Dan Tudor

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Manipulate or Collaborate: The Choice Is Yours, CoachMonday, September 25th, 2006

There are two ways I’ve seen college coaches approach recruiting athletes.  One works.  One works well.

Your two choices when it comes to recruiting an athlete is to recruit and negotiate "manipulatively" or "collaboratively".

There are big differences between the two… 

Manipulative negotiating sees you and your athlete (and their family) as adversaries. Tactics include exerting your power and hiding your own nonverbal communications. There is a lot of mistrust, tension, and suspicion. When you’re a "manipulator" your goal is to win. The focus is on single answers and positions–"This is what I want!" It’s hardball negotiating. If you are making a one-time negotiation and you’re not going to see the people anymore, perhaps you can get away with it, but it’s not a healthy practice when you take into account that you’ll be coaching your prospects for years to come.

The collaborative negotiator, on the other hand, sees the participants – you and your prospect – as problem solvers looking for a mutually satisfactory solution. It’s a process that both parties can walk away from and feel comfortable that neither one was "had." It relies on trust, openness, credibility and honesty. The goal is a wise and fair outcome for all parties. The focus is on multiple options, within your reason and budget as a coach. Coaches who take this approach see many ways to satisfy both parties’ needs, not just one.

Everybody – every coach, every recruiter, every sales professional – should have a negotiating philosophy.  You must have a clear vision of what it is you want out of the negotiation (i.e., recruiting phone call, home visit, hosting a campus visit) before you begin that process.  Sales author Tony Alassandra has a negotiating philosophy that he stands by as tried-and-true: "When two people want to do business with each other, they will not let the details stand in the way. However, when two people do not want to do business with each other, the details will rarely pull the deal together."

If a prospect and their family really want to play for you and go to your school, they’ll be more apt to give ground and find a way to make compromises if it leads to a chance to play for you.

So, my question to you is: Do you think that being a "manipulative" negotiator is a better way make that happen?  Or, does it make sense that being a "collaborative" negotiator will get your prospects to come closer to what you’re offering them?  That’s an easy answer, isn’t it coach?

What’s the best way to be a collaborative negotiator? 

  • Ask questions that put the athlete first.
  • Don’t talk about "limits" or "rules".  Find out what the athlete would want from you if there were not boundaries, and then back in to what makes sense for you and what complies with NCAA rules.
  • Connect with the athlete first, negotiate second.  Don’t rush getting to the negotiating part of your relationship.  Build a foundation first, then go from there.  If you need help in making better connections with your athlete and his or her family, get our book, "Selling for Coaches".  It has an entire chapter on "connecting with athletes", and what that really means.

5 Ways to Boost Your Coaching Self-ConfidenceMonday, September 25th, 2006

When you read that title, you might say to yourself, "What does boosting my self-confidence have to do with getting the edge in recruiting?"

A lot, coach.

Self-confidence is the difference between being good and being great.  Great coaches, and great recruiters, have a self-confidence that’s second to none.  They exude self-confidence when they’re on the phone, and when they’re in front of the same prospect you’re recruiting. 

And you know what?  The prospect picks-up on that self confidence, too.  Self-confidence is contagious, and the coach that has it usually has a great team of recruits year after year after year.  So today, coach, lets put our normal discussion of selling and communication skills aside and focus on your self-confidence.  If you sometimes struggle with living up to competition…if you feel like you’re not measuring up to other coaches on your staff…if you’re feeling depressed about the direction your college coaching career is headed, then today is for you.

Here are five great ways to boost your coaching self-confidence.  These aren’t "tricks", they are time-tested strategies for improving your psychological outlook and improve your own mental self-image in the dog-eat-dog profession that you’ve chosen for yourself!  Here we go…

