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Six Tips for Making Great Follow-up CallsMonday, February 25th, 2008

We’re at that time of year when coaches all over the country are waiting for decisions from their prospects.  Sure, some of the lucky few are done and already thinking about next year’s class (or the class of 2010).  But for the majority, the jury is still out.

What’s a nervous coach to do?  I know what you want to do.  You want to pick up the phone and make another follow-up call to that prospect who’s taking just a little too long to call you back with their decision.

So, since many of you are facing the challenge of making effective follow-up phone calls, I wanted to give you six tips for making great follow-up calls to your recruits. 

Get a Commitment for the Follow-up
Perhaps the single biggest mistake coaches make is not establishing a specific date and time for Telephonethe follow-up call at the end of their previous visit. Vague commitments from prospects ("call me next week") or recruiters ("I’ll send the paperwork you need and follow-up in a couple of days") result in missed calls, voice mail messages and ultimately a longer recruiting cycle. All you need to do is ask for a follow-up date and time. Try something like this, Coach:

"I’ll be glad to work up all of the paperwork you need to get back to me and mail it to you. And what I would like to recommend is that we set up Tuesday, the 19th, at say, 8:45 to review it in detail and determine the next steps if any. How does that sound?"

If you’re registered for one of our upcoming workshops, "Building a Winning Recruiting Message", you’ll learn all about why asking how something "sounds" is vital to moving the process forward.  For right now, just trust me…ask "how does that sound?" instead of something like "what do you think?"

Back to your call…if this is not a good time, recommend another time. If that doesn’t work, get them to establish a time and date. Creating a deadline is a simple but extremely powerful tactic. Use it.

Build "Call Equity" and Be Remembered
After every first call to a prospect, send a thank-you card. Handwrite a message that simply says, "John, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I look forward to catching-up with you further on the 16th! Keep up the good work." No more, no less.

In today’s fast paced world, a handwritten card tells your prospect that you took the time and the effort to do something a little different. This registers in your recruit’s mind and creates a degree of "equity" in you. It differentiates you and is remembered. And, it gives your teenage prospect a reason to be there when you make your follow-up call.  If you want the details behind this line of thinking, you should read our special report that goes inside the mind of your college prospect…it’s fascinating, and will tell you all about what your prospects think about handwritten notes and letters.

If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an email with the same note. Just be aware that an email does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note.

Email a Reminder and an Agenda
The day before your follow-up call, email your prospect to remind him or her of your appointment. In the subject line, enter the words: "Telephone appointment for March 19th and article of interest." Note that the subject line acts as a reminder but it is vague enough that the prospect will probably open it. There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed.

Your email should confirm the date and time of the appointment and then briefly list your agenda:

"John, the call should only take about 10 or 15 minutes. We’ll review what we talked about last time and I’ll answer any questions. And then we’ll determine the next steps, if any."

Notice how the words echo those used when the follow-up was initially set. In particular, notice the trigger phrase ". . .the next steps, if any." The "if any" helps reduce some of the stress or concern your prospects or their parents might have. Often they skip the follow-up call because they are worried that they’ll be pressured to make a commitment. This is natural. If prospects sense an easy, informal, "no pressure" type of phone call, they are more likely to show up and be on time for that call.

Add Value in a P.S.
Notice the reference to an article in your email’s subject line. At the end of your email, add a P.S. that says, "John, in the meantime, here’s an article I thought you might enjoy regarding. . ."

The article may be about your your team, a big win, an interesting story about a recruiting issue of interest, or something completely non-sports related that might show a little bit of your fun side. This creates tremendous value even if your recruit does not open it. Why? Because you took the time to do something extra. This helps you be remembered and gives the prospect yet another reason to take your follow-up call.

Of course, this means you have to do some homework. Keep an eye out on the web for articles of interest and value relative to your sport or the topic of recruiting. You might even keep a file of these articles because they can be used over and over again with future recruits.

Call On Time
Don’t start your relationship on the wrong foot. Call on time. Never, ever be late with your follow-up call. Not even by a minute. The promptness and respect you show on a follow-up call reflects on you, your program and your college.

By the way, you know who notices late calls the most?  The parents.  And you don’t want to get your relationship with them off on the wrong foot, do you?

Avoid Opening Statement Blunders
So many coaches stumble and fall by using these routine follow-up opening statements:

"I was calling to follow-up on the paperwork…"
"I am just calling to see if you had any questions…"
"I just wanted to make sure you got my email…"
"The reason for my follow-up was to see if you had come to decision…" 
   
These opening statements are not only poor; they are commonplace and do nothing to differentiate you. You are perceived as yet another run of the mill coach looking for a "sale". You need a little more pizzazz, don’t you think?  Think of ways to differentiate yourself and give your prospect a real reason to sit up and pay attention to your follow-up call. 

