Is it just me, or am I missing something?

Leads, leads, leads, and still you hear “enrollment in ground schools is below expectation, etc, etc, etc.” I have been a real believer that if leads are up, starts should be too. Sure, more players, more options, stronger job market – but so what?

The people contacting us are still contacting us; despite our reasons to think they aren’t really serious, they are! They are shoppers looking for an opportunity to buy. And they called you and said, “So why should I go to your school?” In their eyes they think they are really good leads – they contacted us!

I would understand starts being down if leads were down – but they are not. I heard just yesterday, “Well the lead quality isn’t what it use to be.” Really? How about this possibility: maybe the representative quality isn’t what it used to be. Maybe the drive, motivation, strategy, and skill of the sales team isn’t up to the standard of the “shopper.” We all know that shoppers are needed first before we have buyers. So shopping for a school is a good thing, isn’t it?

Here is what I think if anyone cares. We seem to have become an industry where new leadership is coming in from out of this sector, and they are bringing in Welchism, Pepsi and P&G philosophies. Now I love to read Jack as much as everyone else, and I think Tide and McDonalds are great products, and hey, I love Pepsi too, but we are not a product-driven business; we are a service business selling education. You can’t start it up, put it on a shelf, eat it, or drink it. Selling education is not the same as selling equipment, food, or consumer goods. Some principles apply, some don’t. Some companies are taking something as simple as selling an opportunity to someone to go to school and get a skill and making it a white paper opportunity for Wharton. It’s no wonder the admissions departments are confused. Most of them never went to Wharton, don’t want to, and if asked, probably don’t even have any idea where it is! What they want is an opportunity to help someone get into a program and graduate. Remember, they make no incentive for their efforts, so this is a job for someone with a heart and soul. They want to help these people for the sheer pleasure of doing something good for them. They are really the only ones that get tears in their eyes at graduation. It matters to them that they “helped someone,” it really does. And for the record, Wharton in my eyes is great!

So in simple terms, if leads are up and starts are down, you have a local sales management problem and in my opinion, a leader in operations that doesn’t walk the sales talk. Start with spending time asking your admissions people what they think about the training, motivation, and support from Finance, Education, and Career Services they are getting. Ask very specific questions like, “Billy, what exactly does Robert do in his finance position to help you get an enrollment?”; “What does David do in Education to help you get an enrollment?”; and “What does Andrea do in Career Services to help you get an enrollment?”

Don’t be too surprised if you find it’s pretty lonely up there in those cubicles.

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