Dan Tudor

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A Lesson Recruiters Need to Learn About E-MailSunday, July 29th, 2007

E-mail is one of the main ways coaches stay in touch with athletes.  That’s only going to increase after the pending NCAA text message ban goes into effect.

E-mail is quick, cheap, and (when done correctly) highly effective.  It works with both your prospect, and your prospect’s parents. 

What They Didn't Teach You About RecruitingIn our new book, "What They Didn’t Teach You About Recruiting", I go over fifteen vital lessons that every college coach needs to know if they’re going to be successful recruiters.  It’s the stuff that "they" didn’t teach you when you became a coach, but should have.

One of the most important aspects of recruiting involves being able to effectively use e-mail to deliver your recruiting message.  It’s a big subject, but let’s focus on just one small part of how you use e-mail to recruit: Two things you have to remember when you’re creating your e-mails that go out to your prospects.

"Keep it short.  The shorter, the better.  Why?  First, teenagers have an incredibly short attention span.  Most of them aren’t interested in a lot of details, at least not in one large e-mail message.  That’s why most of your recruiting letters you send via mail have little or no real impact on most of your prospects (sorry, coach, but it’s the truth). 

Short e-mails get read, long ones get "scanned".  You know what the difference is, because you do the same thing when you receive a lengthy e-mail…you "scan" it quickly, and then either re-read it or delete it.  Short e-mails should be simple and to the point, especially if its in the beginning of the recruiting process.  Shorter e-mails create a natural curiosity for the reader, and they will want to seek out more information in most cases.

Keep it very simple.  That goes along with the first point, but there’s a very specific purpose for simplicity in a recruiting e-mail: Comprehension.  Would you rather rattle-off fifteen facts and figures about your program to a new recruit, or would it make more sense to give them an ongoing series of bite-sized chunks that they could read, absorb, understand and tie-in with the last easy-to-read bite-sized chunk that they got from you?  The answer should be pretty obvious."

Let me add that the goal of those e-mails you create and send is to set up future, more in-depth conversations.  Your e-mails, like the letters you send, should have the goal of setting up live conversations between you and your prospect rather than trying to sell them on your program in one e-mail or one letter.

Keep your e-mail short and simple.  Your message is going to get through, make more of an impact, create curiosity and get a response.  Isn’t that the goal, anyway? 

 

16 Tips for Recruiting (and Coaching) GreatnessSunday, July 29th, 2007

You could learn a few things from Bob Parsons. 

He’s the founder of GoDaddy.com, the Internet domain registration company.  In his business life, he’s seen success, and failure.  He’s made millions, and then gone broke.  He’s battled the government, and build a legendary company along with way (well, at least their Super Bowl television commericials are legendary).

He’s one of those rare people who has seen it all, and done it all.  He’s fallen flat on his face, and then come back strong.

Through it all, Parsons has developed an inspiring list of sixteen things that he thinks are the keys to surviving – and succeeding – in the hard-knocks world of business.  The list applies to college coaches, as well.  You’re in one of the toughest businesses around, so I hope this list teaches you a few things about not only how to survive, but how to succeed in your coaching career.

Here is Bob Parson’s list:

1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone. I believe that not much happens of any significance when we’re in our comfort zone. I hear people say, "But I’m concerned about security." My response to that is simple: "Security is for cadavers."

2. Never give up. Almost nothing works the first time it’s attempted. Just because what you’re doing does not seem to be working, doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it might not work the way you’re doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn’t have an opportunity.

3. When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think. There’s an old Chinese saying: "The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed."  Don’t quit, coach.

4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be. Very seldom will the worst consequence be anywhere near as bad as a cloud of "undefined consequences." My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling and losing my shirt trying to get Parsons Technology going, "Well, Robert, if it doesn’t work, they can’t eat you."

5. Focus on what you want to have happen. Remember that old saying, "As you think, so shall you be."

6. Take things a day at a time. No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.

7. Always be moving forward. Never stop investing. Never stop improving. Never stop doing something new. The moment you stop improving your organization, it starts to die. Make it your goal to be better each and every day, in some small way. Remember the Japanese concept of Kaizen. Small daily improvements eventually result in huge advantages.

