Enrollment & Admissions Training 101
Anyone working in admissions is on the front line for their school. Admission officers spend their days in the trenches, trying to bring the right students in. In many ways, the success or failure of a trade school is determined by the admissions office. Bringing in more students, and just as importantly, students who are a great fit and who will excel in your programs can greatly increase your school’s success.
That being said, it’s important to remember that you will impact everyone involved, and especially the students. Whether they embark on a career-changing training program at your school will often come down to you and your actions. So before digging deeper into admissions training let’s go over a vital subject: ethics.
What you’re about to learn is the psychology behind enrollments and exactly how to turn interest into signups. Not to sound cliche, but with great power comes great responsibility. Yes, you have a responsibility to your school but you also have a responsibility to your current and future students.
Students have their own families, bills, jobs, and career ambitions. Each also has their own unique skill-set and shortcomings. While speaking to a student, if you suspect your program isn’t a good fit, you have a moral obligation to inform them about the cause and effect of signing up.
So as we go through the Five Big Keys to Enrollment Marketing Success, make sure you keep ethics in mind. At Google, they like to say “do no evil”. At Leadspeed, we prefer to “do great”, both in terms of performance and ethics.
Without further ado:
The Five Vital Keys to Enrollment Marketing Success
#1 Trust Your Product
Is this coming a bit out of left field? Some of the admissions staff we work with are surprised that we emphasize this as our first priority. But it’s true, you need to trust in your product. As mentioned above, when we enroll a student, we are changing their life trajectory for good (or bad, if done wrong.)
Some students will have to take out loans to pay for their school, while others will rely on help from family, veteran benefits, and other programs. No matter what, however, every student is making a big investment in both time and money.
They want to know that they’re investing in a good program. And in order for you to convince them that they are, you have to know that they will be investing in a good program. It might be tempting to train your enrollment staff with a quick primer and throw them out there ASAP. But if they don’t believe in your programs they won’t be able to convincingly sell that program to others.
At Leadspeed, one of the first steps we take when we hire or train an enrollment rep is to have them speak with current and former students. We also show them testimonials and the placement partner companies. Our end goal is to get the enrollment staff so excited that they themselves want to enroll in the program.
We often do this before we even do any sales training because once they believe in the product, they will be able to get others to believe it as well.
#2- You’re Not Selling Training!
Remember, you’re not selling training, you’re selling outcomes. Students won’t see the benefits gained by their education for weeks, if not months or years. In fact, until they graduate, their training will be a burden, using up time and energy. If you focus on trying to sell “training”, your students may fail to see the long-term benefits.
Think of it this way, when someone buys a car, they get instant gratification. They can quite literally drive the car off the lot and use it. Someone undergoing a training program will have to work for months or more to learn skills. In the meantime, they’ll be investing their time and money into the program. This might mean sacrificing time with their family or leaving that car they want on the lot.
This means the outcome has to be worth the sacrifice. Thus, the prospective student should be able to imagine himself or herself working in the specified industry and should be able to visualize the impact this is going to make. This might mean a better salary, more room for advancement, or a better working environment. Hopefully, it means all of the above and more.
If by the end of the call they don’t see themselves being in a better situation after completing your program, they almost certainly won’t be enrolling with you. And if by some chance they do, they’ll almost certainly drop out before completing it. That’s bad for you and the student.
#3 Be on the Ball and Be Exciting!
Life can get the best of anyone. I’ve worked with a lot of great admissions and enrollment officers who occasionally have bad days, and you can see it in their interactions with students. Guess what? Your students will pick up on that negativity and associate it with the school (even if it has nothing to do with it!) If you’re having a bad day, try to clear your mind. Even if you have to fake it until you make it to your happy spot, do your best.
Further, trust is vital for enrolling students. Most would-be enrollees won’t sign up with someone they don’t trust. Having a sour attitude immediately crushes any trust the student might have in you. They might even wonder if you’re hiding something or if you don’t really want to make the sale because you know it’ll be bad for them.
