Run Away From This College (The Worst Salespeople)

I’ve been traveling with my family lately looking at colleges.  In April, we visited several in New England.  Campus visits usually have two main components – an information session and a tour.  They are both opportunities for colleges to show off their campuses and overall educational programs.  Unfortunately, most only do a reasonable job on one end – the tour.  After sitting through many information sessions, we finally gave up on them.  Sitting for an hour listening to an admissions officer blather about SAT scores and what made their college special became intolerable after several schools.  The best sessions used slide shows and had students help with the presentations.  The students were always more enthusiastic than the admissions people and most spoke very convincingly about why they loved the college.  The funny thing is that the professionals usually did a horrible job.  One of them began by saying, “What so special about Blah University?  You will be ripped from your comfort zone.”  Yes, he really said that.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t really look forward to that, so how do you think my high school senior daughter felt?  Next college, please.

One campus “tour” consisted mostly of walking to four places on campus (we only actually entered one building) and talking for 15 minutes at each location.  It was boring as hell and we didn’t get a very good feel for the place at all.

All in all, I still think it’s hard to pick a college and this format doesn’t work that well.  So, why don’t colleges take a hard look at the process and put their brains together to improve?  At the very least, why don’t they take a look at their existing sessions and tours and see if they can be improved?

I honestly don’t know the answer.  I don’t even think the problem is that difficult.  Some places even have feedback forms.  I suppose if you already get more college applications than spots for everyone, then there’s no incentive to improve things, which may be part of the problem.  That just leaves the issue of whether it should be illegal to bore potential customers to death.

I have been involved for software for a long time and one thing that always fascinates me is sales and marketing.  It’s not easy and I’m afraid that many companies do a poor job of it.  At one interview I had years ago, I asked what the return on investment was for their product.  They didn’t know.  I suppose they didn’t do any studies or calculations on it.  For a product that I recently developed, we knew going in that it would be easy to justify purchasing it.  It will pay for itself the first time you use it.  Who wouldn’t consider buying a product that does that?

Take a look at the marketing materials you have – paper, web sites, etc.  And take a look at the sales presentations you do?  As yourself – “If I were a customer, would I want to buy this?  Does it justify itself in terms of savings?  What about any other factors?”  If not, you’d better take a look at the product or the sales/marketing.