Dan Tudor

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4 Secrets of Writing Great Recruiting LettersMonday, July 31st, 2006

I’m helping a college coach develop his recruiting and marketing plan for the next year.  It’s always interesting for me to sit down and work on a project like this with an experienced, successful coach.  It’s interesting because this particular coach, and her staff, have been doing the same thing the same way for a long, long time.  And lately, they’ve noticed that their recruiting letters aren’t as effective as they used to be.

How important is effective copywriting for college coaches?  Extremely important.  Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about letters, brochures or e-mails.  Great copywriting can be an essential part of a successful recruiting campaign. 

Here are some of the recommendations I shared with the coach I’m working with.  Can any of these tips help you be a more effective recruiter?

Send mail in different looking envelopes.  I don’t usually open "junk mail" but the other day I received a letter and small brochure booklet in a clear, see-through envelope.  It looked cool, I got a glimpse of what was inside, and I opened it.  Getting mail opened is getting tougher and tougher, even if you’re a coach talking to an athlete about a possible scholarship.  Another tip that a college I recently worked with is using: A personalized message on the outside of each envelope.  They look great, and they’re getting opened.  Be different, coach! 

Ask a question at the beginning.  Make it compelling.  Make them think.  And, most importantly, tie it in to a motivation that your prospect has on their mind.  Getting their attention at the start of the letter or e-mail is crucial.

Use active verbs.  At the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, let me recommend that you use active verbs throughout any communication you have with athletes.  How?  Be eliminating the verbs "is", "are", "was", "were" and "am".  For instance, if you’re talking about your program’s great graduation rates, don’t say "Our graduation rate for 2005 was 95%".  "Was" is a no-no, remember.  Instead, say "Our graduation rates soared to 95% in 2005."  A minor detail?  Yes.  But, an important one.  Using the right verbs keep your reader engaged.  Using the wrong verbs will drive them away.

Use an active "voice".  Kind of the same theory, except this applies to your overall message.  Never write in the past tense.  Write in the present, active tense.  For example, "Our athletes had the chance to attend the bowl game last year" isn’t that exciting.  Instead, how about "Our athletes attened the bowl game last year."  See the difference?  It’s subtle, but like using active verbs, it keeps your readers engaged   

Writing effective recruiting letters isn’t easy, but it’s vital to your recruiting success. 

Want an in-house review of your recruiting materials and outbound marketing pieces?  Bring Selling for Coaches to your campus this Winter or Spring!  We’ve reduced our costs, and increased what we do during our time on your campus.  If you want to get more information on our popular On-Campus Seminars, e-mail us at dan@sellingforcoaches.com or call us at 661.809.6200.

Book your personal training soon to ensure the dates and times that are best for you…before your competition does!

 

Keys to Impressing Recruits With Your WebsiteTuesday, July 25th, 2006

Your program’s website is a key ingredient in attracting quality prospects to your team, as you probably know.  So why are so many college athletic websites poorly designed, hard to navigate, and not that good at getting athletes to give their contact information to you?

In our new recruiting guide, "Selling for Coaches", author and trainer Dan Tudor talks about college sports websites, the mistakes they make, and why change is needed in the way most programs approach teen prospects:

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed about a lot of college program websites (not yours, of course…everyone else’s):  They are hard to navigate, not that graphically appealing, and make potential recruits hunt for a way to get in touch with your program.  One college website I visited recently made me click 13 times through different pages and links before I found an area where a potential recruit could fill out a recruiting form.  Not good, coach.
You’re competing for your prospects attention online.  Are you winning that competition?  Is it easy for prospects to find you?  Once they do find you, will they like what they see?  Does your program’s online image fit the image of your program?  Serious question, coach.  Because your prospects are looking at your site and your competition’s sites, and gaining their first impression of you and what you offer.
Here are a few quick keys to offering a good website for your prospects:
  • The graphics and pictures need to be first rate and interesting.
  • A typical web viewer sees a webpage beginning in the upper left hand corner, scans right, then back to the middle, then right again.  Layout is important and means something to your viewer.  You pay a lot of attention to your written marketing materials and brochures…you need to do the same with your website (more kids look at it than read your materials that you send them through the mail).
  • Don’t make prospects hunt for a way to send you information or fill out your recruiting form.  Savvy teen web users aren’t very patient when it comes to poorly designed websites.
  • Make things simple for your website visitors.  Simple, clean, interesting graphics coupled with easy to navigate pages and forms.

