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.