To be successful and build a relationship with the agents you work with, you have to actively engage, train, and support them on a regular basis. Education institutions make the com- mon mistake in believing that agents' number one concern is commission. This is not the case. Agents' primary concern is effective and transparent processes and strong support. So institutions that strongly support agents are the ones that are going to be able to recruit students.
Provide a face to your institution
When educators provide agent training, they spend a good deal of time explaining their programs, tuition costs, and accommodation options. This is all important information, but so too is introducing agents to your staff who handle admissions, student services, and housing. Make sure the agents know the names of the people who will be helping and supporting them, include pictures of them in your briefing materials.
Educate and engage all staff members
Let the staff from student services, admissions, and your international office know how they are expected to interact with agents. Explain the importance of keeping communication channels open and responsive.
Treat agents as an extension of your team
Give them the tools they need to succeed and ensure that proper supports are in place. As with any team, communication is essential.
Make it personal
Take a personal interest in the people you work with, including asking them about their lives and families. As one very experienced recruiter said to us: "Agents send students to educators they like and feel comfortable with. If they know you, if they trust you, they are more likely to send you students.''
Agents are responsible to students and their families for the experience students have at your school. They gain the confidence to choose your institution when they know that their students are going to be taken care of and have a positive experience. You need to be that institution that is supportive, that has a good trustworthy relationship with them. Sitting back and doing armchair recruiting will not allow you to do that.
Train them face-to-face
Leaving aside the pandemic limitations, there is no better way to market and to train agents than face-to-face. The best way you can train agents and maximise your return on investment is by doing familiarisation (FAM) tours where agents visit you. Agents will find it much easier to market an institution they have seen for themselves. Also, consider visiting agents in their own country when you have the opportunity. Conduct training with other agency staff present to make sure everyone knows how to best represent your institution.
Respond promptly to agent enquiries
Remember that agents have students and their families calling and visiting their office to get answers. If you are not providing timely responses, your competition probably is. WhatsApp, Line, and WeChat all are tools that agents use to communicate.
Produce an agent manual containing relevant contact information, program descriptions, accommodation options, details of student services, and financial details. Ensure that the agent's promotional materials are regularly updated and, if possible, produced in the representative's language.
Armchair recruitment is not effective
Get on the road. Visit your agents to do training and meet with prospective students. Do not overlook social interaction. Invite agents for lunch or dinner and get to know them better.
Listen to your agents
Agents can provide valuable market intelligence. Ask them for their insights regarding product development, which courses are in demand, and how to have an effective presence in a market.
Keep in touch
Keep your institution's profile a priority in the agent's mind by sending regular updates, video links, email blasts, and newsletters. Keep in touch with regular communications: email, social media, apps, and phone. One senior recruiter once told us that every day they would have their staff reach out to agents on Skype to simply say hello. The recruiter noted how important this daily Skype routine was to nurturing relationships with agents.