8. Be quick to decide. Remember what General George S. Patton said: "A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow."

9. Measure everything of significance. I swear this is true. Anything that is measured and watched, improves.

10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate. If you want to uncover problems you don’t know about, take a few moments and look closely at the areas you haven’t examined for a while. I guarantee you problems will be there.

11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing. When you look at your competitors, remember that everything looks perfect at a distance. Even the planet Earth, if you get far enough into space, looks like a peaceful place.

12. Never let anybody push you around. In our society, with our laws and even playing field, you have just as much right to what you’re doing as anyone else, provided that what you’re doing is legal.

13. Never expect life to be fair. Life isn’t fair. You make your own breaks. You’ll be doing good if the only meaning fair has to you, is something that you pay when you get on a bus (i.e., fare).

14. Solve your own problems. You’ll find that by coming up with your own solutions, you’ll develop a competitive edge. Masura Ibuka, the co-founder of SONY, said it best: "You never succeed in technology, business, or anything by following the others." There’s also an old Asian saying that I remind myself of frequently. It goes like this: "A wise man keeps his own counsel."

15. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.

16. There’s always a reason to smile. Find it. After all, you’re really lucky just to be alive. Life is short. More and more, I agree with my little brother. He always reminds me: "We’re not here for a long time; we’re here for a good time."

Most of our recruiting advice we give to our Premium Members, talk about at our On-Campus Workshops, and in our weekly newsletter focuses on specific recruiting and sales strategies.  But I wanted to share this great list with you, because sometimes its good to take a step back and make sure our attitudes and direction are on track as you start a new year of competing – on the field, and in the battle for recruits. 

To read more of Bob Parson’s thoughts on his rules for survival and success in whatever you do, click here.

New Book Gives Coaches the Recruiting Lessons They Never LearnedTuesday, July 24th, 2007

Don’t you wish that someone would have sat you down early in your coaching career and taught you everything you needed to know so that you could go out and recruit with confidence?

Lots of you have told us just that.  So, we’re proud to launch the second in our line of recruiting books for college coaches.  It’s called "What They Didn’t Teach You About Recruiting".  It’s a collection of fifteen of our most popular training segments.  We’ve added new advice and instruction, and put them together in one easy-to-use collection.

If you’ve never been taught how to recruit, this book is for you.  You can order it by clicking here.

Haven’t read our first book, "Selling for Coaches", yet?  For a limited time, you can order both books and save.  Check out our offer by clicking here.

We want to get you off to a great start this year when it comes to recruiting, and either of these two resources will prove to be a big help when it comes to connecting with prospects.

SFC PREMIUM MEMBERS: You’ll be receiving an additional discount offer via e-mail.  Our Premium Members will receive priority order status and great savings on this new guide.  If you’re not a Premium Member, but want to become one, find out more by clicking here.

Developing Your Recruiting StrategyMonday, July 23rd, 2007

I had the chance to train another staff this past week during one of our popular SFC On-Campus Workshops.  It was a great session, and I think we gave the staff some great techniques to use in their upcoming recruiting season.

One of the things that one of the coaches really wanted was a recruiting "system".  Instead, what we gave them was help in developing a strategy.

So, what’s the difference between a system and a strategy?

Simple.  A system is something that you plug yourself into.  Sometimes systems work, sometimes they don’t.  I don’t like those odds when it comes to competitve college recruiting, do you?

A strategy is completely different.  It’s something that engages.  It adapts.  It treats each prospect in a unique way.  It’s a game plan, not a crap shoot. 

