by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
A couple of weeks ago I received an email from an admissions director who reads our weekly newsletter. Her school’s deadline to apply had passed, and despite an increase in applications, she had some concerns.
During a recent staff meeting it quickly became evident to her that members of the admissions team were stressed out at the thought of having to convince more admits to say “yes.” Sound familiar? It’s a common problem amongst sales people towards the end of the sales process. You want to create urgency and break through prospect inertia without pressuring too hard and driving those recruits away.
Let me start by touching on what you don’t want to say or do according to our research, unless you and your team are okay with inconsistent yield results.
- Don’t say something like, “I need an answer by (insert date).”
- Don’t use threatening language such as, “You need to make a decision soon or your financial aid package may end up changing.”
Doing either one of these things can create conflict and cause distrust. Even if what you’ve said is the truth, they’re unlikely to respond to it, particularly parents who may feel you’re creating that you versus them mentality with such phrasing. I’d also add that attempting to create urgency rarely works if your message isn’t clear or your value proposition is poor.
Instead of trying to impose urgency on your prospects and risk running them off, the goal should be to help them take that next step, which they’re most likely ready to do anyways.
Here are four proven ways to create the right sense of urgency with your prospects.
- Build out clear, long-term timelines. This is especially helpful with younger prospects such as high school juniors. Start talking to your recruit as early as possible about timeline expectations. Even though a decision might be 12 months or more away, go ahead and lay out that timeline. Make it clear what you need from them over the next few months, and continue to build that timeline with them throughout the recruitment process. Creating a timeline together and gaining agreement from your prospect that this is how the process will play out is crucial. If you’re near the end of the process and haven’t built out a timeline with one of your seniors, I would strongly encourage you to do so immediately. You could talk to them about the timeline goals of your office, and ask what they feel is needed before a final decision about your school can be made.
- Talk about the why it’s important to set a deadline. For example, if you have a senior who has received multiple acceptance letters yet still talks about having months to make that final decision, give him or her logical reasons why it’s in their best interests to move the process forward. Explaining how your school’s on-campus housing process works is one way to create the right kind of urgency. Let them know that you want them to have priority consideration, but space is limited and if they wait too long other students may submit deposits. You could also ask your prospect if they’ve thought about securing tickets to sporting events or priority parking passes, both of which on some campuses are in high demand. By phrasing your concern in the form of a question, he or she will visualize the scenario and it will have a greater impact.
- Take away the possibility of attending your school. Talk about what their life would look like if they hadn’t received your college’s acceptance letter. In a subtle, non-threatening way, inquire about a back-up plan. How strongly do they feel about the other college’s they’ve also gained acceptance to? What some of our clients have discovered when they do this is a new critical objection. As you might imagine, many times it has to do with financial aid or distance from home. Once the objection has been clarified, you can then address it and hopefully move the process forward again.
- Ask what big question marks still remain. This is particularly useful late in the recruitment cycle if there’s a delay in the decision making of an admitted prospect you really want to deposit. Go ahead and ask the recruit, or his or her parents, “What are the big question marks in your mind about our school that’s making it tough to give a final commitment?” I’m not about to tell you I know what answer you’re going to receive, because the reality is this could go off in a number of different directions. Whatever feedback they give you, you can then analyze it and conclude that this is an objection we can overcome, or the prospect is having a hard time figuring out how to tell you that they’re about to choose a different school. Asking this effective question will reveal more about what they’re thinking than you can imagine. It also emphasizes the right amount of pressure and lets your prospect know that you’re trying to assist them with whatever is left to do.
Does your admissions team need personalized help creating urgency with your current and future prospects? We’re ready when you are! Contact Jeremy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on strategies that produce results.