Dan Tudor

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BOOK EXCERPT: Asking for the SaleMonday, August 28th, 2006

We’ve spent time this week talking about the importance of "asking for the sale" with your prospect.

In our new book, "Selling for Coaches", we spend a good deal of time talking about how to "close the deal" with your prospect, what you need to watch out for, and good techniques to use when you’re ready to have them commit to your program.  Here’s an excerpt:

Strangely, the simplest rules in selling are sometimes the most difficult to adhere to. Such is the case with this one: “Ask for the sale”.

In the business world, it means “ask for the business.” “Ask for the order.” “Ask them to sign the contract.” In the coaching and recruiting world, it means “Ask your prospect to make a commitment.” “Ask your prospect to make their decision.” “Ask your prospect to give you a verbal commitment.” “Ask your prospect to sign the Letter of Intent.”

It’s as simple as that, right coach? But, as you may know, it’s not always that simple. In fact, it’s hard much of the time. Whether you’re a coach or a sales professional, it’s hard to verbally ask for the sale. Why?

You don’t want to “offend” your prospect by “being pushy.”

You have the “feeling” they are going to sign with you at some point in the future, so you don’t need to ask them.

It’s not the right time to ask for their commitment to your program.

You’re scared of what their answer might be.

Any of those excuses sound familiar? If so, don’t worry…you’re not alone, coach. Many of your fellow coaches that I’ve spoken with and trained have the same hesitations about “asking for the sale.” It’s also a problem for many sales professionals.

If you don’t ask for the sale, you won’t get your prospect. If you don’t get the prospects you really need to make your program successful, you’ll be out of a job. It’s that simple. Athletes want to be wanted. They want to be pursued. You aren’t bothering them by telling them how much your program needs them and asking them to give their commitment to your program; in fact, you’re giving them what they want. You’re giving them the attention they expect and desire, and the coach that demonstrates that the best will usually come away with the athlete.

One well known assistant college coach was recently reported to have written 30 hand-written letters in one day to one of his prized recruits. He signed that recruit, not surprisingly. Do you think that at least one of those letters asked for the sale? Of course. Do you have that kind of creative passion and drive to go after your prospects, and win them over so that they commit to your program?

The Power of Persistence in RecruitingMonday, August 28th, 2006

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 in the business world 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 either.

 

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 interesting statistic? E-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com with the subject line of "Tell Me The Other Half, Dan!" and I’ll e-mail you the other part of the statistic along with some more information you can use in your everyday recruiting efforts.
 

 

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

 

Three Things Most Coaches Don’t Do When They’re ProspectingMonday, August 28th, 2006

A lot of you are gearing up for your recruiting efforts this week.  I know that because our Selling for Coaches members that I talk to have been asking for some tips on how to approach this yearly task.  I tell them they need to start doing a few things they’re probably not doing.

If you’re a member, you’re going to get a lot of information on this as we start our fall online training sessions next week.  But right now, I’ll share three ways to improve the way you recruit, simply by making sure you start doing things that you’re not already doing.

What are these three things that most coaches aren’t doing in their everyday recruiting efforts?

  • They’re not asking for referrals.  Coaches don’t take that contact they have with their prospect and expand on it for their own good.  What am I talking about?  Asking your prospect for the names of other kids at their school that you should take a look at (even if they aren’t in your sport!).  Asking your prospect for the names of the best kids in their league.  Asking your prospect who the up-and-coming lower level kids are in their program.  "Referrals" can expand your contact list ten-fold.  The thing is, you’re not going to find all of this gold unless you dig for it.  Ask the questions…find out who else you should be looking at…and reap the rewards.  Oh, and the best part?  It’s FREE! 
  • Reward the coaches and scouts that give you information.  High school coaches who talk-up your program with their kids and make sure they get the information that you send them are GOLD.  Just like gold, they’re rare and they’re worth a lot.  What do you do on a regular basis for these coaches who are your "representatives" in their school and area?  Anything?  Don’t take these coaches for granted.  Send a thank you note after they call you with a recommendation.  Send them a media guide.  Create a monthly mailpiece that goes to the coach, and creates ongoing communication between you and them.  Here’s what else it does: It locks out your competition.  If one of their kids comes to them and asks, "Should I chose college A or college B, coach?", what do you want them to say?  You want them to choose you, of course.  Create the relationship before you need it so that when you need it, it’s already there.
  • Schedule a time to prospect.  I know most coaches hate recruiting.  It’s not what you got into coaching for, but now its part of your job.  So, do it the best you can.  That means spending time prospecting – calling coaches, calling new prospect leads, calling parents, e-mailing your prospects, etc.  But the key here is to have a set, scheduled time to make that happen.  It can’t happen in your "spare" time because, as we all know, you have none.  Make it a priority and schedule it.  If you need more advice on how to schedule that time and how to track your efforts to get the most out of your recruiting, get our book.  Coaches have been telling us it really has helped them in the way they approach recruiting. 