Here are the nine components of any successful recruiting strategy that you can use to bring in the recruits you want this year:

  1. Make a connection.  We talk about this principle at length in "Selling for Coaches", our guide for college sports recruiters.  Why is it so vital?  Without a connection between yourself and your prospect, nothing significant will happen.  Not a lot of interest from your prospect, not a lot of progress in getting them interested in your program…not much of anything.  You have to connect first, and then start recruiting.
  2. Make appointments.  Do you set up times to talk with athletes and parents that you are pursuing?  Why not?  A pre-set appointment can not only help block out your competition from contacting your prospect, you can assure that your prospect is making time for you.  Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to hunt down your prospects?  Start making appointments with your prospects and take the guesswork out of phone calls and other communication.
  3. Prepare to recruit them.  Have you seen video?  Talked to their coach?  Have you "Googled" them to see if you can get any background information on their athletic career?  Have you seen what information you can find on their MySpace page if they have one?  There are lots of things you can do to prepare for your recruitment of an athlete.  The more you do to prepare for each athlete, the better your chances are for landing that athlete.
  4. Engage your prospect in a way that gain’s their interest.  I know that you talk to your prospects and give them information.  But is that really engaging your prospect?  Does it really gain their interest?  Today’s teenagers are a tough bunch to get through to.  If you’re still relying on media guides and long, boring letters to do the trick,,,well, you probably know that it doesn’t work all that well.  It’s time to change the way you talk to your prospect.
  5. Prove the value of what you’re offering.  Can’t offer full ride scholarships?  Aren’t located in a great setting?  Don’t have the major your prospect wants?  Focus on what you can offer them instead of what you can’t, and then make the case that you’re the best choice.  Prospects look for lots of different things in an offer, not just money.  If you need help in determining what your program’s strong-points are, e-mail me at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  We’ll get to the bottom of what you can offer your prospect, and what you should stress in your recruiting strategy.
  6. Agree along the way.  Gain agreement on what comes next in the process.  Agree on when they’ll make their final decision, and how.  Agree to a time for your next conversation.  Agreement along the way makes the next phone call and the next step much easier, and you stay connected with your athlete during each part of your recruiting strategy.  Plus, your prospect will actually appreciate your efforts to keep them in the loop along the way and not guessing as to what is going to happen next.
  7. Deliver what they want.  You’re there to be a problem solver.  You’re there to give them what they want and need to make a decision.  Make good on your promises to them.  Answer all of their questions.  You gotta deliver, coach.  The more you do, the more they’ll look at you as the logical choice for their college athletic career.
  8. Providing great "customer service".  You need to think of yourself as a business.  And your prospects are your customers.  So, let me ask you: How is your customer service?  Are you friendly, helpful and seen as a problem solver?  Your "customers" are free to choose you, or another program that provides better "service".  Take a look at what you’re doing to serve the athletes you’re recruiting.  Would you be a satisfied customer of your program? 
  9. Creating an environment that creates an excitement about what you’re offering, and makes them see you as the only real choice.  Overall, is your approach with each athlete an exciting, informative, and compelling?  That’s what its going to take to sign the best of the best.  Are you creating that kind of an environment?  You’d better be, coach.

Do you see the difference between a strategy and a system?  A strategy is unique to each prospect, and addresses their personal concerns.

As I’ve said a hundred times before in these weekly newsletters, its all about them, coach.  Your strategy has to address their individual wants and needs, and answer the questions that are important to them (not you).

Make sure you’re developing a strategy as you approach this season, not just a "system".  There’s a big difference.

Why Are Minorities Hard to Recruit for College Baseball and Softball?Monday, July 16th, 2007

Why is recruiting minorities for baseball programs becoming more and more of a daunthing task for college coaches?  Doug Newhoff, a respected sports reporter in Iowa, has a great article that tries to address that question, and looks ahead to what the sport needs to do to increase minority participation. 

David Price was the No. 1 pick in the Major League baseball’s amateur draft in June.

Two years ago, Justin Upton was taken first overall.

David PriceBoth are African-American, and they serve to illustrate an issue that’s affecting college baseball dugouts across the country.

Despite the obvious opportunities that baseball offers minority athletes, the numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians are declining quicker than Randy Johnson’s fastball.

In fact, minority participation in both college baseball and fastpitch softball is nearly non-existent.

The numbers paint a black and white picture:

- Based on information collected from the Web sites and media guides of the respective conference institutions, less than 1 percent of the baseball and softball players on Big 12, Big Ten and Missouri Valley rosters in 2007 were minorities (African-American, Hispanic or Asian).

- Four of the 29 schools in those leagues offering baseball and seven of the 31 colleges offering softball had no minority players.

