Why Sales Shouldn’t Be a Dirty Word in Admissions

Student recruitment can only happen if you sell your institution well. But because higher ed typically avoids the word “sales” like the plague, admissions counselors miss out on key skills they need to succeed. In this episode, Jarrett sits down with higher ed consultant Chris Lewis to discuss how your admissions team can embrace sales during student recruitment—and steps you can take to do so.

Subscribe to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab

Apple Podcasts



Google Podcasts


Jarrett Smith:
You’re listening to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab. I’m your host, Jarrett Smith.
Welcome to the Higher Ed Marketing Lab, I’m Jarrett Smith. Each episode, it’s my job to engage with some of the brightest minds in higher education and the broader world of marketing to bring you actionable insights you can use to level up your school’s marketing and enrollment efforts. Admissions counselors are vital for attracting students and the tuition revenue they provide into their institutions. Yet historically, higher ed has been deeply uncomfortable thinking about their admissions counselors as occupying anything akin to a sales role. Today’s guest says that’s a mistake, and that sales should no longer be a dirty word in higher education. His name is Chris Lewis. As a consultant at Echo Delta, Chris draws upon his experiences as an admissions counselor, sales representative, and mental health counselor to help admissions teams better recruit more right-fit students.
In our discussion with Chris, we talk about why admissions teams need to understand and ultimately embrace sales as a part of student recruitment, the essential sales skills admissions counselors need to master in order to be successful, including how to be resilient in the face of rejection, and the three non-negotiable standards of ethical selling. We wrap up with a brief overview of Chris’s new admissions sales training workshop. So without further ado, here’s my conversation with Chris Lewis. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Lewis:
Thank you so much for having me, Jarrett. Appreciate it.

Jarrett Smith:
Yeah. Well, I’m excited to jump into this conversation about sales and admissions. I think it’s going to be super interesting. I’d love if you could start off by just giving us a little sense of your background in higher education and sales.

Chris Lewis:
Yeah. So, I’ve been in for the last 20 plus years, I have a background in both sales and marketing. Over half of that time has been spent in education. Interestingly, I work at both a two-year for-profit college, and then also a four-year college. I also have a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s degree in individual family and group counseling. So helping people, guiding people has always been a really important part of who I am. It’s always been something I’m hugely passionate about. On the direct sales side, I’ve got some experience in the insurance industry and selling mortgages, that’s more high pressure sales, more go get them the way that people, I think, traditionally think about sales and sales roles. And that was actually valuable experience, as we’ll discover it through our discussion. And then on the counseling side, I was a social worker, I was a mental health therapist, and I worked directly with 13 to 18 year olds, was the main people that I did therapy with.
So, when we talk about college age kids and admissions, you’re meeting with the 16 to 18-year-old. So, that’s exactly what my background is in on the mental health side. I think working for a for-profit college gave me a really unique insight and an interesting perspective, because at a for-profit you’ve got lofty goals, you’ve got people, people do get hired and sometimes even fired based upon their success rate. So, even though everything we did at the for-profit from a “sales perspective” and we did have sales training, it was done in a very organic way. It was not underhanded by any sense, but we were trained and I learned to look at the admissions process in a little bit different light. There is a sales aspect to it, there is certain skills that you should have that benefit you. So for me personally, the combination of my counseling background and then my direct sales training, and then just all the years of experience in higher ed, it really gave me a perfect blend of the skills that I think it’s necessary to be really successful at recruiting students for colleges and universities.

Jarrett Smith:
Excellent. Yeah, thanks for sharing that. It is a really interesting intersection of three very different disciplines. Yeah, and I think that has armed you with a pretty unique perspective on this topic. So I mean, let’s dive in. And I think I have to start off this conversation by just saying higher-ed in general, I think has an uncomfortable relationship with the idea of marketing. I think that term still makes some people squirm, even though you see more and more CMOs and more acknowledgement of the role of marketing. And when I think about sales in higher-ed, I think that is the ultimate squirmy word for a lot of folks. So, I’m wondering if it might be helpful just at the start to kind of could you make your best argument for why you believe sales actually needs to be something that we think about and talk about in the world of higher education admissions?