Ready to overhaul your website and marketing plan, or at least find out where the weaknesses are?  Contact us at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and find out how Selling for Coaches can assist in developing GREAT recruiting materials, and train your staff how to recruit and communicate like champs.  Visit www.SellingForCoaches.com for more information on our On-Campus Seminar programs and how we work with your staff to re-energize your recruiting efforts. 

 

9 Reasons You’re Failing at RecruitingMonday, July 24th, 2006

The great thing about summertime is that its a chance for new beginnings for college coaches around the country.

You might be at a new school.  Or, you have new athletes coming in to your program.  Maybe you have some new coaches in your program…or, perhaps everything around you is the same, except for the fact that its a new year full of new and promising possibilities.

Now, let me snap you back to reality, coach.  Many of you are worried.  Real worried.  You don’t want this coming year to be as bad as the last year – I know, because you’ve talked with me about it.  When it comes to recruiting (which is really selling, remember…) the same thing holds true for a lot of you: You’re worried.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college sports program.  If you don’t recruit well, you don’t win.  If you don’t win, you might not have a job.  And even if they let you keep your job, its not as much fun walking around campus as it is when you’re winning.

So today, let’s not focus on what to do to be successful at selling and recruiting.  Instead, lets look at the reasons you might be failing when it comes to recruiting high school and junior college athletes.  See if any of these nine struggles plague your recruiting efforts:

  • You don’t believe in your ability to recruit.  Believe it or not, a lot of coaches struggle with this.  They know they’re great coaches, but they hate recruiting and feel like they can’t get the job done.  If you don’t think you have the ability to recruit, get help.  Learn to sell.  Read our how-to book for college coaches.  Do things that will raise your ability level when it comes to selling and recruiting.
  • You are lazy and unprepared.  Sound harsh?  It isn’t in the case of some coaches.  Many coaches I meet with don’t take recruiting seriously, and don’t prepare for it going into a new season.  No preparation will equal mediocrity every single time.  Is it hard to be more prepared than your competition to recruit?  Your darn right it is.  Start now to prepare yourself for the upcoming recruiting battles.
  • You don’t know how to accept rejection.  Coaches tend to get down on themselves when an athlete rejects their offer.  Many develop a negative attitude and a defeatist outlook when it comes to recruiting.  Remember, coach:  They are not rejecting you, they’re rejecting your offer.  There’s a difference.  Don’t become bitter, and don’t lose your optimism.  Maintaining your confidence and belief in your ability in the face of rejection is key to succeeding.
  • You fail to master the fundamentals of sales.  I’ve said it many times: Like it or not, coach, you’re a salesperson.  Recruiting is selling.  Have you mastered selling skills?  Are you reading sales training materials?  Are you serious about developing this crucial aspect of your professional career?  If you answered "no" to any one of these things, that should be a red flag.  Take matters into your own hands and train yourself to become a great salesperson, or let Selling for Coaches help you become that great salesperson.  The resources are out there…they are yours for the taking.
  • You fail to overcome the objections of your prospects.  This is huge.  We talk about it frequently here at Selling for Coaches, as you may already know.  This is the number one reason coaches fail when it comes to recruiting.  Why?  Because no prospect is going to say "yes" when you have failed to answer each one of their concerns.  Learn our techniques to overcome objections, and you’ll find that recruiting will get a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
  • You blame others for your mistakes or shortcomings.  Recruiting isn’t easy, there’s no doubt about it.  But when you start blaming others for your recruiting failures, you’ve lost the psychological battle in selling.  Don’t blame your athletic director, your fellow coach, your facilities, your school’s academic standards, the prospect’s parents…stop it.  The buck stops with you when it comes to your area of recruiting oversight.  Make it your goal to be the best recruiter in your athletic department instead of looking for the next scapegoat for your lackluster performance.
  • You can’t cope with change.  Some coaches are creatures of habit.  And, they like it that way.  But change is constant in the NCAA and at your institution…new policies and procedures, new recruiting limits, new rules, new guidelines, new restrictions.  You know the drill.  To be the best, you have to embrace change and learn to succeed under new and changing circumstances.  Maintain your positive attitude – it’s essential to being successful in recruiting, and in life.
  • You fail to develop long term relationships.  How many high school and junior college coaches did you really work at developing relationships with last season?  Did you expand your recruiting network?  Failure to develop enthusiastic advocates at the high school level is a common problem we see when we come in to help develop a winning recruiting strategy at colleges around the country.  Why is it so important to develop long term relationships?  Because you’ll have more eyes and ears out there eager to give you tips on who to watch and recruit.  Prep coaches are eager to give you that information…if they feel you’re partnering with them for the good of their program and their athlete’s lives.  Take the time to develop GREAT long term relationships this year with as many high school coaches as you can. 
  • You aren’t persistent.  "I’ll only recruit a kid if they call me first."  Or, "I’ve already sent them enough information…if that’s not good enough, then we don’t want them."  Those types of "take it or leave it, kid" statements from college coaches are foolish.  And the coaches who hold those attitudes won’t be coaching for very long in most cases.  Being professional persistent is a key to selling in the business world, and a big key to success in the college recruiting world.  Don’t give up.  Ever.  But remember to be professional.  And, as we talk about in our recruiting book, "Selling for Coaches", if an athlete picks another program over yours be professional in how you respond to them (those of you who have already read the book know the secret – and some of you have already e-mailed me to tell me how it has worked for you!).

Hopefully, none of these apply to you.  For many of you, some will apply.  Here’s the next step: Determine how to erase any of these bad habits from your work life as a recruiter and a coach.  Even one of these can cripple your coaching career, and make recruiting more of a chore than it needs to be.

Need help?  Have a question?  Contact me via e-mail at dan@sellingforcoaches.com or call my office at 661-809-6200.  We thrive on working with coaches who need help formulating a winning strategy when it comes to recruiting, marketing and communication.  We’d love to hear from you.

The Secret Weapon in Recruiting: Being GenuineMonday, July 17th, 2006

I was at a college not to long ago and talking to a group of athletes as a part of our focus group marketing segment.  I was talking to one athlete and was asking him about why he chose this program: It was a Division II school, and he had mentioned that he had the chance to play at a D1 school closer to home.  Why?  "Because," said the athlete, "I just felt like this coach was being honest with me all the way through the recruiting process.  He was a real genuine sounding guy."

Being genuine.  How important is it in the recruiting game?  Really important.  The more colleges I visit, and the more athletes I talk to, the more I see how important it is for a coach to be "genuine" in the way he or she approaches a prospect.

We talk about that in detail in our new book, "Selling for Coaches".  Here’s a quick excerpt on the one of the aspects of being genuine: Demonstrating understanding.