- In softball, there were just three African-American women on Big Ten rosters, seven in the Big 12 and three in the Missouri Valley. In baseball, there were 11 black players in the Big Ten, nine in the Big 12 and six in the Missouri Valley.

It’s a trend that’s been circling the basepaths for several years.

An NCAA survey compiled in 2003-04 showed that only 6 percent of approximately 9,800 Division I baseball players were African-American. In 2006, just 2.6 percent of the athletes in 29 major DI conferences were black.

"I’ve noticed it for the last 10 or 12 years," said University of Northern Iowa baseball Rick Hellercoach Rick Heller, whose 2007 team reflected a diversity unique to the college game today with two African-American players and five additional minority student-athletes.

"The number of minority players in my eyes has steadily dropped. Do I know the reason? No, but somewhere along the line baseball has lost its appeal.

"It’s a topic that’s been talked a lot about in college baseball the last five or six years."

Heller said two factors are definitely affecting minority participation at the college level.

"One thing I’ve noticed recruiting in Chicago and even California is that there’s not a lot of money in scholarships out there for baseball players," he related. "Everyone’s on a partial (scholarship), and with a lot of minority kids I think that hurts."

A fully funded Division I baseball program can offer the equivalent of 11.7 full scholarships. Many programs, like UNI’s, aren’t fully funded, but like those that are, they still need 25 to 30 players on their roster.

By comparison, Division I men’s basketball programs have 13 scholarships to offer and rosters that seldom exceed 15 to 18 players. Football teams at the I-A level work with 85 full rides among 100 or so players. In I-AA football, coaches have 63 scholarships to distribute among 80-90 players.

"Why shouldn’t they go with a sport where they’re going to have a chance to get a full ride, like football or basketball?" asks Heller. "In baseball, they’re going to get a couple thousand dollars or maybe 30 or 40 percent.

"To me, it’s crazy that as popular as baseball is and as well as our kids do academically it still seems like baseball is the sport that continually takes the hit."

In addition, Heller continued, professional baseball casts a long shadow.

"If a kid’s good enough to play Division I baseball, that means he’s probably good enough to be looked at or drafted by the pros, so rather than pay for part of their college they get into the pros right away," he explained. "And in some cases, they’ll just go to a junior college where they can go for free and improve their position for the draft."

In softball, the overall minority numbers are better, but still low. In the Big Ten, Big 12 and Missouri Valley, almost 1 percent of the 2007 players were minorities.

The availability of scholarships is still an issue but not as big a factor as it is with baseball. Division I teams are allowed a maximum of 13 full scholarships, which they use to build rosters that seldom number more than 18 to 20 players.

The makeup of the regional population is another factor. Most Midwestern programs like to build their teams around a core group of homegrown players who take ownership in the program. And because the minority population isn’t strong in most Midwestern states, there aren’t many minority student-athletes participating in either softball or baseball.

Gayle Blevins"The Big Ten is largely based on where we’re recruiting from and what our population is in those areas," noted longtime University of Iowa coach Gayle Blevins. "If you get into different parts of the country, you will see better minority participation."

The recruiting landscape is even more of a factor for college softball coaches. In most states, high school baseball and softball are played at the same time the college seasons are under way. That makes it difficult for coaches to see many prep prospects in their own geographic regions.

So, a significant percentage of the scouting takes place at youth tournaments that occur in the summer months outside the college seasons.

In softball, there are hundreds of "travel" teams based in states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida where there are significant minority populations and dozens of high-profile, gold-level tournaments around the country.

"We were in Colorado for a 4th of July tournament, and there were tons of students from all over the country," related Blevins. "Geographically, a lot of those teams were from areas with greater minority populations, so there were more minority students participating.

"I had a conversation with one of my assistants while we were in Colorado that we needed to be real sensitive to minority students. It’s something we’re committed to, and something our university is committed to, as well."

There just aren’t many from which to choose. While Blevins and coaches from other top programs can find the occasional diamond in the rough at such events, hundreds of other prospective student-athletes never get that opportunity.

