While kayaking recently on our inland lake, far from any ocean, I paddled by a dock that had this “Beware of the Octopus” sign posted. So what does an octopus have to do with enrollment building? Like the octopus has eight tentacles it uses to grip prey and move, parents have many needs and concerns as they investigate and consider early childhood programs. If they do not find those needs met at one center, they will glide away and move to one of your competitors. How can you make sure that does not happen at your school?
By asking the right questions at the right times. I call this “skilled asking”. Asking, “What are you looking for?” is a good start, but not nearly enough to determine if you can fulfill all their dangling decision-making needs and concerns. So what other questions, and when should you ask?
While assessing prospect needs. Ask good open questions to gather details on personal desires beyond basic needs for a program. Ask questions such as, “What are your primary concerns in finding the best education and care for Brianna?” “What are Tyler’s favorite activities?” In this phase of the enrollment interview, it’s even more effective to ask an open question, await prospect response, and then ask another question to get more detail about their needs BEFORE you begin to educate on your center’s features. I call this technique, ASK-ASK-Educate. It works!
While presenting key benefits of your school. Take a breath in that lengthy explanation of your program, and periodically ASK your prospect short questions to gain their agreement on the benefits you are presenting. Try a question such as, “Does this look like the kind of environment where Nate would get the kindergarten readiness you want?” If the parent says “Yes” every time you ask, the enrollment conversion will be easier.
When you need to convert the visit to enrollment. You MUST ask, or you are not closing. If you have asked questions of the parents throughout the interview, unearthed all their needs, and provided information on how you can meet them, asking one final agreement question before you ask them to register will make that final close much easier. This trial closing question could be something like, “Can you see Eliza thriving in our environment here at (name of school)?” As scary as closing can be, remember, most prospects really LIKE it when you ask them to enroll.
Using skilled asking like this will convert more inquiries to enrollments than any amount of just telling and hoping the parent gets back to you. So beware of letting parents’ unanswered needs dangle like tentacles, and use skilled asking to capture every qualified enrollment you can.
Author’s note – Octopus are intelligent and highly adaptable animals. “My Octopus Teacher”, the beautiful story of how diver, Craig Foster, befriended an octopus, won Best Documentary Feature at the 2021 Oscars. See it on YouTube.