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A values-based approach to Student Admissions: 4 #NEOtips!

October 13, 2020

An article from LinkedIn called Why sales is finally putting the buyer first recently dropped into our inbox, and it got us thinking. Shouldn't this always be the case? How could we build on that idea in our world of Education Marketing and Admissions?Our first thoughts immediately turned to values. We've been thinking about values a lot recently, and a values-based approach to sales and recruitment sits very well within that idea of working with trust, integrity, and empathy at the heart of what we do.Why? We've already talked about the negative stereotypes of those working in the sales profession and the cultures behind these stereotypes. Creating positive relationships with our clients and partners and really investing in them, is so important when we believe in the work we are doing and why we are doing it. So, we thought we could share these thoughts with you, and bring you four #NEOtips on creating a values-based approach to student recruitment in Education organizations.#NEOtip 1: Represent what you really believe in OK, so we started with a big one. However, it really is cut and dried because there are only two choices here: you can represent a service or organization that you really believe in, or you can put on the mask and represent something that doesn't connect with you at all.We once talked to a colleague in University Admissions who had previously worked selling home alarm systems in very rural areas with almost zero crime. He told us that after a few days of trying to convince people to feel afraid of what could happen, he dropped the mask and went to find something he could connect with.He was offered a role with a small business school and really believed in the way they talked about students and their passion for education. He has been there for 15 years now and told us that it "feels natural" to represent something that genuinely aligns with what you believe is important. A values-based approach to work really matters.A disconnect between your values and what you do is a type of cognitive dissonance and can do significant damage to you through stress. The troubling thing is that it's not always easy to see; it can be extreme and it can be obscure, and so we need to ask ourselves the right questions. Do I believe in what I represent, and what is it that I really connect with? If you can't answer this, it might be time for a change.

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#NEOtip 2: People are not personas- prepare accordinglyBuyer personas are of course important in Admissions and Marketing to try to establish communication strategies and make sure the services on offer are the right fit for your audience.That said, your 3 pm call is not with a persona; it's with a person. What is their background? Are there any notes on the CRM about previous interactions? Where are they from and what is it they are really interested in? Do they have a social media profile that will help you understand more? What sections and topics have they clicked on or visited before getting in touch with the admissions team?Any information you can prepare beforehand will help to connect, and anything that is missing can become a question for you to ask them. If we are really frank, much more time should go into understanding who your prospective student really is and what they really want, and not into preparing a "pitch".Scenarios and sales pitch are tools to guide you, but let's never forget the importance of emotions and meaningful connections. Picture yourself in the potential student's shoes. Do you prefer to be talking with a robot that only has rational answers, or with a human who can empathize with you and guide you in both an emotional and rational way towards the next step on your education pathway?#NEOtip 3: Identify the needSometimes we can assume that people already know what they want. It's not always the case, because we can only choose from options we are already aware of. Underneath this are often deeper needs, and a trained ear can find them.In a conversation, a prospective student is focusing a lot on the question of university rankings. Why might this be? Is there a need for the recognition of having studied at a prestigious university, is it a concern about the true academic quality of the program, or are the parents looking to secure their investment?Ask. Instead of reacting and simply listing the rankings from any number of organizations, try to understand what motivates the question.You may find out that, for example, they simply need more reassurance of academic standards, and rankings are often unreliable. Why not connect them to student ambassadors, or highlight key accreditations instead. Only by really understanding the need that motivates the request can we truly meet it.In this sense, we are going beyond the approach of meeting the basic needs of the prospective student. We are adding value by completely surpassing expectations, and this is how long term, robust relationships are created. Prospective students are not receiving a sales pitch from an employee, but rather personalized counsel from a Key Account professional. There is a huge difference.#NEOtip 4: Listen. Really listen. It may be a book you would never associate with our world of education Marketing and Recruitment, but Marshall Rozenberg'sNon-Violent Communication is a masterclass in building empathy. Rozenberg tells us that to truly listen to someone, "we must completely abandon the goal of getting other people to do what we want."Can we be honest? That does not come easy. So much of what we learn in admissions and marketing is focused on persuading the other person to do what we want. Values-based thinking is simply more human because it puts the other person first. We are here as a service and that means we need to let the other person talk.We are good at what we do. We believe in what we represent, and we know it inside out. The more we listen, the more we can mentally cross out aspects of what we offer, which are just not relevant to this person. Yes, stepping back to listen helps to gain insight, but also a sense of trust. By not imposing our own "pitch" on the conversation, we are laying the foundations of a long term relationship, where we can be a source of help, support, advice, and information to this person and referrals within their network.

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When you believe in what you represent - both the quality and the purpose- communicating with prospective students can truly align with your values and become a more empathetic, human experience for everyone. Short term "prospects" become long term relationships, and the whole thing becomes more organic.Now it is time to add metrics. Yes, KPI's and targets will always be a part of this sector, and for good reason. Partners who work with NEO Academy will tell you that we don't skimp on the metrics, and we are granular in the structures we set out to measure success and efficiency.But the approach in our four NEOtips lays the groundwork first and underpins the metrics.This is not squeezing performance from employees armed with a pitch and pushed with a pitchfork. This is an organic results culture that comes from a genuine belief in what we offer, and from forging empathetic, high-value connections with the people we deal with.NEO Academy can support your organization to bring this type of service to life. We are here to support in anything from personalising automations in your marketing & recruitment processesand making sure important details and insights are always available to you, or even bringing a Sales Academy right into the heart of your organization.Why not contact us to tell us what you need. We promise we're good listeners.

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