"You have to have some resources to get into travel ball because you have to travel," added Blevins. "If you don’t have the resources, maybe that’s not even an option. It’s unfortunate to think that we have students who simply can’t be in our sport because they don’t have those resources or don’t have access to a team that’s relatively close to home.

"In California, it’s such a huge state they don’t have to go any great distance to have a chance to find a halfway decent travel ball team. That plays to the advantage of the students there. In Iowa, you would have to travel a much greater distance to play."

Blevins suspects that specialization is keeping many Midwestern kids out of sports like softball. Her own niece, for example, is being pressured by both her soccer and basketball coach to focus year-round on their sport.

"I think it’s unfortunate that it’s evolved to that, but that’s probably what’s happening," she said. "I’m of the opinion that it helps students to be multi-sport athletes."

Heller pointed out even more potential influences that may be keeping young players out of baseball and, ultimately, out of college programs.

"I see the (Los Angeles) area and a little in San Diego and up the coast," said Heller. "I’ve had scouts in L.A. tell me that gang issues have really hurt youth baseball because kids are afraid to cross color lines to go play. They can’t get kids to go to road games and cross the lines.

"I honestly think the whole Michael Jordan phenomenon has a lot to do with it, too," he continued. "I think a lot of minority kids have turned to basketball.

"I don’t think parents are pushing their kids toward baseball, either. Back in the 1960s and ’70s, there were a lot of black players in baseball, but it hasn’t carried over to their sons. They play a big role because they have to get them to the games and support them."

Both coaches believe their games would be even better with greater minority participation.

"I would love to see more minority students playing in Iowa high school programs," said Blevins. "I think they are missing out."

"We’re losing a lot of good athletes," added Heller. "Any time we can get better athletes into our sport, it’s going to make it better. I think it’s really pretty political and probably much deeper than we could ever get into."

What You Need to Demonstrate to Your ProspectsMonday, July 16th, 2007

I was at the Rose Bowl this past Saturday for a football prospect combine put on my a well known recruiting magazine.  

There were two bits of good news that came out of my time there with 250 of the top football prospects in the country:  First, I avoided my usual third degree sunburn thanks to coating myself with SPF 50 sunscreen.  Second, I got a chance to chat with several top prospects during their breaks at the combine and camp.

My prime question for them: "How are you going to be deciding where you’ll play in college?" 

The most common answer I heard:  "It’s going to come down to the place or the coach that I feel a connection with."  If you’ve been in one of my On-Campus Seminars at your college, you know that how your prospect "feels" is THE key ingredient in how they make their final decision.     

Not surprisingly, lot of coaches ask us for help in relating and "connecting" with their prospects that they are recruiting.

A key technique to use in that effort is what I call "demonstrated understanding".  What is it exactly?  How can you use it to connect with more prospects?  Here is an excerpt from our best selling recruiting training guide, "Selling for Coaches", written specifically for college coaches on the subject:

Demonstrated understanding is a difficult technique because it involves true interest in your prospect and an empathy for his or her life situation, fears, motivations and dreams.  Its easy to forget, as a college coach, that you’re in the business of making dreams come true – and I don’t think that’s over-dramatizing it.  You may be sitting in front of an athlete who has worked hard and sacrificed to get where they are athletically.  In addition, their parents may have sacrificed to help get their son or daughter to this point.  And that “point” is sitting in front of you, hoping that you might fulfill a goal held for years – the goal of playing college sports, and perhaps a scholarship that will enable that athlete to get a college education.

In my past professional life as the founder and President of one of the nation’s largest athletic recruiting services, I saw first hand what a sports scholarship meant to most athletes.  Likewise, I saw some college coaches treat that dream with the respect and mutual excitement that it deserved.  I also witnessed other coaches who not only didn’t appear to care, but seemed to go out of their way to make the athlete feel like they were lucky just to be granted an audience with them.  Guess which type of coach usually got the commitment from the athlete?

