The Admissions Director’s Task

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It’s the privilege of the Admissions Director to introduce the uninitiated into the wonderful world of martial arts. When the Admissions Director does a good job, peoples’ lives change for the better as a result. When the Admissions Director does a poor job, people miss the opportunity to grow through the martial arts.

Indeed, when the Admissions Director does a poor job he fails the prospective student, he fails the school and the martial arts world suffers by not adding to its ranks. The responsibilities of the Admissions Director are very serious. In many ways he will determine the success of the school.

Many argue that it’s up to a good teacher to make a school. If this is true, why do we see great martial artists leading small schools of 60 or 80 students for ten years? A school cannot grow without new students. It’s the Admissions Director’s job to create students.

If you were to sum up the Admissions Director’s role it would be very simple. His job is to create students. In order to create new students he must focus on prospecting and presenting and following up. As long as he is prospecting, presenting and following up, he will create new students.

How many students he creates will be a function of how well you train him to execute in these areas.

Retention in the first 90 days is also an important responsibility of the Admissions Director but not the primary focus. 80% of his time must be spent prospecting, presenting while 20% will be spent on retention. Following up is split between calling missed appointments (creating students) and ensuring that the students he recently enrolled are enjoying their classes (retention).

One of the most important visual tools you can use to illustrate the importance of this area of the school is the funnel. At the top of the funnel is where you pour in advertising and marketing dollars. Out of the bottom comes new students. How narrow the funnel gets will be a result of how well the Admissions Director is managing his time.

The funnel can be used to illustrate a number of areas of the school. For instance, for an instructor’s job, you could imagine pouring white belts in the top and having black belts fall out the bottom and the funnel gets more narrow with each belt. How narrow it gets is a reflection of your retention.

For the Admissions Director, the top of the funnel represents calls to set appointments. In the sales world this is called prospecting. Prospecting is the process of making phone calls to prospective students with the goal of setting or resetting an appointment to come into the school for your introductory course or intro-tour.

Here, we’re working our leads from all sources. Inquiries, missed appointments, referrals, lead boxes, demos, advertising, walk bys and so on. This is the top of the responsibility list. We like to see at least 50 prospecting calls made per week.

There is a ratio that you will establish between the number of calls made and the number of appointments set and then the number of new students. Regardless of the ratio it holds true that if you call more, you set more appointments. If you set more appointments you enroll more students.

It’s that simple. Prospecting determines how wide the funnel opens. As your Admissions Director’s skills improve, the ratio will improve. For instance, in the beginning you may find that it takes 20 calls to set an appointment. This will result in two or three appointments per week out of which you should gain one or two new students each week.

Since each student is worth about $1,000 per year to the school, then each of the 20 calls it took to earn one student is worth $50 or 1/20th of the $1,000. As the Admissions Directors skills improve, the ratio will improve.

As the number of calls it takes to set an appointment decreases to just 10 calls to set an appointment, the value of each call doubles to $100. This is the attitude you must take towards making phone calls. The goal is to decrease the number of calls it takes to set and appointment and gain a new student.

The next area of the funnel is presentation. Presentation encompasses setting the appointment, teaching the intro and then conducting the enrollment conference which is the ultimate presentation to get involved in the school.

This the pay dirt activity. This is really where the rubber meets the pavement. Truly, this is the only time your Admissions Director is really working. This is the work that an Admissions Director is on the payroll for.

All other activities are simply designed to create a situation where he is belly to belly with a qualified prospective student. Everything else just leads up to or follows the presentation. Much like a fighter measures their success by winning fights an Admissions Director measures success largely by enrolling qualified students.

The final area of the funnel is retention. For the Admissions Director, this is the process of making 2 – 4 – 6 calls, absence calls, writing notes and communicating with the students he has enrolled.

This is where their compensation is based. We don’t compensate based on enrollments because of the temptation to write bad paper and then forget about a student once they are enrolled.

Writing bad paper is when you enroll someone you feel is not qualified to pay for the tuition or to follow through and attend classes. This is not really a student, yet an Admissions Director whose pay is based on enrollments may be tempted to push an enrollment through that isn’t qualified.

A good example of this is when the prospective student is unemployed and wants to defer the down payment out as long as possible. The odds of this person ever actually paying tuition are low which in most cases would disqualify him from enrolling.

We prefer to base compensation for the Admissions Director on the first two exams. Rather than paying a commission on each enrollee, we pay a commission on the number of students graduating to their first exam and then another commission on the second exam.  

This ensures that the Admissions Director is going to focus on the areas of retention listed above. Obviously, he has to enroll students in order for this to happen. This is just our insurance that they are qualified students.