Three simple things, but they can make a big difference if they’re incorporated into your daily recruiting plan.

More On Eliminating Risk For Your ProspectsTuesday, August 22nd, 2006

A short time ago, we talked about eliminating risk for your prospects in one of our recent Tuesday Training Newsletters.  It spoke about the importance of taking away risk in the minds of your athletes, and how doing so can clear the way for getting their commitment for your program.

Well, your response was huge.  I got 50+ questions from coaches wanting some more thoughts on eliminating risk, and a strategy for doing so.  Enter trainer and consultant Dave Kahle, with his three point plan on addressing risk for your prospects.  He’s approaching it from a traditional "sales" point of view, but I’ll tie it in to recruiting at the college level.

  • Develop a closer relationship.  As Kahle puts it, "The closer the relationship, the lesser the risk.  The lesser the relationship, the greater the risk."  All true, to be sure.  If you’re a coach, its imperative that you form as much of a bond as possible with every prospect.  That means you need to talk about things other than sports, scholarships and your coaching experience.  Athletes want more.  They want to feel like they can trust you.  Once that happens, they’ll listen to what you have to say.
  • Make the deal tangible.  It can’t all be talk.  You need to get them on campus whenever possible, and get them to experience campus life up close and personal.  Can’t get all the prospects you want to come make a visit?  Get creative…give them virtual tours of the dorms.  Pictures of the gym.  Comments from players on why they like playing at the school, and how they’d do it all over again.  Those types of things can take a prospect’s thinking from theory to fact.  And once you’re dealing with facts, you can start to finalize a decision from your prospect.
  • Use proof.  Kahle notes, "Anything that you can add from someone else that in any way adds credibility, even if it only distantly or remotely is tied to what you’re offering, will go a long way to reducing risk."  If you’re a coach who wants to take recruiting to the next level, give your prospects testimonials and "profiles" of the athletes who are already playing in your program.  It’s a powerful way to get your prospect to connect with your school and team, and will then allow you to start talking seriously about what you could offer them if they chose your school.

Like we’ve said before, taking a prospect’s risk out of their decision making progress can help you land far better athletes more quickly, and with much less effort.  It takes the right questions, and it takes a clear focus on identifying and eliminating the risk in your prospect’s mind.

BOOK EXCERPT: Knowing Why You’re Asking the QuestionTuesday, August 22nd, 2006

In our book, "Selling for Coaches". we talk about how to ask great questions, what types of questions to ask, and – most importantly – why you’re asking those questions.

In this excerpt from the book, author and recruiting consultant Dan Tudor talks about the "why" behind a question, and how it can affect your relationship with your recruit:

Knowing why you ask certain questions.  Mainly, what will the question do to move the sales process forward?  Because that’s the only reason you should be asking questions in the first place.  If you aren’t asking questions with a specific goal or reason in mind, you’re wasting time.  Your time and the prospect’s time.  Your prospect doesn’t know what questions to ask you, and – as you’ve probably noticed – doesn’t take the initiative very often in asking serious questions.  They’re waiting for you to do that.  So, do it.  And have a reason for doing it.

 

In fact, its perfectly fine to tell the prospect why you are asking a question.  “I’d like to find out if our campus would be a good fit for you.  Do you like the idea of a large university setting for your college career?  And, if so, why is that?”  There are literally hundreds of questions along this line that you could ask a prospect.  Telling them why you’re asking it gives them the feeling that you are organized, smart and – most importantly – including the athlete in your process of determining if they are a good fit or not.

 

5 Critical Recruiting Mistakes YOU Might Be MakingTuesday, August 22nd, 2006

One of the first things Selling for Coaches does when we work one-on-one with an individual program or coach is go through a ten point check on how they go about recruiting now, and identify any mistakes they may be making in terms of their approach. 

 It’s usually pretty revealing, and we are almost always able to identify some mistakes that are being made by a coach when it comes to approaching the topic of recruiting.  Pointing out the mistakes someone is making is the first step in determining how to get better at what you’re doing, and is key in determining how we need to work with that individual coach or program.

