Dan Tudor

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Five KILLER Questions to Ask Your ProspectsMonday, January 30th, 2006

So, what are they?

What are those five KILLER questions that you should be asking your prospects when you begin your recruiting relationship with them?

Actually, you are the only one that can answer that question. It’s different for every coach, every school, every program. Those five questions might even vary on the time of year, the area of the country that your prospect is from, or how much money is left in your recruiting budget. The point is, you need to determine what those five KILLER questions are, and ask them every time you talk to a new prospect.

What do I mean by KILLER questions? That means it’s a question that makes your prospect stop in his or her tracks, not say anything, and really think about what the answer is. The response that you should be aiming for: “Wow, nobody has ever asked me that before.”

Do you ever get that type of response from your prospects after you ask them a question? Then your questions probably need to be a little better. A little more thought provoking. A little more off the wall. Maybe even a little more intense.

Here’s the type of questioning that I’m talking about: Instead of asking a prospect “So why are you interested in our program?”, you might ask them “If you had to pay us for the right to play in our stadium, what would be your reason for doing that?”

Or, instead of asking a prospect “Do you need any financial aid?”, perhaps you should ask them “What kind of help could we give you on the financial side of things to get you to become delirious with job and come play for us?”

One more: I’ve heard a lot of coaches ask a prospect they really want, “So when do you think you’ll be making your final decision?” Instead, what if you asked them, “Run me through how you’re going to be making your decision, and who all is involved in helping you decide?” After they tell you the first part of their answer and stop (which they always do), you should ask, “And then what?” They’ll tell you a little more, and you ask “And then what.” And so it goes until you really get down to the nitty gritty details of how the decision is really going to be made, and who’s helping them make that decision.

Here’s the trouble with waiting until the phone call to think of those questions: It’s really hard to do. And sometimes, the questions don’t come out so good. Many times, the type of questions you ask when you first talk to a prospect determines how the recruiting relationship will end up. Questions are important – vitally important – to the whole process.

Let me correct myself…KILLER questions are vitally important to the whole process.

The biggest benefit to asking KILLER questions (other than staying organized, controlling the sales process, and making your calls and conversations more productive and insightful) is that you’ll sound smarter and more interested in your prospect compared to other coaches who ask the same “yes, no” mundane questions that recruits have heard before. That might be the biggest benefit of all.

So, coach, here’s your homework: Come up with the five KILLER questions that you’re going to ask all of your prospects. Make them thought-provoking. Make them original. Get the prospect to think. Get the prospect to open up and verbalize the keys to getting them in love with your program and what you’re offering.

I’ll even help you! E-mail me your five questions (with the subject line “My 5 questions”) to me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and I’ll provide some feedback and comments back to you. Free help, no strings attached. I think it’s that important…every coach needs to have those questions ingrained in their heads, and know why they’re asking them.

If you do this quick exercise, I promise you won’t be sorry. Good luck, have fun with it, and make it a great recruiting week!

Perpetuating StereotypesFriday, January 27th, 2006

Notice anything wrong with this picture?

Besides being one of the tallest cheerleaders I’ve ever seen, she appears to be cheering for a Longhorn touchdown (which would be fine if she were a Texas cheerleader).

There’s not really a point to any of this, it’s just kind of a funny picture. It kind of perpetuates the old “dumb blonde” stereotype, but – if you’ll notice – the two blonde cheerleaders to her left appear to be giving her a look, as if to say “what in the world are you doing!”

Again, no in-depth lesson here…just one of those “moment in time” photos that are fun to come across…

Tips for College Coaches As Signing Day ApproachesMonday, January 23rd, 2006

National Letter of Intent Day.

T-minus one week, and counting.

For Division 1 football coaches, its the culmination of months – in some cases years – of hard work, a boat-load of money, and a whole lot of stress. For everyone else, signing day has already occurred or will happen later this spring. For schools at the D3 and NAIA level, “signing day” is any day that you can get a commitment from an athlete you’re recruiting.

Whatever your situation, there’s always a time when you’re hoping to win over a recruit. It doesn’t matter if you’re a D1 program or a small NAIA school…every coach wants the best student-athletes they can get.

