Sales skills in international student recruitment

  • 5 min read
Sales skills in international student recruitment

Viewing prospective students as customers can help improve your university's application to enrollment rates. There are sales skills and processes that can help your recruitment efforts to run smoother and ensure applicants are getting the attention they require.

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Defining your student journey

It's important to consider the whole journey that a student will take with you through to enrollment. Consistency at each stage helps a prospective student to get a clear idea of what your university is offering, the process, and most importantly if it's right for them.

Splitting your journey into the following sales framework will help not only the student but your institution. Consider which part or individuals at your university are responsible for each step, how effective you believe it currently is, and what you can change to improve it:


  • Pre-enquiry: marketing and awareness efforts

Make contact & qualification

  • Enquiry: the student's first contact with the university to express interest

Presenting your offer and objection handling

  • Nurturing: your communication plan to give the student the information you want to get across as well as the information that the student needs

Maintaining relationships

  • Application: submission of details and supporting documents

Always be closing

  • Admissions: assessment and decision of the application

  • Offer acceptance: confirmation of potential enrollment


  • Visa process: details and supporting documents, any required financial payments

  • Traveling arrangements: how the student plans to arrive at university

  • Enrollment: registrations and payments

  • Orientation and support: getting to know the university and resolving any immediate issues


Let's talk sales skills in international recruitment

In June 2020 Studee VPs Lucy Wigginton and Tom Wilmot spoke to universities around the world about applying sales skills to your student journey when recruiting international students. Studee's conversion service does exactly this, working as an extension of a university's team to nurture and build relationships with prospective students, enabling higher rates of enrollments.

The webinar shares Studee's experience of the student journey based on dealing with international students on behalf of our partner universities.

Prioritizing prospective international students

Understanding which students are more qualified and ready to apply is crucial to prioritize your time and resources. It also affects how you deal with them:

Virtual fairs

Prospective students from virtual fairs will be a mixture of genuine and passing interest in attending your university.

It's likely they will have had many conversations with other universities at the same event, so acting quickly to get in contact with students is a sure way to maximize any interest and give a good impression.

You can prioritize students depending on when they are looking to enroll. Any communications should be as specific as possible to a students' home country and eligibility - avoid mass marketing.

Buying lists

Buying lists of prospective students can be troublesome. Although they bring in a good number of students as possible applicants, they're largely unqualified for your specific university.

Your communications to them will be the equivalent of cold calling, and you won't necessarily know if they have any desire to study abroad; It can make your university a difficult and time-consuming sell.

If a list is of high quality, many students will have made a decision on where they are going to study before you are able to reach out.

Third party lead generators

Students from third-party sources will be at the top of a sales funnel. It won't just be your university they are interested in, so they'll require a lot of time and information to understand your university's unique aspects and if it's right for them.

This isn't a quick win to get students to your university and may take as long as two years until they enroll.

Direct to website

Leads that are generated directly from your website have already shown a strong interest in your university and a particular school or program. It's important that it's as easy as possible for students to enquire about a program they're interested in and to be responded to in good time.

It's also likely that these are the most qualified students for your institution as they've visited your website so probably have a good idea of entry requirements and what you can offer.

Sales techniques and considerations

Active listening skills

Let the student talk, and really process what they're telling you - whether that's fears, wants or needs about studying internationally at your university. You can help to let the student know they are being understood by using paraphrasing, summarizing, and reflecting within conversations with them.

Always be empathetic to a students' situation. As someone who deals with these tasks on a daily basis, something that seems simple to you may be a big task to a prospective student who has never applied to a university before. Your help and patience won't go unnoticed.

Questioning skills

Use a mixture of open-ended and closed questions so you can really explore a student's needs, wishes, and ultimately if your university is the right one for them. Clearly explain to them how your university ticks the boxes, and ask for their feedback on that and how they're feeling.

It's important to ensure you're not making a student feel as if they are being interrogated. Building rapport can help both parties feel more comfortable in this situation.

Objection handling

Get to know students' biggest pain points and openly offer up information on them. It's important that universities are transparent and honest about aspects of their universities, the good and bad, as choosing a university is such a big step in a students' life. They'll appreciate the honesty and have a clearer understanding of the issues they may face and how to deal with them.