Can you imagine what would be possible if your student recruitment conversations and messaging were intentionally and skilfully loaded with well-chosen weapons of influence and emotional triggers?
Curiosity that led me to wanting to critique a sales script
It was a Tuesday afternoon, at around 2pm, and I was working on a student recruitment health check report for a client. I was determined to finish the report by close of business that afternoon and so, when my mobile phone rang, I was mildly irritated at being interrupted. When I looked at the caller ID, it wasn’t a number from my contact list. I could tell that the caller was calling from a landline from Perth. I considered letting the phone ring-out and let it go to voice mail, but then thought that it might be a client or potential client, and so, I decided to answer the call.
Me: “Hello, Richard speaking”.
Caller: “Hello, can I please speak to Richard please”
Me: “Yes, like I just said, Richard speaking”, as my irritation level jumped from a 4 out of 10 to a 6 out of 10!
Caller: “Hello Richard, my name is ________________. I was just calling to thank you for your support for ____________............
At this point, I could feel my irritation level rise from a 6 to a 9 out of 10! It was a sales call and I simply did not have time for this unsolicited nonsense right now. I was just about to cut him off to (politely) let him know that now was not a good time, when a thought crossed my mind: “I have a sales training course for student recruiters and education institution marketing staff. In that course, I have sessions which cover how to apply weapons of influence and strategically selected emotional triggers to influence better conversion rates”. Based on the first few words of this call, I could tell that the salesperson was reading off a script. So, out of curiosity I thought: “I wonder:
• how many weapons of influence and emotional triggers have been embedded into the design of this script?
• how will the weapons of influence and emotional triggers of this script compare with what I train student recruiters and marketers to do in my Art Of Student Recruitment Sales training course? and
• how well trained and disciplined is this sales person in delivering the script in a manner that is faithful to the science that informed the design?”
The science that underpinned the script
As these questions ran through my mind, I made the decision to play along and let him at least finish reading his script. By this time, he had already rattled off a few more sentences from his script and so I quickly grabbed my pen and my notebook, which was already on my desk. I hurriedly started scribbling the names of the sales tricks that I could identify from the script. The table below highlights the main ‘sales tricks’ I captured from his script and a commentary of the narrative that was going on in my mind as a listened and hastily scribbled the names of each sales trick I could identify onto my notepad:
|He said:||My thoughts as hastily scribbled the “sales tricks” I could identify:|
|“Hello Richard, my name is _________. I am calling from _________to thank you for your support in the past……”||“There you go, weapon of influence number 1 in the first sentence. This is a play on what Robert Cialdini identifies as the Commitment and Consistency Principle in his book Ínfluence - Science and Practice….Because I have supported them in the past, this script is appealing to my unconscious need to appear consistent. Their intention is to get me to support them again now. I teach this in the Weapons of Influence module on the sales course, so put a tick on that one. Just as well I am onto them! Good try on their part. But since I will say ‘no’ at the end of the call anyway, this ‘trick’ is wasted effort on me!”|
|“Thanks to your support, we were able to donate $3 million to patients suffering from _________ and their families.”||“This is appealing to the emotional trigger of altruism…….and there has also got to be something there about ‘stroking the ego and making me feel important’ because I only bought raffle tickets worth $30 and now he is making me a member of a $3 million club! I cover both these emotional triggers in the ‘Understanding buyer motivations’ session in the training program. So, another tick on that one!”|
|“But even though we have made a huge difference to the patients and their families, and it is thanks to your support, Richard, our job is not done. We are not going to stop until we find a cure!”||“Not going to stop until we find a cure….hmmm what is that appealing to?...Is it altruism or significance/importance? Maybe both…well I’ll put another tick on that one as we cover the ’12 emotional triggers’ in the ‘Understanding buyer motivations’ module and though I cannot name the trick right now, I am pretty sure that it is one or more of the 12 emotional triggers we cover in the course”|
|“Well, Richard, I am pleased to let you know that we have just opened the draw for our winter raffle….”||“Here we go…he is starting to close in for the sale! He has done well so far. He has been disciplined and stuck to the script. Let’s see if he messes it up when it matters most…..And you know what? He seems to be mentioning my name quite a lot! Doesn’t Dale Carnegie dedicate a whole chapter on using a person’s name, in his book ‘How to win friends and influence people’? You know, that’s one that I haven’t got in any of the course sessions so far. I must give some thought into how I can incorporate this “importance of repeating the person’s name in the student recruitment conversations” into the course. No tick on this one. Put a question mark so that I can return to it when I have a bit more time to think”|
