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The Close – It’s Not What It Used To Be

The Close – It’s Not What It Used To Be

 This statement can be said about so many topics – cars, technology, baseball, and sales. This is even more true when talking about academic sales and the changing environment for recruiting and admissions.

It would be difficult to have a conversation with a Director of Admissions or a VPEM without talking about yield and closing the sales. The discussion would be something like, how do we get more admitted students to deposit or how do we get more visitors to campus to commit? The close is viewed as gaining a deposit (or promise) from a student.

I’d like to suggest that the close be redefined as achieving a next step versus the “ultimate close” of securing a deposit. That new definition is based on moving the student to the next logical step in the decision process.

The primary reason for rethinking the close is based on observations with admissions staff at many types of colleges with varying degrees of experience. It goes something like this: contact is made with a recent admit and the admissions counselor asks if there are any other questions and reminds them the next step is to deposit. Yup, happens all the time and really more often than many Directors and VPEMs would like to admit. So what are alternatives and steps to improving yields?

Preparation

Obviously. But what are staff really doing before the yield/deposit conversation? Have staff built a relationship with the student and family? What is the student’s situation? Visited campus? Financial aid and scholarships managed? Connected with current students and faculty in the program area? Where is the student in the selection process?

Knowing the answers to these questions gives the counselor the opportunity to build a strategy for the close. If the answers to some of these fundamental questions are not known, the close isn’t to ask for a deposit, but to learn the answers to the questions and move the prospect to the next step.

Remember – on average prospective students are admitted to approximately four other colleges and each will seek to close the student. Make sure your counselor is prepared to be better at this than anyone else.

Lead, Don’t Remind

Too many times counselors remind or ask students if they want to deposit. How’s that working so far? Have the counselor build a case for a decision in favor of your college. Align goals, dreams, expectations, wants, and needs with the services and programs available at your college.

Make the close the next step. It could be another visit to campus to meet with more faculty, staff, and students. Then build the case on that. Close that deal. Maybe the next step is preparing the financial aid package (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.) for the student and family. When cost can range from $15,000 to $30,000 to $60,000 a year, are staff realistically expecting a family to make that type of commitment without a financing strategy? Yup, I’ve heard that ask as well.

Determine the next logical step for the student and family and make that happen. Close on that step first, and then move to the next step.

Remember – recruiting is a little like dating . . . not many times is a marriage proposal on the first date successful. Maybe the goal should be a second date (a visit to campus) or learning about more common interests (connecting with faculty and learning about program outcomes).

Thoughtful Persistence Works

The level of competition is intense and requires staff to be diligent with their efforts. Closing or yielding a student is not a one-and-done proposition. It may take several tries and approaches. Can you get the student on campus again for an admitted student event (make that the close for a conversation; don’t remind them about the event, build a case to get them there)? Consider a follow-up email with resource information. Communicate with the parent to determine where they are in the process and what are their expectations.

And we can’t forget just how hard it can be to communicate with some students, making persistence even more important to success. Those of you that have worked with me before will recall this reminder – Are you putting enough time to the task to be successful?

Communicate and work to facilitate the student’s progress forward. Think of the close from the student’s perspective. Stop asking for a deposit and begin to map out a path for the decision, knowing that each student has distinctive needs and interests. There are no short cuts to this. There are corollary components to overall success with closing and improving yield such as a good website, inspiring campus events, and content-focused social media. But do not underestimate the importance of personal relationships with students and admission counselors.

PS&L has staff development workshops that can help your college improves how it closes a student. Our Yield Boot Camp program targets this specifically. Our SMART workshops are designed to provide admissions staff with the tools and techniques to become more effective recruiters. Give us a call.

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David Black,

With nearly 30 years experience in educational marketing, enrollment management consulting and staff development, Dave directs market research with a focus on imaging and perception research, branding and positioning studies, market sizing assessments, and feasibility studies. He also leads focus groups and authors research, assessment reports and consults on enrollment management, marketing, organizational development, and collaborative team development.

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