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The Role of Prospecting in Education Lead Generation

The Role of Prospecting in Education Lead Generation

Even hardened sales veterans will tell you that lead generation usually feels like a continuous game of cat and mouse. When it comes to the education sector, you might have hundreds of student prospects expressing interest in your school, but few of them are moving past the awareness stage.

And if you're focusing on student enrollment lead generation, you may spend months sending emails into a void hoping that leads will ask a question you can use to educate them and move them further down the admissions funnel. However, such instances are few and far between. 

The biggest question for your education marketing team then becomes, how do you handpick students who are the best fit for your school, so they can spend more time on them? That's where sales prospecting enters the equation.

Lead Versus Prospect

Before we explain what sales prospecting looks like, we need to rest the enormous confusion between leads and prospects.

A lead is anyone who's shown interest in your school through visiting your website, subscribing to your newsletter, etc. On the other hand, a prospect fits your student persona and is likely to engage with you because they need what you're offering.

Unlike a lead, a prospect doesn't need to have expressed interest in your school. You can classify a prospect as a potential customer even if they have had limited or no interaction with you – as long as they tick most if not all the boxes for your ideal audience.

What is Sales Prospecting?

Sales prospecting is searching for and identifying potential customers for your business. For those of us in education, it's how we find prospective students who match our student personas so we can focus on nurturing them towards enrollment.

What is The Sales Prospecting Process

The sales prospecting process involves steps that guide you into successfully identifying a high-quality prospect.

This process is especially helpful in prospecting education leads from large list buys because it allows you to address the top questions potential students have – will I have a good experience, what are my chances of getting a job, does the course meet my career objectives, etc. 

At the end of the day, you have more chances of a prospect attending your school when they've heard from you directly, and you've spent time answering their questions. 

How to Prospect: Prospecting in the Education Industry

Here's how to prospect for your school to strengthen your education lead generation strategy:

1) Develop the Ideal Audience Profile

Start by developing the ideal audience profile. To do this well, you need to take an inventory of your school. For example, if you're running a specialized private institution, the demographic looking for broad higher education programs from a public school might not be the right fit.

You also need to consider the age group. If you're mainly targeting millennials and Gen Zers, your target audience includes their parents and guardians. 

What modes of learning do you offer? This question will also help you eliminate people who want other learning modes. Other elimination criteria include the cost of tuition and programs on offer. 

2) Prioritize your Audience

Narrow to audiences who are most likely to respond to you so you can focus the most effort on them. 

Assume you generated ten student leads for your short course in business analytics for the fall prospecting a purchased list. Five of these leads need to complete the course to help increase their chances of a promotion at work. The other five are still comparing the business analytics course with other courses and can't start until next summer. The first five are obviously more likely to convert now, and you can focus more on them while nurturing the other five according to their longer enrollment journey 

3) Prepare a Personalized Engagement for Each Prospect

Here, your job is to gather in-depth information about your prospect to personalize your engagement better. The crux of it is determining what they care about by asking them. Here are  some examples of how to ask:

  • Running email surveys
  • Conducting over-the-phone interviews
  • In-person events and webinars
  • Multistep lead capture forms
  • Chatbots and live chat

Don't start on the wrong foot by prospecting without a clear idea of what value you're offering. And when you understand that value, ensure you provide helpful high-value ToFu (top of funnel) content such as insights, benchmarks, and learnings that relate to it without being 'salesy'.

4) Write your Messaging

Use their goals and top concerns to craft highly-tailored messaging. You need to work with four principles to hack this: 

  • Personal. Address an issue that is specific to them.
  • Relevant. People change their minds all the time. Find out whether the prospect has the same concerns before crafting your messaging.
  • Human. Drop the professional language for a more relaxed, casual vocabulary and use exchanges that are normal to human beings, such as wishing them a good weekend and so forth.
  • Helpful. Avoid selling and offer help. If a prospect has second thoughts about their course choices, offer career counsel instead of telling them you'll get back to them when they make a choice.

The relationship between you and your prospect here will be cemented by how much value they find in your offering. Do your best to communicate that in each leg of the journey. Successful student recruitment hinges on how well you meet prospective students’ needs. 

How to Use Automation in Prospecting 

Recent data found that sales teams spend less than 15% of their time engaging with prospects. That's a dangerous streak when so much depends on building a connection with these leads. 

Customer relationship management (CRM): these tools can free your team to engage with active prospects as the CRM handles the mundane tasks – from prospecting to nurturing and closing – with better efficiency. However, everything with sales prospecting thrives or dies with the quality of data you input into the software. 

  • Store your prospect information in one consolidated platform.
  • Track previous interactions between team members. 
  • Build rich lists of prospects that have an excellent chance of converting. 
  • Gather insights into prospects' challenges and needs, so you're better informed when you talk to them and equipped to handle objections.  
  • Store more than just a phone number. Track website visits, email engagement, and how prospects are interacting with your overall enrollment funnel.
  • Engage prospects over multiple digital marketing mediums by establishing custom workflows and processes. 
  • Build handwritten notes, phone calls, or emails into your workflow processes.

Smart content: allows you to create web pages and emails that change based on user and their behaviors. Although prospecting does require a more tailored touch, marketing automation software has pioneered techniques in personalizing your engagement. For example:

  • Customize browsing experience (landing pages and web pages) based on a visitor's location.
  • Use personalized greetings and names when sending an email.
  • Modify a lifecycle stage as students move through your enrollment funnel, thus allowing you to show customizable content for each lifecycle stage your prospect is in.

To Wrap Up

Sales prospecting is the art of ensuring the people you call leads meet three fits: 

  • First, you have the product-customer fit. This means your education products should serve the student's needs. 
  • Secondly, you have the economics-consumption fit, which demands that as your prospects consume the product, the economics make sense for you and them. 
  • Finally, there's the problem-value fit. In this case, the prospect has to find value by using the product to solve a specific problem they have.

Combining sales prospecting with sound higher education lead generation practices allows your marketing strategies to bear much more fruit. 

Here at Sonority Group, our strong suit is education-based marketing, and we have a wide range of services to suit your needs. Let's chat!  

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