Chris Lewis:
Sure, absolutely. Well, I think when we talk about sales in higher-ed, I think it’s really important, first off, for people to understand, well, I want to understand what they think sales is. When they hear the word sales, and I think in general a lot of us, when people hear sales people get visions of being talked into something that they don’t want or they don’t need, or not getting what they thought they were getting. Or they’re just having an overall bad experience. The term used car salesman comes into mind. And interestingly, many, many years ago when I wasn’t through college, just worked for a car dealership actually. And even that, I think the term used car salesman has a bad intonation, and I think they get a bad rap. Honestly, what a used car salesman is doing is he’s presenting available options.
Somebody’s coming interested in the car, he’s giving you variable options. People are oftentimes limited by what they can afford and whatnot. So, they’re looking to match up what your interests are and your needs are. And really, that’s the same thing you do with a college. And even further than that, all of us on a daily basis get exposed to sales. We just don’t call it sales. We don’t think of it as sales. For instance, when you go into your local supermarket and you’re buying food, there are 1000% reasons why certain items are at the end of aisles, or shelves are actually things that they want you to buy are purposely at eye level. So, that’s sales. Every September, October, you start hearing all the ads and all the things, pumpkin spice this, pumpkin spice, pumpkin spice everything. So that power of suggestion, that exchange of information, that’s sales. That’s them trying to sell you something and selling you on the idea of something.
And in that way, that’s what really college admissions is about. As a college admissions person, you are gathering information, just like somebody, a business who wants, like Echo Delta to help them with their marketing efforts, you’re going to gather information, that’s what we’re doing as a college admissions people. And then you’re also providing information, or in the case of what people say traditional sales, a product. But as an admissions person, you’re providing information. You’re providing information about your school, you’re providing information about the surrounding area, you’re explaining the process and helping them navigate that process, and you’re working towards a decision. So again, are there certain skills that we define as sales skills? Absolutely.
But sales, it’s not a dirty word. And I think it’s really important for us in education and for people in education to realize that education’s not simply, it’s not a commodity. It’s not something that you tangibly purchase, but it’s about us and admissions, and the colleges that we represent, providing real value that you can use the rest of your life. It’s not only what you gain in class, but it’s much more than that. It’s you learning about time management, budgeting, teamwork, dealing with people from different backgrounds, so on and so forth. So again, sales isn’t a dirty word. You, as a college admissions coordinator, representative, it’s really “the sales process”, and sales is about finding out if your college is the best fit for the students that you are working with, and if they are the best fit for you. In some ways it’s like a marriage.

Jarrett Smith:
Interesting. So Chris, if I would challenge you to define what you mean by sales, do you have a working definition that you use when you think about sales in the conversation, in the context of higher-ed?

Chris Lewis:
Yeah, absolutely. And really not just a definition, but it’s dividing the certain things that you do make it sales, but not, for lack of better term, in a salesy way. It’s about you utilizing basic people skills. And it’s interesting, because we tend to think that we’re all human beings, we all have parents who guided us and shaped us, and whatnot. But honestly, I think what we’re seeing today, and I see this with my children, and their friends, and just people I encounter, there actually seems to be somewhat of a shift away from basic people skills. And I mean simple things, even looking people in the eye, shaking someone’s hand when you meet them, utilizing eye contact throughout a conversation, providing feedback during a conversation.
So my opinion, utilizing those basic people skills, it’s about relationships. From the very first moment that you meet a prospective student and their family, it’s about you forming a good working relationship. Again, it’s not unlike when I was courting my wife, or when I’m speaking to my children. All throughout our daily lives there’s all these where we are involved in relationships, we’re involved in exchange of information. So, I’ve always really truly believed that if someone likes you, they’ll trust you. If they trust you, they will open up and be honest with you about what their wants and what their needs are. And if they’re open and honest, that gives you opportunity to best understand them.
And if you’re able to help them and guide them through that process and it makes sense for both parties, then that’s how they will end up attending your college or university. Beyond that, it’s about asking the right questions at the right time. I’m a fan of having a predetermined list of questions to ask prospective students. I think there’s great value in that, even though I like to let the conversation dictate when those questions are asked, but it’s really all part of a larger process.
So if you’re gathering the right information, everything you talk about has a purpose, you’re gathering information with the general idea of you finding out what interests them, what they want, and the entire time throughout your many conversations you’re building trust, you’re forming that relationship, so again, that they will be open and honest with you. You’re guiding them through this entire process that they may know nothing about, they may be scared about, and it’s your job to help them understand, for them to feel comfortable. It gets down to things like following up with them, whether that’s face-to-face follow-ups, phone calls, emails, texts. You have your initial visit, you may have subsequent visits, financial aids, move-in day, and possibly beyond that.
So, these are parts of that process. And then again, handling objections as part of that, which we’ll talk about. It’s about guiding them from start to finish, and being there for them every single step in the way, and it’s you’re making a commitment to them.