There are five areas that we focus on, each one having the potential to really hamper recruiting efforts.  Even if you’re doing O.K. in four out of the five areas I’m going to talk about, that one area that you’re failing in can short-circuit your entire recruiting strategy.

What are the five critical recruiting mistakes that you need to make sure you’re not making?

  • Failing to Follow a Consistent Procedure.  I find that most coaches don’t have a set, measureable recruiting plan that establishes a week-by-week approach that coaches should take with their prospects.  If you don’t have that plan in place, you need to.  Whether its bringing me in to work with you in developing a winning strategy, or doing it yourself with your staff, it needs to be done.  It gives the the chance to measure results, follow a consistent strategy, target the right recruits, and get the results you’re hoping to get.  Do this first: Make sure you have some kind of recruiting plan in place, and make sure its a written plan.
  • Failing to Set An Objective for Your Prospect’s Commitment.  Here’s what I mean by that.  Coaches don’t often set up measureable goals for each recruiting contact they make.  If there is no goal, or no set desired outcome that a coach is gunning for on each particular contact, a coach risks extending out the recruiting process longer than it needs to be.  You should have a clear set of steps that you work through as you move deeper into the recruiting cycle, and each one of those steps need to have a desired outcome associated with them.  Once this happens, you will see that your conversations with prospects are clearer, and the conversations you have with them are much more productive.
  • Failing to Ask the Right Questions.  I’m working on a new book on this subject because I’ve found that coaches really struggle in coming up with creative, thought-provoking questions that actually help sell the prospect on you and your program.  Good questions are the key to engaging your prospect, and helping them feel a connection with you as a coach.  The "right" questions are ones that are open-ended, and cause the prospect to have to really think about the answer he or she is giving a coach.  My recommendation: Come up with five great questions you could ask any prospect, any time.  Write them down.  Commit them to memory.  And, always make sure they get asked at the start of your recruiting efforts with each prospect you begin recruiting.
  • Failing to Present Themselves Correctly.  One of the biggest mistakes I put under this category?  Talking too much.  It happens all the time…coaches feel the need to list all 106 things that are great about their program, their school, and their offer.  The problem?  You aren’t engaging your prospect.  Whey you’re "presenting", there is usually very little interaction.  The way you present your information can often determine if it gets heard at all.  Want a great tip on how to get your information out to your prospects and engage them in the process?  E-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com with the subject "I Want The Tip!" and I’ll give you a good strategy for engaging and informing your prospect. 
  • Failing to Ask For a Commitment.  I know, I know…those of you who read my tips regularly are probably getting tired of hearing this one.  But it’s important, and coaches still struggle with it.  They don’t ask for the prospect’s commitment, and don’t build in commitment goals to each part of the recruiting process.  You can do this easily, really.  By the types of questions you ask.  What your recruiting materials say.  How they say it.  Everything you do in recruiting should go towards asking for your prospect’s commitment to your program.  If you want more information on being effective in asking for a commitment from your prospect (i.e., "closing the sale") read our new book with an entire chapter devoted on the subject.

Are you making any one of these five critical recruiting mistakes?  Make sure you take action on correcting them, and get the training and information you need to get better at this critical part of your job as a coach and recruiter.  

Beating Other Coaches for RecruitsMonday, August 14th, 2006

 

 

The end of summer means the beginning of the battle for recruits with your fellow coaches.  Selling against your competition is probably the most important battle you’ll face outside of the sport that you coach, and just as important as the wins and losses during your season.

I got a question from a volleyball coach at a smaller school on this very topic.  She wrote:

"I have a top recruit who is looking at five schools, including ours.  Some are similar to us and others are major universities.  How do you tell the kid that you know that other schools, and those coaches, aren’t right for them without slandering those schools or coaches?  How do you say this tactfully and still keep the respect that the athlete and her parents have for you?"

Great question.  And, one that every coach faces at some point in each recruiting season.

Here are my five ways to beat other coaches for recruits…tactfully, without slandering them.

