Dan Tudor

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NCAA Struggles to Police High-Tech RecruitingMonday, January 29th, 2007

It’s an ongoing struggle for the NCAA to keep up with the newest, latest, most up-to-date ways that coaches are able to communicate with their prospects.  It’s a daunting task, as told in this great article by Tulsa World sports writer John Hoover:

Technology, it seems, is limited only by the imagination.

It is not, at this time, limited by the NCAA.

A long time ago, the NCAA placed limits on the number of phone calls a college recruiter could make to a prospective recruit. But a long time ago, there was no such things as text messaging, instant messaging, video conferencing or MySpace.com.

What in the name of Buck Rogers has happened to recruiting?

"It’s constant," says Terrance Toliver. "But I think it’s a good thing."

How to Know If Your Prospect Is Ready to CommitMonday, January 29th, 2007

One of our Premium Members had a quandry: They were pretty sure that a soccer recruit she had been recruiting for several months had finally made up her mind to sign with our Member’s school.  But she didn’t want to ”push” the athlete.  She didn’t want to make her prospect think she was “desperate” to sign her (which she was, by the way!).  Still, our coach really wanted to know.

What we trained her to do was to start asking effective trial close questions.  Specifically, questions that would give her insight into what her prospect was thinking, making it easier for her to know when it was time to ask for that final commitment.  “Trial close” questions are part of the arsenal of every business sales professional in today’s world, and in our book, “Selling for Coaches”, we train college coaches to use the same effective strategy to better guage their recruit’s frame of mind.

Here’s a sample of the strategy we outline in the book that you can use to interact more effectively with prospects that you are talking to:

“Once you handle objections that are raised by your prospect and the family, you are a step closer to gaining their acceptance of you and your program as their college choice.  But you can’t stop there.  There are two more important steps in the selling process that need to take place.  One of those steps is to use a few effective “trial close” techniques with your prospect, or his or her parents.  What is a trial close?  Simply put, it’s a question that gauges the athlete’s interest level in your offer and your program by assuming the athlete has made a commitment by the type of question that you ask.

An example of how that kind of a question may sound would be, “When you move on campus next fall, do you think you want to room with another athlete or with a regular student?”  Or, another one might be, “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, have you talked about how often you might be able to come see Jenny play at our school?”

Do you hear the tone of the question? It already assumes that the athlete is coming to your school in the way that you ask the question.  The key to an effective trial close question is in the answer that’s given by your prospect or their parents.  Do they answer in such a way that tells you they’re assuming that they will be committed to your program next year?  Have they already pictured themselves at your college and on your team?  If the answer in your mind, as you’re listening to them, is “yes” then you’ve probably sold them on your offer.  Way to go!  If they answer your question with, “I don’t know…I’ve never really thought about that before” or “Man, I don’t know…that’s a tough one” or “we haven’t talked about that”, then you know that you have more work to do.

The value of trial close questions, as we go on to outline in this special recruiting guide for college coaches, is that it gives recruiters good indicators of what their prospect is thinking.  That allows smart coaches to do a few key things:

  • Know when to ask for their commitment without the risk of appearing to be “pushy”.
  • Better understand the mindset of their prospect.
  • Uncover what objections remain unresolved in the mind of their prospect.
  • Keep control over the entire recruiting process.

Develop a list of effective trial close questions that you think you can incorporate on a regular basis during your closing recruiting conversations.  Doing so will give you an added degree of confidence in your recruiting efforts.

Insider Secrets to Getting Local TV News to Help You Build Your Program’s ReputationMonday, January 29th, 2007

"Most athletic departments really don’t know how to go about getting local media attention in a way that would benefit their programs."

That’s the claim made by Charlie Adams, a former award-winning television sports director who spent most of his career covering the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend, Indiana.  Adams is now a motivational speaker and leadership training guru, and also serves as one of the media experts and Recruiting Solutions Consultant at Selling for Coaches.

What are some of the mistakes that college sports information directors and coaches make when they seek out TV media promotion of their program?

  • Colleges focus too much on stats, records and game data.  "What many college programs don’t understand is that this kind of stuff isn’t what gets the interest of the majority of their local and regional fan base", says Adams.  Instead, coaches and SID’s need to be more personality focused in the stories they recommend.  "Coaches have the chance to reach the non-sports fans when they get profiled on local TV news.  And those fans don’t care about statistics; they want to know about the stories behind the athletes and coaches at the college."
  • Colleges don’t contact local TV at the right time.  "This one’s a biggie," says Adams.  "Many coaches and sports information directors don’t understand how important it is to get your story to the local stations between 2pm and 3pm, when sportscasters aren’t up against a deadline and don’t have time to let the story sink in."  Adam’s recommendation?  Call early or mid-afternoon, and follow it up with an e-mail.
  • Giving long, complicated story ideas.  Be brief, but give them the important facts.  "Don’t make your local TV sports department search for information or read between the lines," says Adams.  "Give them a good idea, and then the nuggets of information to run with it."
  • Not giving them "the hook".  What exactly is the hook?  "We’re looking for a story that will be different from the normal pre-game or post-game sound bites," says Adams.  "News directors and sportscasters are under pressure to air stories that will appeal to the non-sports fans as well as your local sports nuts.  Therefore, they look for stories that are going to be personality driven, human interest pieces."  When you pitch a story idea to local TV, savvy college coaches and athletic departments have to ask themselves, "What’s the hook with this story I’m calling them about?"

Adams says that most college athletic departments under-utilize their local sports media, and says that they are missing an opportunity to increase their recruiting visability and build their fan support base through effective relationships with their local media. 

Dan Tudor, President of Selling for Coaches, agrees.  "When we work with athletic departments and coaches who are SFC Premium Members, more often than not the conversation gets around to how they are promoting their ‘brand’ to the public.  And in today’s world, a big part of any college’s public relations effort is centered around television media in their local region."

Because of this need for a better understanding of how coaches can use their local media to promote themselves and their program, Adams will be leading a session on how to successfully work with local media at this weekend’s SFC Recruiting Kick-Off Conference in Indianapolis.

The session will focus on:

  • How to get the attention of local TV meda
  • What kinds of stories your area media are really looking for
  • Tips for submitting stories that will bring positive attention to your program
  • How to use local TV to improve your recruiting efforts
  • The most common mistakes coaches make dealing with their local media

"If a coach has ever wondered how to effectively use their local sports media to promote their program and advance their recruiting efforts, we’ll give them the secrets this weekend," says Adams. 

Our FREE Webinar: “13 Reasons Coaches Fail at Recruiting”Monday, January 22nd, 2007

Selling for Coaches is very excited to announce the first in an ongoing series of fast-paced, educational training webinars for college coaches.

Our first webinar is entitled "13 Reasons Coaches Fail at Recruiting".  It takes place this Thursday, January 25th, at 1:00 P.M. EST (10 A.M. PST).  It’s 27 minutes long, and it costs nothing.  Totally free for coaches who are interested.

You’ll learn why some coaches fail at recruiting, and what to do about it.  We’ll give you strategies and tips on how to avoid being a recruiting failure, and instead becoming a recruiting star for your college program.

Again, this webinar is free, but there are a limited number of virtual seats that are available.  So, if you’d like to sit in on this week’s webinar, register now while space is available. 

It’s just one of the new training methods we’re rolling out for college coaches who want to become dominant recruiters.  Join us for this week’s webinar!

Four Signs a Coach Is FailingMonday, January 22nd, 2007

Not failing as a coach on the field.  Failing as a recruiter in front of prospects.

That’s where we see more struggles for college coaches.  They’re great at the X’s and O’s of their respective sport.  But when it comes to managing the emotions and the recruiting cycle with one of their recruits, they struggle.  Some even fail.

"Failure" is not so much about inexperience or insecurity as it is about a lack of proper execution.  As renowned speaker and author Zig Ziglar points out, "Failure is an event, not a person."  College coaches aren’t "born failures".  There’s no such thing!  They just haven’t learned to identify some of the warning signs of failure that might be present in their professional life.

What are four of those signs that a college coach might be about to cross the line and enter the failure zone?  Here’s our list:

  1. Coaches who are failing to do their best at recruiting.  That sounds rather basic, I know, but its probably a good sign that there is a danger of failing as a college coach.  Why?  Because most college coaches do their best at everything else associated with their job:  Strategy, coaching techniques, and anything else revolving around their sport?  They’re on it.  Following a plan to contact recruits on a regular, step-by-step basis?  They don’t show the same enthusiasm.  Are you making sure you’re approaching recruiting with the same passion and attention to detail that you exhibit as a coach with your players? 
  2. Coaches who are failing to learn how to recruit.   Recruiting is not a natural skill that coaches are just born with.  Likewise, selling skills aren’t something that sales and business professionals are just born with.  The difference between the two?  Sales and business professionals are forced to learn those skills when they go to work.  Big companies put a lot of time and money into their corporate training programs.  They know that their frontline sales and marketing force is the key to their business.  And they invest in it.  As a coach, are you actively pursuing resources and opportunities to get the sales, communication and recruiting skills you need to be the best?  They’re out there, coach. 
  3. Coaches who are failing to accept responsibility.  Did you lose a recruit, perhaps due to a mistake or lack of effort on your part?  Did you take a short cut in your recruiting duties and had it come back to bite you?  Worse yet, in both situations, did you manage to wiggle out taking the blame for those shortcomings?  Not a good sign, coach.  Coaches who see areas of improvement that need to be addressed in the way that they recruit, but fail to do so, run the risk of becoming a true failure at recruiting.  Accept responsibility for mistakes that you’ve made, and then do something to correct them.  Are you taking an honest look at the way you’re going about recruiting?
  4. Coaches who are failing to meet their pre-set recruiting goals.  You do have recruiting goals, right coach?  The number of contacts you want to make, or the number of new high school coaches you want to develop relationships with, or the amount of phone calls you and your staff need to make every week to prospects you’re interested in?  It’s vital that you have something to measure your performance against.  Setting goals is crucial, meeting them is even more crucial.  Are you meeting your pre-set recruiting goals for this school year?

One more thing, coach.  Do you approach recruiting with a positive attitude?  A "can do" attitude?  If you aren’t, it’s showing to your prospects.  And that’s not good. 

Recruiting is a vital part of your job as a college coach.  If you’ve seen any one (or more) of these failure danger signs in your regular recruiting life, its time you take a serious look at what you need to do to improve your performance in the recruiting world, so that you can continue to enjoy success as a coach in your sports world.

The Question That Gets to the Bottom Of ItMonday, January 15th, 2007

One of the questions that coaches are quick to ask us here at SFC revolves around the issue of knowing how a prospect actually decides on a college that is recruiting him or her. In other words, if two or three schools are actively pursuing an athlete and each school is vying for his or her commitment, how do you know (as one of the coaches recruiting that athlete) how they will arrive at a decision?

There’s no need to wonder about it. In fact, there’s one simple question that can help erase all the mystery when it comes to the decision making process of a prospect. Here’s the question: "How will you make your final decision?"

That’s it??

Yes, that’s it. Cut to the chase and ask the athlete up-front how they will be making their decision on which college to go to and which offer to accept. After the athlete answers, here’s another important question to ask: "Then what?" And then they’ll tell you more. And then you ask, "And then what?" And they’ll tell you more. And on and on until you finally get to the real source of their decision – a school’s major, the coach, their parents’ input, their coach’s input, or even what kind of uniforms you have compared to the competition. The bottom line is, you’ll know what the decision rests on.

I can’t stress how important this question is. It’s a key question for business professionals to ask when they seek to understand how a sales decision is going to be made, and it’s a great question to ask if you’re a coach who finds yourself walking out of personal visit or long phone call with a prospect wondering what the prospect is thinking or where you rank with other colleges who are pitching their program. Try it. I think you’ll like the results. And always remember to ask those follow-up questions until you get to the bottom line and you know how they will be making their decision.

By the way, if you have a particular question/problem/hurdle/recruiting issue that you want addressed and answered, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com. I answer all questions that are sent to me weekly by your fellow coaches, and I enjoy doing it. 

3 Things Your Competition Does REALLY WellMonday, January 15th, 2007

OK, maybe they don’t do every one of these three things "really" well.  But you can bet that they do at least one of them really well, and that may be enough to undercut your efforts in winning those recruits that you really want.

The strange thing about a list like this (which one of our SFC Premium Members, who is a D1 Athletic Director, wanted me to put together for this week’s newsletter) is that you might do more of these things than your competitor does!  Every recruiter approaches their task differently, and its important to recognize the tactics being used against you when you’re going up against a competitive coach in a recruiting situation.

They tell REALLY good lies.  Lies about you as a coach, lies about your program, and lies about your school.  Some might not even be outright lies, just big exagerations of the truth.  Your strategy: Just like we outline in our special recruiting guide, "Selling for Coaches", make sure you actively seek out lies that may have been told to your prospect.  How?  Specifically ask them, "Are there any new worries that have come to mind when you think about coming to play for us?"  Another good question to ask if you think your competition has been planting some doubt in the mind of your prospect is, "Just curious, what did (name of coach or college) say about us when you talked to them last?"  Direct?  Yes.  But you have to cut to the heart of the matter when you’re trying to uncover lies that a competitor may have been telling about you and your program.

They’ve got a better website.  Does that really matter?  Yes, coach, it does.  In a recent survey of 15 to 21 year olds by America Online, 91% of the age group said they formed their first impression of companies and individuals by looking at their website.  That’s a staggering number, but not at all surprising considering the day and age we live in.  Is your website easy to navigate?  Does it tell a good story that will help you sell your recruit on your program?  Those are serious questions.  Your strategy:  Make sure your program’s website is simple to navigate, fun to look at, and funnels the visitor (your recruit) to a way to contact you by filling out a form or sending an e-mail.  Your website must have a purpose!  And that purpose should be to get your recruit closer to committing to your program. 

They are more organized than you are.  I did a SFC On-Campus Seminar a few weeks ago at a D2 college.  I was really impressed with the way they tracked athletes and scheduled follow-up with them.  Not from the compliance perspective, but from a purely sales perspective.  They had consistent contact with all of their prospects, and communicated with them in a creative way.  A few days afterwards, I met with a small D1 program.  Following my two days with the D2 program, I was prepared to be equally impressed with this higher division program during my review of their recruiting process.  But I wasn’t.  They were disorganized.  There was no real plan in place.  The message and materials that the basketball program was sending out didn’t match the message or materials that their track and field coach was sending.  It was a mess.  Your strategy:  Develop a consistent, coherent message that you’re sending your recruits.  If you need help developing the best one possible, call us at SFC for expert advice and direction.  They key to a good overall message is a compelling argument that systematically leads your prospect to the logical conclusion that your program is the best choice for them

As I’ve talked with coaches, consulted with athletic departments, and trained recruiters, those three things I just listed come up over and over again when it comes to things that they feel are hurdles standing in their way.  So, now the question for you is: What are you going to do about it?  How are you going to get better?  How are you going to make sure that you eliminate those things that your competitor is doing really well?

“Strategy vs. Tactics” in College RecruitingMonday, January 8th, 2007

What’s the difference between recruiting strategy and recruiting tactics?  Good question!  When you take the time to put together a clear and unique strategy for each and every recruit that you target for your program, you take the pressure off of yourself to perform flawlessly out on the recruiting trail.  Business marketing guru, Seth Godin, phrases it this way:  

"The right strategy makes any tactic work better. The right strategy puts less pressure on executing your tactics perfectly.

Here’s the obligatory January skiing analogy: Carving your turns better is a tactic. Choosing the right ski area in the first place is a strategy. Everyone skis better in Utah, it turns out.

If you are tired of hammering your head against the wall, if it feels like you never are good enough, or that you’re working way too hard, it doesn’t mean you’re a loser. It means you’ve got the wrong strategy.

It takes real guts to abandon a strategy, especially if you’ve gotten super good at the tactics. That’s precisely the reason that switching strategies is often such a good idea. Because your competition is afraid to."

 

 

Here’s the problem that we find with college coaches: They are quite good at changing tactics when it comes to recruiting.  Many good recruiters have jumped onto the text message bandwagon, and more and more are using creative approaches in how they get the attention of athletes.  However, many are slow to change their overall recruiting strategy.  Coaches like the safe and familiar, and are often really hesitant about overhauling their recruiting strategy.

The result?  The day-to-day tactics become more crucial.  More is riding on each interaction with each athlete.

What are we suggesting?  Similar to some of the tips and techniques we unveil in our book for college recruiters, "Selling for Coaches", we recommend that you take a hard look at your program’s overall strategy.  Going back to Seth’s example, pick the right mountain to ski down in addition to learning effective tactics.

Something to think about, coach. 

Four E-Mail Disasters to AvoidMonday, January 8th, 2007

“I am out of the office until January 5th.  I won’t be checking me e-mail.  If you need immediate assistance, contact the athletic office at…”

Sound familiar?  It should.  Chances are good that this type of automated e-mail response is a part of your normal e-mail routine when you’re out of the office.  Actually, coach, I know that it is…over the recent Christmas break, many of you sent back automatic e-mail replies when the SFC Tuesday Newsletter hit your Inbox.

But hold on a second, coach.  Let’s think about this for a second.  Is that kind of response “good for business”?  What I should ask is, “Will that kind of automated e-mail reply help you reinforce the positive message about your program that you’re hoping will stick with your prospects?”  The answer, obviously, is no.

Automated e-mail responses are a great concept – if they are done properly.  When we advise our SFC Premium Members who ask us about creative and effective e-mail communication with their prospects, one of the things we stress is that any e-mail communication is an opportunity to reinforce your brand and sell your program to that prospect.  EVERY time, EVERY e-mail.
 

So, what can the smart coach do to “stop the bleeding”?  Here are four e-mail disasters we see from today’s college coaches when it comes to automated responses that they send back to someone that contacts them when they’re out of the office. See if you’re in danger of any of these communication no-no’s:

No creative, enthusiastic greeting.  College coaches are some of the most positive people I know when it comes to singing the praises of their college, and their program when they’re on the phone or seeing someone in person.  But when it comes to e-mail, many coaches like to keep it short and sweet.  And they do so to their own detriment.  Do you have a dull, uninteresting greeting in your e-mail auto-responder?

Telling readers what you won’t do for them.  “I won’t check e-mail.”  Or, “I won’t be checking my voicemail.”  Negative statements send the wrong message to a very important audience: Your recruits or their coaches.  Choose positive alternatives to those statements that get the same message across.

Assuming that the sender’s e-mail is unimportant.  Many coaches will state that if the reader needs immediate help, here is who to contact.  Then, coaches leave instructions to call the general receptionist, or give an alternative e-mail address to a coach that is covering for them. You may not intend it to be, but the wrong language in your e-mail reply can give that unwanted impression. Every e-mail from a prospect is gold.  You may not get another chance to hear from them, and they may go away feeling like you’re not a coach who is really interested in hearing from them.  Make sure they come away with a clear, crisp picture in their mind that they are VERY important, and that it’s imperative they know that you’ll be in touch with them when you return.  And, if you have a coach covering your e-mails for you (and you should), make sure they send a quick reply offering themselves as a contact.

Not giving them “something to chew on”.  Once you’ve engaged them in a creative opening, giving them a positive statement about what you will do for them, and making sure they know they’re important and valued, you need to give them a fact they didn’t know about your program:  Your latest win, a big recruit you just signed, a move up in the rankings, an honor or award that you’ve won…something that will give them another reason to want to come play for you. 

Well written, interesting factoids create talking points for your prospect and keep you on the mind of your recruit.
Does all of this take longer?  Yes.  More hassle?  Without a doubt.  Does it pay dividends by making you stand out from the crowd even while you’re on the golf course or on vacation.  Absolutely!

Want the second half to this important sales lesson?  This Thursday afternoon, we’ll offer all of our SFC Premium Members an expanded follow-up to this lesson, which will include some suggested language to use in your e-mail, how to create more interest in the mind of your prospect, and how to guarantee a call back when you get back in the office.  If you’re not a SFC Premium Member yet, now’s the perfect time to join.  It’s inexpensive, easy to implement, and we’ve got some great new training systems planned for 2007.  Give it a try…click here for more information and to begin your membership for just $29 a month.


Don’t pick this vital form of communication as the time when you’re going to quit paying attention to details.  E-mail and text messages are THE preferred method of communication by today’s teens.  If you don’t play by their rules, you’ll end up paying the price.   

 

 

 

The Playing Field Keeps Getting More LevelMonday, January 1st, 2007

 

 

 

Part of my yearly post-Christmas routine is sitting down and enjoying the college football bowl games.  I’m not alone in that, of course.

I’m typing this after watching Boise State "upset" Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  It was one of the best college football games I’ve ever seen, and I’m probably not alone in thinking that, either.  It was great football, and even offered something for my relatively uninterested wife when Boise State running back Ian Johnson (of knitting fame) proposed to his girlfriend (the head cheerleader) after his national TV interview on Fox.  What a way to end the night!

Watching that game, along with the thriller a day earlier when Neveda almost beat traditional football powerhouse Miami, reinforced a message that has been building in my mind over the past two years: The playing field is getting very, very level in college sports.

No longer does the traditional power win out when it comes to talent.  No longer do coaches at lower profile programs have to settle for second rate talent.  And no longer do those coaches settle for rolling over when they play the powerhouse programs.

It’s all changing.

One reason, of course, is recruiting.  More coaches from the lower profile programs are getting better at what they do.  And, they’re getting really effective at telling recruits their story and getting the recruit to buy into the idea of coming aboard to help make it happen.  Look at Boise State.  Look at Rutgers.  Look at Neveda.  Or George Mason in college basketball.  Or my hometown Bakersfield State Roadrunners, who just announced that they are moving up to D1 status from D2, and have already seen their men’s and women’s teams notch victories over more established, "bigger name" Division I programs.

Here at Selling for Coaches, we’re getting more and more programs to sign up to be SFC Premium Members.  These programs are hungry, and they’re seeking out the best information and resources that they can get when it comes to training and skill development.  Slowly but surely, more higher profile D1 programs are coming to us as well.  Why?  Because they don’t want the playing field to get any more level, of course!

It’s all about skill level, technique and the desire to be the best.  Its that way on the field, and its that way when it comes to recruiting.  And its really starting to show where it counts: In the post-season play in every sport in the NCAA.

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