The Difference Between Sales and Development and the Similarity Between Sales and Enrollment

For most of the nation, “School’s Out!” Time to take a well-deserved break from all the hard work and the successes, as well as the disappointments and the stresses of the school year, right?

Wrong. (But you knew I was going to say that.)

This is where the work begins! As an example, I’ll point to a public school district in Western Pennsylvania. The Norwin Band is a nationally-acclaimed competitive high school marching band, performing Drum Corps style drills to thematically complex music.  For the 18-19 school year/competition season, orientation started the week of May 28th.  That was Memorial Day, and the local Memorial Day parade is the last event of the year for the band – even though the school year ended the previous Friday.  The 29th was the annual school district “picnic” day at the local amusement park, and then the 30th and 31st were orientation nights, with music camp starting THIS WEEK!  None of this waiting until “school starts.” Perhaps this is another reason why students involved in music perform better in academics – they’re ALWAYS rehearsing…just as learning is a life-long activity.

If our kids are doing it, and their instructors are going full steam ahead, then why should we be any different? Indeed, there is no rest for the weary…but the successes are exhilarating, fueling the passion we have for our schools and our children.

In that spirit, there are no “summer reruns” for Marketing Matters, and they expand to matters involving development, as well as asset management, enrollment and retention, since marketing plays a key role in every one of those of those aspects of advancement (see “The Marketing Origin” for more about this).

Summer is the time when change occurs in school administration – new principals are appointed, new business managers are hired, and new development directors are sought, since the average development director “lifetime” is about 18 months (scary, isn’t it), and schools are STILL reluctant to hire development directors!  Not only is it an extra salary, but the monetary results are not realized in the short-term – which is when every one expects results to happen. The similarity between sales and development is that it takes about 3 to 5 YEARS (not months) for all the “seeds” that are planted to begin to bear exceptional fruit. Some schools have begun to realize that the “return on investment” in this position may not be seen for several years, so while this is a cause for some schools to balk at the aspect of hiring a development professional (or an advancement professional), it is this very position that will be responsible for the long-term financial stability of the school.

But this Marketing Matter is supposed to be about the “difference” between sales and development. This difference is the big reason why some sales professionals that are hired to be development directors have a difficult time with the position. I like to compare it to the difference between basketball and volleyball. In basketball, players pass the ball around, but have a limited time in which to do so before a player takes a shot at the basket. If the ball misses its mark, there is the opportunity for a rebound. In volleyball, there is one “spike” opportunity – the team has to find where that “spike point” is, and the player nearest the net gets one shot at scoring the point.

In sales, a product or service is offered against competing products and services, so there is the opportunity to follow-up prospects. We all know that experience if we’ve ever stepped into an automobile showroom in search of a new vehicle.

In development, the groundwork is laid by identifying prospects, engaging them in the mission of the organization through invitations and communication channels, and, when the time is decidedly right, an “ask” is made. At that point, the prospect will say either “yes,” or “no.” There could be a “not at this time,” but that response usually happens if the prospect is unable to make a contribution. In my opinion, I consider it rude to quickly follow up with another ask (as a salesperson can and does do), but engagement communication can still occur until another “ask” opportunity comes along. While a follow-up call may be made in a week or a month, it may take months or even years before another “ask” opportunity can occur.

Preparing potential development professionals for this type of work environment, and understanding of this process, is critical if you want your development person to break the 18-month average lifespan and develop, engage and solicit individuals for the long-term health of your school.

As for the similarity between sales and enrollment, enrollment IS sales. The prospective customer (parent) checks out your school on the Web via their mobile device, asks other parents about the experience their children is having, then calls the school to find out what the tuition is. If you tell them, “It’s $4,535 for the first child,” you may get an “OK, thank you.” And a hang-up. And you’ve lost your opportunity for a “sale.” In any sales situation, those that give price first “loses.” You want to “win” the opportunity, the only way for the parent to see the real difference in the school is to “experience” it.

The correct answer to “What’s your tuition” is, “Rather than providing a figure over the phone, why don’t you come on in and see if our educational environment is the right fit for your child and you. If you like what you experience, we can discuss financial aid programs and scholarships we have to help make it affordable to your family. When can we schedule you for a tour?”

If the person persists, and your tuition is $4,535 for the first child, say, “Families that pay full tuition for their children end up paying about 4 dollars and 60 cents for each hour they’re in school…which might even be less than what you’re paying for childcare.”

Of course, if your school’s tuition (as well as the complete cost breakdown) is provided on your school’s Web site, they’re not even calling you.  They’ll find your site, ask their friends, then find out what it costs, and, if they think they can’t afford a payment that might be only second to their rent or mortgage every month, they won’t even contact the school.

In difficult economic times, and in the world of the struggling parent, you need to help them afford your awesome educational experience, and not chase them away. Four- and five-digit costs are personal, sit-down conversations. When you consider that a “Major Gift” from a development standpoint is anything over $2,500 (or more than $200 a month), and that’s an “Ask” situation in the world of development, why would you not offer the same in-person experience to the parent or guardian of a prospective student?

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original Publication Date: 20080609)