Jarrett Smith:
Thanks for diving into that. I’d love to hear a little bit about some of the specific skills that you really think admissions counselors need to build. And as you alluded to some basic conversational people skills, I know there’s more than that. You just mentioned rejection. When you think about the core skills that any admissions counselor should have and that they need to work on intentionally developing, what comes to mind?

Chris Lewis:
I think first and foremost you’ve got to be passionate about what you are doing. You have to believe in a university. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing as a professional about the service that you’re providing. If you are in admissions to simply collect a paycheck, you’re not going to come off as genuine, which is primarily important, and you’re not going to be successful. And perhaps most importantly, the old adage says if you have a job you love you’ll never work a day in your life, and I think that’s true. If you truly enjoy what you do and you are passionate about it, man, the impact you’re able to have on young people and just the impact that you feel. I can distinctly remember numerous times being in the middle of meeting with a young man or a young woman and their family, and literally consciously thinking to myself, “What an honor it is I get to do this for a living. How much do I love talking to people, and how much do I enjoy seeing them be successful?”
So almost in a way, when you get to the point when you’re that passionate about it and you enjoy it that much, it’s almost selfish. I would probably never say, “Yeah, I don’t want you to pay me for this.” But it’s just really, really enjoyable, and I think to your passion, because your passion’s spill through in everything you do. The next thing I think you have to be a master at communication. Again, from the first time you meet someone and say hello to the last time you see them, you’ve got to be personal, you’ve got to be able to communicate. And beyond that, I think it’s you have to, as I like to say, you have to meet them where they are.
So, part of this process is you finding out how do they communicate, why do they communicate the way they do? How are they comfortable communicating? Studies have shown, for instance that Gen Z people, they do like face-to-face, but they’ll text, they love texting. Other generations, my generation, I recently turned 50, I absolutely love face-to-face, but I will text, I will email. Our generation’s incredibly adaptable. I can remember being in admissions and I could call a student 6, 8, 10 times, never hear from them. Might be two months, I’m trying to track them down for really important stuff, never hear from them.
And then all of a sudden I could shoot them a text and literally get a response in five seconds, “Hey Chris, what’s up? How are you? Great to hear from you. What can I do for you?” And so, on one hand I’m like, “I’m so frustrated. I’ve been trying to get hold of you. I can’t get hold of you.” But really it was about me and I’m communicating well, I wasn’t finding out how they communicate how to best serve them. I was doing what I thought was right, or how I like to communicate. So, it’s about communication. Next step I think you’ve absolutely got to have honesty, and you got to have integrity. Honesty is always, has always and will always be the best policy. And it’s not just about not telling lies, it is about doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s about if you say you’re going to get back to them, get back to them. Really one of the best people I ever encountered in higher education told me one time, “Don’t tell someone how to get someplace, take them there.”
And really that just means don’t just say, “Hey …” It could be literally directional, as in, “Go three streets down, make a left.” But it’s really just, “I’m interested in going to college.” Don’t just say, “You do this, this, this and that.” Take them there, guide them. And again, that honesty and integrity will shine through. Next I think people absolutely have to be adaptable. You’ve got to be adaptable and you’ve got to be a master problem solver. As far as adaptability, you need to be able to multitask and shift on the fly in any given day. Specifically when I worked in the for-profit arena, we had specific times every day when we had interviews, time slots that we could have interviews, and sometimes you might have one, sometimes you had all five. Sometimes you did two interviews and then you were sitting down to eat your lunch, and someone said, “Hey, you got another interview.”
So, you’re constantly adapting, you’re shifting on the fly. You might run into a professor on your campus tour who you think would provide value. So, you’ve got to pivot and maybe hit up that professor for two minutes, and you’ve got to be a problem solver. So, you’re going to have a million things come up, and we’re going to really do a deeper dive into this when we talk about handling objections. But on a day-to-day, you might solve 100 different problems for 100 different people. So, you better be a master problem solver and you better be adaptability, and just thinking on your feet. Next I think you have to be all about teamwork. You can’t do the job of admissions on your own. You are part of a bigger admissions team, and even though at the for-profit we were somewhat in competition with one another in a way because we all had individual goals, but we were all still out for the same reason, which is to get qualified good students, help them get an education.
So, whether it’s something that’s working well for me or helping each other out, showing that teamwork. “Hey, this person’s unavailable, Chris. Want to give you a heads-up.” Or, “Hey, I’ve really had some great success with calling students,” maybe staying a little bit later in the day and calling people from 6:30 to 7:30 when they’re after. Be a part of that team, be a good teammate. That also, because you’re going to be involved with financial aid, you’re going to be involved with professors, so having relationships with them. Seeking them out, seeing how you can help in the process. You’ve got to have that teamwork attitude. And lastly, you’ve got to have thick skin as an admissions person. You’re going to lose students, financial aid may not come through, you’re going to have last second dropouts. You’re going to have parents and students that blame you for anything and everything under the sun.
Don’t take it personal. It’s not. It is not you. Not to say that certainly if you make a mistake, own it, fix the problem and move on. But there are so many things that happen throughout an admissions process that we have no control over. But because we are their point of contact, we are their person at the school, the stuff is going to roll downhill and you are going to be held responsible no matter what happens. So, you got to have thick skin. You are going to get yelled at, there’s going to be some contentious times, but kill them with kindness. Help out in any way you can. And if you’ve done all the other things up until that point correctly, you’ve communicated, you’ve done that with honesty and integrity, then you’re going to be successful and it’s going to be fine.

