1. Clean Up! Clean Up! Everybody, Everywhere! The Preschool Tour Begins OUTSIDE the Door!
(You’re welcome for that Barney ear bug by the way! You’ll never get that song out of your head!)
It is said that Will Rogers once remarked, ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’.
This is true in life. It is true for your program!
A friend of mine is a real estate agent. In her field, this is called “Curb Appeal”. And it IS important.
In the real estate world, the person seeing a home makes their primary decision on the purchase based on what they see when they pull up to the property.
If the outside is not kept up, the potential buyer presumes the inside has not been kept up either.
The same is true of families coming to your center for a preschool tour.
They will notice everything as they pull in or walk up to your building—a decision to enroll, or not, might happen before they even step into your doors!
Go outside and walk up to your front door through the eyes of a visiting family. Consider the following:
Is the grass freshly mowed?
Are the wood chips fresh and loose?
Are there any flowers planted (put some potted free-standing or hanging plants out front if you don’t have an area to plant flowers)?
If there are flowers, are they showing signs of life or signs of neglect?
Are the windows (or doors) displaying children’s hand-painted art work or children’s smudged fingerprints?
Is the outside paint chipped or peeling?
Are there cracks in the windows, windowsills or doors?
Is there trash or debris outside?
Are the toys in the playground clean and undamaged?
If these basics aren’t being kept up, what type of message does that give to visitors?
Look at your center as a first time visitor. Many times we look past what we see every day, however, a new family will notice everything!
2. Meet the Needs of the Visitor During the Preschool Tour
When a parent or family arrives, greet them warmly! Address them by name. Give them your full name (first and last!) and your role.
“Hi John! It’s great to meet you in person! We spoke the other day. I’m Cheryl Hatch, the Director (or Lead Teacher or Administrator) of Preschool Plan It.” Address the child by name and introduce yourself to him or her as well!
The next step I suggest is to bring them to your office to sit and chat for a moment. If you don’t have an office for this, have an area with a small coffee table and a few chairs already set up. You really need to get to know this family a little before the tour.
At this time, you want to just take a few minutes to find out about them! Offer them a clipboard with a “What To Look for Checklist” (click that link to download mine if you don’t have one!). Let them know you realize the importance of choosing a program that best fits the needs of their family. Encourage them to look it over and take notes once you start showing them around!
Ask them about THEIR needs. Instead of going into your memorized “preschool tour speech”, ask them some of the following questions (and be sure that YOU take notes as well!):
What are you looking for in a preschool program?
What, if any, concerns or challenges do they have that you can help them with (potty training, eating habits)?
What are their preschool goals for their child over the next year (or 2 years if you have a 2 year program)?
Once you have this information, you now know which benefits to focus on during the actual tour.
As you take them through your facility, address their needs. For example, if their concern is potty training, show them where the bathrooms are in relation to the classroom, what type of assistance your staff gives, how your staff handles accidents, the need for bringing in multiple changes of clothing, etc.
If their concern is being a picky eater, discuss your snack policy (do you provide snack, do the parents? Discuss how you encourage children to try new foods and what you do if they do not eat).
You will want to be sure to also let your parents know what MAKES YOU STAND OUT from other programs. Let’s talk about that next!
3. Sell Your Unique Benefits During the Preschool Tour
As you are showing families around your school and addressing their needs, goals and concerns, you will also want to highlight the unique benefits of your program. Spend an extra minute discussing your niche.
The proper way to do this is to discuss the benefit their child will get, not the activity or program that you offer.
Families won’t be impressed that you “have a new, state of the art playground”. They WILL be impressed to know that their child will grow and develop their large muscles, balance and upper body strength using the playground equipment daily. They will be impressed that their child has at least 30 minutes a day of outdoor play AND that you have a plan for gross motor play even on bad weather days.
Be sure to introduce the family and child to the teacher(s) in the class the child will attend.
Special Note On This: Please, PLEASE—take the class over for 5 minutes so that the teacher has focused time to chat with the family and the child. (Of course, your staff should be told in advance that a tour is coming and you should cover what the staff should highlight during the tour. But that is for another article!).
3A. “Close the Sale”: Get the Enrollment at the End of Your Preschool Tour
Once you have finished the tour, go back to your office (or meeting place) with the family and sit down again!
At this point, my plan is to do 2 things:
Tell them how much I enjoyed meeting them.
Ask for the registration!
I know- that second one is tough! You don’t want to be a “pushy salesperson”. However, you are, in my opinion, doing the family a disservice if you do not invite them to enroll in your program at this point.
You are not giving a tour because you like talking about your program! You are giving a tour because you love serving families and want families to join your program!
When I first gave tours years ago, I ended the first few tours thanking them for coming, giving them a packet and telling them to call if they had any questions. What a poor ending! I realized by doing this, I was unintentionally giving the idea that I didn’t want them in the program. If I did, wouldn’t I offer them a spot?
