I can’t believe that August is already here…wow! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed your summer so far. I’ve been traveling like crazy, having visited 8 states over the past 7 weeks. And this month I’ll be leading admissions workshops on 7 more campuses.
Prior to leading any training workshop, we always conduct a recruiting survey with that school’s incoming freshmen class. The questions we ask get to the heart of what the students liked and didn’t like about their school as well as different parts of the college search process.
One of those questions asks the students to give the admissions counselors at their school advice on what they need to understand about the way this generation of students wants to be recruited.
“Be friendly and always try to be helping the students figure things out and ease the stress of the admissions process.”
That student quote appeared on a recent survey and versions of it continue to show up multiple times with just about every school we work with.
It’s a fact – prospective students (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good).
A big key to increasing enrollment and yield is to consistently be a resource rather than a salesperson. This generation of students wants to feel that you’re genuinely trying to help them achieve their goals.
Here’s what I mean. A lot of admissions counselors believe they have to “sell” their school early in the process and try to move prospects as fast as possible towards applying, visiting, and ultimately making a decision. Each of those is important, but what if I told you that for a large majority of your prospects we’ve found there’s a more effective approach that you could take. It’s one that will still allow you to achieve those goals, and at the same time, do it in a way that consistently makes your prospects feel like you’re actually making the process about them.
If you constantly approach your prospects with information and bullet points about your school, and you never give them a chance to get a word in, they’re going to view you as a salesperson. Conversely, if you ask your prospects effective questions about their wants, needs, fears, and timeline, and you provide them with ideas and answers that help them meet their goals, they’re going to see you as a resource. Plus, in the process of taking that approach, what you’ll find is you still have multiple opportunities to discuss key things that make your college or university unique and a good fit for that student.
There are huge benefits that come from being a resource for your prospects. For starters, it’s much easier to connect with them and build trust. When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll quickly become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice.
When you’re a salesperson it’s all about you, what you want them to do, and why you think they’d be crazy not to pick your school.
Does that mean if you’re a salesperson you won’t be able to connect with and gain your prospect’s trust? No, but I promise you it will be a lot harder, and it’s going to take a lot more time than you probably have available.
As we’ve previously discussed, early in the recruitment process it’s vital that you connect with your prospects. If you don’t connect with them, it makes it much harder to guide them through the multiple steps that make up the college search process.
Author, speaker, and sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer has a great rule to remember when you’re in a selling (recruiting) situation: The percent of time your prospect does the talking dictates your chances of securing their commitment. If they talk 20% of the time, you’ll probably have a 20% chance of enrolling them. If they talk 80% of the time, you’ll probably have an 80% chance of enrolling them.
Gitomer’s point? If you want to sell your prospect that your school is the “right fit” for them, you need to give them the answers they need. You need to be the resource they’re searching for, and you need to do it by making everything you do and say about your prospect and not about you.
The minute you cease to be attentive to their wants and needs, you run the risk of losing them to another college that will be.
Here are a few additional things you can do to become a resource for your prospects:
- Respond quickly and deliver information in an easy to understand, engaging format
- Stay current on trends and pop culture
- Continually polish your problem solving skills
- Consistently network and exchange ideas with other admissions professionals
- Admit when you don’t know something and ask for help
I’m going to leave you today with a little bit of homework. Look back at some of your recent recruiting emails and letters, and consider having a discussion in your office (if you haven’t already this summer) about the talking points your tour guides use during campus visits. How much of it is centered on your prospect, and how much of it is stuff you’re pushing about your school?
As you talk more about fall travel in your office or changes that you’re going to make this next recruiting cycle, let me know how I can help. I’d love to start a conversation together!