Fifteen years ago, 95% of my prospects called via phone. Probably a landline. And they left messages on my parents’ answering machine. Those were the days. 😉
Today, prospective students can get a hold of us through direct email, phone, text, website contact forms, Facebook messenger, Instagram, NextDoor, casual conversations in the driveway… so many ways!
The challenge for us as teachers and business owners, is that each of these modes of communication represents another inbox we have to keep track of. It can be overwhelming.
There are ways to regain some control.
1. Tell prospective students HOW to reach you and make it EASY
I suggest picking one place to serve as a primary communication hub and point potential clients there as the means of contact.
If your email inbox is the hub, streamline your website so every contact button points to your email. Change your voicemail message to direct people to your online contact page. Prewrite text message snippets and set up a Facebook messenger autoresponder to easily direct people back to your website.
If you need to collect specific information at this stage (age of student, instrument, phone number, etc.), I suggest setting up a contact form with custom fields (Google Forms makes this easy) so you collect all the information you need to take the next step.
Note: This is an area where I think music schools are a little different than private home studios. I think home studio teachers can get away with handling most of their business communication by email, but prospective students have different expectations for school owners, especially those operating out of commercial locations. Having a phone number and a real person answering the phone lends credibility to these businesses and it’s something people still expect.
2. Plan the follow up
Once a prospect has reached out, the ball is in your court.
Choose a Mode of Communication
If the initial contact is through email, you might want to continue the conversation there, but I actually like to take it old school and get on the phone.
I know some teachers don’t like talking on the phone. I get it. But I also know how crazy effective real human-to-human voice conversations can be at turning prospects into students.
It’s OK to not prefer phone conversations, but if you’re in a season where you’re trying to build enrollment fast, this might be an area to practice stretching yourself. Even if you have some awkward conversations at first.
Like I tell my piano students “If it’s not hard, you’re probably not growing!”
Develop a Script or Outline
Predetermine what questions you want to ask about the student, what you want to highlight about your studio, and what the next action is for the prospective student to take. (Hopefully you already defined this when your planned your sales funnel.)
Write out your script and keep it in front of you anytime you’re making these phone calls.
I’m currently reworking the script for my newly-rebranded studio. I’ll share my new outline in a future blog post!
You wouldn’t expect to jump on stage and perform that concerto without rehearsing. An introductory phone call is no different!
Get your BFF or mom on the phone and ask them to help you practice your outline. (You probably need to call your mom anyway. I understand they like to hear from us.)
Or set up a mini session and we’ll practice. My coaching clients will attest, I make them role play conversations with me all the time.
3. Set up routines
I don’t mind making phone calls for my music studio, but I hated making them for my house-painting business! I managed by having set times every day to respond to clients. Before those times, I didn’t have to think about it, but once that alarm went off, it was showtime.
Commit in advance to a specific time to handle new student inquiries. Maybe you set an alarm for 1pm every day as a reminder. When that alarm goes off, don’t think or dread, just do.
Taking the emotion out of the process and just treating it like any other task can work wonders for the psyche. (Of course, you want to be “on” and engaged in the conversation, but you don’t need to belabor the phone dialing part.)
4. Track results
Always be tracking both the quantitative and qualitative results of your processes, from your side and the client side.
- Are you getting the work done in a timely manner?
- What’s working well? What’s not working? Do these insights inspire any changes to the system?
- Could/should someone else be doing this work to free up your time for other things?
- Is the process easy for clients to follow?
- Are there tweaks you can implement to make it more user-friendly?
- How are people responding?
I go into more detail on this topic in my post about sales funnels.
5. Reward Yourself
If you’re challenging yourself to do something that’s hard for you, whether that’s responding to inquiries faster or using the phone more often, acknowledge it!
Set a measurable goal that challenges you (like “I will respond to all inquiries by 5pm each day.” Or “I will reply to at least one inquiry each week by phone instead of email.”) and reward yourself for accomplishing that goal.
I can bribe myself to do almost anything if there’s a Frappuccino at the finish line… 😉
As with any new system, managing your inquiry workflow might take some tweaking. It might be a manual process at first. As you figure out what you need, incorporate technology to automate the redundant parts.
Following up with new students is one of the most critical tasks to growing our music studios and giving clients a great experience, so we don’t want to leave it to chance!