|“….which will be drawn on the 24th of September. The first prize is an option between a brand new ____________(brand and model of luxury car), complete with ___________ (some key features), can you imagine yourself driving that car, Richard?||”Okay, the car prize is appealing to my subconscious need for ‘status’ which I cover as part of the SCARF model in the ‘Understanding core human needs and fears’ session . So, tick for that! I currently don’t address the concept of getting the future students and their parents to ‘imagine being/having/experiencing’. So that’s another one to add to the list of things to incorporate into the course. I am glad I took this call. This is useful stuff!” By the way, I am not going to bother responding to his question about me imagining myself driving this car. He is only trying to hook me onto the commitment and consistency thing again! I am not going to fall that for that one buddy!”|
|“If the car doesn’t appeal to you, Richard, that’s okay because you could choose instead to go on a 14-day luxury holiday for you and your loved one to____________. In this holiday, you will have an all-expenses paid trip which includes, daily massages, access to an 18-hole golf course and _____________. You know, I am sure you work very hard and this holiday could be exactly what you need”||“He ignored the fact that I did not answer his question and went straight back to the script. Good skills! Luxury holiday…that has got to be another status one. Which other emotional trigger is that one attempting to initiate… certainly has something to do with the need to move towards pleasure and away from pain…..which is the basis of all the emotional triggers…but which specific emotional trigger is it?......ah, who cares? That holiday does sound kind of nice! And yes, I do work hard!” “Interesting that he did not ask me a question about whether I like the idea of a holiday. He certainly got my cue when ï did not respond after he asked me about my thoughts on the car. This guy is switched on!”|
|“But it doesn’t stop there Richard, you could choose to take the $40,000 cash prize instead. $40,000 could make a significant dent to the mortgage, or really, you could do whatever it is that you want to do with it….”||$40,000 cash…well, that one is clearly appealing to my greed”.|
|“…it’s your choice.”||“My choice? That is appealing to my need for autonomy. This is covered in the SCARF model. You know, this script is good!”|
|“Tickets are only 3 dollars each and are selling fast…”||“$3 each, there is a psychological pricing element there. Much better to say ‘$3 each’ than to say ‘$300 for a book of 100 tickets’. And the reference to fast-selling tickets is introducing the idea of scarcity into the conversation. Scarcity is another one of the Weapons of Influence that Robert Cialdini refers to in his book. I cover that in the Weapons of Influence session. Put another tick on that one!”|
|“Can we count on your support again?”||“There we go, that’s the closing question: ‘can we count on your support again?’ It is a clear and concise closing question. I am sure it would tick all of the boxes on my “Power question checklist” in the “Skill of asking good questions in student recruitment” session. Anyway, now that he has asked his closing question, the salesperson needs to “shut up” because, according to Jeffrey Gitomer, the author of the book ‘The Sales Bible’, the first person who speaks after a closing question loses! That, says Jeffrey Gitomer, is the ‘number one rule of sales’. Let me test and see how well trained and disciplined this salesperson is. I will be silent, not respond to his closing question and see how long he can stand the uncomfortable silence before he speaks…”|
My unexpected response to the script
Then to my utter amazement and bewilderment, while my conscious, rational brain was plotting a plan to test this salesperson’s skills with the silent treatment, I heard myself saying out aloud “Sure, why not! I’ll take 10 tickets”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing coming out of my own mouth! I did not intend to say that…..i was not thinking “that”…it was almost as if “those words” came from another part of my brain, a part of my brain that was obviously not aligned to my conscious thoughts!
As the salesperson started going into the payment methods, I found myself having an internal dialogue with myself: “What do you mean you will take 10 tickets????? Didn’t you say that this is just an exercise to play along so that you could critique the script against what I cover in the course??? Didn’t you say that I should keep quiet and not respond to his closing question because the first person who speaks after the closing question loses?? Why did you say you will take 10 tickets??? Then came the response to my barrage of internal questions: “Relax! It’s only $30. And besides, it is for a good cause!”
The power of scientific truths that govern our choices
Isn’t it interesting, that all my reasons for justifying my purchase are the very same reasons he read to me from a script? Added to that, I knew he was reading a script! I knew and could identify and name all the “sales tricks” in the script; I even knew that I did not want to purchase the tickets, and had already made up my mind that I would not purchase! But despite all that, I still purchased the tickets!
