1st dates can be nerve wracking...what if they don't like me, what if I say something wrong, what if I mess it up, am I really good enough??.......Nursery tours can often feel very similar! However, showing a prospective family around your setting is your opportunity to sell your early years services to them, always remembering that first impressions are EVERYTHING. Parents will ultimately decide whether your provision is going to be a serious contender for their child within the first minute, often before they have even seen the setting. Therefore, your telephone/email conversation organising the nursery tour and your greeting of the family is vital to their opinion of the setting. Calling their child by the wrong name for example, will not go down well! And rest assured; they will tell their friends that little gem first! So how can we get the most out of this first meeting and ensure that we get a 'second date' with this family.....?
Given the current climate, it honestly feels like forever since I conducted a Nursery Tour, and for me, this is an aspect of my job that I thoroughly enjoy. I love shouting about what we do well, and getting to know new families. I also enjoy the challenge of selling my spaces and filling up the setting! In absolutely no way am I a sales person; I couldn’t sell cars or kitchens, (although who doesn’t love a fabulous kitchen?!) but having a passion for my setting, means that somehow, it comes quite naturally to me. I look forward to getting back to them in September, fingers crossed!
I usually start by talking to the child, and once we are inside the first classroom, asking them what they enjoy playing with at home, introducing them to another child who is playing nearby, almost settling them to something before I start with my spiel! For me, often the children are a little older, around 2 years, as children are only eligible to start with us from 2 yrs 9 months. Then, it’s about trying to build some kind of instant rapport or connection with the family, so that you can have a good conversation; a bit like dating or meeting new friends! If you don’t have that, it can be very one sided, and sometimes awkward depending on how much they engage with you. Having confidence it really important here!
There are generally 7 things that I always do during a Nursery Tour, and this helps to structure it slightly, so that it becomes a little more rehearsed. I’m not saying completely standardise them, and it’s great to give the personal touch, but it helps me to remember everything. Also, many of my parents talk to each other! I know they’ll be comparing notes in the park later!
1. Be friendly and happy with the family, and playful with the child
This should come fairly easily as it’s what we are qualified in! There’s also no better feeling than a person being interested in your child, and parents will sometimes comment on our engagement with the child before the adults.
2. Ask them questions about their family set up / current childcare arrangements / the child
Get to know them and what they need. Are they looking for complete full day care due to being a busy working family? Or are they a stay at home parent looking to give their child some socialising time? Or it could be anything in between, but you will never know if you don’t ask.
3. Give them info on your USPs
I know what my USPs are, and letting your families know too, will help you to stand out from the competition. Not in a pushy way, you don’t want to start slating the Nursery down the road, but in a confident, passionate way.
4. Encourage them to look around other settings
You would very rarely buy a house having only looked at one. So showing that you understand the need for comparison, always seems to work in my favour. It gives an air of confidence that you can meet their needs effectively, and, if you know enough about your competitors, you’ll know you can!
5. Ask them what they are looking for from a setting and if there are any non-negotiable criteria
Finding this out will give you some great real life feedback, even if it’s something you can’t offer. But whatever it is, I always try and make sure I can offer as close to it as possible, or give them a positive alternative! Asking after you’ve told them some of what you can offer is quite a good move, as they may not have realised it was their non-negotiable until you told them!
6. Leave them with a no pressure action at the end
I will always give families a Registration Pack, if not already emailed, so that they have everything they need if they do want to register, but stressing that there is no pressure, and I will contact them
7. Follow up!
This one is so important! I find it gives parents a friendly nudge, if they haven’t got round to registering. But even more helpful; any feedback if they don’t want to register. I will always call or email after a week. I know Managers who do it earlier, but I know how busy my life is, and feel a week would be a good turnaround for me!
Interestingly, having had my own children, it means I have also been on the other side of a few Nursery tours too! Some good, some not so good! This has only helped my practice as I can remember how I felt during each one. I have had the uninterested tour, where the member of staff is only bothered about getting it over and done with, giving a vibe that they are not really bothered whether I register or not! It was tricky, but I knew what questions to ask, as I am in the Early Years game, but I left feeling that if I hadn’t asked the right questions, I wouldn’t have gotten half the information. So, I try to give lots of information, without acting like a person who hasn’t seen another adult for a week! There’s a fine balance, and you must not do all the talking! I’ve also had the very detailed tour, lots of interest in our family set up and requirements, which was fantastic, and made me feel that they really cared.
So be confident, be engaging, and be your setting’s biggest fan!
Written by Natalie Herbert, Nursery Manager For more information on increasing your setting occupancy and supporting parents, check out out members resources here.