My point here is simple.  It goes back to “connecting” with your prospect, and one of the best ways to make a connection is to really try to understand your prospect – their needs, their family’s needs, their struggles, their hopes, their dreams.  Not what you need from them, but what they want from you.  Let them know that you understand their “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want” and you’ve created a very strong barrier for any other coach to try and breach.  Conversely, if you don’t take the time to understand that “want” you leave the door open for another coach to come in and do so.  If that happens, who’s going to get the athlete?  You, or your competition?  You know the answer.

"Demonstrated understanding" is just one of three components we talk about in Selling for Coaches as being keys to connecting with your athlete, and being "genuine" in a way that helps you recruit the athlete more effectively. 

As you prepare for another year of recruiting, make sure you establish some good ways to show your prospects that you’re connecting with them and understanding where they’re coming from when they speak to you.  It can make the difference between recruiting frustration and recruiting success.

Why Nice Coaches Get More RecruitsMonday, July 9th, 2007

Being nice is such a simplistic concept, isn’t it?

Mom and dad always told you to be nice…play nice…act nice…talk nice.  But as adults, we sometimes forget the value of those lessons.  As adults who are also college coaches, that lesson gets forgotten over and over again with recruit after recruit.  And the results are anything but "nice".

As we continue to review some "best practices" for recruiting during the summer break, I want to focus on this very simple concept of being nice to your prospects and their families.  Specifically, three ways you can be nice…and a warning about what can happen when you aren’t. 

First, remember that success in recruiting is about helping your prospects – not helping yourself! It’s not about you, as I talk about in "Selling for Coaches" quite a bit.  The only reason your prospects are talking to you and listening to what you have to say is because you have something they want: A chance to play college sports, and possible scholarship money.  It’s all about them and what they want and need, and you need to remember that as you have recruiting conversations with them.

Top business sales professionals put their customers first, because they know that they’ll never succeed at an elite level if their objective is solely to sell stuff to other people. The top 10% know that they can only be successful if they’re focused on helping other people to buy based on their needs.  For college coaches, the same concepts apply to their recruits.

For many coaches I start working with as SFC Premium Members, this represents a fundamental shift in their mindset. How do you begin this transition? Start by asking your prospect good, open-ended questions to find out what they want out of the recruiting process, and what their goals and dreams are. Then listen to their answers with NO interruptions to see if the challenge is something you can help resolve.

Top salespeople never try to sell a product to a customer without first knowing whether they can help. In fact, top performers will gladly walk away from a prospect if they don’t think the product or service they have to offer will be of use. Remember: Selling isn’t about telling a prospect what you think they want to hear. Selling is about starting a dialogue to uncover a prospect’s problem, and then helping him solve that problem in the best way possible.  It works that way in the business world, and savvy college recruiters are making the concept work for them with their prospects.

Let’s face it, many college coaches are often accused of being fast talkers. Believe me when I say, this isn’t a compliment. As one seasoned coach once told one of her new assistants, “Remember, you have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion!”

During any average recruiting conversation, the best recruiters only do between 20-30% of the talking. The rest of the time, they bite their tongues, and actively practice their listening skills.

One way to improve your listening skills is to simply slow down. The next time you find yourself in a conversation with a prospect, once he stops talking, try counting to 3 in your head before you start speaking (and not as quickly as you can, either; think: “1 one thousand, 2 one thousand, 3….). This will give enough time for the prospect to gather his thoughts and start again if he wasn’t finished, but won’t last long enough to turn into an awkward pause if he was finished and is just waiting for your response.

Just trying this one simple technique can completely change the impression you make on your clients, and have an immediate impact on your sales success.

One last thing for current SFC Premium Members (and those who become one before this Friday): There’s a fascinating study that I’m going to talk about on Friday that goes along with this concept of how important being nice is.  It has to do with doctors, patients, three minutes and lawsuits.  Just trust me…you’ll be able to see why it has a lot to do with the way you should be recruiting each one of your prospects!)

What the iPhone Can Teach You About Being a Better RecruiterMonday, July 2nd, 2007

The world of cellular phones got a jolt this week when Apple and AT&T launched the much awaited iPhone. 

iPhoneLong lines, lots of excitement, and praise for this new technological wonder that nobody can now do without (yet somehow, I’m still limping along with my antiquated regular vanilla cell phone).  Lots of excitment, that is unless you’re working for Verizon, T-Mobile, or one of the other carriers that don’t offer iPhones.

