A coach’s take on building a championship admissions program
By Tom King, Admissions Performance Institute, Enrollment Resources
Building a championship team is never easy. As a coach of top soccer and sports teams for over 20 years, I can tell you there are many similarities that we can draw from to help drive our admissions programs. It takes a solid strategic plan, a great coach, great players who will work as a team, a strong support staff and sometimes a bit of luck.
The first four are completely in your control. But, you cannot control who gets hurt right before the playoffs or during the season or what happens to the competition. Sometimes in sports, it all just seems to come together and appears that luck is on your side. However, this usually happens to the top teams – not the bottom teams. The teams that are prepared, that planned well in advance, that have the best players – things just seem to work out. Luck is simply where preparation meets opportunity.
Building a championship admissions team is not unlike building a championship sports franchise. There are seven steps required:
- Building and training the right team
- Creating a winning game plan
- Pre-season preparation
- A strong first half of the season
- Making midseason adjustments
- The second half of the season
- The off season
Building and training the right team
Admissions is not a process, it is a department. It requires having the right team in place as well as having the rest of the college on board to support. We are all in admissions.
First we start with hiring the right coaching staff. Your DOA and assistant DOA need to be dedicated individuals who are focused forward thinkers, team builders, and great listeners who are open to new ideas. It all starts here with the right coach. Not a micromanager, but one who allows his team the freedom to use their skills to be effective. All players are different and respond differently to certain stimuli. Give them the room to operate while making sure they stay compliant.
Second, it’s all about acquiring superstar players. The hiring of rock star reps is the key to your success.
You want to find those rare individuals who are self-motivated, outgoing, driven to succeed and who genuinely care about the students they are working with.
If you have to manager them tightly – you have the wrong players!
No admissions team is complete without a strong marketing team as their partner. Yes, your marketing team is part of admissions and both need to work closely together. The marketing team is needed to fill the stadium. Not just lead generation, but a great lead nurturing program, a strong enrollment retention program and the promotion of the college’s key strengths through social media and collateral. Your marketing team should include a social media/digital marketing coordinator, a graphic designer and a marketing coordinator who can take pictures and video of EVERY event and activity, help set up tour/visit experiences as well as work as a liaison with admissions to help promote the college at every opportunity.
Next, you have to supply your team with the right tools and equipment to put them in the best possible position to win. Training a team without the right equipment or facilities will not allow you to compete at the highest level. You cannot skimp on the right tools. So what do championship admissions teams need? First, an effective and easy to use CRM tool. Most schools buy a software package to allow for financial aid or training to track students and limit paperwork from admin staff. But many of these software packages simply are not right for your admissions team. Having a CRM tool that automates calling, texting, emailing to your prospects and that helps prioritize leads is critical. Velocify is one, but there are several others. You want your team focused on performing quality interviews and not spending time on manually having to send individual emails, texts or figuring out who to call next.
Lastly, before we can even think of taking the field for the first game, we need to train the team. This starts on day one with a solid orientation program for all new hires.
Make sure all admissions representatives and other staff understand the culture, history, policies and processes for the college.
Since everyone is in admissions, all staff should fully understand each programs features and benefits as well as the process for enrolling and starting students.
Admissions representative training has five main sections:
- Program overviews
- Appointment setting
- Follow up
- Orientation training includes a history of the college including the mission, philosophy and culture overview. You want to make sure your new admissions staff understands the culture and history of the institution to make it more personal when dealing with prospects and to insure that they are enrolling students who will fit in and become successful. The orientation also introduces the representative to key personnel and the other supporting departments.
- Program training will focus on the FABF process. FABF stands for Feature, Advantage, Benefit, and Feeling. In our training process with schools, we want to make sure the admissions representatives understands the features of each program, the advantage that feature will give the student, the benefit that feature provides as well as the feeling that results from the accomplishment. If you go through this exercise with each program, the representative will have a great understanding of what each program provides and the value it creates for the student.
- Appointment setting training is key to the success of the admissions team. Colleges spend thousands on lead generation, but many of those leads go unworked or are not worked properly. Many schools often spend too little time on setting tours/interviews and instead focus on the interview and closing too much. Without setting the table, there is nothing to eat. Train the reps on proper contact techniques from phone to email to text and have the right scripts in place to set solid appointments that show.
- Interview/tour training can take schools in a myriad of directions. Not only do reps need to be able to listen to the student’s needs, but they need to know how to address those needs and make sure the student and school are a fit for each other. They need to know how to present the school in a tour and overcome objections properly. In addition, compliance plays a large part here and schools are coming under increased scrutiny with their admissions practices. Thus, at Enrollment Resources we have developed an Interview Pathway for schools to utilize to insure that all questions are asked properly and that no shortcuts are taken. Not only does this insure compliance with accreditation, but we are finding it leading to a 41 percent increase in conversion.
- Follow up training can be critical to your institution’s success. You got them to the school, you advised them on the right program for their needs. Now, they need to start and stay through to graduation! Proper follow up using multiple contact methods from phone scripts to texting, postcards and emails will make the difference between a start and a no show. Spend the time and money to develop a solid enrollment retention plan that keeps enrollments engaged and excited until they show for class and beyond.
These five areas are the keys to training your admissions team. There is a lot more that can be covered in each area, but keep it simple. Don’t overwhelm them. Then later, you can tweak the weak areas, but give them the scripts and tools to be successful out of the gate.
We also subscribe to the adage “Practice make permanent, but perfect practice make perfect.” Make sure through a series of roll plays and shadowing that reps fully understand and can complete the entire process before turning them live. Too often, schools are hiring for need and rushing new reps into service before they are trained properly. Even if the new hire is experienced from another school, they need to understand the process as your institution wants it done. Breaking old bad habits can take time.
Now you have the right team and they have gone through all the preseason training and are ready for the start of the season.
Tom King is currently a consultant in the career college industry working with Enrollment Resources in their Admissions Performance Institute division. He focuses on evaluating and improving tactics within the marketing and admissions processes for colleges to help them quickly improve their conversion rates and increase enrollment.
Previously, Mr. King was the Chief Operating Officer and Director of Enrollment Management with Ohio Technical College for nearly 13 years. After taking over the admissions department, he increased the college’s enrollment from 381 students to over 1,400 in his first five years. He also served as its Director of Training and also oversaw the Career Services, Information Technology, Financial Aid and Corporate Development departments during his time there. His focus on customer service and ability to motivate and develop staff has helped the college become a nationally recognized institution.
As a business owner for over 20 years and director at OTC for more than 12 years, Mr. King offers a unique set of skills and experiences to colleges looking to improve their processes and increase efficiency and profitability.
Mr. King brings a great deal of insight into marketing, program creation, facility expansion, policy and procedure changes, information technology implementation and general organizational improvements for colleges.
Contact Information: Tom King // Admissions Performance Institute // Enrollment Resources // 216-577-8296 // firstname.lastname@example.org