Dan Tudor

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Personal Connections Key in Selling and RecruitingMonday, September 26th, 2005

Sometimes, college recruiting turns into a non-stop whirlwind of phone calls, letters and fighting to get commitments from recruits. That’s true in D1 football or NAIA soccer.

Likewise, a lot of coaches get bogged down in the details of recruiting. Those phone calls, letters and fighting to get commitments often result in lists, contact tracking…all of the stuff that takes a toll on giving your recruits that personal touch they crave.

That toll can also result in the loss of key recruits. Especially the ones that have a number of schools pursuing them…how do they choose between the offers? More often than not, it comes down to a “personal connection” they feel with a coach at a certain school.

One great example of a coach who has the “personal connections” thing down cold is Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer. Coach Beamer has to compete with other ACC powerhouse programs like Florida State. And yet, with his school tucked away in the Appalachian mountains, Beamer is competing with other more prolific programs. How does he do it? By making those coveted “personal connections.”

Coach Beamer recruited Victor Harris by making a personal connection. Harris, a true freshman who is a starter for Virginia Tech, was being recruited by Beamer (and other coaches) in high school. Coach Beamer made a personal visit to Harris’ home one night when things suddenly went wrong. A kitchen fire had started. Harris, concerned for his mom and younger siblings, covered the pot which had caught fire on the stove with a blanket and carried it out the back door. Along the way, the fire spread to Harris’ arm, burning him badly.

Suddenly, Coach Beamer went from recruiter to father figure. He helped get Harris to the hospital. He comforted him. Encouraged him. Made sure everything was OK.

There was also a natural connection that was made because of the accident. You see, Frank Beamer had also been a burn victim as a young boy, disfiguring his neck and part of his upper body. Beamer was able to use his experiences to encourage the recovering Harris, as well as make an all important “personal connection” that aided his recruiting efforts with Harris. As Harris remembers, “when I was thinking about what college to go to, it was just obvious. I had a connection with Coach Beamer…I wanted to be a part of what he had going at Virginia Tech.”

I’m not saying that Coach Beamer used this horrible accident as some kind of twisted recruiting tool. I really believe at that moment of crisis, Beamer was doing what came naturally for him – he just cared about a young man and his circumstances. But it’s a great example of what can happen when coaches take the time to become involved in an athlete’s life. Really take the time. Not being rushed, not getting to the next prospect on a list…just taking the time to make that personal connection that ends up being the deciding factor for many athletes when they’re choosing a program.

So, how about you? Think back to the last five prospects you talked to. Did you take time to really hear what they are looking for in a college? Did you shoot the breeze for a little while before you dove in to all the great things there are to list about your school? Did you really take some time to make a personal connection with your prospect?

If you want a great tip on how to begin to make a personal connection with an athlete, e-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com. It’s something that’s simple and unremarkable, but its not used enough by college coaches who are recruiting athletes.

Coach Beamer should be an inspiration to all you coaches out there who’s school isn’t located in paradise, or has a much more prestigious competitor down the street, or who’s facilities aren’t the best in the area. Frank Beamer built Virginia Tech using a personal approach to recruiting. You can also.

Coach Pulls Double-Duty as Prep and College CoachMonday, September 26th, 2005

One of Ann Arbor, Michigan’s most successful high school soccer coaches has taken a new job that has made his life busier than ever.

Adil Salmoni, in his sixth season as Greenhills High School boys coach and his upcoming 11th season as girls coach, is in his first fall as head coach of Concordia College’s men’s soccer program.

Salmoni took over for Piotr Westwalewicz, who served as coach of both the women’s and men’s team last year but decided to only coach one team this fall. Westwalewicz approached Salmoni during the winter to see if he was interested in taking over. He was.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for me,” said Salmoni, whose girls team has advanced to the Division 4 state semifinals for four consecutive years. “I’ve always wanted to get into the college ranks.”

The new job has required some adjustments. Salmoni, who still works as a bookseller at Shaman Drum Books in downtown Ann Arbor, has quit all of his jobs coaching youth soccer travel teams. But he decided early on that he would stay on at Greenhills.

“I didn’t want to pack up and leave,” he said. “And also, I like Greenhills. I’ve spent a decade there, and I really like the people who are there.”

Fortunately for Salmoni, the two schools are less than a mile away. That means he can attend Concordia practice at 3 p.m. then head to Greenhills’ 5 p.m. practice. So far, there have been no scheduling conflicts and Salmoni has assistant coaches at both schools who can take over when he’s not there.

“It’s a little trying for me sometimes,” said Salmoni, whose Concordia team is 0-5. “But I enjoy it. I can do both jobs.”

Plus, being both a high school and a college coach has its perks. Although he leaves most of the initial contact of potential players to his recruiting coordinator, Salmoni said he gets the bonus of watching the best small school prep players in the state in action.

“Coaching at Greenhills has taught me that good players don’t just play at Division 1 schools,” he said. “There are a lot of diamonds in the rough. And it’s my job to unearth them.”