Jarrett Smith:
So, you mentioned rejection a few times, and I think your last point about thick skin is related to that or closely related to that. I’m wondering how do you specifically prepare admissions counselors to handle rejection in a healthy way? I have not personally sat in the admissions counselor seat, but I can imagine rejection hurts for everybody, and that could be something that could be really, really hard to deal with.

Chris Lewis:
Sure. When we talk about rejection or we talk about … You think in terms of, let’s use baseball for instance. For every 10 at bats, if you’re hitting the ball three times, you are an incredibly successful, outstanding baseball player. Admissions conversion rates tend to be in that 25% to 30,% low 30% range. So if you look at it that way, roughly if you meet with 100 students, and throughout my career I would typically meet with anywhere from about 350 to 450 families every year. And again, depending on school, depending on situations, in that 100 student or over range was considered a really successful year. So, just in simple math and simple numbers, you are going to be rejected 70 to 75 times for every 100 people you deal with. So, I think first and foremost it goes back to what I mentioned earlier, is not taking it personal. It’s not personal.
And full disclosure, it took me a while to realize that. It took me a while to figure that out. I think earlier on in my career, because I was so passionate and I invested so much of myself in my students and the families I worked with, and in some ways I became a very small part of their family. Sometimes in admissions you’re working with, I mean, I’ve had sophomores come and that’s a bit too early, but most times you’re dealing with people who are juniors. So, you’re going to be with some of these families for a year, year and a half, even as much as two years. And you’re talking about helping them guide the rest of their personal and professional life. So, you really get pretty in depth with some of these people. I’ve certainly had lots of dads shake my hand, mom gives me hug, cry on my shoulder, all that stuff.
So, it is very easy to take it personal when they decide they’re not showing up. But you can’t take it personal. All you can control is the things that you can’t control. So, the best way to handle rejection is to try to mitigate the circumstances that lead to rejection in first place. There’s always some type of objection that precedes the rejection. So, there’s always something that happens, always. You’re not just going to wake up one day and go, “Well, I’m not going to go to that school.” There’s a reason for it. So, I think as a good admissions counselor, your job is to uncover. And where a lot of people, a lot of admissions coordinators, remember I talked about the importance of your questioning and your gathering of information, that starts from the very first time you meet with them.
And remember back to what I said is a lot of things that you say and the manner in which you do things, and the order in which you do things, and the way you gather this information, it is all with the idea of, “Hey, this is all valuable information,” because I want to find out as much about them as I can, what their wants are, their needs are. But I’m also uncovering potential things that could potentially be issues down the road. Potential objections. One of the biggest objections, that I don’t know if I ever really mastered how to overcome it, was the boyfriend girlfriend. I lost a lot of students over the years with, “Oh my gosh, Chris, I can’t leave my boyfriend. I can’t leave my girlfriend and come to school. I’m in love, this is the love of my life, they’re going to miss me.”
