on a financial aid package from another school, what’s keeping you from asking them if they’re ready to take the next step and deposit?
I asked three admissions counselors that exact question last week, and they all told me essentially the same thing – They’re not 100% sure, plus they don’t want to pressure the student.
One solution that I want to encourage you to consider is called a trial close. Not familiar with that term? It’s okay, you’re definitely not alone. When I outline this strategy during the training workshops I lead, very few admissions counselors have heard of it.
A trial close question is a closing technique that gives you insight into what the other person is thinking, thus making it easier for you to clearly understand where things stand and when it’s time to ask for a decision.
Let me back up for a minute. Throughout the recruitment process your goal should be to consistently gain agreement from prospective students through small wins that I call “little yeses.” These are indicators from a student that they like what they’re hearing about your school and want to learn more (i.e. they engage with you, and/or they take the next step in the process).
Eventually after all the steps are completed, the only thing left is for your admitted student to make a decision. And as I’ve discussed before, I don’t want you to sit back and wait for that student to contact you about their decision. I want you to ask them.
A lot of counselors at this late stage tell me they’re looking for a little more assurance first. That’s where a trial close question can help.
A trial close question is one that assumes a future action, or assumes the other person’s intent to do something, because you want to see how they will respond. Will they agree with you, or will they disagree?
Hearing tone (or seeing the other person’s reaction) is important, so a trial close should ideally be done over the phone (or in person).
Here are four quick examples:
- “It seems like (insert your school’s name) is the best fit for you based on what you told me you’re looking for. What do you think Sarah?”
- “Sarah, are you ready to move forward and talk about next steps like choosing housing and registration?”
- “When you get on campus this fall Sarah, are you hoping to live in (insert the name of a popular freshman dorm on your campus)?”
- “Mrs. Smith, have you talked about how often Sarah might come home during the school year?”
The tone in each of those questions assumes that Sarah is coming to (or likely to choose) your school in the way that you ask the question.
Now it’s time to listen closely to the other person’s response. Do they agree with you or answer in such a way that tells you they’re assuming the same thing? If they do, then the immediate next step is to ask for their deposit/commitment.
If, however, they answer your question with something like, “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure yet,” or “I didn’t tell you I was coming yet,” then it’s your job to ask some probing follow-up questions. And the good news is, you didn’t directly ask them for their deposit or commitment.
Let me be 100% clear. A trial close question is not the same as asking for the deposit/commitment. It’s used to see how the admitted student (or parent) feels about something. You still need to ask them if they’re ready to take that final step.
If you have questions about this article I want you to email me.