By Jeremy Tiers, Senior Director of Admissions Services
4 minute read
Territory management is definitely a balancing act. In addition to focusing on conversion and yield with this current class of students, spring travel has started (or is about to start) in most admission offices around the country.
My goal today is to make sure you get started on the right foot with those juniors and sophomores.
Remember, yield doesn’t begin after a student is admitted, it starts with that first interaction. Every time you communicate (or don’t communicate), students either move closer to or farther away from feeling like they want to learn more about, or take the next step with, your school.
On to spring travel. Have you ever thought about the goal of a college fair or high school visit – especially when it’s with underclassmen?
Students leave the fair or go home from school and what do they do? They text or DM their friends, and at some point their parents or other family members ask them how their day went (or more specifically how the college stuff went). What will they say? Furthermore, will they remember your name?
I want you to make it your goal to be memorable.
Focus more on engagement and less on the amount of information you’re giving them. We both know the last thing any student wants is for you or your staff to word vomit. Vomiting information feels very ‘salesy.’
You don’t need to tell them everything all at once. You just need to say something that creates a conversation and leaves the student feeling like you were helpful and took a genuine interest in them. Do that and you will stand out from your competitors, plus you’ll keep the student’s attention longer as well.
Here are a handful of other tips and strategies I encourage you to think about and/or put into practice:
- You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Always make eye contact, smile, and whatever you do, don’t immediately ask the student what they want to major in, or hand them your travel materials and start repeating information word for word. If you’re at a college fair, say something like, “How are you feeling about everything you’re seeing and hearing? Has it been helpful or does it feel like a lot of word vomit?” If you’re at their high school, start by thanking the student or the group of students for coming, then let them know that you understand the college search can feel scary and confusing at times. So, your goal today is to help them figure out some of the things they don’t know, and what they need to know. In both of those examples you’re humanizing and empathizing.
- Your body language – Are you relaxed and approachable or stiff, tense, and unapproachable? Speak with confidence but don’t have a condescending tone in your voice. Also, be sure and pay attention to the other person’s body language when you’re speaking, in particular their eyes and hands. If the student is playing around with things like campus material, swag, or their cell phone, this can indicate either boredom or annoyance.
- If you want the information you share to feel personal and relevant, come up with a handful of direct questions that you can use as conversation starters. Be sure and actively listen to the student’s response, and then take the information you’ve received and build on it. Some examples of good direct questions are, “When you picture your future college, what are some of the things you see? Or, “When you think about becoming a college student, what do you worry about most?” Or, “What advice are your parents (or friends) giving you about the college search?” The most effective questions won’t have anything to do with their major or your school, and will instead try to uncover how the student is feeling about this entire process, as well as what kind of experience they think they want.
- When you speak do you sound like a robot? It’s important to not sound completely scripted and rehearsed. Be sure and use contractions (i.e. I’m instead of I am; Don’t instead of Do not). It doesn’t have to sound perfectly put together, it just needs to sound authentic and human…which means if you get a little wordy (which we all do sometimes) that’s okay.
- Be prepared to talk about financial aid, affordability, outcomes, and student life. According to Tudor Collegiate Strategies data, those are the topics that the majority of students want information on first during the early stages of their search.
- Explain the why behind things and connect the dots whenever possible. As an example, if you want to encourage the student to visit campus, ask them if they’ve had the chance to tour any colleges yet. If they have, ask them to share their thoughts – Were those visits helpful? Would did they like most? What annoyed them? If they haven’t done any visits, give them some context around why visits are so helpful when it comes to figuring out which schools a student will apply to. Explain that getting a feel for a campus will make their college search easier, and that no amount of emails, texts, pictures, or videos can recreate what it’s actually like to be there in person.
- Be sure and have a plan to upload your notes to your CRM while you’re on the road, or at some point the next day if you’re back in the office.
- Your follow-up communication in the weeks after spring travel is extremely important. Early in the process many prospective students are looking to see which schools maintain consistent communication. In their minds, it’s an indicator of just how serious your school is about them.
Good luck, safe travels, and if you’ve got a spring travel question put it in an email and send it to email@example.com. I’m happy to chat if you’re looking for ideas and help.
And if you found this article helpful, forward it to someone else on your campus who could also benefit from reading it.