The lessons:

  • Don’t be afraid of hard work in coaching. Professionals in business aren’t. You can’t be either.
  • Look for ways to expand your career. Coach Salmoni got his foot in the door at the college level by not shying away from hard work, and by thinking out-of-the-box (i.e., coaching both at the high school level as well as at the college level). Are you exploring all of the opportunities to expand your coaching credentials that are right in front of you?

(Story courtesy of The Ann Arbor News)


Winning the USC WayMonday, September 26th, 2005


USC football. Everything seems to be going their way.

They were good in 2003. Even better in 2004. Now, in 2005…well, if you follow college sports then you know the story.

So what’s it like to be in the midst of an incredible run? Pete Carroll will tell you…it’s something he never imagined when he was a struggling coach in the NFL.

So, what happened? How does a guy fail in the pros, but succeed in college? How does a program go from decline to domination?

Read the story, and get some insights on the incredible turnaround at USC, lead by an incredible coach.

Using Your Sales ToolsSunday, September 18th, 2005

Having sales tools to use at will is a great thing. Ask any sales professional…customer testimonials, on-site demos, the release of new and wonderful products make selling easier and more lucrative.

So what’s your sales tool? Marshall University football has a new sales tool in the form of their new indoor practice facility that they are building. Your school may have plans that you’re excited about and highlighting during your recruiting visits with prospects.

So, now the question becomes, “What is the best way to use those sales tools in front of a prospect?” You have this new, wonderful thing. You’re excited about it. But, is your prospect?

Here are some quick tips on passing along your enthusiasm for something exciting at your school to your prospects. There are dozens of things I could tell you about, but let’s keep it to three simple ideas for right now (if you want lots of great ideas, bring me to your campus and have me train your athletic department):

  1. Make “it” about them. Whatever “it” is (new indoor practice facility, new coaching staff, a great schedule) make sure that you tell your prospect why they should be excited about “it.” Coaches often make the mistake of not passing along the reasons for the excitement over “it” to their prospects during recruiting talks. Coach, make sure that “it” revolves around the benefits and perks that “it” will bring to your prospect – not you or your school.
  2. Involve the SPIN selling approach. We’ve talked about SPIN selling in past SFC Tuesday Training letters. This is a perfect opportunity to really help the athlete connect with you over the new exciting thing that your school or program is offering. For more background on SPIN selling, just click here. Or, e-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and I’ll try to bring you up to speed (just type “more on SPIN, Dan!” in your e-mail subject line).
  3. Ask your prospect for input. You should do more than just rattle off new features and perks that are offered at your school. Used car salesmen are great at rattling off features of the car they’re selling. Do you enjoy it? Neither do your prospects. They know instinctively that they’re getting sold. So, soften the sales pitch by asking for your prospect’s thoughts and ideas on the “it” that you’re excited about. If I were the coach at Marshall University, I would be asking my prospects, “We’re adding a modern new weightroom to our new indoor practice facility. I wanted to ask you what type of weight set-up you would want to see there once you’re a part of the team?” Or, “I know you’ve visited some other schools and talked with other coaches already. Have you seen or heard about another facility that is better than this one? If so, what did you like better about it?” There are literally hundreds of possible ways to tie in a question like this to draw your prospect in to the excitement surrounding a new development at your school. Just make sure you take the time to ask the right questions.


The Brand Called FrankSunday, September 18th, 2005

Branding.

It’s the key to getting name recognition and acceptance in the business world. And, its vital in the college sports world.

Take Ohio University’s mediocre, nothing-to-get-excited-about football program. There was no “buzz” surrounding the program, which made it tough on recruiting and marketing.

Enter former Nebraska Cornhusker coach Frank Solich:

“Solich has been the centerpiece of the school’s marketing efforts. An employee of the college bookstore took a page from the “Got Milk?” campaign and created “Got Frank!” T-shirts and other merchandise. They have even been ordered by Nebraska fans still fond of Solich. The Ohio athletic department took notice and launched a “Got Frank! Get Tickets” campaign to sell football tickets.

“Everything we’ve done advertising-wise has really been focused on the fact that we’ve got Frank Solich as our head coach, and that’s not something Frank’s been comfortable with,” assistant athletic director Derek Scott said. “He is very much a low-key, team-oriented guy.”

Season-ticket sales rose from about 2,000 last year to about 2,700 this year. The Bobcats, who averaged 15,797 fans last fall, drew an overflow, school-record crowd of 24,545 fans to the win over Pitt.

Since Solich’s hiring “it’s been nonstop buzz in a community that has never really been that excited about football,” Scott said. “The enthusiasm level has been off the charts, not just in the Athens community … but amongst our alums. The struggles we’ve had in football, it takes something special to get people excited.”

“Something special.”

Coach Solich has it going on at Ohio University, and the results are clear: Over a 30% increase in season ticket sales, and record crowds in the stands.

Now, let’s talk about you. Do you have that “something special” that we’re talking about? Are you creating your own personal “brand” within your program?

If the honest answer is “no” then you might want to take a look at how things are going in your program. Are fans excited? Are you getting an increase in season ticket sales? Alumni participation and donations? Are you signing the recruits that you really, really want?

