Dan Tudor

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The Power of Walking AwayMonday, September 24th, 2007

As you start to get down to the business of signing your top prospects this year, we want to remind you that coaches like you are not just involved in "recruiting".  You’re involved in negotiations. 

Parents, and even your prospect, are getting pretty good at maintaining their poker faces and seeing which school offers the best package.  So what should you as a coach do?  Maintain the power of walking away.

Here’s an excerpt from our new book, "What They Didn’t Teach You About Recruiting", dealing with the incredible power you have to control the sales and recruiting process from start to finish:

"Walking away.  That’s tough for a lot of coaches, and in some instances it isn’t recommended.  But if we’re talking about an athlete that is abusing his or her relationship with you and your staff – taking too much of your time, demanding too much, parents are making unrealistic requests…you know who I’m talking about, coach – then its your right to walk away, and that’s a very powerful negotiating tool.  It’s the same basic concept that many coaches use in offering a scholarship to a prospect, but giving them a deadline for accepting the offer.  Basically, you’re telling them that you will “walk away” if they don’t commit.
 
If your prospect knows that you will move on to another recruit without hesitation, you’ll maintain your control of the process and your position as the power player in the negotiating process.  And can I tell you something else?  You’ll actually build respect in the process…your prospect could end up liking the fact that you’re taking a strong position.  People are drawn to strength, and it will often command more respect than groveling and pleading the athlete to stay interested.

The big key to making these work?  Practice.  Over and over and over again.  Why?  It makes a difference come "game time" when the prospects are real, the objections are tough, and successful negotiations can make the difference between players wanting you to add them to your roster, or you looking in the want ads for a new job."

It’s a powerful technique that a few college coaches have mastered.  I’ve seen it in action, and it works because it gives coaches the ability to maintain control of the process from start to finish.  That’s important, because losing control of the recruiting process is one of the biggest reasons coaches wind-up sitting by the phone wondering why the recruit they were positive was going to sign with them hasn’t called them in three weeks.

Maintain your power, coach.  You can help do that by maintaining the power of walking away from a prospect.

Time Saving Recruiting Tips for College CoachesMonday, September 24th, 2007

At a lot of smaller colleges (some big ones, too) the biggest recruiting obstacle coaches face isn’t necessarily budgets, lackluster facilities or their selling skills when they’re recruiting on the telephone.

Sometimes, it all comes down to just not having enough time.

I just got back from doing an On-Campus Seminar this past weekend at a great private school in the Northeast.  When we started trading ideas about how to create a more centralized, consistent and creative message that goes out to athletes, one coach started to look a little stressed.

"It’s just that I don’t know when I’m going to have time to put all of it into use," she said.  "I barely have time to recruit as it is, not to mention my coaching duties."

That’s a familiar hurdle that we hear from coaches more and more.  It’s also a common complaint that Sean Devlin from Front Rush hears from the coaches who are looking to use their product in their daily recruiting efforts.

"Coaches need to be spending less of their time on administrative tasks", says Devlin.  "Whether this includes filtering through 3-ring binders of recruits, typing data into excel spreadsheets, or copying and pasting email addresses into Outlook, the administrative end of the
coach’s day to day is simply taking up valuable time."

The time hurdle gets even tougher to clear once the coach gets really serious about one of his or her prospects.  "The process of seeing a recruit, gathering their information, putting that data in some sort of quasi-organized format so that it is accessible later is painstaking," says Devlin.  "Even after this process occurs and is repeated for each recruit, most coaches don’t have an easy way to get access to the proper information at all times, and easily view the important parts of a recruit’s profile. We find that coaches are wasting more time by trying to organize this information and unfortunately, important pieces can fall through the cracks."

Using a simple to learn system like Front Rush can dramatically reduce the time that it takes to recruit an athlete.  For example, before Front Rush, many coaches would take the recruit data that they received from recruit questionnaires and type it into some database such as excel. Now, when an athlete fills out the questionnaire, that data is automatically entered into the coach’s Front Rush application. Since it is instant and automatic, the recruiting process can begin immediately where
historically the coach would have to spend time organizing it. 