What is even more amazing, is that even though I acted in a manner that was inconsistent with what my rational and conscious mind wanted, I did not, and still do not resent the salesperson or regret having made the decision to purchase the tickets. I am happy with my choice because:
• $30 is really not that much money
• For a good cause
• And there is a possibility that I might win the grand prize, but even if I don’t, my contribution is making a difference to those suffering from _____________, for their families, and ultimately, I am contributing to the possibility of finding a cure for the disease
• I even have a lot of respect and admiration for the person/people who designed the script and for the salesperson’s faithful and disciplined delivery of it.
My emotional brain has made me feel good about my decision even though my conscious brain had initially decided against that particular outcome. Not only did my emotional brain make me feel good, it has also satisfied my rational brain with good reasons for the decision!
In that moment, I became conscious of the immense power of the above realisation. This is so powerful I will say it again:
“My emotional brain has made me feel good about my decision even though my conscious brain had initially decided against that particular outcome. Not only did my emotional brain make me feel good, it has also satisfied my rational brain with good reasons for the decision!”
Before you move on, I strongly encourage you to read and meditate on the significance of the above two sentences until their truth ‘sinks in’!
The interplay between good design and faithful execution
The script was well designed with scientifically-proven emotional triggers and weapons of influence that appeal to our emotions. As long as the script was delivered and executed in a manner that was faithful to the science that informed the design, and as long as I remained engaged with the delivery of that script, the probability of that salesperson succeeding in making the sale was extremely high…even if my conscious and rational mind did not want to make the purchase.
For the first time in my life, I experienced the truth about the phenomenon of “humans making decisions emotionally and then justifying them rationally”, I had never seen or noticed that phenomenon in my own decision-making until now. It’s not that I didn’t believe it! I certainly believed it so much that the Art of Student Recruitment is loaded with content about how to appeal to the emotional brain. I just hadn’t been conscious of this distinction (and in this case, the contradiction) between my emotional and rational brain. In hindsight, I probably thought that my decision-making faculties were homogeneous and integrated. Now I can see just how wrong I was, and who really is the ‘boss’ up there!
The science underpinning the design of the Art of Student Recruitment Sales Course
One of the reasons my emotional brain has given me for my decision is: “It is for a good cause”! Well, you know what else is a good cause? The education your institution provides to students. Education has the power to transform a person’s life…the power to make the world a better place.
You know what else? The future students know the importance of education, they want to and will purchase an education anyway. The question is not if they will purchase an education, but rather, who they will purchase it from. In light of all of the above, it is possible to significantly increase the probability of those who engage with your institution to choose to study with you rather than with your competitors. All you need is a well designed scientific approach, student recruiters and marketers who are able to faithfully execute your well designed approach, and sufficient numbers of future students who are willing to engage with you.
The Art of Student Recruitment Sales Training course is absolutely loaded with the above-mentioned and more powerful concepts and tools to appeal to and trigger the emotional brain in order to tip the odds in your favour. For example the 3-day course has:
• 30 minutes of The Student Recruitment Funnel - devoted to the mindsets that a future student goes through as he or she goes through the first 7 stages of the student recruitment journey. We also discuss and explore what kind of emotional needs the future students have at each stage and the kind of information we should be providing them at each stage in response to those needs.
• An hour-and-a-half dedicated to the Weapons of Influence - and how to apply them in the student recruitment context.
• Another hour-and-a-half dedicated to understanding core human needs and fears in student recruitment and buyer motivations - where we discuss deep human psychological needs and emotional triggers that motivate us to act in particular ways.
• Another hour-and-a-half is dedicated to the impact of personality on student recruitment outcomes - and how best to communicate with and appeal to the different personality types.
• An hour-and-a-half each (total of 3 hours) on questioning skills and listening skills - which also play a critical role in creating a conducive environment for the future students to autonomously and freely choose your institution over your competitors.
• Yet another hour-and-a-half on powerful message delivery skills - which in many ways is the session where we develop the equivalent of the “sales script” that the salesperson who called me in the above story used to increase his probability of having successful sales conversations.
As can be seen in the above examples of the type of content covered in The Art Of Student Recruitment Sales Training Course, two days out of the 3-day course is dedicated to learning about the ethical and appropriate application of these deep psychological and scientific truths about appealing to the emotional brain in the student recruitment context.
