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?
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