by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It happened this year not only to first-year admissions counselors but also some veteran ones – They didn’t reach their enrollment goals for their territory or demographic.
Many of you are worried. I know because you’ve talked with me about it. Something went wrong this recruiting cycle and you’re not exactly sure what, or why. You just know that it can’t be the same result with this next class of students.
Recruiting (which is really selling, remember) is an essential duty and responsibility in just about every single admissions/enrollment counselor’s job description. If you don’t recruit well, you might not keep your job. And even if they let you keep your job, it’s no fun going to work everyday unhappy and feeling like you’re walking around on eggshells. I’ve heard way too many counselors use words like “uninspired” and “miserable” this spring.
Today I’m going to take a different approach with my article. Instead of focusing on what you should be doing to be successful at selling and recruiting, I’m going to suggest some reasons you might be failing or falling short of your goals.
A word of warning: Some of these statements may seem harsh. Taking criticism can be a difficult thing. I want you to think of it as “tough love”, because I also know that you can use criticism (like I have many times before) to give you a competitive edge moving forward.
See if any of these struggles plague your recruiting efforts:
- You are unprepared and unmotivated. Sound harsh? It isn’t in the case of some counselors, and unfortunately even some admissions leaders. A number of counselors I speak to or meet with don’t take recruiting seriously. It’s not a job where you can just show up unprepared and wing it. No preparation will equal poor results every single time. Is it hard to be more prepared and motivated than your competition to recruit? You better believe it is! Start now to prepare yourself for future recruiting battles.
- You don’t believe in your ability to recruit. Believe it or not more counselors than you might imagine struggle with this. They come up with a strategy for dealing with something they hate like recruits who don’t say much or overbearing parents, and when it doesn’t work they feel like they can’t get the job done. Selling effectively is a constant learning process.
- You don’t know how to accept rejection. Counselors tend to get down on themselves when an admitted student tells them no. Many start to develop a negative attitude and a defeatist outlook when it comes to recruiting. Remember, they aren’t rejecting you personally they’re rejecting your school’s offer. There’s a difference. Don’t become bitter, and don’t lose your optimism. Maintaining your confidence and belief in your ability in the face of rejection is key to succeeding.
- You fail to master the fundamentals of sales. I’ve said it many times before: Like it or not you are a salesperson. Your job is convincing students and families why your college or university is the smart, right fit for them, and how it will help prepare them for the next phase of their lives. Those kinds of selling skills aren’t something that business and admissions professionals are just born with. The difference is most business professionals are forced to learn those skills when they go to work. Big companies put a lot of time and money into their corporate training programs. Unfortunately that’s not always the case in admissions and enrollment management. That means as an individual you need to actively seek out resources that can help you to be the best. They’re out there, you just have to do a little digging.
- You blame others when things go wrong. Dan Tudor and I talk about this all the time with counselors and coaches. When you start blaming others for your recruiting failures, you’ve lost the psychological battle in selling. Don’t blame your admissions director, financial aid staff, your school’s academic standards, the prospect’s parents…stop it. Accept responsibility for your mistake or lack of effort and make it your goal to be the best recruiter on your admissions team instead of looking for the next scapegoat.
- You fail to develop long term relationships. How many high school counselors or community college professionals did you really work at developing relationships with this year? Did you expand your recruiting network? Failure to develop relationships with people who will advocate your school to a prospective student or parent without you asking is a common problem we see when we come in to help develop a winning recruiting strategy at colleges around the country. I’ve been on that side of the desk and I’m here to tell you again that it will be worth your while to reach out and connect more then just when you need to set up a visit or request a transcript. If they feel you’re partnering with them for the good of their students, they will almost always advocate your school.
- You aren’t able to overcome objections. I talk about it frequently here in this newsletter. This is the number one reason most counselors fail when it comes to recruiting. Why? There aren’t very many students who are going to say “yes” when you have failed to answer each one of their concerns. Bring us to campus and learn our techniques to overcome objections. You’ll find that recruiting will get a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
- You don’t want to accept change. Many people who work in admissions and higher education are creatures of habit, and they like it that way. Change is constant, and if you’re trying to recruit a student/family using all the same techniques and communication strategies that you did even 3, 5, or 10 years ago, you’re probably struggling. Whether they’re a teenager or non-traditional student, times have changed. An easy example would be social media and texting. Do you know how important those communication methods are for today’s student, and how they want you to use them? To be the best you have to embrace change and learn to succeed under new and changing circumstances.
- You aren’t persistent enough. “I’m waiting for that prospect to call me back” or “I’ve already told them that information a bunch of times.” Counselors who consistently make statements like these are the ones who fall short in recruiting. Being professional and persistent are keys to selling in the business world, and a big key to success in the college recruitment world. Don’t give up easily. And, as I talked about in this recent article, if a student picks another school instead of yours, be professional in how you respond to them.
- You don’t “ask for the sale”. You want to give them their space and you don’t want to pressure them. They’ll call or email you when they’ve made a decision. That’s the mentality too many admissions counselors continue to take. “Asking for the sale” is NOT about pressuring the student. If you’ve understood their needs, built trust, gained agreement along the way and answered any objections, the next logical step is to ask for this. You can also practice what’s called a “trial close” if you think the student is ready to “close”. This technique is one of the many things we work with admissions teams on during our on-campus workshops.
Hopefully none of these 10 reasons apply to you. For many of you though, some will apply. Here’s the next step: Determine how to erase any of these bad habits. Even just one of these can cripple your recruiting efforts.
Need help? Have a question about one of the bullet points? Contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my cell at 612-386-0854. We thrive on working with counselors and other admissions professionals who need help formulating a winning strategy when it comes to recruiting, marketing and communication.