Listening Skills Often Make the Biggest Difference

In the many workshops and seminars I have participated in over the years, the one question that always seems to come up after “I have a sales problem” is, “What should I look for in a good rep?”

A good and very important question. Equally important is who is doing the looking and what are they really looking for? Recently, a small school owner told me that they had set out to interview for an admissions director, and had not found one yet because they all seemed to be too “sales-ey.” A bit confused, I asked what exactly that meant. They went on to say that they were too pushy and animated, etc. Now I wasn’t there for the interview, but on the surface, those seemed like OK qualities to me.

So when I say listening skills are important, I mean listening to yourself. Have a frank conversation that starts out with “what’s good for the business.” Listen to those answers and match them up with your personal perception and analysis of what you are willing to accept as a solution. If you have a sales problem, and you hire people in your own image, but you are not a salesperson, you will miss the boat. And worse, they will miss the boat with you.

First things first. Could you use more new starts? Do you manage the metrics? Do you manage the process of admissions first, the people second? Do you manage performance daily? Do you currently have representatives who have performance behind them as opposed to having potential in front of them?

With those questions asked and answered, admissions is a pay-for-performance position. Not an incentive pay-for-performance, a pure pay-for-performance using any compensation methods that work within the guidelines. They get a salary; they produce starts that meet your company objectives. If you need a lead-to-start conversion of 20 percent to make your budget, based on advertising performance and leads generated within your budget, then that is what you need to manage to. If you aren’t, it’s either because your representatives aren’t skilled to do it, and that is a training problem you should solve quickly, or they have an attitude problem that you have to repair or replace as soon as it is uncovered. You treat infections, not let them spread. If training them isn’t something you are comfortable with, then send them to workshops.

Listening begins with asking yourself what you need to do and how fast you need to do it. Put it on paper, give it a purpose, then put everything you have into making it work. Woulda, coulda, shoulda aside, it’s a new day and a new, fresh start. Take a deep breath and go out there to compete and win.

One more listening tip. Walk around the school for a couple of days. What do you hear? If it’s not a bunch of enthusiastic chatter, create it! It drives referrals and retention, which are both free!

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