“Admissions Directors are salespeople.” Every time I say that it makes me uncomfortable.
When I worked at a private Christian school as an Admissions Director, I struggled with this concept. In my head, I screamed, “But I hate sales!” Then someone encouraged me to see myself instead as a guide. An Admissions Director is someone who leads parents and students through the challenge of finding and enrolling children in a school that will educate and develop them in a way that aligns with their parents’ convictions.
For various reasons, especially in smaller private Christian schools, the marketing and admissions responsibilities are often combined into one role and it is typically the Admissions Director who oversees both functions . Where this is the case, to maximize the effectiveness of enrollment growth efforts, it is important to understand how to align the sales and marketing responsibilities. Here are some things to consider.
1. Understand your ideal family.
It can be frustrating and even heartbreaking when a family decides to enroll their children somewhere other than your school, especially if you’ve invested a lot of time and energy in your efforts to get them to join your community. What was it they didn’t like about your school? What could you have said or done to make them see that your school is the best option?
In reality, their decision probably had nothing to with anything you did or could have said and done. Most likely, your school was just not the best option for them.
Instead of burning energy trying to be “all things to all people,” you need to have a firm understanding of your school’s vision and mission. Get really good at one or two things. And then work to attract families whose problems you can solve.
We all know that not every student is a good fit for your school. Take the time to create a buyer persona that includes a description of your ideal mission-appropriate family and work to attract them.
2. Understand the journey your parents go through from the time they first hear about your school to the point at which they enroll their child.
Consider the feelings and emotions of your prospects, the typical conflicts they face, as well as their tendency to waver back and forth within the stages of the buying process. How can you know these details? You can speculate, but be sure to ask them as well.
Based on the insights you receive, examine your admissions process and make any necessary adjustments to ensure the process aligns with their journey. And put plans in place to be able to deliver the right conversations, materials and information at the right time for your prospects. The results can be powerful.
3. Undersand the Admissions Director’s role as an advisor.
Your role is to help prospective parents navigate the complex buying process. This is a major decision for them, and they will struggle.
Ask, Teach, Guide. Anticipate their concerns and address them. Offer solutions.
This step of the process takes time. You can’t push or rush this part. People have an uncanny ability to sniff out a pushy used car salesman from a mile away. If you are trying to push them to enroll, chances are things will backfire and you’ll end up pushing them away.
Stay the course as the coach.
4. Understand the need to connect the content with the context.
Your marketing team has taken the time to create blog posts, ebooks, videos and webinars. Your job is to explain the value of this content at each stage of the buyer’s journey. It’s all about effective communication. To be heard and understood, you need to understand what it's like to stand in their shoes. This calls for empathy.
Guide your prospective parents to come to their own conclusions. Put words to what they see and experience when they visit your school. Show them the goals they can achieve when they enroll their child.
But don’t sell them. Don’t try to convince them.
Help them see the solution to the problem. Put your bat, frying pan and megaphone away.
Be helpful. Be a blessing.