Would you trust thousands of dollars, your future career, and the next several weeks (at least) of your life to someone you don’t trust? Of course not!
Outside of that, be upbeat without being fake and aggressively salesy (remember, trust!). Yes, you’re selling a program but by keeping the students and their needs first, you can be honest, active, and genuine.
Remember though, you’re the expert. Inform them how the program can lead to great outcomes. You can’t promise jobs, of course, but you can tell them about graduated students and the jobs they landed.
#4 Ask the Right Questions
So now you’re in the zone, you’ve got your student’s interests in front of you, and you’re trying to learn if this is the program for them (and, are they the student for your school?) How do you figure that out? By asking the right questions! Years of experience has taught us that enrollment officers who know how to ask the right questions always outperform those who don’t.
There’s no magical script of questions that will lead to a successful enrollment. Instead, you need to develop a feel for the students, and you also have to establish yourself as an expert. Befriending a potential enrollee is great, but if that friendship isn’t based on respect and authority, you’ll struggle to sign them up.
One way to gain authority is to ask the right questions. Ask questions that penetrate below the boilerplate. For example, ask the student where they’d like to see themselves in ten years. After they provide an answer, ask them why this is their goal. By doing so, you’ll come to understand both the student’s goals, and just as importantly, their motivations. As you comment on the student’s responses, you’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate authority.
Let’s say a student responds to the above question with “in ten years, I want to own my own solar panel installment company.” You follow up with why? “Because I love working with my hands, but I also have always dreamed of owning my own business. I want to be the boss.”
Now you can respond with authority: That’s a great goal, the solar panel install industry grew by about 25 percent this year (2019) compared to last year. Our program provides a lot of hands-on training (see how you’re tapping into the student’s “love”?) but we also teach our students business basics. And one of our 2015 graduates just wrote us a thank you email, letting us know that he’s now running his own business!
Throughout the course of the conversation, you’re putting the student front and center. You’re responding to their ambitions and showing them why your program is a good fit. At the same time, you’re establishing authority, which will help build trust.
Disclaimer: Never make things up! The above is a thought experiment but in real life, use only real examples!
Resource: To learn more about what questions to ask, check out the book titled “Spin Selling”.
#5 Build the 3 Ten’s Every Time
To recap, let’s go over our “secret recipe.” There are 3 main ingredients in a successful enrollment: trust in you, trust in your product or program, and trust in your company. Before even asking a student to enroll in your school, you want all three of the above to be as close to a ten as possible. Ten in 2 and five in 1 isn’t good enough. If a prospective student trusts the training program and the school but doesn’t trust you, you’re probably not landing an enrollment. Likewise, if your prospect trusts the program and you, but doesn’t trust the school, you’ll probably swing and miss.
The marketplace is crowded and there are tons of so-so programs, schools, and recruiters out there. How do you stand out? By securing 3 tens every time. And if you don’t secure those tens, you can bet your best competitors will. This is going to happen even if you have a better program offering and are the better school.
So it’s your job to show prospective enrollees how you, your company, and your program gives them the best chance at reaching their desired outcome.
You’re Off to a Good Start, but There’s More!
So there you have it. If you follow the five rules above, you’ll almost certainly see your enrollments increase. And if you’re truly securing the 3 tens every time, your enrollments will likely skyrocket. That being said, you’re not all the way there yet and there are still plenty of things you can do to improve your pitch and outcomes.
The above tips cover the broad strokes and will set you apart from the crowd. If you want to reach the mountaintop, however, you have to refine your skills. Interested in doing so? Check back and read part-two: Enrollment & Admissions Training 102: Five details to Ensure Enrollment Marketing Success
In the second part of this series, we’ll dig even deeper, teaching you nuanced skills that will help you convert even more students (and even skeptical enrollees). As always, ethics and honesty will be front and center. Yet you should always put your best foot forward. So make sure you learn our “dirty details” and put them to work!