1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Your probably tend to evaluate yourself in relation to other coaches.  Those in your athletic department, and those that you compete against. The problem is, you don’t really know what’s going on with another person. You can’t know why they do what they do or what motivates their behavior. In fact, someone who looks "confident" may just be another shy person covering up his own insecurities and doubts.  Believe me, I get the chance to talk and work with a lot of coaches that fit into this category.  That’s one of the reasons I wrote "Selling for Coaches"…to help coaches get the skills they need to become better recruiters and feel more confident in their recruiting abilities. 
Instead of focusing on other coaches, shift your attention back to yourself. The only reasonable comparison to make is between your past and your present performances. Bring your attention to your goals and to the actions you need to take to achieve them.
2. Set Self-Confidence Goals.
Choose one area of your self-confidence that needs work, and break it down into small, manageable, measurable steps or actions.
Let’s say your goal is to get over your shyness when it comes to picking up the phone and developing relationships with new prospects. The actions you could take might be something like: Devote one scheduled hour to do nothing but make new contacts… Call three high school coaches daily for tips on prospects and to build your recruiting network … Read one book a month on overcoming shyness until you’ve done it.
Write them down and post them on the bathroom mirror or next to your computer. Review them every morning. With persistence … a little here, a little there … you’ll be overcoming whatever your weakness is with ease.
3. Take time to prepare.
Don’t waste time trying to talk yourself into "feeling" confident. Instead, focus on preparation. The better you know your stuff, the more confident you will feel. For instance, all this Fall, coaches who have signed-on to be SFC Members are getting specialized, focused training in handling and overcoming objections.  In the end, they’ll be better than most coaches they go up against in understanding and handling their prospect’s objections.  So whether you join other coaches and get additional training from SFC, or do it yourself, make sure you set aside time in advance to practice or to think through all the possible scenarios and how you would respond to them and get better at these critical sales and communication skills.
4. Visualize another reality.
Before a stressful event (game situation, recruiting, new job interview), take a few minutes to create a positive mental picture for yourself. Instead of imagining yourself being singled out and interrogated by a crazy parent, imagine yourself among a circle of friends who are all there to work together towards the athlete’s best interest. Instead of picturing the in-home recruiting visit as an intimidating mob scene with nervous parents and an athlete that barely says anything, think of it as a series of one-on-one conversations with individuals who look to you as a valued expert on college recruiting.  Picture yourself as their "guide" through this process.  Creating a positive mental reality will help calm you and sharpen your focus on the task ahead:  The successful recruitment of your prospect. 
5. Think small.
You can’t expect to suddenly transform yourself into a recruiting superstar. But you can do little things that will gradually get you to your goal. For example, when talking on the phone, smile. The person on the other end will respond to the positive energy in your voice. And get in the habit of systematically stretching yourself and expanding your comfort zone, a bit further each time. For example, when you meet prospects, parents or even fellow coaches for the first time, greet them with a firm handshake, smile, and look directly into their eyes for a moment longer than may be comfortable for you.  You’ll make a positive impression with them, and show your self-confidence in the process.

Not all five of these techniques might be best for you personally, but I’m sure at least one or two are.  Try them.  Even if you think you have all the self-confidence you need, it never hurts to reinforce those positive thoughts with a few more. 

BOOK EXCERPT: “The Danger of Not Overcoming Objections”Monday, September 18th, 2006

In our new book, "Selling for Coaches", author and recruiting expert Dan Tudor lays out what he calls "the ten big mistakes college coaches make when they’re recruiting."  One of those mistakes Dan identifies: Not overcoming objections.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

"Every coach is going to encounter objections which are raised by a parent or athlete that they’re recruiting. Good coaches, bad coaches, successful programs, struggling programs…they all get faced with objections.

Typical objections a prospect might raise to a coach who is recruiting them might be, “I don’t think you play a competitive schedule” or “The other coach said I’d play sooner if I signed with them” or “Your school is too far away.”

There are, of course, a million and one other potential objections. Sales professionals also get them all the time, every day, with every prospect. Talented salespeople know that they have to overcome those objections as quickly as possible.

There are several sales strategies that can be effective in answering objections, which we train coaches to use in our Selling for Coaches program. Suffice it to say that, as a recruiter (a.k.a., “salesperson”), you need to address every objection that is raised by a prospect as soon as possible. Objections left unanswered now will mean rejection later, which means that any and all objections need to be overcome if you hope to sign them and have them play in your program.

Make it your mission to seek out any objections made during your ongoing discussions with a prospect and eliminate them in the mind of your prospect."

There are nine other "big mistakes" that coaches make when it comes to recruiting.  To get the free "Ten Big Mistakes" report, just e-mail Dan at dan@sellingforcoaches.com with the subject line of "Send me the free report" and we’ll get it over to you right away.  Find out if you are making any of these BIG mistakes!

The Secret to Uncovering REAL ObjectionsMonday, September 18th, 2006

For those of you who are Selling for Coaches members, our fall training begins this week as we kick-off our in-depth study of objections:  Why they happen, how to recognize them, the secrets of overcoming them, and even strategies on how to turn objections into recruiting opportunities.

Today, we want to give everyone one big secret to uncovering real objections from your prospects (if you’re a member, look for the other five secrets throughout this week).  The first secret involves listening.  Really listening.

Why is that so important?  Because it will reveal the first secret of uncovering real objections:  If your prospect’s objection is real, they will usually repeat that objection more than once during your conversation.  That’s a big indicator that whatever the objection is, its real…and it needs to be overcome before you can expect your prospect to begin to move towards any kind of commitment to you and your program.

Looking for this secret also will tell you if your prospect is stalling.  Letting your prospect talk out their feelings completely – without much interruption from you – will give you an indication if they are stalling, or if their objections are real. 

Recognizing "stalls" is just as important as recognizing when your prospect is truly objecting to something.  Stalling by your prospect indicates that they have an unanswered objection that has not been satisfactorily addressed by you.  And it needs to be before you can expect to get deeper into the recruiting process. 

How can you dig out a real objection?  If you think your prospect might be stalling, try using some questioning like this:

  • "You’ve told me ______________, but I think you might actually be thinking something else.  What could that be?"
  • "Don’t you really mean _________________ ?"
  • "Usually when an athlete tells me that, it means that they (objection).  Is that the case with you?"
  • "Sometimes prospects that I talk to have a question about (objection).  Is that something that’s on your mind?"

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course.  But hopefully it gives you a good start when it comes to identifying an objection (a real objection, that is) and identifying stalls by your prospects.

Overcoming objections is THE key factor in successful recruiting.  That’s why we’re making sure our SFC Members are going to get the best training possible when it comes to overcoming objections.  Whether you get training from us or become an expert on your own, learning to overcome objections is vital for your coaching and recruiting career.

New Website the Latest Front in the Battle For ProspectsTuesday, September 12th, 2006

As fast as technology is changing today, it shouldn’t surprise me that web geeks are coming up with new and creative ways to promote your college program to fans and prospects.  But here’s the latest incarnation of reaching out to football prospects, a blog called www.everygamecounts.blogspot.com

Blogs are great tools for coaches (do you have one yet?), and this is now being used to have athletes get to know that programs that are recruiting them.

Here’s the whole story, courtesy of TheState.com in South Carolina:

With the new college football season underway, there is a new virtual water cooler for the sport’s most ardent, and chatty, fans.

NCAAfootball.com now includes a blog, which can be linked to off the main page or by clicking on EveryGameCounts.blogspot.com.

The site was already a gateway to scores, statistics, schedules, polls and news updates on teams from Division I to Division III. This week, a new push began to involve the fans.

“NCAA Football’s charge is celebrating all of college football, and our new blog is a contemporary way that we can reach out to fans and enlist them to perpetuate the NCAA Football brand, " David Bertram, NCAA Football’s Executive Director said.

NCAA Football’s website was created in 1997 to promote college football. It is a joint venture between the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), the Collegiate Commissioners Association (CCA) and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. (NACDA).

A group called Sports Media Challenge, created in 1988 to help teams and sports personalities market themselves, is venturing with NCAA Football to create the new blog.

The plan calls for the blog to feature celebrity guests, audio and video of classic games, coaches interviews and bloopers.

A section dedicated to fan spirit will feature tailgating recipes, cheerleaders and bands, and, of course, a place for fans to discuss the games (read: talk trash).

In a press release last week, NCAA Football said coaches Mack Brown of Texas, Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee and Charlie Weis of Notre Dame have already committed to contribute guest blogs.

Here’s a warning to fans:

Like everything else in college sports, I see the potential for a firestorm over unfair recruiting advantages. If the coaches of those three heavyweight programs guest blog, you can bet the coaches of lesser programs won’t be far behind. Thankfully, there is plenty of room for all of them in cyberspace.

Even though Tennessee is coming off a losing season, the Vols are already out in front on the blog. The front page on Friday featured a Q&A with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning talking about the virtues of Tennessee’s program.

Earlier in the week, a blog entry referenced Matthew McConaughey (complete with a photo in an obvious ploy to attract female fans) and his love for Texas football. Again, there’s room for everyone.

Monday night’s Miami-Florida State showdown was also a popular topic.

The Internet is chock full of message boards and blogs dedicated to discussing, dissecting and launching dissertations on college football teams. So what do the designers of this new site think will set it apart?

“Our goal is to create a virtual stadium where the college game is king every day of the week and fans can share their passion,” said Kathleen Hessert, Sports Media Challenge’s president.

Sounds like a lofty goal to be sure.

But, in the end, it’s another outlet for fans to display their obsession with college football.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.


Wishy-Washy Prospects Are Driving This Coach CrazyTuesday, September 12th, 2006

They say they’re interested.  They’re acting like they’re interested.  But in the end, nothing comes from weeks of recruiting effort, and the coach sits back and wonders what in the world is going on.

That’s the real life scenario that I addressed with a coach this week.  He’s at a very prestigious east coast university, but is having trouble with prospects who seem to be "shopping" him against other universities, other coaches, and other offers.

Part of his question to me:

"Here’s an example from last season, Dan: I had a manageable list of 20-21 candidates. Eighteen applied, (one Early Decision -admit) five were over their heads – even with my support would not (should not) be at our univeristy…fine. Two were destined for ‘admit’ but widthdrew their application.

"So, we had eight admits, four on their own, four as supported athletes. Of the four supported athletes, each had assured me that we were #1 or top three on their list.  We did a followup visit in the Spring, and everything was looking good, right? We only wound up with a net of one of the eight.

"It really seems that they juggle coaches and institutions until they see who offers the best financial aid package. In fact, five of my eight admits will not even play the sport in college after all!"

Here’s my take, and my recommendations to this coach.  Realize that your prospects are much more sophisticated than they were even just 5 or 6 years ago. The information age has been a huge equalizer in the whole recruiting process.

Also understand that you’re viewing them as "athletic prospects", but they are also consumers. Buyers. Customers. And our culture has taught them to "shop" and to "get the best deal". It sounds like that is what’s happening in this case…this coach is being kept on the line, so to speak.

Now, here’s the good news: That happens to every salesperson, in every industry, every day in the business world. Customers will keep you interested until they make their final buying decision. That benefits them, but can be extremely frustrating for the person doing the selling (as many of you already know). You should keep this in mind as you recruit this year’s class.

You should have a pre-planned strategy to combat this and to drill down and get the real thoughts and feelings of your prospect…to try and get down to what they’re really thinking and feeling about your program.

The coach who asked me this question then made a comment that was actually the real answer to his dilemma:

"I’d like to just ask the student (or their parents) " Are you juggling your options until finance comes through or do you have genuine interest in my program, hence deserving of my support?"

Its funny that he said "as much as I’d like to ask" because that is a great question to ask! Maybe it could go something like this:

"I’ve found that a lot of parents and athletes are kind of shopping opportunities when it comes to fencing in college. And I understand why you might be doing that…its a big decision. And for me, it doesn’t really matter if you are or not. I’m really interested in having you come to our university, and want to show you why its the greatest school in the world for an athlete like you. But, I’d like to know this: Are you going to juggle your options and talk to other coaches until you get the financial package you want? I’m asking that because we can get you a great package, but there’s a lot of time and effort that I have to put in to jump through all the hoops for you here at our university. If you’re not ready to say that you’re really serious about our school, that’s OK…we can talk more until you reach that point, but I won’t start seriously putting a package together. But if you can tell me that you’re really serious about us, and you think that I might be offering you a chance that’s a good fit for you, then I’ll get to work and get you the best package I can as soon as possible. So, tell me how you think we should proceed…"

You can probably word it better than I, but you get the general idea. His gut feeling of asking them directly is right on the money. That way, you don’t waste a lot of time on lukewarm interest and you get to see which prospects need more convincing and education about your program.

Asking the question in this manner also lets them understand that there’s an unspoken "commitment" of sorts in them telling you to go ahead and start putting the package together.  There is time and effort involved on your part, and they’re understanding that and moving forward anyway.  It’s a great "trial close" strategy that will save you time, lets the prospect know that you’re aware they might be looking at other schools, and gives you a better sense of who is serious and who isn’t.

Ask "trial close" questions as much as possible throughout the recruiting process…they’re a great indicator of where your prospect’s head is at in terms of a commitment.  If you want more information or strategies for asking good trial close questions, and why they’re important in the recruiting process, order our book "Selling for Coaches".  If you’re really serious about getting extra training and recruiting development, become a SFC member.

Fall Member Training Topics AnnouncedTuesday, September 5th, 2006

Selling for Coaches kicks off their 2006 Fall Member Training later this week, focusing on the topic of objections during the months of September, October and November.  The topic was an overwhelming choice of SFC Members, who say they want training on how to recognize objections when they happen, and then effectively answer those objections for their prospects.

"It’s a great topic," says Dan Tudor, President of Selling for Coaches.  "We’ve never taken one topic like this and focused on all of the different sides of the subject before, so we’re excited to provide this focused training during the next few months."

The training sessions will happen through e-mail, teleseminars, CD’s and video e-mails throughout the next three months.  Members will be able to interact personally with Dan Tudor and the SFC staff with their own questions and unique situations, finding customized answers that will help them at their particular program and school.

"We’re excited about the topic, and even more enthused about the response from people who want the edge and are looking for this kind of training," says Tudor.  "Our membership is up about 30% from this time last year, and we’ve kept most of our past members on for this new topic.  Coaches seem to be getting a lot out of the training we’re providing to them, which is really satisfying for us."

If individual coaches want to sign-up for the training, the cost is just $29.00 per month.  Members’ credit cards are charged the monthly fee as long as they remain SFC Members, and can cancel at any time without penalty or notice.  Individual coaches can sign-up this week in time for the beginning of the session which starts Friday, September 8th by clicking here.

Athletic Directors can also sign-up their entire department for training for the discounted group rate of $295.00 per month, with no limit as to the number of coaches or staff taking part in the training sessions.  "We’ve added this feature for our courses at the request of A.D.’s who wanted a simple, inexpensive way to give their staff the edge in recruiting over their competition," says Tudor.  "Based on the response we’ve received so far, we know that this is going to be a popular option for colleges this fall and beyond."  Athletic Directors can sign-up their program for the training program quickly and easily by clicking here.  After signing-up, a SFC staff member will follow-up with details on getting started working with your college.

"We really feel that the training we give coaches is making a difference," says Tudor.  "That’s what makes it so satisfying for us.  We get to see coaches become better recruiters, which translates into better performance, which means their careers are headed in the right direction.  We love it."

For more information on the 2006 Fall Training or becoming a member of Selling for Coaches, contact Dan Tudor at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.

How to Turn Objections Into QuestionsTuesday, September 5th, 2006

In our book, "Selling for Coaches", we spend some time talking to coaches about a great sales technique called "feel, felt, found."  Lots of you have told me that you’ve used this line of reasoning with your prospects, with good results.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, the concept of "feel, felt, found" is simple: Let’s say that your prospect is raising an objection about the location of your school…it’s too cold for them, and they aren’t looking to play at a place where it snows frequently.  You might answer them, using this technique, by saying, "I understand how you feel, Susan.  In fact, a lot of prospect that I talk to have felt the same way when they were first looking into playing at our program.  But what they found when they looked more closely was that it only snows here about a month out of the year, and its actually kind of fun to go skiing, snowboarding, and all of the winter sports you can do with snow on the ground."  That’s the technique, and when its used properly it works wonderfully. 

But I’m also starting to hear back from some of you that while you love the concept, the exact wording of the "feel, felt, found" technique can sound repetitive.  So, here’s another strategy that keeps with the spirit of the "feel, felt, found" technique while making it sound completely different.

Restate your prospect’s objection as a question.  This is a great strategy that can get you out of "defending" a negative about your program, and get you into being a "problem solver" instead.

Here’s how it might work, using the same example as I outlined above.  Turn the objection into a question:  "So really, Susan, your question is what are the advantages of playing at a school that get’s some snow for about a month out of the year?"  Or, "So what you’re asking, Susan, is why would you want to come play for us when it snows most of December?"  As you ask this question, it’s important to nod your head.  That may sound like a stupid detail, but its important.  It gets your prospect to agree with the premise you are re-stating, and helps to transition their objection into a question.

Once you’ve asked the question, you can use the same principles of "feel, felt, found" to lead your prospect through your answer and line of reasoning:

"That’s a great question because a lot of prospects I talk to initially ask the same question about the cold weather during December and the fact that we get some snow."

"And you know how our players would answer you right now if they were here?  They’d say that its a blast and a great time of the year because they go skiing, snowboarding and do all the cool stuff that goes along with having some snow on the ground for a while.  In fact, most of them wish it would last longer…because the warm weather comes back pretty quickly."

That’s just one example of how to use the technique.  If you’ve read the book, you know that you can combine that strategy with a lot of other techniques to ensure that you don’t sound like a broken "feel, felt, found" record in front of your prospect.  Now, you can add this technique of turning an objection into a question to your mix.  You will probably like the results!