So, here’s the big question: What can a coach do to improve their stock in a prospect that’s still up for grabs just before he or she is due to make a decision? Here are three suggestions from the pros at Selling for Coaches:

  • Say thank you in advance. You’re not saying “thank you for a commitment”, because you don’t know whether or not the athlete is going to choose you. So, say thank you for the chance to get to know them and the opportunity to tell them about your program. Tell them how much you enjoyed meeting or talking with their family. And, thank them for keeping you in mind as one of the coaches they want to play for. No selling…no last minute pitch…no attack on the competition’s program. Just a sincere, heart-felt thank you. E-mail is fine, a written letter is better.
  • Ask a trial close question. If you feel you need to make a little harder play for the athlete, and you want to see if you’re a serious contender for their talents come next year, asking a trial close question is always a good indicator of where their head is at: “Sarah, how do you think our school’s business program will fit you once you’re here?” Or, “Mark, will you want to room with another athlete in the dorms?” Or, “Have your parents talked to you about how often they might be able to come see you play once you’re here?” Those are just three sample questions…you can come up with your own. The point here is to get your prospect picturing them attending your university. If they can’t picture it, and can’t verbalize it back to you, then chances are you’re not in the running for their services.
  • Force them to commit or cut loose. The most hard lined approach of the three we’re recommending here. But there’s a soft, professional way to approach it. Your question might go something like this: “Brad, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know these past few weeks. I think you’d make a great fit here in our program. But here’s my situation: Your my first choice and my prize recruit, but I also know that you’re getting attention from other schools. If you’ve decided to sign somewhere else, that’s fine…I’m excited for you either way. But I’d like you to be honest with me since you’re so close to choosing a program, and let me know if we’re the one. If we are, then you just made my day. But if you aren’t, then I really need to give the scholarship to our #2 recruit. He’s not as talented as you, but we’re just down to the wire. Have you decided to choose us and play for our program?” Here’s the thing, coach. Brad – and most athletes – already have chosen a school. They may feel guilty for saying no to you in most situation, but if you ask it this way you gently force them to lay their cards on the table. Coaches often lead themselves along down a path of false security, when all they need to do is just “ask for the sale” and find out what is really on the athlete’s mind.

Choose your question, and go for it. Almost every coach I talk to or work with has anywhere from one to many prospects that would fall into the category of “undecided.” Take them out of that category for your own piece of mind, and ask them for a commitment. Unless, that is, you know you’re not done answering their objections or presenting your case for why they should go to your school. If that’s the case, you’re not ready to ask any of the three questions.

I hear from a lot of college coaches who bite their nails and worry if their recruits are going to sign with them or not. If you’ve done all you can, made your pitch, and are just waiting around…stop waiting! Ask for the sale.

Judging Your College’s WebsiteMonday, January 16th, 2006

How quick do your prospects judge your college’s website? 50 visits? 50 minutes? Try 50 milli-seconds!

Read the latest study here.

So, coach…what do your recruits see when they log onto your website?

Two Thumbs Up for “Glory Road”Monday, January 16th, 2006

Imagine my surprise and delight when beautiful wife Teresa told me that she wanted to go see “Glory Road” the other night.

Wow! My wife wants to see a sports movie! Given that most of the time her movie requirements forbid us seeing anything that either 1) doesn’t have Sandra Bullock in it, 2) doesn’t have Hugh Grant in it, or 3) qualifies hands down as a romantic “chick flick”, I jumped at the chance.

It was a great movie. Great story, good acting, and above average sports action acting (my pet peeve are movies that have unrealistic sports action sequences). There is even some recruiting centered story-line that takes place, given that the core of the movie revolves around the true life story of the 1966 Texas Western (now UTEP) basketball team that starts five African-Americans for the first time ever in an NCAA Championship game, which they win. Coach Don Haskins, played by Josh Lucas, portrays the fiery coach in the movie.

If you haven’t gone to see the movie, I recommend it.

If you want some more background on the movie, Don Haskins, and the history changing team, here are two good links:

  • A story from the Albuquerque Tribune focusing on Haskins (he claims he wasn’t trying to be a civil rights hero, he just wanted to win basketball games): Click here.
  • A story about actor Josh Lucas and the time he spent with Coach Haskins while researching and making the movie…there are some really funny segments: Click here.