“But my job shouldn’t involve branding and sales and marketing myself…I’m a coach!”, you say. My answer back to that is, “Join the real world.” Coaches are salespeople. Coaches are marketers. It’s now part of the job, like it or not. And if you don’t do it well, they’ll hire someone else who will.

There are lots of qualified, talented coaches out there that want your job. However, there are very few coaches who are also good at marketing and branding. Those that are will stay employed as coaches.

Which group are you in? Which group do you want to be in?

Start branding yourself. Now.

Small Colleges Going Head-to-Head With Big Boys Over RecruitsSunday, September 11th, 2005


It used to be that small schools would humbly gather the recruiting leftovers from their big school counterparts.

Not anymore.

In a recent New York Times series, small schools – Division III and NAIA programs, in particular – are gearing up to compete with D1 schools for quality athletes. And they’re getting better and better at it.

Read about how coaches at small schools like Haverford College’s Mike Murphy (pictured to the right with a prospect) are stepping up their efforts to win over more quality athletes to their small schools…sometimes at the expense of their big school counterparts.

Recruiters Chase Prospects in Katrina’s AftermathSunday, September 11th, 2005


Hurricane Katrina has disrupted lives, sent families scrambling, and made contacting loved ones a challenge.

It’s also thrown the world of college recruiting into scramble mode.

Coaches everywhere are scrambling to find the athletes that they had been tracking in Louisiana and Mississippi. Not only are they having problems finding where the athletes are now competing after relocating, they can’t even call contact numbers or cell phones in many cases.

It’s made the challenge of recruiting even more challenging.

Read about that challenge that you and your fellow coaches face in tracking down athletes affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Persistence Pays Off in Sales…and RecruitingSunday, September 11th, 2005


There is an age old sales statistic that I’ve always found fascinating for two reasons. First, it makes a whole lot of sense. Secondly, most salespeople (and college sports recruiters) don’t have the mental stamina, organization and drive to make it work for them.

Here’s the statistic: The average customer (athletic prospect) doesn’t buy something (sign with your school) until they’ve been asked to do so five times.

Not once. Not twice. Not four times. Five times.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? Don’t you feel more comfortable buying something or committing to something after you’re familiar with it, or have been given the opportunity to buy it a few times? On the flip side, how often do you buy something without knowing anything about it? Or buy it the first time you see it? It probably doesn’t happen very often.

So, how does all this apply to recruiting the prospects you are targeting this year?

It comes down to persistence. Fewer and fewer salespeople have the patience to be persistent. They want you to buy now. Commit now. They want the sale now.

Likewise, it’s tempting for college coaches to insist that their prospects commit now. You want your recruiting done now. Now, now, now. You put pressure on your prospects to hurry up and make up their mind in the first one or two conversations you have with them about signing, and then get frustrated when they drag their feet.

Don’t fall into the same trap that salespeople do. Don’t get impatient.

One more thing: Make sure you ask for their commitment over and over and over again. “Ask for the sale” would be the term used in the business world. You have to ask your prospect for their commitment over and over again, and develop your relationship with the prospect along the way.

On the surface, it sounds contridictory to recommend “being patient” with “asking for the sale” over and over and over again (remember the five times rule we’re talking about here). But it’s not. In fact, persistence and patience go hand in hand. You have to be patient to be persistent. But most sales people aren’t persistent or patient, and many coaches aren’t patient enough to be persistent.

Go back to the beginning of this article: Most prospects have to be asked five times before they buy. Do you want to know the second half of this statistic? Here it is: Only 20% of salespeople ask prospects to buy at least five times. Likewise, in most sales organizations, 20% of salespeople make 80% of the sales. That carries over to the world of college recruiting, as well. Most patient and persistent recruiters get the prospects they want. Most impatient recruiters and coaches don’t.

Ask for the sale five times at a minimum. Be patient. Be persistent. See what happens.

Hurricane Katrina Blows Away NCAA RulesMonday, September 5th, 2005

This story is interesting on many different fronts. It’s a report on the allowances made by the NCAA in the wake of the mess Hurricane Katrina left behind…particularly at Tulane University, where the fall semester has been cancelled and the athletic season has been turned upside down.

The issues the story raises, in my mind:

  • There are going to be recruiting violations…hundreds of them. How does the NCAA regulate them and deal with them after the water has dried-up and things are back to normal?
  • I think the NCAA’s heart is in the right place. Kudos to President Brand for bringing some compassion to the organization, and acting quickly to this issue that affects college athletes in Lousiana and Mississippi.

What has the last week been like in the life of Tulane athletic director Rick Dickson? Can you even imagine what he’s had to deal with?

Katrina Athletes OK’d to Play in FloridaMonday, September 5th, 2005

It seems trivial to talk about the student-athlete victims of Hurricane Katrina and what effect the tragedy has had on their sports lives. However, for prep and college athletes, the business of getting recruited is still a priority.

Enter state athletic officials from Florida, who are welcoming displaced athletes from schools in the two states affected by the killer storm into high school programs in Florida. Hopefully, that can return some sense of normalcy into these athlete’s lives.

Well done, FHSAA.

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