In addition to using an inexpensive recruiting automation tool like Front Rush, coaches can also take these simple steps to save time and become more efficient recruiters:

  • Clean your desk!  Sounds too simple, right?  But take note: Numerous studies show that a messy desk decreases your ability to work effectively and productively.  That equates to lots of lost time for coaches.
  • Check your e-mail twice per day, and no more.  E-mail is becoming one of the biggest time wasters in the professional world.  Coaches who we instruct through their SFC Premium Memberships often waste up to an hour a day just checking, and reply to, e-mails that come to their Inbox.  Do it once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.  That’s it.
  • Make a list and stick to it.  "To do" lists aren’t just for weekend chores at home.  They are great for keeping you on task during your hectic get-pulled-in-twenty-different-directions day.  Whether its on a Post-It note or on your Blackberry, make a list the night before and then stick with it.  You’ll be surprised how much more you accomplish during the day.

Devlin, who oversees product development for Front Rush’s web-based recruiting tool, points out that they’ve received a lot of input from coaches when it comes to how the product could be better used by college staffs.  That early feedback led to some cool features that are now a part of Front Rush:

  • The ability to search for recruits based on any number of levels
  • The ability to quickly populate a report on the number of calls, e-mails, campus visits, and letters that a recruit has received during the recruiting process.
  • The ability to assign tasks to their assistants and track their completion without having to chase the assistant down to find out if they completed their assignment.  For instance, did they call their recruit and talk about turning in an application before the deadline?  A coaching staff using a time-savings automation tool like this one could get the information quickly and easily.

Coaches need to guard their time carefully.  It’s their most precious resource, and you need to be smart about ways to become more efficient day to day.  You also need to pinpoint where time is being wasted, and correct that immediately.  Your recruiting success (and maybe even your coaching employment!) depends upon it. 

Overcoming the Stress of “The Close”Monday, September 17th, 2007

Recruiters often work themselves into a frenzy about "The Close" when they’re ready to sign a prospect. The bigger the recruit, the sweatier the palms. And head coaches who ask about that upcoming "big decision" every day for a week serve only to amplify the anxiety for a lot of coaches who live or die by the recruits they sign.

Okay, so maybe I exagerated a little.  But you know there is a lot riding on your offer, and you take it seriously as a coach.  So is it OK to stress-out about the pending yes or no?

The truth about closing is that it never happens all at once. Your efforts as a college recruiter to make it happen "all at once" – to focus all the decisions into one meeting and one day – is like trying to push an elephant through the eye of a needle. You’re defying nature, asking for the impossible of your teenage prospect. It’s why your prospect almost invariably says… all together now (because all of you know what the prospect almost invariably says)… "I need some time to think about it, coach."

The prospect knows what you too should know. You’re not asking for "a decision"; you’re asking for "a set of decisions".

Your prospect has to be able to say yes to each step along the way, like we talk about in our training guides for college coaches.  Your recruit has to think through all the angles, not just the pieces and parts you presented so clearly and persuasively in your recruiting letters and information, but a lot of other issues and considerations known only to him or her. These little decisions are interdependent and many of them must happen in sequence in order for you to get the yes you’re seeking. So, of course, your prospect needs "some time to think about it."

If you looked at signing your athlete as a process rather than an event, you’d have fewer sleepless nights and sweaty palms, and your prospect would need a lot less time to say yes.  Like we teach at our On-Campus Seminars in college athletic departments around the country, coaches need to set up a complete system of recruiting: The letters, the phone calls, the e-mails and the visits are all connected (at least they should be) so that you put together a complete case for why your program is the obvious best choice.  And of course, if you’ve read our new study on how recruits make their college decision, you know how important it is to include their parents in all the aspects of your recruiting plan.

In the business world, many of the best salespeople have relocated the proposal from the middle of the sales process to the end. Rather than gather up all the decisions to be made at once (as if that were even possible!) sales pros work shoulder to shoulder with their prospect in building the plan. They recognize that the big "Yes" they’re seeking is really a string of incremental yeses. (Just think back to the last time you bought a car… was it one decision or a string of decisions, starting with "I guess I really need to replace this thing.")

Take the mystery and the risk out of the process-for your client and yourself. Turn "The Close" from a looming giant mountain into a series of no-sweat molehills. The pros sell interactively, and often get their yes before less savvy coaches get their "maybe". They spend less time working on the prospect, and more time working with the prospect. Selling your program interactively often happens fast, with frequent conversations and collaborations, some in-person, some by phone, some through email. By the time it’s all on paper, the prospect has already vetted, problem-solved, and approved everything.