OK, OK…I know none of this is directly hard-core sales and recruiting related. But its still a great movie with a great message revolving around an event that changed the way basketball coaches recruited, and helped usher in equality and fairness in NCAA sports.

I give it two thumbs up. So did the crowd at the theatre…for the first time in a long time, there was applause at the end of the show! That’s always a good sign.

The Question Jerry McGuire Should Have AskedMonday, January 16th, 2006

If you’ve seen the movie “Jerry McGuire,” you’ll remember this scene.

Jerry, a pro sports agent played by Tom Cruise, is at a crucial point in his “recruitment” of the star #1 draft pick that is being courted by a rival agency that fired Jerry earlier in the movie. Jerry is the hotel room of the star and his father. Jerry, through a phone call from the rival, finds out that his million-dollar superstar made a commitment with his rival even after the father promises Jerry that they’ll sign with him earlier in the movie.

If you’ve seen the movie, do you remember the pain on Jerry’s face as he realizes that he’s just been undercut by his rival and lied to by his would-be client? That was the only time in cinematic history that I’ve seen an actor smiling from ear-to-ear to keep a good face on, while the blood vessels in his forehead were bulging out under beads of sweat. It was a classic scene.

If you’ve been recruiting at the college level for a while, you’ve probably experienced a similarly frustrating incident:

You’ve been working your rear end off trying to get a commitment from a prospect. Phone calls. E-mails. Maybe even a personal visit. In your heart, you think you’ve got the prospect. The prospect may have even told you that they were going to commit to your school. “It’s a done deal” you think.

And then it happens. You find out that your prospect that you’ve worked so hard for just committed to another school.

You probably looked a lot like Jerry McGuire when that happened.

How do you prevent something like that from happening again? I mean, we’re getting very close to commitment dates for a lot of sports…you, as a coach, have put a lot of work into your recruiting class. Months of hard work, perhaps. Is there anything that you can do that will guarantee that your prospect won’t turn his or her back on you and sign on with your rival?

Well, nothing is “guaranteed.” But there is a type of question that you can ask that will really cement a prospect’s commitment with you and get you inside their head during this crucial time.

It’s what I call a “super-qualifying question.” It goes a little deeper than the basic “qualifying questions” that we’ve talked about before. It basically is a question that assumes commitment, and then takes it a step further by asking the prospect to tell you how they’re going to handle other schools that are recruiting them.

Here are some quick examples:

“How do you think the other coach will counter when they find out you have committed to us?”

“What will you do if the other programs try to counter with {fill-in-the-blank-offer}?”

“What will your parents do when the other program counters with {fill-in-the-blank-offer}?”

“Do you believe that the agreement you have with us is the best agreement that you can make for yourself and your college education / playing career?”

Powerful. Simple. Very, very effective.

Will it “guarantee” a commitment from your prospect? No. Nothing can do that short of a signed letter of intent. But these questions will force your prospect to do one of two things: Lie to your face (difficult to do in this instance, don’t you think?), or be very honest with you.

Try it the next time you’re feeling like you’re in a “Jerry McGuire moment” with one of your prospects.

Good luck!

Three Things to Do In 2006…And, a Special OfferMonday, January 9th, 2006

I’m not much for new years resolutions. Probably because I’ve already broken them around this time every year.

However, one thing that I think is good about focusing on new goals and new priorities in a new year is establishing a few good key habits for yourself. For coaches, I want to focus on good habits when it comes to recruiting.

Here are three good things to make sure you apply to your recruiting duties every single day, courtesy of justsell.com and adapted by Selling for Coaches to your duties as a college recruiter:

  • Establish a relentless focus on talking with prospects, their families and their coaches during every possible free moment of each day. Sales and recruiting requires contact. Lots of it, within the NCAA limits. Make contact your first priority. Without solid recruiting, your program is destined to be mediocre. Successful recruiting requires constant (and creative) communication.
  • Be prepared with two or three absolutely solid statements that communicate the reasons someone should commit to your program now. These should be powerful statements that create a sense of urgency and make it clear why you, your program, and your offer are a good fit for their goals as a college student-athlete at this very moment — scripted and rehearsed to a point where you can deliver these benefits with appropriate voice intonation, literally, in your sleep. Please remember: Being the biggest, oldest, or “premier” program is not necessarily the best reason someone should choose you.
  • Be ready with an approachable, non-defensive method of responding to the top three objections you and your fellow coaches hear each day when you recruit. Again, these should be scripted and rehearsed to be delivered without hesitation. Yes, I realize that scripting and rehearsing statements and responses feels funny. It’s not natural. But not doing so is a bit like going into your next game without practicing plays or doing drills. The result wouldn’t be pretty, would it? Neither is heading into recruiting situations without compelling answers to potential objections – answers that should enhance the sales process, not end it.

I’m a realist. I know that a lot of you will read this tip, think to yourself “Dan’s right…I need to do that,” and then not do the things that I’m recommending.

So, to encourage you to get on the ball and do these three simple things, here’s a special offer for you: Share your two or three statements on why a prospect should commit to your program, and also your responses to your top three objections, and e-mail them to me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com. I’ll give you my feedback on your statements, and e-mail you a “sneak peek” chapter of my soon to be released book, “Selling for Coaches.” I think you’ll enjoy it.

I hope this is a great year for you and your program, and hope that you start the year off right by commiting to doing these three simply yet amazingly profitable things.

Chalk One Up For the Little GuyMonday, January 9th, 2006

Tanner Bronson.

A great story of the little guy who fights hard and eventually, through a series of twists and turns, earns a scholarship to a D1 program.

Evidentally, according to his teammates quoted in this article, the kid is really good. He started turning heads when he would fill in at basketball practice at the University of Wisconsin when another player was missing.

My question: If this kid is good enough to play at a Big Ten school and earn an athletic scholarship, why wasn’t he recruited? I thought all D1 coaches knew about every talented prospect around the country?

Could it be that he didn’t fit the profile of the “typical” D1 basketball recruit? Probably.

Coaches, keep this in mind: It pays to take a serious look at every prospect, and not just their height, weight and stats.

Go get ‘em, Tanner.

Confidence a Key in Selling Your ProgramMonday, January 9th, 2006

“Recruiting is crucial right now, and we are in on some key guys.
And don’t forget that we have been recruiting extremely well for several years now. I don’t think you’ve heard the last from us.”
- Pete Carroll, Head Football Coach
University of Southern California
Pete Carroll is a few days removed from a heart-breaking loss to Texas in the national championship game. He’s losing two of his best players, possibly more, to the NFL draft. How would you be feeling as a coach? Worried? Resigned to leaner times in the near future? Depressed?
Read his quote again.
If you were a high school recruit trying to make a decision between high profile schools, the confident coach might just be the one that you’d want to follow, don’t you think?
Recruits are looking for a leader. For a role model. For someone positive, and someone confident. Those are attributes that Coach Carroll doesn’t corner the market on, of course. The point I’m trying to make is that you need to display a Carroll-type confidence. Every day, especially when you’re recruiting.
Confidence is a key ingredient to successful selling. Do you have it? If I asked your prospects, fellow coaches, and co-workers, would they talk about your confident, positive attitude?

It’s a Business, CoachMonday, January 9th, 2006

“Athletics, like the university as a whole, seeks to maximize revenues.
The business of college sports is not a necessary evil;
rather, it is a proper part of the overall enterprise.”
- Miles Brand, President of the NCAA
The reality is, the NCAA has always been a business. That’s not a bad thing, but there are some inevitable trickle down facts that coaches need to embrace:
  • Since its a business, you’re expected to perform “profitably” (winning teams, producing graduating student-athletes, achieving your athletic department’s goals).
  • If you’re not “profitable”, you’re going to go “out of business” (i.e., fired).
  • When you hear your AD talk about budget limits, revenue, or anything on the financial side of sports, understand that your AD is in business also. He or she is accountable as your “CEO” to his “board of directors” (the university president or board of regents). Have some understanding of the pressure your AD is under.
  • Expect the NCAA, and your school (even if you coach at D3 or NAIA schools) to become even more focused on the financial side of sports.
  • Embrace your roll in the “business” or be destined to find another job. It’s that simple.

To read more on Miles Brands’ state of the association speech this past weekend, click here.