This one is the hard one because it involves true interest in your prospect and an empathy for his or her life situation, fears, motivations and dreams.  Its easy to forget, as a college coach, that you’re in the business of making dreams come true – and I don’t think that’s over-dramatizing it.  You may be sitting in front of an athlete who has worked hard and sacrificed to get where they are athletically.  In addition, their parents may have sacrificed to help get their son or daughter to this point.  And that “point” is sitting in front of you, hoping that you might fulfill a goal held for years – the goal of playing college sports, and perhaps a scholarship that will enable that athlete to get a college education.
My point here is simple.  It goes back to “connecting” with your prospect, and one of the best ways to make a connection is to really try to understand your prospect – their needs, their family’s needs, their struggles, their hopes, their dreams.  Not what you need from them, but what they want from you.  Let them know that you understand their “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want” and you’ve created a very strong barrier for any other coach to try and breach. 
Here’s the problem I see with many coaches I work with: They are more focused on their agenda rather than the desires of the athlete.  And it results in overlooking one of the most fundamental motivators in the mind of your prospect, which centers around "liking" and "connecting" with the coach that is recruiting them.
Focus on being yourself, and letting an athlete see the real you when you’re recruiting them.  One coach that I recently worked with put it another way.  She said, "We really need to think of ourselves as a replacement for our brochure.  Instead of relying on the brochure to sell us, we should be getting our prospects to come play for us no matter what our record was the previous year.  They should be making their decision to come play here based on how we are going to treat them as student-athletes."
Well said, coach.

Better Open-Ended QuestionsMonday, July 17th, 2006

You know what one of the most requested topics we get when we do one of our famous On-Campus Seminars?  How to ask better questions in front of prospects.  Easily, its one of the topics that holds the most interest for coaches.  Why?  Because one area that most coaches struggle with is effective questioning.

The best questions are open-ended questions…ones that get your prospect to explain themselves, open up, and give you some insights as to what is important to them and how to best recruit them.

Here are fifteen great open-ended questions that are sure to get your prospect talking.  Try them the next time you’re face to face with a prospect you want in your program.

What prompted you to consider our program?

What are your expectations of us and our program?

What thought process will you go through to determine how you’re going to choose a university?

How do you see this happening?

What is it that you’d like to see accomplished during the recruiting process?

What other programs are you already talking with or plan to talk to?

Has any other program been crossed off your list as of right now?

Can you help me understand that a little better?

What does that mean?

What are your thoughts right now in terms of where you’ll be playing next year?

What challenges does the recruiting process create for you and your family?

What are the best things about this recruiting process?

What other items should we discuss?

What do you see as the next action steps for us?

What is your timeline for making your final decision?

The point of all these questions is simple: Make your prospect open up and tell you more.  Asking these types of questions will get you closer to really knowing how to approach your athlete.

Want another 14 great open ended questions?  Become a member of Selling for Coaches!  It’s only $29 a month…that’s cheap!  Members will hear expanded discussions on this topic, as well as get our list of 14 additional open ended questions that focus on the secret of how to close the deal with your prospect.

Members also receive other training and exclusive benefits throughout the year.  Its an investment in your career and your ability to win the recruiting game year in and year out.

Big Mistake #8: Losing Control of the ProcessMonday, July 10th, 2006

We’ve had a lot of coaches download our free report, "The Ten Big Mistakes Coaches Make When They’re Recruiting".

I wanted to talk a little bit more in-depth on Big Mistake #8, which is when college coaches lose control of the recruiting and sales process.  What does that mean?  The coach doesn’t have a good grasp of how his or her prospect will respond to the marketing pieces they’re receiving…the coach doesn’t answer all the prospect’s objections…the coach is left wondering what their prospect is thinking, and doesn’t know how they will be making their final recruiting decision.

All of that is a mistake that many, many college coaches make.  And they make it often.  Too often!

So, how do you re-gain control of the recruiting process?  Here are three easy things that any coach can start doing right away that will make a difference in how they manage the recruiting process:

  1. Ask your prospect what their three biggest decision factors are in making their decision.  Ask directly, and pay close attention to what they say.  It’s amazing how straight-forward and honest your prospect will be once you ask them to share their thought process with you.
  2. Ask trial close questions throughout the recruiting process.  We cover this in great detail in our new book, "Selling for Coaches", but this basically involves asking your prospect questions throughout the recruiting process that assumes they will be coming to your school.  For example, you could ask your prospect this trial close question: "When you come to our school, would you want to room with someone on the team or with a regular student in our on-campus housing?"  It assumes that they are commiting to your program, and if they reply with an answer that also assumes that commitment, you’re doing a good job.
  3. Ask for the sale.  It’s as simple as that.  Express your desire to have your prospect playing for you.  Don’t beat around the bush…come right out and tell them how much they’re wanted, and how excited you’d be to have them on your team.