How to stack the odds in your favour
Each of the ‘scientific truths’ about appealing to the emotional brain that are covered in the course, considered individually, are not so powerful to work on all future students, their parents and other influencers at all times. However, they are each sufficiently powerful to significantly increase the odds of the future students and parents who engage with you to choose to come and study at your institution. The tremendous power of these ‘truths’ lies in using them collectively in a skilful and intentional manner. For example, the script that the salesperson used on me had pretty much every sentence filled with selling power because of the ethical, skilful and intentional application of appropriate ‘truths’. My emotional brain chose to purchase the tickets, not because of any one emotional trigger, but rather due to the interplay of many emotional triggers woven together in a beautifully scripted narrative. What i find really powerful is that it is the scripted narrative that gave my emotional brain the rationale that was needed to placate my rational brain when i was trying to make sense of why i acted in a manner that i was consciously opposed to.
That script was skilfully and intentionally designed to be loaded with different emotional triggers and weapons of influence. Once I decided to engage with that script, the odds were significantly stacked in favour of the seller. You can apply the same principle to your student recruitment efforts, and in the same manner, significantly stack the odds (of future students freely choosing to study at your institution) in your favour.
Imagine the possibilities if you had the right knowledge and skills applied to your student recruitment conversations and messages
Are you a student recruiter? Can you imagine what you could achieve if you had the knowledge and skills to intentionally and skilfully load your student recruitment conversations with a range of powerful emotional triggers that make it more likely that the future students and their influencers who you speak to will choose your institution over your competitors?
Are you a marketer? Can you imagine what you could achieve if you had the knowledge and skills to intentionally and skilfully create and design content and marketing collateral that is loaded with a range of powerful emotional triggers that make it more likely that the future students and their influencers who engage with your content will choose your institution over your competitors?
Are you a manager or executive leader in an education institution? Can you imagine what you could achieve if your student recruitment and marketing teams had the knowledge and skills to intentionally and skilfully create, design and implement strategies that are loaded with a range of powerful emotional triggers that make it more likely that the future students and their influencers who engage with your institution will choose your institution over your competitors?
Well, The Art of Student Recruitment Sales Training Course is your pathway to success.
The Art of Student Recruitment Sales Training Course – Your pathway to success
Register now to attend any one of the following courses near you:
- Melbourne: Tuesday 22 October – Thursday 24 October 2019
- Adelaide: Wednesday 30 October – Friday 01 November 2019
- Perth: Wednesday 27 November – Friday 29 November 2019
- Sydney: Wednesday 29 January - Friday 31 January 2020
- Auckland: Wednesday 13 November – Friday 15 November 2019
- Wellington: Monday 18 November – Wednesday 20 November 2019
- London: Wednesday 04 December – Friday 06 December 2019
- Southampton: Tuesday 10 December – Thursday 12 December 2019
- Manchester: Monday 16 December – Wednesday 18 December 2019
Seats are limited at each venue. So, hurry and confirm your attendance before it is too late!
If you learn and implement the concepts taught in the Art of Student Recruitment Sales Training course, the emotional brains of those who engage with you will not only override any conscious reasons for not choosing your institution, but their emotional brains will also make them feel good about their decision even though their conscious brain may have initially decided against that particular outcome. Further to that, not only will their emotional brain make them feel good about their decision, it (their emotional brain) will also satisfy their rational brain with good reasons for the decision....reasons, of course, that you will develop, package and learn to deliver in The Art of Student Recruitment Sales Training Course!
So, will you be there?
14 – 16 August 2019
20 – 22 August 2019
30 October – 01 November 2019
YES, COUNT ME IN!
13 – 15 November 2019
YES, COUNT ME IN!
18 – 20 November 2019
27 – 29 November 2019
YES, COUNT ME IN!
04 – 06 December 2019
YES, COUNT ME IN!
10 – 12 December 2019
YES, COUNT ME IN!
16 – 18 December 2019
About the Author
Richard Geddes, Managing Director, Optimal Student Recruitment
Before launching Optimal Student Recruitment, Richard worked in senior positions managing domestic and international student recruitment for Edith Cowan University, Murdoch University and the University of Adelaide (2003-2018).
In 2018, Richard resigned from his role as Director, Student Recruitment and Admissions Services at the University of Adelaide to start Optimal Student Recruitment. Richard's passion is to work with education institutions to provide them with scientifically proven reliable and sustainable solutions for their student recruitment challenges.