One of the most challenging tasks for your school admissions professionals is in determining a prospect’s willingness to take the next step in your enrollment process. If you’re finding it difficult to convince your prospects, you may need to take a step back and evaluate their situation before your next course of action.
While there is no easy way in predicting a prospect’s behavior, the next few words and gestures that you show them could mean the difference between securing their enrollment in your school, or losing an opportunity altogether. You will have to be more aware of your prospect’s needs if you want more of the former to happen. You can start by nurturing your prospects, in advance.
1. Preparation Is Key
If you work in school admissions, then you already know how the buying cycle for school enrollment can become lengthy and tedious. More often than not, you wait until your parents finally decide to enroll. Typical parents only begin assessing their school options nine to twelve months in advance of the school year. This puts your admissions team, as well as your school marketers, in a position that demands flexibility. They need to be prepared with content that will continue to nurture your prospects for several months until they’re able to make their final decision.
Be prepared for the unexpected to happen. What if a parent suddenly shows up in your school office, wanting to enroll their child on-the-spot. Trigger events, such as a sudden move to a new community or dissatisfaction with the current school, calls for an immediate desire to enroll.
Is your staff equipped to deal with these kinds of surprises? No matter how sudden, or how extreme, admission directors and their staff must be able to accurately read the cards and be prepared to respond to various scenarios. You can start by understanding your prospects, by identifying their needs through their buyer’s journey.
2. Understand the Buyer’s Journey
Admissions directors can miss out on opportunities to enroll prospective students because they fail to accurately assess the family’s needs. You may have the content to nurture them, but if you don’t present the content that they need at the right time, your prospects will not be able to appreciate it. Instead, track your prospect’s progress through their buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey is the process that your prospects take to select a school for their children. It begins with their research on what the best private school they can find according to their needs and standards. Their next actions take them from narrowing their choices, deciding which schools to visit, and finally in reaching a decision with where to apply.
Imagine how daunting a task it is for your prospective families to arrive at such a decision. It’s their investment and they would want to be careful and will need your assistance in every step of the way.
Do you want to learn more about the buyer’s journey? Start by reading our guide on parent personas, here.
Much as how your prospective parents would want to avoid mistakes in selecting the best school for their children, you should also be mindful of making a few mistakes, as well.
3. Common Mistakes To Avoid
If you want your prospects to take the step towards your enrollment goals, you will want to avoid committing the following mistakes:
1. You rush the prospect to complete an application before taking the time to build their trust. You also fail to inform them properly about the school. You may even end up with applicants who are not mission appropriate for your private school.
2. You miss important buying signals the parent is giving and fail to close the deal. Admissions team members must recognize the difference between parents who are eager to enroll and those who will still need more time. Assume the role of being a guide for prospects by showing them the benefits of enrolling their children at your school and laying- out each step that will get them to the end goal.
You can avoid these mistakes by focusing on what needs to be done. Keep your processes before you and let them guide your next steps. You can also set goals and maintain your direction towards your goals by having a sales mindset.
4. Embrace Sales
If you work in admissions, you need to own the fact that you are in the sales business. You must understand that parents are standing there in your lobby or office because they are determined to find out if your school is the right place to enroll their child. They are looking to you to solve their problems. This means that you should be careful that you aren’t sending the message that you’re too busy to answer a prospective parent’s question or that their concerns are a hassle for you to address.
If your prospective parents are requesting to review standardized test scores of the 5th-grade class, it’s your job to track down the information and pleasantly present it to your prospect. As an admissions professional, this requires an amount of patience and emotional intelligence.
Do you want to learn more about communicating with your prospective parents more effectively? Then read our guide here.
You must also be able to discern when a prospect is mildly interested, as compared to just comparing a shortlist of their options. This may also mean that they need clarification on your school’s programs, as well as its benefits for their children.
You will also be able to get hints as to what your prospects are leaning towards through the words and phrases they use and how they say it.
5. Things Parents Say
Here are some of the common things parents could be saying when they are kicking the tires:
· “That’s interesting.”
· “My friend told me about your school’s _____ .” Fill in the blank with athletic, drama, or after school program.
· “I’ll need to talk to my spouse about it.”
· “Can you send me the application information?”
On the other hand, when parents are in the decision stage of the journey, they are more inclined to ask questions which are more concrete, specific, and action-oriented.
These are the types of comments and questions that come from parents who are giving signals that they are ready to take action:
· “Do you allow for monthly tuition payments?” (questions about purchasing)
· “Johnny will love playing on your middle school basketball team.” (they are talking like they already own it)
· “Our morning routine will be easier because this school is near my office. I can drop off on my way to work.” (they are dreaming of the future)
· “So If we decide to apply, what happens next?”
An empathetic admissions worker who can understand the prospect’s mindset will be able to read between the lines. You will also be able to discern the spoken and unspoken clues that your prospective parents drop as they move through their buying process. As they do, identify where they are in their buyer’s journey and don’t pressure them to make their final decision. But rather, guide them towards enrollment.
If you want to learn more about the strategies we’ve covered in this blog, you can read up on school inbound marketing here.