Your prospect really does "need time to think about it." Your job as a college coach is not to take that time away from them, but simply not to deliver your final proposal until they’ve put the time in and built the proposal with you.

New Recruiting Technology Making It Easier for Coaches to RecruitMonday, September 17th, 2007

It all started a few years ago.

Brad’s post-college roommate was a graduate assistant coach, and came home one evening with an arm full of file folders, sheets of paper, and Post-It notes.  He was getting ready for a full night of calling recruits.  Brad was coming up with a great business idea.

His idea?  A complete content management system for college coaches.  It’s called Front Rush, and it allows college coaches to keep their prospects organized, tracks the recruiting process, helps with NCAA compliance, and makes it easier for recruiters to creatively communicate with their prospects.

Front RushBrad Downs, now Director of Sales for the company, brought in Sean Devlin who was helping developing technology for Monster.com to help start the endevour.  Front Rush started developing their web-based technology in December 2005, got their first client last October, and now boasts more than 200 clients.

The secret to their fast growth?  Front Rush is easy to use, and built for almost any coach’s budget.

"We looked at the market and thought it would be great for every coach at every college to be in a position to use Front Rush," says Leidy Smith, the company’s CEO.  "We found that coaches are looking for an easy-to-use technology solution, and we wanted to price it so that we weren’t competing with the higher-priced big boys that were already in the market."

That being said, Front Rush now has their share of D1 believers around the country, as well as a lot of D2, D3 and NAIA coaching clients who have come to rely on their software to be more effective recruiters.

"None of our competitors had mastered ‘usability’ when it came to their products," says Devlin.  "We really feel like we’ve developed a good feel for what coaches want in a product, and we’ve made it simple for them to use."

Devlin gives the example of one Division III coach who is a Front Rush client who began seeing results from the product’s e-mail functionality.  The coach dreaded sending mass e-mails to recruits using his regular e-mail provider.  But with Front Rush, publishing graphic-rich e-mails to targeted recruits enabled that coach to land two big recruits that he wouldn’t have normally gone after before using Front Rush.

There are some key features to Front Rush that college coaches point to as a big reason they are becoming big fans of system:

  • The ability to send out great looking bulk e-mails to all or part of their prospect list.
  • A cool online submission form for recruits to submit their information to a coach that is recruiting them.
  • A complete branding tool that gives prospects a consistent look and feel for the program that is recruiting them.

The best part about the software, say Smith and Devlin, is that coaches tell them it’s easy to use.  In fact, most coaches are up and running – and fully trained – in less than an hour. 

For an online demo of the Front Rush system, or to ask about their affordable tiered pricing options for teams and entire athletic departments, visit them online at www.frontrush.com or call Front Rush at 866-634-1186.

Survey Says??? Your Prospect’s Parents and Coaches Help Them Make Their College ChoiceMonday, September 10th, 2007

We had a lot of coaches read our downloadable eBook last week.  It’s a 26-page report entitled "Inside the Mind of Your College Prospect" and it is a first of it’s kind survey of some of the country’s top college prospects.  It tells coaches how their prospects make their decisions, and what information they rely upon to do so.

One of the most interesting aspects of the survey was the section when we talked to athletes about what outside factors effect their final decision.  The biggest factors?  Their parents and their coaches.

91.3% of prospects said their parents were a "very important" or "important" factor in their decision making.  That’s huge!  Nine out of ten of your prospects rely on mom and dad to help them make a decision about where to play college sports.  My question for you, coach: What kind of efforts are you making to recruit your prospect’s parents?  What are you mailing them?  What kinds of phone calls are you placing to parents?  It matters, coach.  Your prospects are using their parents as a resource to make their decision.  Take advantage of that, coach.

In addition, 78.8% of prospects said that they viewed their coach as either a "very important" or "important" outside decision-making factor.  Same question for you that I just asked: What kind of recruiting strategy do you use with your prospect’s coach?  Do you realize how much power they have over your prospect, and how they will use that power once their prospect comes to them looking for advice?  Do yourself a favor, coach.  Spend time recruiting your prospect’s coach, and make them a big voice in your corner that’s pointing your prospect back to you on a daily basis

We recommend that you develop separate recruiting strategies for the parents of your athletes, as well as for your prospect’s coaches.  These two outside influencers have tremendous power in the final decision that your prospect makes.

