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The Initial Parent Consultation

Apr 1, 2008
Often new tutors find themselves nervous and intimidated when it comes to following up on leads and building their clientele from scratch. Some may feel like a salesperson and feel awkward promoting their services and trying to "land" customers. This awkwardness may result in a less than professional initial consultation with a potential customer and a lack of business down the road.

I find that I give the same advice to the tutors that I coach with regards to their initial consultation. The first and most important thing I tell them is that you are not cold-calling. The parents are contacting you. They have taken the first step. It is now your turn to answer their questions and help them to understand what you can do for them. They WANT to hear an honest, sincere explanation about you, your experience, and your plan to help their child so don't feel awkward talking about yourself and your business. Just make sure that you don't come across as if you give the same scripted speech to every parent you speak with. Make sure that you gain information about their child early on in the talk and then structure your explanation of your business around the information you just gained.

For instance, something as simple as using the child's first name makes the initial phone conversation more personable. Try to avoid using he's and she's and instead refer to their child as if you know them already.

After the initial introductions, let the parent do most of the talking. Focus on learning as much information about their child as possible. Take organized notes that you can refer back to later in the conversation. Some parents will jump at the opportunity to talk about their child and give you more information than you need while others may feel awkward or embarrassed by the difficulties they are having with their child. Be prepared with a list of questions that you can use to prompt parents and encourage elaboration.

Rehashing problems, whether they are learning issues, behavior problems, emotional issues, etc. might be frustrating for the parent. Try your best to keep the parent calm, comfortable and positive. Make them believe that they finally found the answer to their problems when they initiated contact with you.

Be sure to find out about previous strategies that they have already tried and the result of these attempts. Ask about feedback that the family receives from school. Is there anything that the classroom teacher sees as a major hindrance to the child's success? Some tutors find it very helpful to actually talk to the child for a little while and get their perspective on why they are struggling.

Once you have learned as much as possible about the child use the next portion of the consultation to explain to the parent what online tutoring is all about. You will find that many parents truly don't understand the technology and how it works. You will have to do your best to describe the process to the parent and make them believe that it does work for other children and it will work for their child also. The best way to accomplish this is to simply have the parent get online and click on the following link - http://www.tutorfi.com/highspeeddemo.asf Here they will see a tutor interacting with a student as they work through a math problem. Be sure to inform the parent how scheduling works and that they are not locked into a specific time and day each week. Many are thrilled to hear that they are free to work around their child's or family's commitments.

Run through what will happen during a typical session. Explain to the parent that you will be structuring sessions around the specific needs of their child. Some sessions may focus on homework help while others may focus on test preparation, previewing future chapters, reviewing study skills, or any other area that the tutor, child, or parent deems necessary. Also, stress to the parent that you will be focusing on building their child's confidence and interest in learning as well as covering academic concepts. Remind them that you work for them and will do whatever you can to help their child improve their grades and enjoy school more.

Once you finish sharing information about each other, it becomes time to discuss the specifics. Decide on what days and times would be best to meet online then set a time and date for the initial session. Once your first session has been scheduled, bring up your fees along with when and how you will be paid. Inform the parent of your policy regarding scheduling or canceling sessions at the last minute. Exchange email addresses and telephone numbers. This will be especially important in case either of you need to cancel or schedule a session at the last minute.

Always leave time at the end of the conversation for questions that the parents or child might have. Be positive and confident throughout the entire conversation and always try to convey the emotion that you can't wait to work with their child.

Be realistic. You will not land every client that you speak with. Don't get discouraged if you run into a streak of "No Thank-you's". Reflect on the conversation and the reasons that people give for not signing up with you and decide if there is something about your presentation that you may want to tweak. View the "no's" as practice, chalk them up as a learning experience and believe that if you are diligent you will soon have more clients than you can schedule!
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