Want the other nine "Big Mistakes" coaches make?  Download our free report here

16 Rules for Survival and SuccessMonday, July 10th, 2006

You could learn a few things from Bob Parsons. 

He’s the founder of GoDaddy.com, the Internet domain registration company.  In his business life, he’s seen success, and failure.  He’s made millions, and then gone broke.  He’s battled the government, and build a legendary company along with way (well, at least their Super Bowl television commericials are legendary).

Through it all, Parsons has developed an inspiring list of sixteen things that he thinks are the keys to surviving – and succeeding – in the hard-knocks world of business.  The list applies to college coaches, as well.  You’re in one of the toughest businesses around, so I hope this list teaches you a few things about not only how to survive, but how to succeed in your coaching career.

Here is Bob Parson’s list:

1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone. I believe that not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone. I hear people say, "But I’m concerned about security." My response to that is simple: "Security is for cadavers."

2. Never give up. Almost nothing works the first time it’s attempted. Just because what you’re doing does not seem to be working, doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it might not work the way you’re doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn’t have an opportunity.

3. When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think. There’s an old Chinese saying that I just love, and I believe it is so true. It goes like this: "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed."

4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be. Very seldom will the worst consequence be anywhere near as bad as a cloud of "undefined consequences." My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling and losing my shirt trying to get Parsons Technology going, "Well, Robert, if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you."

5. Focus on what you want to have happen. Remember that old saying, "As you think, so shall you be."

6. Take things a day at a time. No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.

7. Always be moving forward. Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.

8. Be quick to decide. Remember what General George S. Patton said: "A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow."

9. Measure everything of significance. I swear this is true. Anything that is measured and watched, improves.

10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate. If you want to uncover problems you don’t know about, take a few moments and look closely at the areas you haven’t examined for a while. I guarantee you problems will be there.

11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing. When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.

12. Never let anybody push you around. In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you’re doing as anyone else, provided that what you’re doing is legal.

13. Never expect life to be fair. Life isn’t fair. You make your own breaks. You’ll be doing good if the only meaning fair has to you, is something that you pay when you get on a bus (i.e., fare).

14. Solve your own problems. You’ll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you’ll develop a competitive edge. Masura Ibuka, the co-founder of SONY, said it best: "You never succeed in technology, business, or anything by following the others." There’s also an old Asian saying that I remind myself of frequently. It goes like this: "A wise man keeps his own counsel."

15. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.

16. There’s always a reason to smile. Find it. After all, you’re really lucky just to be alive. Life is short. More and more, I agree with my little brother. He always reminds me: "We’re not here for a long time; we’re here for a good time."

Most of our advice here at dantudor.com and our newsletter focuses on specific recruiting and sales strategies.  But I wanted to share this great list with you, because sometimes its good to take a step back and make sure our attitudes and direction are on track.  This list, for me, helps me to maintain a good perspective.

To read more of Bob Parson’s thoughts on his rules for survival and success, click here.

BOOK EXCERPT: Keeping It SimpleTuesday, July 4th, 2006

A lot of coaches I work with when I assist them in developing their marketing and recruiting plans have a tendency to overload recruits with too much information.  Especially when they first start talking to them through written communication.

Is there a better way to break through and reach a prospect?  Yes. 

