by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Many of today’s prospects are doing one of two things at college fairs. First, you have the group that stands or in some cases walks around socializing with each other and never approaches a single college or university representative. Then you have those who will sneak past a table and grab a brochure hoping to avoid eye contact or saying anything.
School visits also come with their own set of obstacles. Will anyone show up? If you’re responsible for a territory outside of your school’s state, will the students have heard of your institution? The most difficult one however according to many counselors that I’ve recently spoken with is the lunchroom visit. (Food 1, Counselor 0)
Getting your prospect’s attention, specifically during fall travel season, has never been more challenging. Why is that? The harsh truth is all schools are starting to look and sound the same. At your typical college fair or school visit, aside from the color of the banner or the layout on the table, what’s really different at first glance between institutions A, B, and C? Nothing.
If I told you that today I was going to offer you a solution to this problem, would that be something you’d be interested in? It’s a strategy that we discuss in detail with admissions staffs when we come to their campus and lead a training workshop.
Simply put, I want you to ask an unexpected, amazing question. I mean a doozy! One that makes your prospect stop in his or her tracks, not say anything, and really think about what the answer is. The response that you should be aiming for is, “Wow, nobody’s asked me that before.”
So, what are they?
What are some unexpected, amazing questions that you can ask your prospect when you begin your recruiting relationship with him or her?
To begin with, I can tell you that such a question should never yield a simple yes or no answer. Instead, the question needs to be open ended. Be original. Don’t be afraid to make it a little more off the wall (within reason of course). The question doesn’t have to have anything to do with your school. It might be something to do with pop culture or the college search process in general.
It’s probably going to take you a few minutes to come up with “the one.” When you think you’ve got a winner, I would encourage you to test it out on one of your current students, maybe say one of your campus tour guides, before you determine that it’s in fact “the one.”
Here’s the type of questioning that I’m talking about. Instead of asking a prospect, “Are you ready to move on to college?”, you might ask them “What scares you the most about moving on to college?” A counselor at a college that’s a client of ours asked that exact question for the first time a couple of weeks ago. His email to me the next day said, “The results were awesome. The student was far more engaged in conversation, and I felt it created a better connection.”
There are many other examples that counselors we work with have shared with me that I could share with you that are “worth their weight in gold.” Here’s the thing though. They wouldn’t be as valuable if I just gave them away.
Many times the type of questions you ask when you first talk to a prospect will determine how the recruiting relationship will end up. Unexpected, amazing questions are important – vitally important – to the whole recruiting process.
The biggest benefit to asking this type of question (other than getting a prospect to stop and actually conduct a conversation with you) is that you’ll sound smarter and more interested in your prospect compared to other counselors who ask the same “yes, no” mundane questions that recruits have heard before.
One more thing – Once you’ve asked an unexpected, amazing question, remember the importance of listening. Doing so will allow you to find ways to begin telling your school’s story and why they should want to be a part of it.
If you want the next couple of months to be the most effective fall travel season you’ve ever had, use this simple yet extremely effective strategy.
I’ll even help you! E-mail me your unexpected, amazing question to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll provide you with some feedback. You heard me right. Free help, no strings attached. I think it’s that important. Every counselor needs to have those questions embedded in their heads and know why they’re asking them.