If you’re a Premium Member, I’m going to be sending you two more tips on the subject of making great follow-up phone calls on Thursday.  If you’re not one yet, sign up now.

Here’s the key to follow-up calls: Have something original to say, and know when to say it.  It’s a bit of an art form, to be honest, and the best way to become an expert at it is to practice, practice, practice. 

Got prospects to follow-up with?  Try some new tactics and use some of these tips to get a better response.

How to Beat Other Coaches for RecruitsMonday, February 18th, 2008

After just fifteen seconds talking with one of our Premium Members on the phone, I could tell she was ticked-off.

She just found out that she had lost a recruit.  A good one, too.  One that I had helped her with in Frustrated coachdeveloping a strategy for selling that prospect on her school.  But it had all just "blown apart", in her words, thanks to a competitor who bombarded the prospect with negative recruiting over the last two weeks.  Now, this coach’s prospect had doubts and was passing on the offer to come and play for the coach.

The best way to respond?  Certainly not with negative recruiting.  And not by acting defensively in responding to what another coach has said.  So how do you compete with a tough recruiter who wants a prospect just as badly as you do – and seems to be willing to say or do anything to keep that prospect from signing with you?. 

Here are my five ways to beat other coaches for recruits…tactfully, creatively and without slandering them: 

Find out what they like about the competition, then chip away at them.  Before you can chip away at the other guys, you need to know what your prospect perceives their strengths to be.  Ask them to list the strong-points of each of the other schools that are recruiting them.  As you hear the answers, reply to each one with a phrase like, "That’s interesting that you mention that, because actually we are stronger in that area than them."  Then, list why.  Even if they’re a bigger program, or more presitgious, this subtle reply works well.  It’s important to note that I don’t consider this negative recruiting; instead, its pointing out side-by-side comparisons between you and the other guys, and doing it in a professional way that accentuates your positives.

Have the prospect create their own doubt about the competition.  A good way to do this is to ask your prospect, "As you’ve had the chance to get to know these other coaches that are recruiting you, what are some things that you’ve noticed that you don’t like that much about the coach, program and school?"  You might word the question differently, and that’s fine.  But the point is to get the prospect to start actively thinking about your competition’s weaknesses instead of their strengths.  Is this negative recruiting?  Hardly.  You are letting your prospect develop their own questions about the other program that is recruiting them, which is something that they may not have done yet.

Spend time really, truly connecting with your prospect.  This is a big focus at the "Building a Winning Recruiting Message" workshops we’re getting ready to host in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston.  Connect with your prospect through your communication with them is essential if you Dan Tudor speakingwant to block-out a competitor.  Most coaches are too focused on just "getting the sale" than they are about really connecting on a deep level with your prospect.  Ask thought-provoking questions of the athlete, and of their parents.  Spend time talking to their coach.  Invest your time in your prospect and the people that will help them make their decision, and try to dig deep into the non-sports areas of their lives.  Coaches who do this usually beat their competition, and you always come across as more professional than their counterparts.  If you need some good strategies on how to improve this area of your career, join us at one of these upcoming workshops.

Make sure you overcome ALL your prospect’s objections to what you’re offering them.  This is another big topic in our training guides for recruiters, and one that we’ll be focusing on with our Premium Members later this Spring.  Why?  Because its the most important part of recruiting an athlete, and it may be something that your competition isn’t doing.  Find out specific objections your prospect has, and make sure they get addressed.  If you want a free article on two ways to successfully address objections that your prospect brings up, click here.

Ask your prospect how they’d like to be recruited.  Here’s what I mean by that: Tell your prospect you really want to tailor a specific recruiting conversation to them personally, and then ask them how they’ll be making their decision.  What information do they need?  What questions do they need answered?  What’s important to them?  What aspect of your offer (you, your program, your college) means the most to them?  Most of your competition doesn’t ask these kind of direct questions.  But they should…they work! 

Competition is tough, and its only getting tougher as we head into the last few months of the 2008 recruiting season and as you start to recruit your 2009 and 2010 recruits.  Try using these strategies to start to get an edge on your competition in the battle for recruits, and let us know if we can train you further on any of these techniques.

