by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
She took a big step. Scratch that, I think she took an enormous step, and I was excited to be a small part of it! Let me explain what I’m talking about.
Earlier this year we partnered with this particular admissions counselor and the rest of her admissions team. During my individual meeting with her as a part of our on-campus workshop this summer she admitted to me that she was an introvert. I asked her then if she felt like her personality impacted the way she recruits. She didn’t have an answer and she said it wasn’t a big deal. I encouraged her to think more about it, and then I did what I always do…which is the same thing I do for you every Tuesday at the bottom of this newsletter – I gave out my cell number and told her to feel free to connect with me at any time.
Fast forward to this past week when I received an unscheduled and unexpected call from that counselor, who by the way I hadn’t spoken with since my visit to campus. Her first words to me were, “Jeremy, I’ve finally got an answer for you and yes it’s a problem”.
She proceeded to tell me that this fall she’s really had a hard time getting any sort of engagement during her high school visits and college fairs. One night in her hotel room she was catching up on email and just happened to come across my most recent admissions newsletter. She told me it triggered a memory from our conversation during the summer, and that was enough to push her to schedule some time to talk about things with her Director when she returned to campus. What ensued was an important discussion between the two of them about self-awareness.
Being able to accept that you struggle at or with something is hard for many of us to admit. So is breaking a bad habit or admitting that there might be a better strategy or solution than the one you’re currently using.
Building on that, today I thought it would be beneficial for you if I shared some common recruiting mistakes that I see a lot of admissions professionals continuing to make right now. And while not being self-aware isn’t on this list, it’s definitely something that I want you to think about.
Here are seven other things on my list:
- Interrupting. Stop interrupting prospects, parents, high school counselors and other people you come in contact with every day. Even if you think you know what the other person is going to tell you, have the courtesy to hear them out and let them express their point of view. Listen first; talk second when someone else engages with you.
- Selling too fast. Too many of you are in a rush to skip steps and just try to push the student to the next stage of the process. Slow down. You’re moving faster than your prospect most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for meeting department goals, but would you believe me if I told you that I’m confident you’ll get more applications and campus visits when you slow down the sales process? Build the relationship first; sell your school later, especially in the early stages with a new prospect or inquiry. Take the time to ask probing questions like where the student and family are at in the college search process, and who else is going to be involved in the decision. When you slow down the conversation you’ll have more time to demonstrate why your school is the best fit for their needs.
- Not recruiting the whole family. For the past six months or so I’ve been mentioning in article after article why you need to start the conversation with family members, namely parents, earlier. Stop waiting until the financial aid discussion to connect with them and create dialogue. It’s a big reason why you’re not converting as many admits as you’d like. Create a long-term plan to develop a relationship with, and recruit, a prospect’s family. In addition to parents, that can also extend to siblings and grandparents.
- Giving up too easily on prospects that don’t reply right away. Just because a new prospect or inquiry doesn’t respond to your early letters and emails doesn’t mean your messages aren’t making an impact. Some experts contend that a consumer won’t take action on something until he or she has been a part of your campaign 7 times. Others say that 20 is the magic number. Sure, there’s always a time to move on, but too many counselors give up too easily on students before exploring all of the different communication avenues.
- Making phone calls that don’t have a purpose. You need to have a game plan for your recruiting phone calls. Dan (Tudor) and I talk in detail about that during our on-campus workshops. Getting through your list is great…but how many of those conversations are actually helping you move the needle in your favor? Successful phone calls have a plan of attack. Key pieces of that plan need to be asking really good questions, gaining usable information for future calls and messages, and setting up the next phone call or communication.
- Making excuses. Particularly when it comes to responding to emails in a timely fashion or inputting your notes into your CRM so that if you’re out of the office and a colleague has to deal with one of your students, he or she can quickly and easily get up to speed. Stop trying to find reasons why you can’t get these and other critical things done, and instead focus on finding a solution or figuring out a way to manage your time more effectively.
- Not understanding how to “close the deal”. You have to keep asking the right questions. You have to keep gauging the prospect’s interest. You have to seek out and effectively handle objections. You have to get those “little yeses” I’ve talked about before. No matter how good of a position you think you’re in with a student you should never just sit back, wait, and hope they choose you. The really good admissions counselors continue to develop their relationship with their recruit, and do so in such a way that furthers their connection with you and your institution.
Are you making any of these common mistakes? Are there one or two other areas in your approach that need some tweaking and adjusting? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s discuss what we can do together to fix the mistakes that might be hurting you in your recruiting efforts.