That was a big one, and I did overcome it at times, but that’s just an example. It could be a financial aid problem, it could be a transportation issue. There are just a million things that could happen, but it’s about heading it off before it becomes an issue. So, if you’ve done your job of gathering information, you’re going to be able to … So, my questioning or my line of questioning was about gathering all this information. So, part of my presentation was, “Hey, is there a boyfriend or girlfriend?” “Oh yeah, yeah. We’ve been together, blah, blah.” “Okay. Hey, how do they feel about you going to school? What schools are they looking at?” Because I’m trying to figure out, “Hey, are they going to be close pot? How serious is this? Are they a big part of your decision-making team?” I’m reacting to what’s the look on mom and dad’s face? What do mom and dad say when we start talking about the boyfriend, girlfriend? All these things come into play.
So again, handling the objections, but it’s about setting expectations, it’s about the information you gather from your first meeting all the way through. So, one really big way to avoid rejection is by gathering information and being able to overcome these objections. But you also have to understand that things are going to go wrong, things are going to happen, but when things are going wrong, it’s interesting. There have been times where days where I might be sitting at my desk making phone call after phone call, and just getting rejection, after rejection, after rejection, whether it’s, “I can’t afford a financial aid, Chris,” Or, “My girlfriend says I can’t go to school,” or whatever it is.
Sometimes you even have to take a step back, take a break, walk away for a half an hour, reset your mind. Maybe do something else. Stop making calls for that day. It’s amazing how much your attitude and your state of mind affects how you speak, how you carry yourself. Believe it or not, that stuff not only comes across face-to-face, but it absolutely comes across over the phone. It can even come across in texting or instant messaging, all these ways we communicate. So, be cognizant of that. In the same vein, there were plenty of days where I was firing on all cylinders and it was like every word that came out of my mouth was made of gold. Those are times where I was probably working late and staying on because I was in a great mood, I was in a great groove, and people were listening to me. I was saying all the right things in all the right ways in a very positive way. So, we can’t talk about how to handle rejection without also talking about, “Hey, how do we handle success when things are going really good?”
Stay on that roller coaster, stay on that ride. But also understand that when things are going right, it’s not going to be that way forever. Sales, admissions, life, it is a roller coaster. There are going to be ups and downs. So when it’s up, enjoy the up. Ride the wave. When it’s down, you got to ride that wave too, and it’s okay. It is going to be down. Again, nobody bats 1,000 in baseball. In fact, probably the most successful hitters in all time in baseball still were 100 at bats, they’re still failing over 60% of the time. And these are the best ever. So yeah, I mean, the rejection is going to happen. It’s how you handle it, it’s how you tackle it. And believe it or not, it’s about what you’ve done up until from that first meeting all the way through the process will dictate if the rejection even happens.
But yeah, you have to let it roll off your back. Rarely, if ever has somebody been like, “Chris, I’m not coming to the school because of you.” Now, I’ve had people say that, but it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t anything I did, or it wasn’t a personal attack. And it’s going to feel that way, and it’s going to feel that way if you’re truly passionate about what you do. But it’s really important to … Tomorrow’s a new day, get back at it. It’s going to be all right.

Jarrett Smith:
Chris, I want to circle back to something you mentioned, the importance of questioning when you started off. And I’m wondering if you have any go-to questioning techniques, your favorite ways to ask questions or favorite questions to ask? Anything you would want to share with folks that you’ve learned over the years?

