Dan Tudor

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Joe Knows Selling (and Recruiting)Monday, May 30th, 2005

When you coach college football as long as Joe Paterno has, you know you’ve picked up a few secrets on selling your program over the years.

Joe Paterno revealed one of his secrets recently. It involves personally connecting with his prospect and decision maker (mom), which is something every good sales pro masters if they hope to be successful:

“When I go into an athlete’s home for a visit, I’m there to see the young man, talk to his father and sometimes his coach. The mom is usually cooking dinner and because I’m Italian, they always like to cook me spaghetti.

“So I sit in the living room with the athlete, his father and coach and we talk about football and the school and why he’s a great fit at Penn State. Then I excuse myself and slip into the kitchen where the mother is making her spaghetti sauce. That’s where it all happens.

“The secret is that I always recruit the mom. I help her stir the sauce and tell her it’s the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever tasted. We have a nice conversation, and I tell her I’ll always look out for her son.”When I walk back out of that kitchen, it doesn’t matter where that young man wants to go to college. He’s coming to Penn State.”

When you’re a college coach, it’s vital to understand who you’re selling to. Even more important is what you do once you understand it. Coach Paterno takes time get to know the decision maker on his “sales call” and uses it to his advantage when it comes time to “close the sale.”

Is “Misinformation” Catching-up to College Coaches?Sunday, May 29th, 2005

How much have college coaches changed their approach to contacting student-athletes in the last 20 years?

Not too much, apparently, from from the looks of a segment of an article on the red tape of recruiting which appeared recently. One college associate A.D. goes so far as to call most of the initial flood of letters that goes out to high school prospects as “misinformation.”

In reading this, I first ask myself “why hasn’t the approach taken by college recruiters evolved?” Is there a reason that the same sales prospecting tactics used in 1975 are being used 30 years later? If there is, it’s probably not a good one.

There’s a whole other aspect to this story, however. Let’s look at it from the athlete’s point of view. Today’s student-athlete is more sophisticated technologically than the coaches that are recruiting them. Is that athlete – who is probably publishing his or her own blog, listening to an iPod, and surfing the Internet – really going to respond to a letter? The answer in many cases is, of course, “yes.” But when you’re talking about stimulating their curiosity and raising their excitement level, is a letter the best way to approach today’s teens?

From the sounds of things, a lot of these letters are being left un-opened. And, if they are actually opened, they are viewed skeptically because…well, they look like what they are: Form letters.

Kids today are smarter and more sophisticated than their counterparts in the 1970′s.

Are today’s college coaches keeping up?

Selling Skills: The Key to Winning This Recruiting “Cold War”?Sunday, May 29th, 2005

Not that we needed the media to announce it, but the decades-long recruiting competition between Duke and North Carolina’s basketball programs is heating back up. Scout.com analyst Dave Telep calls it the resumption of a recruiting “cold war.” The article appears in Lexington (KY) Herald-Leader.

When two programs the caliber of Duke and North Carolina face off in front of prospects, I wonder how many times the decision of the athlete comes down to who was the best salesperson? Both programs have history, tradition, annual NCAA tournament appearances on their side. Both share the same location. Both have well-respected coaching staffs. Doesn’t it make sense that the coach who is the better salesperson will get the “sale”?

Now ask yourself this question: How much time does any coach on either staff spend training to be a better sales person?

Another question: What if one of the coaching staffs actually did spend time becoming better salespeople?

Could better selling skills be the “secret weapon” yet to be deployed by either side in this recruiting cold war?

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