by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
How are you preparing to do that?
I ask because what you do during the next few weeks will in large part determine whether or not many of your undecided students choose your school.
A number of my recent articles have focused on conversion, and this one will follow that trend. Right now there’s a big group of admissions counselors around the country “sweating it out.” Your school’s financial aid staff is trying to work their magic and put together packages that will help seal the deal with your prized prospects.
Here’s something interesting that we continue to see. Typically there comes a time late in the process where the following question enters the conversation:
Your prospects and their parents are trying to figure out if, and how much, you care.
Respected business marketing guru Seth Godin makes the same point when it comes to what we look for as adults:
“We’re hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we’re sold.
The truth is that it’s what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn’t show it, you’ve failed. If you care so much that you’re unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we’ll walk away from it.
It’s probably hard to argue against this line of thinking. The majority of our research shows that prospective students are looking to see who cares the most from start to finish. More specifically, how does the admissions staff treat them, particularly at the end of the process.
So, how can you show your prospects that you care more than the competition this time of year? Here are five basic strategies that have consistently worked for our clients:
- Keep them updated as the process unfolds. We continue to find that a lot of admissions counselors make the fatal mistake of not communicating regularly with their recruits during this nerve-racking time of year. In many cases you’re waiting for information just like your undecided prospect. That’s fine, but you need to consistently give them an update on what’s going on. Even if your latest update has nothing new to report, this is a must do! I can’t stress this key point enough.
- Provide them with examples of how you’re working behind the scenes to help get them the best possible package. The more that you can use this time to demonstrate how you are doing some heavy lifting behind the scenes for them goes a long way towards getting them to perceive that you care more. Remember, what we perceive is even more important than what we are doing in many instances (actually caring and working hard behind the scenes is important too of course!)
- Get to know the parents (if you haven’t already). If you read this newsletter often, then I probably sound like a broken record. The thing is, often times the recruitment process is so rushed that counselors never really take the time to get the parents on their side (if you were at my IACAC presentation a few weeks ago you know this a BIG mistake that many counselors make, and one that needs rectifying). I want you to make a concerted effort to contact your prospects’ parents and ask them questions about their son or daughter. Not sure what to ask them? Email me, and I’ll help you. Spending time with the parents is critical to setting yourself apart from other counselors who don’t have a deep relationship with family members other than their prospect.
- Ask them what objections they need answered. Just because you still have good back-and-forth conversation with your prospect this late in the process doesn’t mean they are ready to say “yes” once that financial aid package comes in. Take this time to ask them these two questions: “Give me one or two big questions about our school that you’re still trying to figure out.” and “If there was one thing about campus that you could change, what would it be?” Those two questions just might open up a new conversation about an objection that’s still on the table. If you don’t ask these questions, though, you’ll never be 100% certain.
- Connect them with your current students. “Your students made me feel like they wanted me more than all of the other colleges combined” and “The more I talked to students, the more it became clear that everybody is just one big community that looks out for each other.” Those are just a couple of the recent responses we received when we asked students what the deciding factor was that led them to pick their current college. Your current students, specifically your freshmen, just went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that many of your undecided prospects are dealing with right now. Are you creating opportunities for them to connect? It can tip the scales in your favor very easily if you do.
Right now many of your recruits are trying to figure out how to “break the tie” between you and the other colleges they’re considering. You need to prove to them that you care more than the other guys. It may be the most important thing you’ve done to this point!
Considering doing some staff training this summer or fall? We can make it easy for you, and I guarantee it will be the most comprehensive two days of recruiting skills training that you’ve ever experienced. Did I mention it’s also inexpensive? Your next step is to click this link and email me.