Chris Lewis:
Yeah. Again, I’m a personal big fan of having a script, if you will. Some people, when they hear the word script they think, “Oh, it’s generic.” And the trick is you want to use a script because it’s important. You don’t want to go into an admissions meeting haphazardly, just asking generic general questions. You have to make it yours. But the script allows you to have a bunch of specific questions. For instance, I mentioned I always wanted to know things like, “You’ve had 16 to 18 years, Mom and Dad, to prepare Johnny for college. What are your thoughts about financial aid? Is there money saved for college? Are you planning on taking loans? Is Johnny taking loans? Is there ever-increasing now? Are grandma and grandpa going to be part of this process? Are they going to pay?” I always wanted to find out about their personal interests.
Do they play football? Are they a part of a chess team? And there’s multiple reasons for that. One of the reasons is I truly want to know. It tells me things such as … And again, this goes back to having this, I hate to use the word sales, but having a sales mindset. I want to know this stuff because I’m genuinely interested in them. And by me showing I’m genuinely interested in them, that helps them be, “Hey, we’re just having a conversation. Chris is like one of my buddies. Yeah, I’ll share stuff with him. I love football, I’m passionate about football. Let me talk about that with Chris.” Maybe they’re passionate about origami, take a paper and making it into animals, and doves and things. And I had kids that were interested in that. I don’t need to be an expert at that to genuinely be interested in that.
But for instance, I want to know when someone’s birthday was. Guess what? I love to send birthday cards. I love to call kids and say … And very sadly, in a way, I had numerous times where mom or dad said, “You know what, Chris? You are the only person that sent him a birthday card.” But you know what kind of impact that has on them, that relationship building? And again, it’s genuine. I wanted to do that. So, I’m also a big believer in open-ended closed-ended questions, open-ended questions being an example, “Hey, what kind of things are you interested in, Johnny?” “Oh, you know what? I like to do this, I like to do that. I like to hike, I like to bike, I’m into football, I’m into so whatnot.”
These are all about relationship building, about finding common ground. Whereas a closed-ended question, “Hey, Mom and Dad, how much have you saved for education?” That’s got a simple but complex answer. “We haven’t saved anything,” or, “We’ve got this much set aside.” So, your open-ended questions are about gathering information, about building relationship, building rapport, and their answers help prepare you for other questions, help prepare you for potential objections down the road, help prepare you for any number of situations that could occur, where your closed-ended questions are simply more or less, “I need this information.” But again, all information that you gather, the way you ask questions, when you ask questions, how you ask questions, it’s got to be relational. It’s got to be very natural.
And it goes back to you having passion, but it’s by design but not in a bad way. It is all designed to give you the best opportunity to help them help themselves, and for you to figure out whether you guys are a good match for each other, whether your school is a good match for them, and they are a good match for your school. Believe it or not, I had plenty of times where I would tell a kid, “I don’t think you’d be successful here. Not because I don’t like you or I think there’s something wrong with you. I truly want you to be successful. It’s not about me, it’s not about the school, it’s not about numbers. You’re not a number to me, you’re more than that. I don’t know if you’d be successful, or you may want to look in a different direction.” And people appreciate that, they really do.

Jarrett Smith:
Yeah, that seems to be a direct demonstration of the idea of honesty and integrity in the process, right?

Chris Lewis:

Jarrett Smith:
And I think at the bottom of a lot of people’s qualms with sales, or things that make people feel a little squirmy about it is this idea of can you sell ethically? I am curious, it sounds like for you, part of that is, hey, you are doing your best to work in that student’s best interest. And if you ultimately realize like, “Hey, I don’t think this is going to be a good fit,” you’re willing to do things like tell them, “Hey, I think you may need to look in other directions. I think this might be a better option for you.” Is there anything else, when you think about selling ethically, anything else you would mention about that that you think is important to keep in mind, or that you personally keep in mind?

