by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Every college admissions professional is going to encounter objections from a prospective student or their parents during the recruiting process. Ivy League, Liberal Arts or Public University…they all get faced with objections.
This past week at NACAC the theme of my booth revolved around the idea that your prospects want you to be an admissions superhero. I explained to counselors, directors and VP’s of enrollment that recruits are looking for someone to rescue them from a college admissions process that is stressful and at times downright exhausting.
If you’re going to be an admissions superhero, you’re going to have to overcome those objections as quickly as possible. If you don’t do that throughout the recruiting process, the chances of that prospect choosing your school will decrease significantly.
Despite being inevitable, objections during the recruitment process should never be seen as a door closing in your face. Instead, you and your admissions colleagues need to take time and uncover why a recruit is really objecting. From there you can help defuse the objection, which if you’ve begun cultivating a relationship with the recruit and his or her family, will pose less of a challenge.
Overcoming objections can be done in a number of different ways. First off, it’s important to anticipate any potential objections ahead of time. Each one of you knows what the common ones are. Keep in mind one other thing. The worst, and I mean absolute poorest choice that you can make, is to try and avoid discussing an objection about your school with the hopes it will magically disappear. Not going to happen.
Addressing any objection becomes much easier if the prospect and his or her parents are comfortable about voicing their opinions to you. Creating and maintaining good communication is essential. If you make every effort to treat objections as “normal” you will have a more productive conversation.
As you begin to deal with objections from this next class of recruits, I want to arm you with four additional techniques that will help when it comes to facing and overcoming a prospect’s initial objections.
- Listen to the objection. Don’t ever cut a prospect or a parent off mid-sentence when they express disagreement. Even if you’ve heard the same objection from other recruits and you already have the answer, give him or her a chance to explain why they’ve come to their conclusion. Remember, each person’s objection is unique to him or her. By listening you’ll be able to pick up some helpful clues from the way a prospect expresses their objection. One more thing – your body language says a lot. If you sigh or roll your eyes while listening to an objection the other person is likely to treat that as a sign that you feel their feelings of opposition are unwarranted.
- Get it clarified. Rarely will someone give his or her real objection up front. That’s why getting clarification is extremely important. This process will require you to think quickly on your feet, but doing so should help you discover the real objection. We tell our clients that asking probing questions is the key to getting to the heart of their lack of interest. If a recruit says your school is too far from home, get them to be more specific. You’ve got the “what,” now you need the “why.” Doing this will allow you to give them a response that helps redirect their interest back towards your school. Sometimes you’ll even discover that an objection isn’t really an objection.
- Acknowledge then add information. Clarifying allows you to get to the real objection; acknowledging will confirm it for you. Once you recognize and understand someone’s objection you can then add information that will redirect him or her. Many times an objection is due to lack of information or false perception. For example, how many times has a recruit told you that one of your competitors said their specific academic degree is held in higher regard? Start by saying, “Thank you for bringing that up.” Then present information that dismisses the perception. In most cases a recruit wants to see if you will confirm their current line of thinking or correct them with new reasoning. Finally, remember that telling the student what you think they want to hear usually backfires. Focus on being honest and providing all of the information they need to make a sound decision.
- Become a problem solver. The goal anytime an objection arises is to provide a solution. Answering the objection will provide the recruit with a different perspective that may very well eliminate their concern. This is where problem solving enters the equation. We encourage our clients to approach things from a different perspective that will stand out among their competition. Your recruit has an objection that they want answered. This is a great opportunity for you and your colleagues. Using the information you’ve accumulated on a particular prospect, as well as intuition and logic, a solution can be formed. When a solution is presented, make sure that the other person understands it and feels that it’s truly an answer to their objection.
Overcoming objections is one of the biggest challenges that an admissions recruiter faces. The key to remember is that the only person who can truly overcome the objection is the prospect. Your job is to create an opportunity for this to occur through effective questioning and subsequent problem solving. If you can successfully do this, you will significantly improve your school’s chances to gain the prospective student’s commitment.
Need help developing strategies to communicate your weaknesses, as well as your strengths? Consider becoming a client. You will gain an admissions recruiting advantage!