How To Handle Telephone Inquiries to Your Martial Arts School
By Christopher Caile
Does your martial arts school have an organized plan to boost enrollment?
Most do not. As a result, many potential new students never sign up.
Inquiry phone calls about your school, classes and costs are a critical
first step in any martial arts sales/marketing strategy. How you handle
them and what you say can make the difference between getting the student
The "How Much Does It Cost Question"?
Potential students often call around to various martial arts schools
on a shopping expedition. Often they start with a cost question, because
they really aren't sure what to ask. This can be a trap, because if
you don't motivate them to actually visit, they will never know who
or what you are and what you are offering. They will judge you on cost
Thus try to engage the caller in conversation so the whole cost question
becomes less important. But sometimes the caller persists on talking
price. When this happens it is best to answer by giving a ballpark cost
answer such as:
"We aren't the cheapest or the most expensive, but we have several
different programs and payment plans. I will have someone explain them
as well as our schedule to you if you are interested. Why don't you
come in and observe a class, and we can explain our various plans. Better
yet, try a class out to see if you like it."
If you just answer the caller's cost question, this gives the cart
before the horse. Cost will have less importance if the person finds
out that he likes you school or prefers it to others.
Strategy Of Response
A basic strategy is, as quickly as possible, to begin to ask questions
of callers rather than the other way around. This way you can find out
a lot of information from your callers and build rapport. Exchanging
information is helpful to the callers too. By talking charge you can
guide them through many of the important answers and also get a chance
to invite them to visit or take a trial lesson or lessons.
No matter what callers ask, ask how can you help them. Then let them
know your name and ask who you are speaking with. Write their name and
other information on a Caller Information Form. This creates a record
for later use.
Using A Caller Information Form
Creating a Caller Information Form shows you have put thought and planning
into your overall sales and new student recruitment strategy. It is
a way to plan how you respond to incoming inquiry calls.
This form should include:
1- The caller's name, address, telephone number, date of the call and
other pertinent information.
2- The time and date of a school visit or free class or classes.
3- The name of the person who talked with the caller on the phone and
the person to ask for when he or she visits.
4- A list of questions that are often asked and how to deal with them.
5- Your own list of questions. Under each question list how to respond
if callers say "yes," or "no" to your question,
or include a list of typical responses, which can be checked off for
Here are some typical questions you could use. Each questions should
also a list of possible responses (that can be checked off).
How did you hear or know about our school?
Are you inquiring for yourself or another?
Is this for an adult or child?
What are your goals in studying ____?
Do you have any martial arts experience?
Did you ever visit the school before?
During the phone call your first goal is to build rapport and interest
with the caller. This leads you to your second, and most important goal:
to get the student to visit your school -- to look at the facility,
observe a class, talk to other students and instructors. This is what
sells. Words alone through a handset seldom do.
You might also suggest a trial class or classes. You will be surprised
by the number of people who will take you up on this.
Building A Caller's Commitment
In either case, with a visit or trial class, don't leave the invitation
open ended. If you leave it vague, the caller won't give any weight
to the offer and won't make any commitment to visit.
It is much more effective to make a specific date and time for the
visit. Also, tell the person the name of someone who will be expecting
them, so when they arrive they can ask for him or her.
At this point it should be relatively easy to get a call-back number
and/or e-mail address. If they aren't really interested in showing up,
they won't give you this information. But, if they give it to you, it
also symbolically reinforces the commitment the caller has made.
Finish the call with a confirming question, "So XXXXX (name) will
meet you on XXXXXX (date and time) to show you around?"
If a person has agreed to a specific date and time of visit and then
confirmed it with a positive commitment answer, he or she has given
a small verbal commitment which has been shown to be effective.
Your appointment thus becomes just like one made for an doctor or accountant,
or business meeting.
The day before the visit or trial class it helps to call and remind
the of the appointment.
Do's and Don't Of The Telephone Personality
If you are answering calls directly, or calling back those who have
left messages on your answering machine, there are a few important things
How you answer the phone is critical. So in a warm, friendly voice
say something like, "Hello, this is --- the name of your school
-- how can I help you?"
Avoid answering the phone with a sharp or hard "Hello", "Yeh,"
or other short, unprofessional greeting. This is a real turn off. It
immediately creates a negative image.
Present a positive vocal image. Just as a person's visual image gives
an immediate impression, a vocal one does too. Thus, your phone personality
is critical. People respond positively to a friendly, cheerful and enthusiastic
voice, to someone who is helpful. So if you can, choose a person to
answer the phone who has these qualities. A friendly voice draws the
caller into a conversation and makes him or her want to listen to more.
Use the caller's name in your conversation. People like hearing their
name. It adds friendliness and makes them feel more welcome. Also show
interest in the caller, his interest and background. People will appreciate
your interest and will feel welcome.
Don't rush callers, or act in a hurry. Be patient and listen.
Don't interrupt to make your point. You might be right, but the caller
"takes away a point" every time you do this.
Don't over sell. Never boast about your school, or try to convince
your caller how good you, your school, style, teacher or art is. Here
again, you may be right, but you may sound arrogant, even rude. You
will also probably produce a mental hang up and lose the potential student.
Remember the initial call to your school is an important step in your
overall recruitment of new students. It is often taken for granted with
little thought on how to handle the call and what to say. Remember that
the goals for any incoming call from a potential student are two fold.
First to build rapport and interest. This leads to the second and critical
goal: to get the caller to visit or take a trial class or classes.
About The Author
Christopher Caile has been a student of the martial arts for over 40
years, and a teacher for more than 35 years. He has an MA in International
Relations with a specialty in southeast Asia, and has lived and traveled
in Japan, Okinawa and south and southeast Asia. He is 6th degree black
belt in Seido karate under Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, a long time student
of aikido under Roy Suenaka (Wado-kai aikido), as well as a student
of other martial arts (including daito ryu aikijujutsu, judo, boxing
and several Chinese arts) and Zen. He is also a teacher of qi gong (Chinese
energy medicine), in which he trained under Master Zaiwen Shen and is
Vice-President of the DS International Qi Medicine Association.
In his business career he has been a newspaper journalist and entrepreneur
of several business ventures, and he designed innovative telecommunication
and marine products which were developed in companies he founded. In
1999 he founded FightingArts.com (which went live in August 2000) and
its parant company eCommunities LLC.