Chris Lewis:
Three things that I always did, or tried my very, very best to try to do that I think people really appreciate when it comes to selling ethically. That is, number one, be accurate. Make sure what you are saying is accurate, current, and as often as possible publicly posted. So whether you’ve got brochures, you’ve got articles you can reference, you’ve got real world, “Hey, I’m telling you this but you can see it here.” Best of the best is when you can visibly show it to them in real time, in real practice, but at least be able to point them somewhere. This includes your verbal, your written, your digital communications. Unless you can back it up with certifiable facts, don’t quote it. The last thing you want to do is not be accurate. And that leads into the second thing, do not lie. There is just simply never a good reason to lie to a prospective student.
You might get away with it today, you might get away with it for a week, two months, a year, but eventually, almost always that is going to come back to haunt you. And again, this goes back to lots of your relationships, whether it’s brothers, sisters, friends, husbands, wive, whatever. It can take you a long time to build trust, but it can all go out the window in an instant if you lie to them, if you’re dishonest, if you misrepresent something. Again, it might work now, but eventually it’s going to catch up to you. And even if you have the absolute best intentions, and most every other thing you said was spot on.
There’s always going to be that little voice in the back of their head when you say stuff to them, “Hey, is he being honest with me? Do I want to go to the school?” Because remember, you’re representing a school. “Do I want to go to the school? What else are they being dishonest about? What else is Chris not being honest about?” And besides that, misrepresenting information can lead to you being reprimanded or even fired. And it’s really a huge disservice to the college university that you serve and the students that are in your care. If you don’t say, say you don’t know, then find the answer and give it to them. They’ll respect it and appreciate you that much more. And lastly, don’t trash your competition.
There’s no good to come out of it. I’ve had people sit in front of me and say, “Well, I went to this and this other college, and they said that you guys are the worst. You guys are terrible.” Anything and everything was said. My answer was always, “You know what? I can’t affect what somebody else says. I don’t feel that way, let me show you why. Let me show you how. I’m not sure how they do things, let me show you how we do things. We don’t act that way.” I would maybe not verbally say, “We don’t act that way,” but it just doesn’t matter what they say about you. You don’t stoop to their level.”I’m glad you brought that up. Let me explain to you how we do things.” The second you start stooping down at their level and trashing the competition, it just makes you not sound genuine, not sound authentic, and maybe they’re doing that to bait you.
Maybe they go back to you or maybe they go back to that school and say, “Well, maybe they’re trying to play you …” I could go on for an hour about it, but there’s just no good in trashing your competition. Just be about you, be about your school and the benefits of your school. But yeah, being ethical should be at the top of everyone’s list. There’s nothing good will ever come of it. There’s no room for it in admissions.

Jarrett Smith:
Chris, well, I know that you are launching a sales training program for admissions counselors here at Echo Delta. And just to wrap up, I’m wondering if you could tell us just a little bit briefly what’s involved in that? What do your workshops look like? And yeah, love to hear more.

Chris Lewis:
Yeah. So, we are working with admissions counselors, working with admissions staffs around the country. We give people the opportunity. We do some homework at a time. We’re working with the directors and associate directors of admissions, and higher ups of the school to of identify issues they’re seeing, problems they’re seeing, and then we’re able to go in and actually meet with the admissions counselors. And we take them through an entire day of training on topics such as understanding your specific college and what makes it great, effective communication, including asking probing questions, using a script, which we talked about here. Utilizing technology and data. We’re actually working with a state-of-the-art company called an Enroll ML. It’s got a really interesting way of being able to group information and actually guide, through fact-finding, guiding admissions reps of who they should be contacting, and when.
We talk about handling objections, closing techniques, being ethical and authentic, and also the importance of being a lifelong learner. Statistics show that in the coming years here there’s going to be less students going to college. So, there’s more competition for their students, for those students. So, having your admissions counselors be really sharp, utilizing these skills, and utilizing sales. They are sales skills, they’re people skills, but doing it a very professional, authentic, ethical way. It will absolutely, positively increase your enrollment numbers. I’m a firm believer in if you do the right things on a consistent basis, good outcomes will come. And you can utilize that in all aspects of your life.

Jarrett Smith:
Good deal. Well Chris, if someone wants to chat with you, maybe find out a little bit more about the workshops, connect with you, what are the best ways to do that?

Chris Lewis:
Yeah, they can certainly visit Echo Delta at echodelta.co, and they can also reach me directly at Christopher@echodelta.co. I’m always happy and available to have phone conversations, exchange emails, give information. I’m hugely passionate about admissions, hugely passionate about helping people, and I’m happy to help in any way I can.

Jarrett Smith:
Great. Chris, it’s been fun talking with you. Thanks for coming on.

Chris Lewis:
Thanks so much, Jarrett. I appreciate it.

Jarrett Smith:
The Higher Ed Marketing Lab is produced by Echo Delta, a full service enrollment marketing agency for colleges and universities of all sizes. To see some of the work we’ve done and how we’ve helped schools just like yours, visit echodelta.co. If you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. And as always, if you have a comment, question, suggestion, or episode idea, feel free to drop us a line at podcast@echoeelta.co.

Photo of author

Jarrett is our VP of Strategy and the torchbearer for all things digital. Since joining us in 2014, he’s made it his mission to help clients seize the power of smarter marketing strategies—and reap the rewards.

Related Insights