by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s official: Making phone calls to prospective students (and parents) continues to be a hot topic, and we’re not even two weeks into 2018. Last week my inbox had a handful of emails from admissions counselors and Directors seeking advice on the subject.
When it comes to student recruitment calls, counselors tell me they either love them or loathe them…typically it’s the latter.
As I’ve explained before, I believe that phone calls are still a core part of any successful recruiting communications plan. They’re not going away anytime soon.
The majority of high school juniors and seniors in your funnel right now find phone calls from admission counselors valuable when they’re done correctly (i.e. after some relationship building and not just out of the blue). Students continue to tell us via surveys that those phone calls make them feel like your school truly cares about their opinions, and they also appreciate having the opportunity to ask questions.
Regardless of which group you fall into (love or loathe them), I continue to find that not enough counselors adequately analyze the content of those recruiting calls and determine what they could do better the next time.
Self-evaluation is a crucial part of growth, and in case you’re not a frequent reader of my newsletter, personal growth is something I’m extremely passionate about, regardless of your job title. So, today I want to help you when it comes to evaluating all those phone calls.
The next time you hang up or press end on a recruitment call, I want you to ask yourself the following ten questions:
- Was your prospect comfortable during your phone call? One easy way to determine this is did they ask you any questions without you prompting them? Trust me when I say that just about every student has one or more questions regardless of where they’re at in the process. If they don’t ask you something, you need to establish more rapport before your next call.
- At some point during the phone call, did you tell your prospect how important they are to your school? They know you’re calling other students, so what are you doing to make it clear that they’re a priority? This is especially important with admitted (but still undecided) students.
- Who talked more – you or them? The more they talk and you listen, the better chance you have of moving them to the next stage in the process. Conversely, if you do most of the talking and brag about different aspects of your college or recite countless facts and figures, not only do you risk boring your prospect, but there’s probably a good chance that the next time you call you’re going to get their voicemail.
- Did you start the phone call with a weak, non-specific phrase? In the same way that I recommend your letters and emails be original and have a strong opening sentence, the same holds true for your phone calls. Do you remember the three words I told you to avoid in your recruiting conversations? If not, click that link. Too many counselors start out their recruiting phone calls that way. Phrases like that sound weak, they’re usually not the truth, and they do nothing to set up the rest of your call or create any sort of urgency.
- Did you give them the chance to ask questions? You need to create opportunities during each call that allow your prospect to open up and not only respond to your questions but ask questions of their own.
- Did you ask them one or more specific, targeted questions at some point? Building off point #5, are you constantly speaking in generalities or do you find ways to ask a targeted question that ties in with the big reason for your call? For example, if you’re about to start making financial aid calls, instead of just diving into the award letter and asking if they have questions, consider first asking, “Have you and your family talked about how you’re going to pay for college yet?”
- Did you ask them what they view as the next step in their process? Rather than assuming you know what they’re going to do next, I want you to ask them. What a lot of counselors tell me they find is that the prospect’s timeline doesn’t match theirs.
- Were you able to come away with talking points for future calls, letters and emails? The biggest goal of any phone call should be to set up the next communication (email, letter, another call). If you didn’t come away with anything to help you do that, then you likely either talked too much or didn’t ask the right kinds of questions.
- Did you get them to take action? Unless you’re just calling to check in with a committed/deposited student, how are you going to help keep the process moving forward, and in your school’s favor? Whatever the action is (filling out your application, setting up a campus visit, starting the FAFSA, getting the answer to a specific question and then contacting you, etc.) don’t assume they’ll figure it out on their own. Ask them to take that action and make sure they understand the WHY behind your ask.
- Did you enter your call notes into your CRM? If you didn’t, not only do you risk confusing student A with student B down the line, but you’re also making life a lot more difficult for your colleagues if and when that student or family reaches out and you’re unavailable. Simply uploading a sentence or two (or a few bullet points) about the call makes everyone’s life easier.
Questions? I’m just an email away at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S. Here’s one more – Did you end your call on a positive note? A simple, “Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with me” goes a long way!