Professional salespeople – the really good ones – recognize that the most critical part of selling is to match the right people with the solutions being sold. In other words, the likelihood of selling a high-end 3-D television is much greater if the would-be buyer has an above average income. The TV might be nice for anyone, but the odds of making the sale differ significantly based on income. Similarly, we’re much more likely to enroll a new student if that student’s future plans are not locked into some other specialty. Yes, there are lots of arguments that all students should take a business course, but let’s play the odds and focus on those who may actually care about learning business skills.
I recently downloaded a document called Getting New Customers: 6 Tips to Help You Find Even More Profitable New Customers from StepbyStepMarketing.com (get the original article here.) The article provides the following six tips:
- Create a Two-Stage Plan for Getting New Customers
- Hire and Motivate a Sales force with Great Incentives
- Network, Network, Network
- Don’t Let Any Viable Sales Leads “Fall Through the Cracks”
- Referrals, referrals, referrals
- Cultivate a “Consultant” Mindset throughout Your Company
Create a Two-Stage Plan for Getting New Customers
As teachers we may offer a class because we have a few key students that we know would both enjoy and thrive in the class. We may insert a new course in a sequence because there appears to be demand for it. We may even be at a new school or new to education and we get started with a burst of enthusiasm. Then what?
We need a plan for part two; a plan for continuing to grow our program. We need a plan for adding contemporary classes, for developing innovative projects and activities, for enhancing our program through technology. In short, we need to plan for the “next step” regardless of the step we currently occupy.
We need to look beyond where we are, determine where we need to go, and make a plan for getting there.
Hire and Motivate a Sales force with Great Incentives
We are often so excited about our program, new course, or student organization that we find it hard to believe that our students and other stakeholders might not share that same level of excitement. Unfortunately, that is often the case. We need a process of developing a great sales force from among our students, counselors, parents and alumni. We need others to magnify our efforts by having them “sell” our program.
If they need a little push—develop an incentive program. There is often a blurry line between incentives and bribes—so walk carefully. Many will sell your program if it has been a great experience, or if their child had such an experience in our class. Counselors sell programs they believe in. Incentives in the forms of points, additional opportunities, leadership roles, etc. are often effective in encouraging students to share their excitement. Often, no incentive is necessary beyond giving them the chance to share what they enjoy.
Regardless of the incentives you do or do not employ, be sure to make it easy for them. Give them some help with benefit statements, collateral materials (brochures, video clips, etc.), and plan to do the follow-up yourself. Volunteer sales teams only go so far.
Network, Network, Network
Networking is good for more than getting a job, or meeting people at a BPA, DECA, or FBLA conference. Networking is a great opportunity to find potential students for your program. Where do these network-based leads come from?
Chaperon: Take a night every now and then and chaperon events that are not sponsored by your students or program. Take advantage of the opportunity to meet a new group of students. One of my all-time favorite students decided to change her schedule and add a marketing class after I talked to her at a dance.
Lunch: Stay away from the faculty lunchroom and make yourself visible in the cafeteria or hallways. Talk to kids.
Friends of students: Always take advantage of talking to friends of your current students when given the chance. No hard sell; just leave a positive impression and a soft invite to enroll in your class.
Community Organizations: Belong to or speak to the Lion’s Club, Rotary, Optimists, Chamber of Commerce, etc. You never know who in the audience has a child that could end up in your class or who may have a neighbor turn to them for a class suggestion. Be visible in your community.
Other Teachers: Make sure the other faculty members know you are always in search of a student with an interest and ability in your subject matter. Yes, it is very competitive among the elective courses, but maybe a core teacher can send someone your way now and then. By the way—look for opportunities to return the favor.
You get the idea. There are former students, siblings, coaches, PTA/PTSA and the list goes on.
Don’t Let Any Viable Sales Leads “Fall Through the Cracks”
Don’t eliminate a student from your prospect list too quickly. Make sure you follow-up a few times. Don’t stalk them, but give them more than one chance to make the “right” decision.
When you receive a lead from a student, teacher, or parent make sure to invite the student to stop by for a visit. Any time you have a reason to believe a student might benefit from your class, follow-up—even when it’s simply a hunch or a “gut feeling.”
Referrals, referrals, referrals
Yes, this is related directly to the networking and other tips. However, it is a great reminder. You should ask every one of your students (at least the ones who perform well in your class) for the names of their friends who might also enjoy the class.
This can be done casually, or by providing them with a post card that has space for 5-10 names. Tell them you appreciate their hard work and the type of student they are and you would like to get more students like them. Then ask them if there is anyone they would recommend.
Salespeople often survive (or thrive) on referrals. Why shouldn’t we use them?
Cultivate a “Consultant” Mindset throughout Your Company
Keep in mind that the purpose of your “sales efforts” is not always to get a student to enroll in your class, but rather to help them with any problems or challenges they may have. Perhaps you can recommend a source for a research project, a part-time job, or a great place for them to go for their homecoming dinner. When you develop the reputation of a teacher who truly cares, even beyond “recruiting,” you will ultimately draw more students to your program.
Once again those of us on the education side of business can learn a great deal from our counterparts in the industry. Adapt what works in business and use it as we continue to develop methods of building our enrollment with students who have an interest in what we have to offer.