by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies we encourage our clients to bring us special projects. One of the things that we’ve helped multiple admissions departments with recently is developing a strategy to connect with “cold inquiries.”
Winter is one of the most difficult times of year to maintain, or continue, good communication not only with inquiries but also, in some cases, admitted students. I could be describing some of your seniors who are done with the initial excitement that came in those first few conversations or communications with you. Or, I might be talking about students that you’ve admitted, but haven’t come to their final decisions yet.
In either scenario, and those are just two quick examples, the immediate reaction for many counselors is a combination of frustration and urgency…and when a college recruiter is frustrated and feeling pressured when engaged in ongoing communication with their recruits, bad things often follow. I’m talking about things like becoming pushy, stopping communication all-together, or asking specific questions way too soon in an effort to move that student to the next stage of the funnel.
All of these actions could be devastating, not only in your efforts to continue effective communication, but also in your efforts to eventually win over that student and have them agree that your school is the “smart, right fit” for them.
Today I want to try and take you inside your prospect’s head and give you an idea of what they might be thinking or feeling. There’s a reason for the silence, and it’s important that you understand some of those motivations that will lead them to stop communication with you. That understanding will give you the roadmap you’ll need to continue, or reignite, effective communication with your recruit.
Here are five of the most common factors that could be behind your prospect’s silence:
- They’re not interested any longer, and they just don’t want to tell you. No surprise here. As you probably already know, this is one of the most common reasons for non-communication. Why don’t they just tell you that they’ve lost interest, right? If only it were that simple. Bottom line: young people have a hard time telling others NO. Our research also says that they’re afraid you’ll get mad at them. Right or wrong, this is who you’re dealing with. By being silent, they hope you just sort of fade away so that they don’t have to have that uncomfortable conversation with you. I want you to confront it and address it. That’s your next move.
- They wonder just how serious about them you are, so they aren’t sure they want to invest time into you. How could this happen? The most common answer we hear when we conduct focus groups on the topic is simple: Inconsistency in the story that is told, primarily through letters and emails. Colleges that send a few things at the start of the recruiting process, and then slowly trail off into inconsistent messaging, almost guarantee this result. How can you expect your recruits to have a reason to keep communicating with you when you haven’t done the same with them?
- They’re interested, but they don’t know what to do or say next. This usually results from counselors who make their conversations and messages all about giving information about their school sprinkled in with, “How did your day go?” phone calls that end up going nowhere. No matter what stage your recruit is at, they’re always looking for the next step. For example, when it comes to your admitted students, they might be ready to pull the trigger and deposit to your school…if you simply ask for their commitment. Think about it – If you’ve built trust, understood their needs, talked to their parents, gained agreement from them (“little yeses”) along the way and answered any objections, then the next logical step is to ask for their commitment. If they’re not ready, they’ll tell you. If they are ready, you just got the win. So, if you’re noticing increasing silence, it could be because they’re stuck and don’t know what to do or say next. You need to lead the way!
- They don’t like talking on the phone. You read that right…it could be as simple as that. If you’ve moved through the communication process and are at the point where you think talking on the phone is the most personal, most effective method of communication, make sure your prospect feels the same way. Most recruits don’t like speaking on the phone but just won’t tell you (again, because they don’t want to offend you and they’re worried you’ll get mad at them). Make sure you’re on the same page, and if you find that phone calls just aren’t working, then revert back to email or consider texting in an effort to get some kind of conversation going again.
- They’re busy and overwhelmed. When we look at our research data, both with students and student-athletes, the two most common reasons they give us for not being prompt in returning a school’s call is that they’re busy with high school life as well as being overwhelmed with the college search process in general. They wonder how they’re going to find time to talk to all those colleges, and even more so, what on earth they’re going to say. There is no magic fix to this one. However, I want you to know that your recruit might be very interested in what your school offers them. They just might be a little overwhelmed at this point and feel like they don’t know what to say next (or if they’ll have time to say it).
Silence from your recruits is a common problem, and I would advise you to expect it at some point from the vast majority of your inquiries, prospects and admits. What you do with that silence is up to you. You need to seek out why they’re being silent and then effectively address any concerns.
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