In The Trenches

The importance of “the visit”​

Published on August 16, 2021 Back to blog
College campus
An empty college campus (not one we went on)

Over the Summer, my wife and I have spent quite a bit of time touring colleges with our daughter, Julia. After honing her list, based on a set of key criteria, she identified the ones she wanted to explore more seriously with an in-person visit. And, off we went.

However, in this strange “is this pandemic over yet?” period, the “visit/tour” experience was very different at each school. And, I’ve witnessed first-hand how much of an influence it has on this very important decision. 

Of course, I couldn’t help but compare this experience to the way in which many of us often choose our partners (and, how many of our clients choose us). We first identify those who meet the core criteria, and then ultimately make a decision based on our “connection” with them (i.e., chemistry/how well we believe we can work together.) In other words, the “visit” is critical. Based on my Summer college tour experience, here are some insights to make sure your visits with prospective customers go well. (Note that, for the privacy of my daughter, I am not sharing the names of the schools.)

  1. If you can’t meet in person, go virtual. A few of the schools were unable/unwilling to do any type of tour, but encouraged us to visit their (somewhat abandoned) campuses, with limited materials (i.e., campus map) to assist with a self-guided tour. In each of these instances, my daughter left with a feeling of emptiness, which immediately moved these schools to the bottom of her list. A virtual tour/conversation would have been much more effective.
  2. Go beyond the facts. A few schools unable to do in-person tours provided digital and/or printed guides to assist with the experience. Some did this well, with videos and well-written content that gave a feel for the community and culture. However, the one school in which my daughter was originally most interested provided a guide with building info (i.e., With X labs and Y classrooms, this building is the home of our science department.) Now, she may not even apply.
  3. Be welcoming. One school was unable to do guided tours, but scheduled times for a group “info session” where the head of admissions shared info about the school and answered questions. We were then given info for a well-organized self-guided tour. With just this one interaction (and a decent self-guided tour), this school immediately jumped up a few notches on the list.
  4. Throw out the script. Every school that provided a student-guided tour moved up on our daughter’s list. However, the one where the guide seemed most “scripted” (and spoke a mile a minute) didn’t quite make it as far up. While it provided a bit more of a connection, and opportunity to ask questions, it lacked some authenticity.
  5. Show your heart. The one school that jumped to the top of the list was the one with a student guide who spoke from her heart, shared why she chose the school and why she continues to love it. Her passion for the school/community and personal experience there helped us get a feel not only for who she was but, by association, the type of people that go there. Originally in the middle of the list, this one is now above all others.

Many people believe that business is won or lost based on facts and figures. But the reality is that the facts and figures get you on the consideration list. Connection and chemistry often win the business. Of course, great marketing can help share your soul and build that connection/relationship. (If you didn’t already know, that is our specialty). But, to really close the deal, it needs to also come to life in person (or, at least, via Zoom).

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners