Dan Tudor

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Three Creative Voicemail StrategiesMonday, March 26th, 2007

Voicemail is a way of life for college coaches on the recruiting trail.  You leave a bunch of voicemails, and a lot of people leave a bunch of voicemails for you.

But are you making the most of this new 21st century communication mainstay?

Think about it: What are you really saying when you leave a prospect a voicemail?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or, is it the same old, "hey, sorry I missed you, give me a call…"

And what about when they call you?  What are they hearing in your message?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or is the same old, "This is Coach So-and-so, and you’ve reached my voicemail…"  Wow, that’s original.

It’s time to spice up your voicemail messages, and make them an effective part of your recruiting strategy.  You can do it, coach.  Here’s how:

  1. Ask a question, promise the answer later.  Make it a question that would mean something to a recruit.  Make it compelling, and make it interesting.  There are lots of interesting facts and things that would probably be of interest to a recruit.  The key here is to ask an interesting question, and then promise the answer when you get the chance to talk later.  You want to leave them thinking about the answer to the question you just posed, giving them another thing to talk to you about.  Keeping you on their mind after they hang up the phone is the goal here, and the great thing about this strategy is that it works when you’re leaving a message OR when people listen to your voicemail message when they call you.
  2. Make your message short and sweet.  Long, drawn-out voicemail messages cause the listener’s mind to wander.  You should keep your incoming and outgoing voicemail messages short – 35 words or less, if possible.  To make sure you stay within that guideline, its not a bad idea to write-out your message the same way you would write out notes for a speech.  When you do that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how interesting and creative your voicemail messages can become.  Plus, keeping your message short and sweet will ensure that your message is received loud and clear by your prospect and their family (and everyone else that listens to your message).
  3. Never leave a message on a Monday or a Friday.  Messages left on a Friday afternoon are the least likely to be returned.  Monday’s are most people’s busiest day, so only high priority calls are going to get returned (maybe you’re high priority, maybe you’re not).  The ideal times to call your prospects are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Weekends are fine if you’re established in your relationship with your prospect.  Just remember that when you call your prospect will determine how likely it is you will get your prospect live on the phone, as well as the liklihood that you’ll get a returned call in the event you end up leaving your creative voicemail.

Is there more to master when it comes to the art of leaving great voicemail messages?  Yes.  These three strategies are a good start, but there’s more – much more – that you can do to become better when it comes to leaving great voicemail messages. 

If you’re looking for more tips and strategies, join us this Thursday for a special expanded training webinar, "Creative Voicemail Strategies for College Coaches".  It’s one in an ongoing series of free training webinars that we offer to coaches and athletic directors, and this one should be a fun one (not that the other one’s weren’t, its just that this is a really fun topic to talk about!).  Click here for your free registration. 

Join us this Thursday, and if you’re an SFC Premium Member look for a complete eBook on "Creative Voicemail Strategies" coming to you via e-mail next week.  If you’re not a Premium Member yet, but want the free eBook, click here and try a Premium Membership for free.

Why Body Language Counts in RecruitingMonday, March 19th, 2007

Business and sales professionals recognize the importance of nonverbal communication in the selling process and have learned to "listen with their eyes." They understand that one of the easiest and most effective ways to close sales is to be aware of their prospect’s "buy signals."  Not surprisingly, the same holds true for the college recruiter who wants to be more effective in their recruitment of athletic prospects.  If you’ve read our special recruiting guide for college coaches, you know how important every aspect of communication with your athlete is in getting them to feel connected with you. 

Coach, are you aware that your body language reveals your deepest feelings and hidden thoughts to total strangers, including the athletes and parents you are recruiting?  It’s true. Why is that important? It might surprise you to know that research indicates over 70 percent of our communication is done nonverbally. In fact, studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if your prospect’s words don’t match with his or her body language, you would be wise to rely on body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings.

Here’s a fact that should be a good wake-up call for every coach:  Research shows that we decide in the first few moments whether we like someone or not. There is absolutely no substitute for a positive first impression. You can create a favorable first impression and build rapport quickly by using "open" body language:

In addition to smiling and making good eye contact, show the palms of your hands, keep your arms unfolded and your legs uncrossed.

Create harmony by "matching and mirroring" your prospect’s body language gestures. Matching and mirroring is unconscious mimicry. It subconsciously tells prospects that you like them and agree with them.

The next time you are at a social or team event, observe how many people are subconsciously matching one another. Likewise, when people disagree, you’ll notice they subconsciously mismatch their body language gestures.

You can build trust and rapport by deliberately, but subtly, matching your prospect’s body language in the first ten to fifteen minutes of a personal visit with your prospect and their family. For example, if you notice that your prospect has crossed his or her arms, subtly cross your arms to match. After you believe you have developed trust and rapport, verify it by uncrossing your arms and see if your prospect will match and mirror you as you move into a more open posture.

If you notice your prospect subconsciously matching your body language gestures, that’s an indication that things are going well, because this indicates you have developed trust and rapport. Conversely, if you notice your prospect mismatching your body language gestures, you know trust and rapport has not been established and you need to continue matching and mirroring.

There are many interesting "body language basics" that go along with some of these general rules for communicating with body language.  I’ll be giving our SFC Premium Members that list of 15 body gestures and signals that will give coaches a special insight as to what’s really going on inside their head during a recruiting visit, as well as an action plan to implement good body language style into your recruiting visits.  That special report will come via a special e-mail later today. 

If you’re not a SFC Premium Member, but want to receive the list, sign-up for a free 30 day trial of our Premium Membership.  Register anytime between now and Friday to receive the expanded report of body gestures to be on the look-out for during a recruiting visit.

Body language is a great way to gauge how your prospect is responding to what you’re telling them, but you have to be very aware of what to look for – and, what you’re communicating to them. 

How College Coaches Can Use SPINMonday, March 12th, 2007

What is "SPIN Selling"? Only one of the most effective sales techniques developed over the past decade or so. It’s one of the most popular sales strategies developed for corporate sales teams, and is taught in most Fortune 500 sales training programs. Why? It works.

"SPIN" is an acronym for Situation, Problem, Implication and Need-Payoff. Incorporating those four aspects into your daily recruiting efforts can pay off the same big dividends enjoyed by some of the nation’s most successful sales professionals.

In a one-on-one training session with one of our SFC Premium Members, we worked to implement this line of communication prior to a very, very, very important in-home visit with a top recruit. The meeting went great, and the coach is waiting to hear from this highly regarded soccer recruit. He has a good feeling about his program’s chances, and loves the way he was able to direct the conversation during his meeeting.

Here’s how to do it. Whenever you’re talking to a prospective athlete, incorporate the components of SPIN Selling into your conversations. Just follow the acronym step-by-step:

Situation – Ask a question related to your prospect’s situation. Good example questions might include, "How many other schools are recruiting you? How much money do you have saved for college? What is your biggest goal when it comes to playing sports in college? What’s your vision for your athletic career in college?" These types of questions are usually easy for a college coach to come up with during a recruiting conversation. You may have some good questions that you always ask. The key is not stopping with a situation-based questions, but building on your prospect’s answer to this first stage question.

Problem – These questions are designed to uncover the pain experienced by your prospect regarding the situation question you just asked. To be a successful recruiter, you need to successfully link the problem or "pain" that your prospect is experiencing with the solution that you’re offering in the form of a scholarship or opportunity to play at your school. Let’s assume that your prospect’s answer to our first situation question ("How many other schools are recruiting you?") is, "There’s only one other school I’ve heard from other than you, coach." Your response to that might be, "What concerns you about the lack of interest from other schools?" Or, "What would your plan be if no other schools showed interest in you?" Again, you’re trying to underscore a problem in the mind of your prospect. Getting them to verbalize that problem is an important step in the process of connecting with your prospect.

Implication – As the title suggests, this question will imply a result of the problem and situation that your prospect face. Some college coaches I’ve worked with this past year have had a tendency to try and combine their "problem" and "implication" questions, or skip one in the process. Don’t do it! Make sure you ask each question separately. Sticking with our example, a good implication question would be, "Would you be able to go to college if you didn’t get some athletic scholarship money from a college?" or, "What would you feel like if you couldn’t play your sport again after you graduate from high school?" Emphasizing the implications of a potential problem begins to help your prospect connect the dots in their mind, and will put you in a position of strength as you head into the final part of the SPIN Selling equation.

Need-Pay Off - The key here is to make your solution (your offer, your program, you as a coach, your college, etc.) the logical choice of your prospect to solve the problem that they’ve just verbalized to you. A good example Need-Pay Off question or statement might be, "Would you feel relieved if we were able to put together a package for you that would ensure you could play college sports after high school?" Or, you could simply ask "How could I show you that our program would be the best solution for that problem?" One more: "What would you need to hear from me to cause you to commit to our program so that you wouldn’t have to worry about money for college?"

Finished with one particular question? Go back and ask another probing, open-ended question by starting the SPIN Selling process from the start. You can use SPIN Selling with every prospect you’re recruiting, and with every situation that applies to their life. The wonderful thing about this technique is the way it enhances your communication with your prospect. So much of recruiting today is laced with broken communication, misunderstanding, and lack of a logical progression in the ongoing conversations between coaches and their prospects. The SPIN technique helps fix that, and it also helps drive home the points you’re trying to make to your prospects.

Does it take practice? Absolutely. Is it worth it? You bet it is. If you become comfortable asking those types of questions, you’ll find that you’ll be in control of the recruiting process from the start and form a deeper relationship with every prospect you talk to. For more on effective sales and communication techniques, read our recruiting guide for college coaches.

Everything You Wanted to Know About the SFC On-Campus WorkshopMonday, March 12th, 2007

So, just what goes on at one of famous Selling for Coaches On-Campus Workshop?  Good question.  The short answer is, "A LOT!"  We’re assuming you’d like more details, so here it goes:

  • Who do we work with?  Either entire athletic departments, or a specific coaching staff.  If you’re an athletic director, you can bring us in for an in-depth group training session for all of your department’s coaches, preceded by one-on-one sessions with individual coaches if time permits.  Or, if you’re a head coach that wants us to work exclusively with you and your staff to develop a recruiting plan and conduct more individualized training, we can do that.  We’re seeing more and more head coaches who ask us to come in and help them become recruiting experts, and assist with planning their recruiting attack for the current or upcoming year.
  • How much does it cost?  Our basic fee for coming on campus and training your coaches in both group and individual settings is just $2,000, plus travel expenses. 

Here’s a quick list of everything that we do at an SFC On-Campus Workshop:

  • Pre-seminar in-depth recruiting surveys with your student-athletes and coaching staff, uncovering the most dangerous obstacles to your recruiting success and highlighting recommended selling points of your athletic program.
  • Pre-seminar focus group survey with your current athletes, where we find out why they chose your program, who they almost chose, what they liked about the way they were recruited, and what they really think of their coaches.  It’s all an effort to know what kind of improvements are needed in the way you recruit.  It’s one of the most intriguing parts of our On-Campus session.
  • An information-packed five hour group training session, covering the most requested needs of your staff that we uncover during pre-seminar interviews.
  • One-on-one consultations with any coaches needing individualized training. 
  • Review of any recruiting materials that the staff wants consulting on, with suggested changes in presentation, wording and other aspects of a recruiting campaign.

One more thing that we always get asked: "Can you give me some references of other programs that you’ve worked with?"  The answer is, no.  Here’s why: First, we don’t like our clients to have to field inquiry calls from other coaches or athletic directors.  It’s just not something that we want to have our clients doing.  Secondly, we have found that our clients don’t want us to work with other programs (especially those that they compete with regularly in the recruiting wars). 

But, to put your mind at ease, here’s what we offer: A complete money back guarantee.  If we come to your campus, work with your coaches, and you don’t feel it is worth the small investment that we are asking you to make in our services, you don’t pay anything (not including travel costs).  By the way, we’ve never had anyone ask for their money back, nor do we plan on doing it in the future.  But it’s there just in case (we don’t want you to lose sleep).

So there you have it.  We’d love to work with you and your staff, and are pretty sure it will be the best investment in recruiting you’ve ever made.  You’ve actually never had training like this, which is a shame because you’re asked to do some very difficult and important work.  You’re asked to go and convince a teenager to come to your college and compete for you.  How much more effective could you be at this crucial part of your job if you were professionally trained to do it? 

Let’s talk about what we can do for your staff.  Call Selling for Coaches at 866.944.6732, or e-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  As one D1 athletic director recently told me after our training session on her campus, "I was skeptical about how good this would actually be for our coaches, but I’m blown away.  This is exactly what we needed."

We can do the same for you and your staff.    

The 5 Habits of Successful RecruitersMonday, March 5th, 2007

Jeff is a football coach at a D1-AA school.  He was one of twenty coaches who took advantage of our free trial for our SFC Premium Membership, and didn’t waste any time in taking advantage of the access to our office with a situation he found himself facing.

"I had another run in with one of our assistants today," he said in his phone call late Tuesday afternoon.  "We’re recruiting a wide receiver from California, and we know he’s interested in coming here."

"So what’s the issue?", I asked. 

"Dan," he said, "here’s the problem: The coach that’s recruiting this wide receiver hadn’t put a phone call in to him for over two weeks.  That’s crazy!  We’ve got to get on this kid now, and get his commitment.  That’s what I told our coach, and he’s doing what I want now.  But I swear, it’s like I have to babysit our staff most of the time when it comes to recruiting."

Then he gave me the idea for this week’s training when he said, "What you need to give me, Dan, are some things that you’ve seen in successful college recruiters…their mindset, their habits and how they approach recruiting as a whole."

What a great idea!  Coach gave me permission to recount our phone conversation today, and I was off and running.  I went through notes from past On-Campus Seminars, interviews with SFC Premium Members, and articles on some of college sports’ best recruiters.

I’ve narrowed a big list down to five key habits that I’ve seen in successful recruiters over the years.  I firmly believe that these traits are vital if college coaches, regardless of their division level, hope to be consistently successful when it comes to signing the best recruits:

  1. They have a recruiting work habit that is second to none.  You want the best athletes?  Be prepared to out-work your competition.  That means a dedicated schedule to things like maintaining your contacts with everyone you’re looking at, developing a plan for nurturing your relationships with your prospects, and putting recruiting high on your list of priorities.  Your work ethic drives your success in recruiting.  You know it, I know it.  Ask yourself honestly, "Does my recruiting work habit match my coaching work habit?"
  2. They’ve moved beyond just listing off their program’s benefits.  Want to know what the most frustrating thing is for your recruits when you’re talking to them?  It’s when you, and every other coach that’s recruiting them, rattles off a list of everything that’s great about your program.  It frustrates them to no end, and makes it tough for them to make a final decision.  What’s a better way to approach them?  Put in the extra effort to find out what they want, how they’ll make their decision, and why they’ll choose you.  Not sure how to do all of this successfully?  Become a SFC Premium Member, or get our special recruiting guide, "Selling for Coaches"
  3.  They ask great questions.  It’s been proven over and over again as we’ve worked with college coaches across the country: The better the questions you ask, the more likely it is that you’ll connect with that individual prospect.  If you connect with them, its likely you’ll be in a position to sign them.  It all starts with good questioning, and you’ve got to commit yourself to becoming a great questioner.  You’re not trying to trick your prospect, or manipulate them, through your questioning.  Instead, you’re getting them to open up and reveal themselves to you so that you know how to connect their basic desires as a prospective college student-athlete with what you can offer them in your program.  Meet their needs, coach, and you’ll get their commitment.  But remember: It all starts with how you ask them questions and interact with them during that Q&A time.
  4. They know their competition inside and out.  The best coach I’ve ever met when it comes to knowing their competition inside and out was a D2 softball coach.  She’s an unassuming lady in her mid-50′s, and she’s amazing.  She showed me file after file of competitor after competitor that she’s catologed over the last decade.  She interviews the athletes she signs about how her competition recruited them, and then develops a strategy for how to recruit against them.  Is she serious about getting the recruits she wants?  You bet.  And she goes about ensuring her success by taking her competition seriously, and putting together a plan for her success when she finds herself recruiting against them.  Do you take your competition that seriously? 
  5. They have a positive attitude.  I end with this one because its the habit I want you to really remember from this list.  Positive attitudes will make recruiting much, much easier.  It will keep you mentally healthy, and enthused about one of the toughest parts of your job as a college coach, which is recruiting.  Are you reading positive stuff?  Are you surrounded by positive people?  Do you choose to maintain a positive outlook on your personal and professional life?  It’s critical that you do, coach.  Want to know what helps you develop and maintain a positive attitude?  Commiting to the first four things on this list!  When you’re organized and winning when it comes to recruiting the athletes you need to be successful as a coach, it makes maintaining a positive attitude much, much easier.

I’ll stop short of "guaranteeing" that these five things will make you a winner when it comes to recruiting.  But it’s been my experience that these five traits are key when it comes to consistently doing well at recruiting.  Developing healthy recruiting "habits" will do unbelievable things for your recruiting efforts.  That I do guarantee! 

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