Converting Student Leads into Paying Clients

Whether through word-of-mouth, paid or organic advertising or your student referral program, you’ve managed to get some potential clients into your sales funnel. Congratulations! But obtaining a lead doesn’t equate to securing a sale, does it? So what does it take to siphon leads down your sales funnel and into paying clients?

Your sales funnel is your website, including the process through which an average client clicks through the steps towards buying your service. Not only is it important to have a basic website, but more so to make the journey through it to a purchase as painless as possible for your lead. Ideally, you will present a ‘lead magnet’ early on in the process: an offering of enough value to entice your lead to take action. Your lead magnet will, at least, elicit their contact details (an email address by way of a Contact Form) and, at most, secure the sale.

In exchange for contact details, you might consider offering a free e-book or a small collection of resources to your lead. This will allow them to get to know you, and to present yourself as an industry professional. Build your brand from the very first point of contact with your leads, and build your relationship with them at every opportunity thereafter, as you push them through your sales funnel.

At some point, your sales funnel will likely include offering a trial lesson. There is no rule that your trial lesson needs to be free – it may be discounted, or offered for $1, for example. Charging a small fee for your trial class has the benefit of shifting the psychology behind your leads’ commitment. You will vastly reduce the percentage of no-shows by charging even a negligible fee, when compared to offering trials completely free of charge. That said, you will also secure less overall sign-ups for trials this way, than if you offer them totally free of commitment.

You may think of a trial class as an all-singing, all-dancing opportunity to woo your lead, but it is actually an opportunity for you to try out the student as well. Particularly as your business grows, you will need to select students carefully. By using a trial class to get to know your students’ personalities and goals, you can sieve out those that will not match your teaching style, professional background or personality. Just because you’re a freelancer, doesn’t mean you want dread turning up for work each day! You want to take onboard students you gel well with, and who bring you joy to teach. You may also want to lessen your weekly preparation time (and raise your hourly rate) by only accepting students with certain ability levels or goals in mind, rather than anyone and everyone who crosses your path.

Conversely, your leads will also be looking for that spark in you. Trial classes are a great way for them to ‘try before they buy’. They’ll be looking at your professionalism; expertise in their area of interest or development; ability to understand and work toward their language goals; experience; ability to adapt lesson material to suit them personally, and your personality. These are especially important factors in online learning, when the classroom is impeded by screens: you’ve got to create a 3D learning environment over a 2D platform!

Timing is an added challenge of trial classes. Normally trial classes are shorter than usual lessons, but you’ve actually got more to pack in. Plan to ‘demo teach’ about half of the trial class time. I like to start with the lesson portion, making it clear the high-value of my offering, before we get down to brass tacks. I use this lesson portion not only to demonstrate my best teaching skills, but also to try to get to know some of the student’s interests, and obtain an idea of their personality. If the prospective student, or parent, is not comfortable using English, I will generally teach for the whole trial class and then provide written (and often translated) information afterwards.

In the second half of the trial lesson, I will give a brief tour of the platform, for example demonstrating how the student can utilise annotative features in order to participate fully. I will ask the student their language goals, for example, if they are working towards a particular test. Where possible, I’ll explain format and frequency of lessons, including integral assessments and feedback. If pricing comes up, I will answer direct questions, but I usually leave talk about prices out of the trial lesson. If there is a natural opportunity to increase the perceived demand of your lessons during the trial class, do so. Tread carefully to avoid seeming dismissive or conceited, but do suggest that there may be a waitlist, or that you might have to shift your schedule to find a gap for this new student; this will create a sense of urgency for the next phase of your sales funnel.

Assuming you are willing to welcome a lead to your schedule, you proceed to an offer after the trial class. It is usually best not to contact the lead immediately, give it 12 hours or so. Then email your lead and thank them for their time. Communicate that you enjoyed teaching them, and explain how you think you can ensure they reach their language goals with you. Be brief, but point out why you are the best fit for them, in a sea of other options. Here too, you want to create that sense of urgency in signing up with you. Direct them to your private payment page, where you offer your bundles of lessons (not single lessons, because you want a long-term client here, and because at least 25% of students won’t continue lessons after the first few!) at a slight reduction in price. Offer 15% off if they sign up within the next 24 hours, for example. Mention that you have managed to make their preferred lesson time available, but have other students waiting in the wings.

When your lead gets trigger-shy, don’t worry! They’ve agreed to email contact, so keep them up-to-date with your newsletter. You still have the chance to convert the sale, even if now isn’t the right time. Continue to entice with high value offering for the leads, perhaps by sharing resources, testimonials or limited time offers. Building credibility, trust and perceived value will take longer with some leads than others.

As your business grows, remember much of the ‘filler’ in welcoming, converting and onboarding new students can be automated. Web hosts like WordPress and emailing apps like MailChimp offer great email automations that will save you time, but don’t let these take the personal service out of your communications, or your conversion rate will suffer. Let your personality shine, be consistent with your brand, and make an effort to get to know your leads, and that conversion rate will soar!

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