In fact, many of those competitive carriers are coming out with "hit lists" that their sales people can use to trash the new iPhone, and tell customers why they shouldn’t buy one.  Author and marketing expert Seth Godin thinks trashing their competitor is a really bad idea, and therein lies a  big lesson for college coaches.

Godin is the author of the book "Flipping the Funnel" that we’re using as a training guide for the next two weeks or so with SFC Premium Members.  Here, when it comes to the iPhone, Godin lays out the problem with the iPhone’s competitors outlining its weak points to customers who are considering it for the next phone:

"I think this is bad marketing. If someone is going to switch carriers and you’ve done your best to denigrate their choice, you’ve not only lost a customer, you’ve also lost credibility and respect going forward. (Because your criticism of the phone is also criticism of my judgment.)

What I’d try instead? How about this:

"The iPhone will cost $500, plus a new battery next year, plus $50 a month. If you spent that money with Verizon, you could have x, y and z…"

Then I’d spend the rest of the conversation selling x, y and z. I’d talk about a superfast network and a more reliable coverage area and all the cool gimmicks and features in the phone I can buy for $350…  (Remember, before now, all you could talk about was cheap phones, not great ones. Apple raises the ceiling).

The iPhone is a gift for every cell phone marketer in the world. Why? Because it creates a problem where there was none before. Now, a cell phone is not just a phone. Now, a phone is worth spending money on. So, since Apple created that ‘problem’ in my mind, how are you going to solve it?"

The lesson for college coaches in all of this?  You face the same choice as Verison, T-Mobile, and the others when you’re dealing with a competitor in the recruiting wars: Slam the competition, or offer comparisons between their program and yours.

Don’t criticize your prospect’s choice as they consider all their offers.  When you do, you’re criticizing themtheir judgement…their feelings.  That’s not smart.

Instead, tell them what your competitor can’t offer, and what you can.  Replace your prospect’s interest in the particulars of a competitor’s offering with the advantages and uniqueness of what your program offers.

Instead of beating-up your prospect with why they shouldn’t consider the other guys, compliment their choice in considering your opponent and then show them why you are an even better choice! 

Every time you see or hear about an iPhone, remember this recruiting lesson: Never trash your prospect’s decision to look at a competitor.  Instead, show them why your program is an even smarter choice for their collegiate and athletic future.

9 Things That Can Cripple Your RecruitingMonday, July 2nd, 2007

The great thing about summertime is that its a chance for new beginnings for college coaches around the country.

You might find yourself at a new school.  And you probably have new athletes coming in to your program.  Maybe you even have some new coaches in your in your office for the upcoming school year…or, perhaps everything around you is the same, except for the fact that its a new year full of new and promising possibilities.

Now, let me snap you back to reality, coach.  Many of you are worried.  Real worried.  You don’t want this coming year to be as bad as the last year – I know, because you’ve talked to me or e-mailed me with your questions and suggestions on how to change your recruiting fortunes as you prepare for the new year. 

When it comes to recruiting (which is really selling, of course) the same thing holds true for most of you: You’re worried.

Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college sports program.  If you don’t recruit well, you don’t win.  If you don’t win, you might not have a job.  And even if they let you keep your job, its not as much fun walking around campus as it is when you’re winning.

So today, let’s not focus on what to do to be successful at selling and recruiting.  Instead, lets look at the reasons you might be failing when it comes to recruiting high school and junior college athletes.  See if any of these nine struggles plagued your recruiting efforts this past year:

  • You don’t believe in your ability to recruit.  Believe it or not, a lot of coaches struggle with this.  They know they’re great coaches, but they hate recruiting and feel like they can’t get the job done.  If you don’t think you have the ability to recruit, get help.  Learn to sell.  Become a SFC Premium Member and let us help you develop a personalized plan for recruiting success.  Do things that will raise your ability level when it comes to selling and recruiting.
  • You are lazy and unprepared.  Sound harsh?  It isn’t in the case of some coaches.  Many coaches I meet with don’t take recruiting seriously, and don’t prepare for it going into a new season.  No preparation will equal mediocrity every single time.  Is it hard to be more prepared than your competition to recruit?  Your darn right it is.  Start now to prepare yourself for the upcoming recruiting battles.
  • You don’t know how to accept rejection.  Coaches tend to get down on themselves when an athlete rejects their offer.  Many develop a negative attitude and a defeatist outlook when it comes to recruiting.  Remember, coach:  They are not rejecting you, they’re rejecting your offer.  There’s a difference.  Don’t become bitter, and don’t lose your optimism.  Maintaining your confidence and belief in your ability in the face of rejection is key to succeeding.
  • You fail to master the fundamentals of sales.  I’ve said it many times: Like it or not, coach, you’re a salesperson.  Recruiting is selling.  Have you mastered selling skills?  Are you reading sales training materials?  Are you serious about developing this crucial aspect of your professional career?  If you answered "no" to any one of these things, that should be a red flag.  Take matters into your own hands and train yourself to become a great salesperson.  The resources are out there…they are yours for the taking.
  • You fail to overcome the objections of your prospects.  This is huge.  We talk about it frequently here at Selling for Coaches, as you may already know.  This is the number one reason coaches fail when it comes to recruiting.  Why?  Because no prospect is going to say "yes" when you have failed to answer each one of their concerns.  Learn the best techniques to overcome objections, and you’ll find that recruiting will get a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
  • You blame others for your mistakes or shortcomings.  Recruiting isn’t easy, there’s no doubt about it.  But when you start blaming others for your recruiting failures, you’ve lost the psychological battle in selling.  Don’t blame your athletic director, your fellow coach, your facilities, your school’s academic standards, the prospect’s parents…stop it.  The buck stops with you when it comes to your area of recruiting oversight.  Make it your goal to be the best recruiter in your athletic department instead of looking for the next scapegoat for your lackluster performance.
  • You can’t cope with change.  Some coaches are creatures of habit.  And, they like it that way.  But change is constant in the NCAA and at your institution…new policies and procedures, new recruiting limits, new rules, new guidelines, new restrictions.  You know the drill.  To be the best, you have to embrace change and learn to succeed under new and changing circumstances.  Maintain your positive attitude – it’s essential to being successful in recruiting, and in life.
  • You fail to develop long term relationships.  How many high school and junior college coaches did you really work at developing relationships with last season?  Did you expand your recruiting network?  Failure to develop enthusiastic advocates at the high school level is a common problem we see when we come in to help develop a winning recruiting strategy at colleges around the country.  Why is it so important to develop long term relationships?  Because you’ll have more eyes and ears out there eager to give you tips on who to watch and recruit.  Prep coaches are eager to give you that information…if they feel you’re partnering with them for the good of their program and their athlete’s lives.  Take the time to develop GREAT long term relationships this year with as many high school coaches as you can. 
  • You aren’t persistent.  "I’ll only recruit a kid if they call me first."  Or, "I’ve already sent them enough information…if that’s not good enough, then we don’t want them."  Those types of "take it or leave it, kid" statements from college coaches are foolish.  And the coaches who hold those attitudes won’t be coaching for very long in most cases.  Being professional persistent is a key to selling in the business world, and a big key to success in the college recruiting world.  Don’t give up.  Ever.  But remember to be professional.  And, as we talk about in our recruiting book, "Selling for Coaches", if an athlete picks another program over yours be professional in how you respond to them (those of you who have already read the book know the secret – and some of you have already e-mailed me to tell me how it has worked for you!).

Hopefully, none of these apply to you.  For many of you, some will apply.  Here’s the next step: Determine how to erase any of these bad habits from your work life as a recruiter and a coach.  Even one of these can cripple your coaching career, and make recruiting more of a chore than it needs to be.

Need help?  Have a question?  Contact me via e-mail at dan@sellingforcoaches.com or call my office at 661.746.4554.  Summer slows down a bit for us because a lot of coaches take time away from their work, so we’d enjoy talking with you (especially if you haven’t talked to us personally before). 

We’d love help, and will do our best to help erase any bad habits that you might be struggling with as a coach and a recruiter.

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