Salespeople. Ick. You’re in admissions because you are passionate about education, you love building relationships with families, you love watching all the kids you recruited over the years grow, develop and graduate. You’re not some slimy “salesperson”, pushing a product. But, wait! You ARE pushing a product: your school, its culture, its values and mission. So, let’s talk about how you can sell without being salesy.
I’ll bet you have an elevator pitch – that great, well rehearsed blurb about your school and what makes it special. You can probably go into great detail about all the fantastic courses, extracurriculars, culture, class sizes, teaching style, facilities, financial aid and more. In fact, if you didn’t have these stories, you would be remiss. But be careful – this is your gold – don’t spend it all before the time is right.
How do you feel when some cold caller jumps right into a pitch of their product without knowing anything about you at all? Or what about when the realtor raves about the house with a pool, and all the while, you can’t swim. Do you tune in or tune out?
Not only can these unwelcome pitches put up your defenses, but they can also be focused on the wrong value altogether, completely alienating you. This holds true for schools. Remember, not every story will resonate with every candidate. Some stories might even turn a candidate off, even if the other aspects of your school were a perfect fit.
Turn it around. Start your calls and conversations with a very brief and very broad message. Perhaps something like this:
“Generally parents are interested in our school because they’re looking for a better learning experience for their child. This can mean various things to different families. That said, it would be so helpful if you could tell me a little about your child and your specific goals and concerns about her education. Then, if it makes sense, we can talk about the specific areas where our school might fit those goals. Would that be okay?”
Then listen to what they have to say. Ask lots of questions. You’ll probably hear ways you can help them, but don’t jump in with your pitch yet. Be sure to complete the entire interview first so you don’t miss any key details.
You might also catch some major red flags. If it’s a big enough concern, don’t be afraid to interrupt and address the issue right then. If the red flag is a deal breaker from either perspective, it’s best to be honest and kindly disqualify them as soon as you know. It’s the icky sales people that push products that they know their customers won’t be happy with in the end.
Your school is great. You believe in it. You’re excited about it. Your are proud to be a part of it. Of course you want to share all of the wonderful anecdotes! But remember, you will have the strongest “sale” if candidates feel like they’ve come to that conclusion on their own. The best strategy is be their guide. Help your candidates find their own path and their own special place in your story.
If you do this effectively, both you and your candidates will win. And you’ll never be left feeling like that slimy salesperson.
Happy selling… errr recruiting!