To review the other fascinating findings that our study produced, order our report today.  You’ll be able to use the findings to develop a more focused, more successful recruiting campaign and get an inside understanding of the mind of the prospect you’re recruiting.

The #1 Thing Coaches Need to Do When RecruitingMonday, September 10th, 2007

We’re putting the final plan together for our Recruiting Kick-Off Conference on August 9th and 10th in Indianapolis.  If you’re planning on attending, you will be getting some great information.  If you haven’t registered yet, you still have time (click here).

One of the major themes we are going to focus on is how to overcome objections.  When you think about it, overcoming objections is probably the #1 thing that college coaches have to do successfully during the recruiting process.

Overcoming your school’s objections:  The cost.  Some of the facilities on campus.  It’s too far (or too close!) to home.  You know, the typical stuff that any school might list when it comes to hurdles that they have to overcome when they recruit prospects.

One thing that we teach at our workshops, as well as in our books we’ve written especially for recruiters, is how to deal with objections that your prospects have in their minds.  We also talk about how to combat the objections that your competition might plant in the mind of your prospect.

These are several different strategies that require two different approaches from you as a coach:

  • Overcoming objections that your prospect brings up.  If an objection is sitting in the mind of your prospect, they won’t sign with you.  As a recruiter, it’s your job to make sure that you have addressed every single objection that exists in the mind of your recruit.  How do you that?  Ask questions that expose those objections that your prospect has as you’re recruiting them…open-ended questions that get them to open up and tell you what they’re thinking, what questions they have, and what you as a recruiter need to answer before they would be ready to commit to you.  Make sure that you work hard to uncover objections, address them, and move forward.
  • Objections that your competition plant in the mind of your prospect.  Wouldn’t life be easier if you didn’t have to compete for prospects with those pesky competitors?  Sure it would.  But as we all know, that’s not the real world.  So lets talk about a real world strategy for dealing with objections that are planted in the mind of your prospect.  Deal with the list of objections that you know your competitors use against you first.  Address them immediately…don’t avoid them, lead with them!  Why?  Because if you do, you have the chance to define the objection on your terms.  For example, lets go back to the "cost" objection for a moment.  You need to find a way to turn that objection into a selling point.  Tough to do?  Actually, its not…at the workshop we just lead, the coaches we were training came up with several great selling points that they can use to not only overcome the objection, but to make it a selling point that they can use to get a prospect to consider their program.

Think about all of the prospects that you lost in the last year or so.  Why did it happen?  All of their objections were not overcome.  Maybe it was something that one of your competitors put into the mind of your prospect, or maybe it was something that wasn’t uncovered when you were asking them questions.

The point is, objections are should be public enemy number one for you.  Your goal is to uncover them, deal with them, turn them around into selling points, and then move on to the next one. 

Always be trying to uncover new objections.  Once you do, blow it out of the water…get it out of the mind of your prospect.  That is the key to successful recruiting, coach.

 

What Michigan Football Should Tell Their ProspectsTuesday, September 4th, 2007

Football’s version of "the perfect storm" swept over Ann Arbor, Michigan this past weekend.  The Wolverine football program were the casualties.

In case you didn’t hear, the Wolverines – favored by many to win the Big 10 title and challenge for a national championship – lost to D1 sub-conference powerhouse Appalachian State, 34-32.  Their potentially game winning field goal was blocked to end the game, and seal the fate of Michigan.

My thoughts immediately after hearing about the big upset turned to recruiting.  Of course, for Appalachian State, it’s a boon to their recruiting efforts.  David beat Goliath, and that’s a wonderful theme for the Mountaineers from ASU.

But what about Michigan?  What does a crushing upset do to the recruiting prospects of a D1 power like Michigan?  And what should you do if your program is upset by a lower division program that you’re supposed to beat with no problem?

Those are all important questions.  I’ve taught workshops and have coaches who have ordered our two recruiting books at two Big 10 schools, but haven’t had the chance to talk to Michigan football before.  So let me give them some free advice on how to handle this temporary crisis, and at the same time give other coaches some insight on how to handle disasters that strike your program during competition so that you can salvage your reputation and your recruits.