If you think your program can meet this family’s needs, tell them so!
It would go something like this:
“I have really enjoyed meeting you all today and showing you the program. I think with Cheryl’s love for art and science, she would be a great fit in Miss Tamara’s class! I would love for your family to join our program. Would you like to have her start on the first of the month?”
Unless you know specifically that you cannot meet the family’s needs, ask them to enroll!
WHAT? Your program may not be the right fit for a family??
I have had three times where our program would not have been the right fit for a family.
1. Due to the parent’s request that the child have a one-on-one aid for extra learning (not due to a special need). This family wanted one on one instruction which our program does not provide. I discussed other options in the community for their child while still letting the family know of the growth and learning that does happen in a group-based program. (The family chose a Montessori program in the end).
2. A parent's desire was for a highly structured program, specifically to teach reading and math. Again, I discussed the positive aspects of learning the alphabet and math skills in a print rich environment. They chose a different program as well.
3. Conflict with hours. The family needed a program that was available to have their child from 8:30-12:00. Our program was 9:00-12:00 and we were not in a position to open earlier.
Again, unless you know specifically that you cannot meet the family’s needs, ask them to register!
If they are not ready to make that decision, that’s okay. Your process now would be:
Give them your tour packet and encourage them to call you with any questions
Give them a "thank you for touring" bag.
Our packet included the following:
Thank you letter from the director
A reference list (of families who wrote letters for us or were willing to give their telephone numbers for phone calls from prospective families)
A recent newsletter from the class the child would be placed in
A program information page that includes fee schedule, ratios, hours, philosophy of education
A registration form
BONUS! Include a copy of the tour checklist(<--Click that link for your FREE download!)
This is NOT your parent handbook! This is NOT the time to give them all of your program policies and procedures!
The Thank You Bag
I did not always do this, but once I added it, it was a great hit!
You can purchase these in bulk at Amazon. Our Thank You bag included
tote bag (with the program name painted on it or ironed onto it!) filled with:
Clear report covers
Dry-erase (low-odor) markers
Magnetic business card
A few pre-writing practice papers with instructions (I made these!)
Each of these items had our name or label in or on them!
Giving them a gift bag is an opportunity to:
Provide families with a reminder of their visit
Provide marketing materials they can give to friends looking for preschool
Provide an activity that supports our program (literacy, fine-motor development).
And, well, it’s just a nice touch!
3B. Nurture “Closing the Sale”: by Following Up AFTER the Preschool Tour
If the family does not enroll at the end of the tour, you need to follow up with them!
Your tour was scheduled so you have their telephone number, email address or mailing address (preferably all three!).
If you have their email or mailing address, follow up with them no later than 48 hours after the tour. Thank them again for coming and reiterate that you would love to have them join your program.
Include an article about an issue, concern or challenge they discussed with you (such as an article about potty training or picky eaters).
Encourage them to contact you (give your telephone number and your email address) any time with questions they may have.
You can also let them know how many spots are left in the class their child will be in (please do NOT tell them “There is only one spot left….enroll today!” if it is not true. That really bugs me! If it IS true, tell them that but also offer to hold that spot for them until 5:00 pm on ________.
Follow up more!
I have learned more about marketing over the past few years. There are many things you can put into place so that follow-up is automatic, especially with email! However, it would work with regular mail as well!
You can set up what is called an auto responder through an email service or mail out follow-ups. Either way, prospective families will be receiving regular information from your program.
For email, you would schedule helpful information to go out once a week (after the 48 hour follow-up).
For regular mail, you would mail this helpful information once a week (I pre-addressed envelopes after a tour and put the date I wanted to mail the information in the area where the stamp will be placed!).
When they are ready to enroll, you will be first in mind for them! I will talk more about auto responders in another article in the future.
Preschool Tour Conclusion
If you have been the person to give the preschool tour to prospective families, you most likely have specific items and topics you like to cover with families.
Be sure to review this list to ensure that you are covering the important pieces discussed, therefore turning a majority of your preschool tours into enrollments!
If you are new to giving tours, you will need to set up your steps now to include this information.
If any staff members also give tours, be sure you all meet together to discuss these 4 key components of preschool tour giving!
Hey there! Welcome to Preschool Plan It! I’m Cheryl, a preschool teacher of over 20 years.
I KNOW, I know, you spend hours of time developing your preschool themes, activities and preschool lesson plans each week. You are commited to planning preschool themes and activities that are engaging hands-on, interactive, fun AND meet the goal of supporting each child’s level of growth and development.
I am commited to providing you, the preschool teacher, with everything you need to develop preschool lesson plans and preschool activities for your classroom all in one place!
You’ll receive a weekly email with planning tips and teaching ideas. You'll also receive (on the 1st of each month) a free theme starter pack with some printables and activity ideas to get you started planning a theme!