  • Find out what they like about the competition, then chip away at them.  Before you can chip away at the other guys, you need to know what your prospect perceives their strengths to be.  Ask them to list the strong-points of each of the other schools that are recruiting them.  As you hear the answers, reply to each one with a phrase like, "That’s interesting that you mention that, because actually we are stronger in that area than them."  Then, list why.  Even if they’re a bigger program, or more presitgious, this subtle reply works well.
  • Have the prospect create their own doubt about the competition.  A good way to do this is to ask your prospect, "As you’ve had the chance to get to know these other coaches that are recruiting you, what are some things that you’ve noticed that you don’t like that much about the coach, program and school?"  You might word the question differently, and that’s fine.  But the point is to get the prospect to start actively thinking about your competition’s weaknesses instead of their strengths.
  • Spend time connecting with your prospect.  This is a big focus in our two books, "Selling for Coaches" and "What They Didn’t Teach You About Recruiting".  Most coaches are too focused on "getting the sale" than they are about really connecting on a deep level with your prospect.  Ask questions of the athlete, and of their parents.  Spend time talking to their coach.  Invest your time in your prospect, and try to dig deep into the non-sports areas of their lives.  Coaches who do this usually beat their competition, and you always come across as more professional than your counterparts.
  • Make sure you overcome ALL your prospect’s objections to what you’re offering them.  This is another big topic in our book, and one that we’ll be focusing on with our members later this fall.  Why?  Because its the most important part of recruiting an athlete, and it may be something that your competition isn’t doing.  Find out specific objections your prospect has, and make sure they get addressed.  Each situation is so different, its hard to give a general technique that would work in any situation…e-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com with any specific question you have about the topic. 
  • Ask your prospect how they’d like to be recruited.  Here’s what I mean by that: Tell your prospect you really want to tailor a specific recruiting conversation to them personally, and then ask them how they’ll be making their decision.  What information do they need?  What questions do they need answered?  What’s important to them?  What aspect of your offer (you, your program, your college) means the most to them?  Most of your competition doesn’t ask these kind of direct questions.  But they should…they work! 

Competition is tough, and its only getting tougher.  Use these strategies to start to get an edge on your competition in the battle for recruits, and let us know if we can train you further on any of these techniques.

Message Boards Starting to Play a Big Role In RecruitingMonday, August 7th, 2006

Internet message boards and fan recruiting sites are big draws for fans and players.  Now, they’re becoming a big destination for college coaches, who find the need (and opportunity) to check in on the latest rumors and happenings surrounding the kids they’re recruiting.

From the article in the Palm Beach Post:

Coaches who read the boards have differing opinions.

"Sometimes they make sense, other times they’re just talking," Central Florida’s George O’Leary said.

Asked for his opinion about the boards, Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer wasn’t as tolerant: "You really want me to say? I don’t know if I can say all that and print it."

Like them or not, schools monitor the boards. Steve McClain, who heads the sports information department at Florida, has staff members check message-board content the same way they always have clipped newspaper articles about the program.

"When you think there’s no more room for growth, it continues to grow," McClain said of the message-board chatter. "It makes you wonder how much room there is for growth. But I wouldn’t be surprised if in five years I’m making the same statement."

Bare-bones Internet chat rooms sprung up in the mid-1990s, but were accessible primarily to the computer-savvy. A decade later, everyone can easily join the discussion.

"It’s not like it used to be, when everybody got up and read the sports page," Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley said. "Now everybody gets on and logs on to the Internet and either reads it or posts on it.

"It changes how people get to interact with the world of sports."

Click here for the entire article.

NCAA Thinking About Increasing Penalties for Academic FailureMonday, August 7th, 2006

Is your team struggling with meeting NCAA academic standards?  Better get your student-athletes straightened out quickly…more penalities are coming for programs who continue to fail in the classroom.  Here are the details, courtesy of the Associated Press: 

The NCAA is considering further punishment for teams that consistently fail to make the grade, including postseason bans and withholding tournament cash.

New penalty guidelines for schools with long-term academic problems was the biggest issue before the NCAA board at its meetings Wednesday and Thursday. Under the latest proposal, the worst offenders face a ban from postseason play and could lose their conference’s share of NCAA tournament money.

Other penalties on the table include restrictions on recruiting, scholarships and reduced playing seasons.

"We’re hoping the board acts on it," vice president Kevin Lennon told The Associated Press. Members were anticipating a vote Wednesday night, but results were not expected until Thursday.


Lennon’s group spent months debating the sanctions before finally settling on a system that increases the penalty for repeat offenders.

The NCAA is already implementing a system that will strip scholarships from teams that don’t do well in the classroom. It has collected data on each team’s graduation rate and academic eligibility for the past two years to determine a score, with 1,000 as the highest possible and penalties for anything below 925.

Those rules apply only to the short-term, however; the new penalties are based on a team’s average over several years. Under them, any team with an average score lower than 900 over a rolling four-year period would face the harshest sanctions.

Lennon said a score of 900 correlates with about a 50 percent graduation rate, a measure that’s intended to get teams’ attention and find "the worst of the worst."