Here’s an excerpt from the new book, "Selling for Coaches", on the importance of keeping your marketing message simple at first, and why doing so will make you a more effective recruiter:

The key to effective text and e-mail messaging: Same as the written communication rule, which is keep it simple.  Text messaging relies on simplicity and abbreviation (otherwise, it costs your prospect a fortune in cell minutes).  Use it as a quick reminder that you’re out there, you’re thinking about the prospect, and you want him or her to know they’re important to you. 
E-mailing can be a little more in-depth, but not at first.  Keep your messages simple and to the point, inviting a response.  Once you have a response, you have their permission to take the relationship a step further with more information.  After the next round of communication, it goes a step further.  This type of communication is called “permission marketing” and is very effective when it comes to e-mail communication.  Author and speaker Seth Godin (www.sethgodin.com) has a great book on the subject entitled, not surprisingly, “Permission Marketing.”  I highly recommend the book – great for business professionals, great for coaching professionals.  It’s changed the way thousands of businesses around the country approach their customers, and it can help you with the way you approach your recruits.
Electronic messaging is the #1 way teens prefer to communicate.  Remember that.  Now all you have to do is communicate with them correctly, and you’ll be on your way to forming a great foundation for recruiting them to your program.

Remember, coach, keep it simple.  Marketing materials aren’t any good if they don’t get read, and sometimes more information isn’t always better…especially at first.  Start with simple messages that ask thought-provoking questions, and get your prospect engaged with you. 

Coach, if you need some help in having us review your marketing materials and outgoing recruiting messages, please contact us at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  We can work with your budget, and provide a quick, effective marketing review as well as help you develop recruiting campaigns for your specific program.  Our marketing consulting packages range from $499 to $999 annually.  Let us know if we can assist you in being more effective recruiters and marketers!

 

Getting Your Prospect to Tell the TruthTuesday, July 4th, 2006

There are three more great ways to get your prospects to tell you the truth while you’re recruiting them:

  • Call them back to get the truth, not to seal the deal.  When a prospect falls silent, many coaches will revert back to a basic sales mistake and ask a question like, "Hi, I was just checking in to see where things were at?"  Or, some other read-right-through-it excuse as to why they are calling.  Instead, you can eliminate all of the "sales" pressure by letting your prospect know that you assume that they’re not interested in what you’ve been discussing with them, and tell them that you’re fine with that.  Then ask them to share with you why they obviously decided on another program or to go another direction with their athletic career.  Taking this approach will do two things: First, if they are indeed interested, they’ll let you know right away and commit to not letting things drag any longer.  Second, if they have decided on another direction, you’ll be able to have a heart-to-heart conversation with them (since you told them that you were OK with them making another choice) and either understand why they came to that decision, or discover opportunities to try and get them re-interested in your program.
  • Let your prospects know that you can handle hearing "no".  Do you want to hear your prospect say no?  Of course you don’t.  But you want to get to the truth, and the best way to do that is assure your prospect that this isn’t about forcing them to sign with you, but instead is about them making the best choice for their academic and athletic future.  Taking that subtle sales pressure out of the equation can make a huge difference in how your prospect communicates with you, and can really improve the amount of information you get out of them moving forward.
  • Guarantee yourself "the last word".  Hate waiting for those final calls when the prospect tells you what their decision is?  Take control of the situation by giving yourself the last word on the matter.  The next time you talk to your prospect, ask, "Can we plan to get back to each other on a day and at a time that works for you–not to sign the deal, but to simply bring some closure regardless of what you decide. I’m okay either way, and that’ll save us from having to chase each other down, since we’re both busy."  Now, you’ve got a targeted date to work from, knowing that you’ll have a truthful discussion of their intentions so that you know how to move forward.

There are three more tips I’m going to be giving to members of Selling for Coaches later in the week.  They’ll receive these via video e-mail, as well as some other instruction on the subject of communication with their prospects.

If you aren’t a member of Selling for Coaches, click here to sign up.  It’s only $29 a month – no long term commitments, no contract to sign – and is a great investment in your career as a college coach and recruiter.     

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