During the evening, we want 80% of the admission director’s time spent on prospecting and presenting. 20% of the time should be spent on retention. That means we must focus our staff on the activities that create the highest results or income of the school.

Filing, paperwork, straightening up the office, gossiping with the parents are all low pay off activities. Admissions Directors must be focused on prospecting, presenting and following up.

The most important activities for an Admissions Director are prospecting, presenting and following up. If there was one activity that you could have your Admissions Director engaged in all evening long, it would be presenting.

We would all love to see our Admissions Director making presentation after presentation, hour after hour. That’s not to say retention is not important, it’s very important, but during prime time hours we like to see 80% of the time devoted to prospecting and presenting.

In other words, 80% of the time should be spent creating new students. If the Admissions Director was to spend 80% of the time on retention then it wouldn’t be long before there simply wouldn’t be any new students to work on retention with.

We must train our staff and keep them focused on the areas that matter. If you were to surprise your Admissions Director with a phone call in the middle of the night and ask them, “what are your high priority tasks?” They should be able to answer without hesitation, “ prospecting, presenting and following up Sir (or ma’am)!”

The Role Of An Admissions Director

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We all know that the success of a martial arts school lies in the number of students that are captured and retained.   Good instructors are important, for sure.   However, without students… what’s the point?

That’s why it’s important for you, as a martial arts school owner, to understand the significance of having a good admissions director (also called Program Director) at your service.   The success of your school literally depends upon their abilities.

And, it’s equally important for the admissions director to understand what is expected of them.   An admissions director is, for all intents and purposes, a salesman for your school.  

The three main processes of their job are Prospecting – Presenting and Following Up …

  • Prospecting – To seek out new student prospects;
  • Presenting – Once they have gotten these prospects through your studio door, it’s their job to “sell” your martial arts program;
  • Following Up – Finally, now that they’ve created a new student, they are responsible for “following up” with that new student to see how their training is progressing, and discovering if the student is satisfied with their class.

For a good admissions director, these should be relatively easy goals to meet.   He will spend a great deal of his time setting appointments.   He will call prospective students in response to leads that he has received from various sources such as demonstrations, advertising, referrals, inquires, lead boxes, and walk-ins.

His aim should be to make at least 50 calls a week.   How many appointments that will be set from these 50 calls is going to depend greatly upon his salesmanship abilities.  

For instance, if his sales skills still need honed, he may only set one appointment for every 20 calls he makes.   As his skills begin to improve, he may get to the point where he can set two to three appointments for every 20 calls he places.

Once he has arranged to meet with the prospective students, it will be his responsibility to “sell” your martial arts training program.   This involves teaching an introductory class to the prospect.   Then, sitting down and discussing with that person what they want, and hope to achieve, by taking your martial arts class.

From that discussion, the admissions director helps the prospect to create a “plan” to help him or her to achieve their goals, be it fitness, the pursuance of a black belt, or to simply learn self-defense skills.

This is where your admission director’s salesmanship skills will prove to be most beneficial.   He needs to be able to “sell” your program to this prospect.   He needs to be able to convince this prospect that he or she can benefit from taking your martial arts class.

He needs to make them feel as though you can build a martial arts program, and personalize it around their specific needs.   This is the most important responsibility that your admissions director will have at your school.

Your initial goal should be to gain one to two new students each week.   Of course, the more calls your admissions director makes, the more appointments he will have set.   And, the more appointments that he has, ultimately, the more new students you will enroll.

Signing on new students is going to make up the majority — about 80 percent — of what your admissions director will do.   Now, because a big part of an admissions director pay is based on commissions earned from enrolling new students, you’ll want to protect yourself from what is known as “bad paper”.

“Bad paper” is a result of an unqualified prospect being enrolled as a new student.   These people may not have the resources to pay their tuition, or attend classes on a regular basis – these are not really students.  

However, because an admissions director’s pay is based on commission, he may be tempted to push an unqualified enrollment through.   That’s why, many studio owners recommend basing the admissions director’s commission on the enrollee’s first two exams.

He will receive a commission when the student successfully passes his first exam, and an additional commission when the student graduates for their second exam.

This not only helps to avoid “bad paper”, it also ensures that the admissions director will focus the remaining 20 percent of his efforts on following-up on the student’s progress and working to retain that student.

His retention duties will include making two-four-six calls to ensure that the student is satisfied with his training, and calling students in response to absences.   He’ll communicate both telephonically and with written communication to the students that he has enrolled.

To ensure the success of your school, you must ensure that your admissions director is a skilled sales person, and that they are focused on your success as well their own.


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