By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s crunch time for college admissions. Schools all over the country are entering the final weeks of battle for this next class of students.
And right now I’m working a streak here in the office. Each of the past 17 days I’ve received at least one phone call, email, or text from an Admission Counselor or Director with a specific student recruitment scenario question. If you’ve got a head-scratcher and you want some help/feedback, feel free to email me…and in case you’re wondering, you don’t have to be a client of ours to do so. If you’re willing to ask, I’m willing to listen.
What continues to surprise me, particularly with experienced counselors (3 or more years), is how few are able to consistently read fairly clear “buying signals” from their undecideds. Furthermore, I find that way too many counselors aren’t actively looking for those signals. Instead they take the, “they’ll tell me when they’re ready” approach.
When a prospect starts to seriously consider your school, they probably won’t come right out and tell you directly. In fact, I’d argue that a lot of your prospects might not even realize how interested they are. Instead, most prospects, especially those admitted but undecided ones, will start to create “buying signals” in the form of questions or statements.
I want you to be able to pick up on those signals as early as possible, and today I’m going to teach you how.
With years of research data collected on how prospects make their final decision, Dan (Tudor) and I have identified several reliable signals that are given by a prospect who is either very interested in your school or ready to commit/deposit.
Before I share that information with you, I want to reiterate the importance of being an active listener in your day-to-day conversations. For you to grow as an admissions professional, listening is a skill you should do your best to master. The better listener you become, the easier it will be to spot “buying signals.”
Okay, here are some of those reliable signals:
- They ask questions about cost or your financial aid processes. That could be direct questions about the tuition price or COA of your school, how they would go about making payments, or even comments wondering how they are going to afford the cost. Each one of those questions and comments revolve around the fact that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford to go to your school. Students who aren’t serious about you will rarely, if ever, bring up cost. Students trying to picture themselves at your school will always bring up cost.
- They ask the same question multiple times or in multiple ways. This is a strong signal that they are ready to make a decision, and you’re the leader in the clubhouse or at worst a finalist. If they ask you to repeat something that they told you earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during your conversations with them, you should know that they are really, really interested in you. And if it’s an undecided senior or transfer student, you should strongly consider “asking for the sale.”
- They give you objections. My stance on objections is simple – They’re a good thing, and they’re something you should want a prospect or parent to reveal to you. When a prospect brings up an objection it’s their way of telling you they’re interested, but they need more information or they need things explained a different way. Overcoming objections is one of the biggest challenges in student recruitment. The key to remember is that the only person who can truly overcome the objection is the prospect or parent. Your job is to create an opportunity for this to occur through effective questioning and subsequent problem solving. If you can successfully do that, your yield rate will improve immensely.
- They ask specific questions about an aspect of your school. These questions are fairly rare, so when you get one I would recommend you accelerate the recruitment process. It might be a question like, “What percentage of your business school graduates are accepted into a Masters program?” Or, it could be a “how do I” question like, “How do I sign up for the new suite-style dorms that just got built?” Students rarely ask positive questions like those unless they’re extremely interested in your school. And any question that starts with “how do I” is also important.
- They ask to see something on campus again during their visit. “Can I go check out the student union again?” Or, “Can my parents go back and see the bookstore?” Prospects who aren’t sure or aren’t seriously picturing themselves at your school will look for the first chance they get to call it a day and leave your campus.
- They give you verbal “buying signals.” Parents are really good at this. During an admitted student day, campus visit, or phone conversation, listen for comments like “Wow, I didn’t know that”. Or, “Great, that’s what I thought.” Statements like those are signs that they are engaged mentally with what you’re saying and what they’re seeing.
The next step once you get one or more of these “buying signals” is to act on the signals the right way, and at the right time. That action plan should include either what I’ve referred to before as a “trial close,” or if you get a strong “buying signal,” you should ask for their commitment. If you or your colleagues need help developing an action plan, let’s start a conversation together.
Once you become a pro at recognizing “buying signals” you’ll be two steps ahead of your competition.
Have a great week, and please take 2 minutes to complete my three-question newsletter survey if you haven’t already. It will help me, help you. Thanks!