If the recommendations are approved, teams with three-year averages of less than 900 will receive warning letters this fall; if they don’t improve next year, they face potential scholarship, recruiting and playing season reductions in 2007-08. One more year of bad marks brings a postseason ban, and another infraction would cost schools their conference’s share of NCAA tournament money.

"I think after three years, you’re starting to get a pretty good glimpse and you can start to see trends," Lennon said.

Myles Brand has consistently supported the formula since becoming NCAA president in 2003.

The proposal also allows reduced penalties for some schools that drop below guidelines in special cases. For instance, a team could be granted a waiver if its graduation rate is higher than the overall student body’s; or if resources on campus aren’t up to par.

Even in those cases, the teams would have to show improvement to escape penalty.

"I think people realize we’ve made reasonable adjustments, and I think some folks have a certain level of confidence in the committee," Lennon said. "We’ll see how the whole board reacts."

How to End Your Prospect’s Silent TreatmentMonday, August 7th, 2006

Well, here we are…the start of another recruiting season.  You’re checking your lists, making your assessments, and eyeing your top picks. 
For a lot of college coaches, this time of year also marks the start of frustration: Prospects who give you the "silent treatment" after you’ve started recruiting them.  Nothing is more frustrating than investing time and money into a prospect you really want for your program, only to have that athlete seemingly disappear into thin air. No returned phone calls. No returned e-mails.
Nothing.
In short, they’re giving you the silent treatment. One coach that I’m working with has had a big problem with this. He’s running into a brick wall when it comes to "closing the deal" and getting a commitment. A big source of the problem, as we’ve discovered, centers around what we’re talking about here: Prospects that just quit communicating.
First, it’s important for you to understand why that is probably happening: They either aren’t interested in your program, or they are interested but feel uncomfortable asking you for more information (kids don’t often feel comfortable in taking the initiative to speak with you about concerns they have, so they just keep quiet). Either way, the important thing to do is to connect with them through personal communication. E-mails and letters aren’t personal communication. Talking with them in person or on the phone is personal communication. What does this do for you? A few important things:
  • You regain your confidence. When you have a lot of pending decisions hanging out there, you tend to start questioning your sales and recruiting ability. You blame yourself for failing to get another great prospect. You become negative. You get down on yourself. Talking personally with your prospect erases the doubt and mystery, helping you to regain your confidence.
  • You eliminate stress. Having ten, twenty or thirty prospects that you’re waiting to hear back from is extremely stressful. Once you nail down a final answer from your prospect, that stress is eliminated. You know where you stand, and know where you need to go from here. You’re crossing prospects off your list who aren’t serious "buyers" of your product (your program).
  • You stop acting like a salesperson. Once you know what a prospect is thinking, you can stop acting like a desperate salesperson. There are times when it’s time to walk away and focus your energy on other prospects. After speaking with a prospect personally, you may find that time is now. Breath a sigh of relief…you don’t have to keep-up the high pressure sales tactics anymore!  We go in-depth on the subject of effective, natural selling techniques in our new book, "Selling for Coaches".  If you need help developing your sales and communication skills, get the book today!

How do you do it? Simple:

  • Call your prospect on the phone. Don’t leave a message. Keep calling back until you get them live on the phone. It’s imperative at this stage of your selling process that you speak with them live, one-on-one. Messages, e-mails, voicemails…none of those things cut it. You need to speak with your prospect live.
  • Take responsibility for the problem. Ease your prospect’s concerns and their uncomfortable feelings by taking the blame (even if it’s not your fault…and it probably isn’t): "Hey Amy, it’s Coach Jenkins. First, its great to talk to you. I wanted to apologize for not doing a good job of getting us together on the phone, and to let you know that I’m sorry that I dropped the ball. I think I could have given you some better information so that you’d have a chance to really understand what a great program we have going here. You’ve probably already made a commitment with another program, which is fine, so really all I’m doing is checking in to get your feedback as to how I can improve for the next prospect I talk to."

By taking responsibility, you release them from feeling guilty for not replying. They’re off the hook. It’s all on your shoulders now, which opens up the lines of communication again.

Secondly, you’re telling them that you’re assuming they’ve made their decision already, and that they probably chose another school. Again, you’re taking away that embarrassed feeling they have inside if they did choose another school. But, if they are still undecided, you’ve opened the door again…they’ll quickly correct you and let you know that they are still looking. At that point, you’re "back in the game" and can have a conversation with them about committing to your program.

It takes practice. The coach I’m working with through our Selling For Coaches program can vouch for that. But in the end, this practice is well worth the effort. You’ll either eliminate a lot of stress, or sign a lot of athletes you may have previously assumed were long gone. Or both!

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