Here are my tips for Michigan football:

  1. Use the loss to make the case that they need new recruits.  I would advise their coaches to contact their recruits immediately, take a "can-you-believe-that-happened?" approach with their prospects, give them some inside info on what it was like afterwards in the locker room, and then make this case: "I’m calling you to let you know that what happened Saturday is the big reason I’m really excited about you coming here.  I was thinking about you during the game, and realized that a prospect like you would have made plays that some of our guys didn’t make."  Prospects are selfish and focused on themselves.  They want to be wanted.  Use a major loss or defeat as the reason that they need to come to your school; make them part of the solution.
  2. Highlight the positives of how the coaches reacted after the game.  Stress the fact that your coaching staff cares about its athletes, and was more concerned about picking them up and sticking together as a team instead of lambasting them for losing to someone they were supposed to beat handily.  Talk about what great people your coaches are (hopefully that’s the case) and how they were rallying the team afterwards.  Your prospects are looking for coaches who care about them, and are focused on making them better athletes and better people.  Use a surprising defeat to demonstrate that your coaches are class acts even in the midst of a temporary crisis.
  3. Answer any questions they have about the loss or the program.  Spend time talking about it and make sure that you ask them what they thought…what they saw…what they would have done differently.  Like we talk about in our two books for recruiters, you can take an uncomfortable situation and turn it into an insightful conversation about the athlete and their role in your program if they choose your school.  Effective, open-ended questions are the key to this, so spend time listening to their answers and gauging how much of an impact the loss had on their view of your program.

When disaster strikes, the biggest mistake coaches can make is to run away from it.  And by the way, I don’t think the coaching staff at Michigan will do that.  But its times like these that can provide an opportunity to impress prospects. 

The truth is, an upset loss isn’t going to sway decisions in most cases.  Why?  Because they aren’t there yet…remember, its all about them.  They aren’t part of your program, so they aren’t connected with the loss in the same way you are, coach.  To be effective in using a loss like this to benefit your recruiting, step back and disconnect from the program for a moment.  Don’t be a representative of the program, be a friend who is focusing on what your prospect thinks.

You can turn disaster into a positive when it comes to recruiting.  But to do so, you’ve got to act immediately, and be smart in the way you talk to your prospects following the kind of Saturday that Michigan football went through.

New Report Takes Coaches Inside the Minds of Their ProspectTuesday, September 4th, 2007

Wouldn’t it be great if you could get inside the mind of your prospect, and really understand how they go about making their final college choice?

Selling for Coaches is releasing a new 26-page report that compiles the findings of a month-long research project that answers that very question.  SFC interviewed and surveyed 250 of the top football prospects for 2008, and asked them a variety of probing questions:

  • How soon do they open their recruiting mail? 
  • How carefully do they read it? 
  • Who do they listen to as they ponder their decision?
  • What outside factors help them decide which college to choose?

That’s just a small sample of the questions that the report attempts to answer.

One of the most interesting findings of the study revolves around what is not important to your prospects.  When asked about the mail the receive from college coaches, your prospects were clear about what role it plays in their decision-making process.  Here’s an excerpt from the report, where we talk about the fact that the first recruiting letter an athlete receives is read immediately and completely.  Letters that follow, however, receive much less attention:

"Once the second letter arrives, excitement and the attention span of your prospect begins to decrease:

When we asked the same question about the second and third+ letters that they receive from coaches, here were the results:

                                                2nd Letter     3+ Letters
“Open and read it immediately”    52.6%               5.9%       

      
“Within 7 days”                           29.0%              65.2%     

"I don’t open it"                       18.4%           28.9%                                   

By the time they get the second letter, nearly half of the respondents aren’t opening it right away.  By the time the third, fourth and fifth letters arrive, nearly one-third of your prospects aren’t even bothering to open your letter!"

The lesson for college coaches, or course, is that they may need to change the way they write letters and the way they form a recruiting strategy that involves mail.  We follow-up our seven sections of findings with tips, techniques and advice for coaches that will help them implement the findings into their daily recruiting duties.

SFC Premium Members are being the sent the report at no charge.  If you’re a coach who is not a Premium Member, but want to receive the 26-page special report on our survey and findings with today’s top college prospects, you can order it here for only $12.00.

After ordering, we will e-mail your report as well as other helpful links and information to help you craft a better recruiting message based on these insightful findings.

This report is one-of-a-kind, and the findings give coaches a rare look into the decision making process that today’s teenage student-athlete goes through in order to choose a school.  The information can play a valuable role in creating a winning strategy for signing the prospects you really want and need.

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