Why Do Recruiters Need the Equal Sign?Monday, February 11th, 2008

I just returned from a great trip to Texas where I had the chance to work with twenty-one coaches who were a part of our latest workshop, "Building a Winning Recruiting Message".  It was a fantastic weekend, and I think the group picked-up some interesting strategies that they can start using immediately as they wind-up their 2008 class and look ahead to 2009 and beyond.

One of the concepts we talked about at the workshop was the importance of developing your own Equal signprogram’s "story" – that history, as well as your vision for where the program is going, that will help your prospects understand who you are and what you’re all about.

When I talk about your "story", maybe its easier to explain it this way: The best recruiters always find a way to give their prospects the equal sign in everything they communicate to them.

What do I mean by "the equal sign"? 

Expert marketer and best-selling author Seth Godin has a good example of the concept:

"A hundred years ago, food wasn’t much of an industry. Today, packaged, profitable, processed food has transformed every element of our culture.

The Super Bowl is a food holiday. Visit (if you must) the local supermarket on a Sunday morning before the big game. That’s the primary function of the event… to eat processed foods and beverages while hanging out with a group of people. Bonding via shared junk.

Same with a typical birthday party. Kids get validation from their friends (you came) and from their parents (yay, we get to eat junk.)

Marketing, when it works, transcends any discussion of the benefits of the product or the service.

Marketing, instead, is about the equal sign.

Many of us want fun and respect and love and success and kindness and hope. What brilliant marketers do is add the =."

O.K., so here’s what all that means for a coach who wants to get great athletes wearing his or her school’s uniform:

  • That "story" I was talking about a minute ago?  It’s important.  It’s what makes the equal sign possible, actually.  The equal sign comes at the end of the story.  No story, no equal sign, and probably no recruit.
  • Your impressive statistics, your great graduation rates, the new dorms…they all need the equal sign.  You have to help connect the dots for your prospect.  You have to make all of that great stuff about them.  To do that, you’ll need the equal sign tying what you have to what they want.
  • When you are developing your recruiting letters and e-mails, focus more on how your prospect is probably feeling when they read about your new dorms.  Focus your words and images on what those new dorms "equal" for your prospect once they sign with your prospect.

Here’s what I want you to do: Take ten minutes and look over one of your recruiting letters or e-mails that you send out to prospects.  Do you do a good job of giving your prospect the equal sign when it comes to laying out your benefits, and what they mean, for your recruits?

The transfer of emotion from what you’re offering to an athlete, and what they perceive you’re offering that will give them what they want, is one of the toughest tasks in recruiting.  That’s why it’s easier to just dust off an old letter and send it out again.

Sure, it’s easier.  But is it an effective way to beat your competition going after the same prospect?

Want to learn more techniques to develop killer recruiting messages?  Some of your competition already has…they’ve attended "Building a Winning Recruiting Message", our workshop for coaches who want to change the way they recruit (and they rave about the weekend!).

We have several workshops scheduled in the next few weeks, and want to see you there!  If you’d like to get information on attending our next workshop, click here or e-mail Dan Tudor directly at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  

The Three Big Questions A.D.’s Should Ask About Their CoachesMonday, February 11th, 2008

by Rodger Motiska, Winning Recruits 

One of the major flaws in most recruiting efforts is using the same tired messages and methods to communicate with recruits.  They talk about their past successes, their new leading edge facilities, their experienced coaching staff, blah! blah! blah!  It all sounds and looks the same to a recruit.

Because a majority of coaches fail to distinguish their programs from one another the result is what marketing experts refer to as a lack of "brand differentiation."  Recruits fail to see what is truly different about a program, and as a result they default to making decisions based on their "feelings" and the common demonitator of the value of the scholoarship (the perceived value, not just the monetary value) being offered.

The failure to define a team’s "brand" results in a coach’s lack of control of the selling process.. their ability to influence the recruit’s decision.  Instead of a persuasive, logical argument as to why their school is the best fit for an athlete, the recruit’s decision is influenced instead  by the power of the recruiter’s personality, the subjective feelings of the recruit and often just dumb luck!

When we talk about developing a team’s "brand"  we’re not talking about the school’s athletic logo.  That’s what the merchandising guys deal with.  We’re talking about defining a strategic set of statements that define your program and what sets it apart from the competition.

These statements form the backbone of a team’s recruiting messages and how they are communicated influence a recruit’s perception of the program, the school and the recuit’s ability to make a decision on something other than their "feelings."

The process for developing their team’s brand starts with determining what their program’s unique attributes are.

1. How would the coach define his personality?
2. What characteristics does the coach value in his team?  In his players?
3. What is unique about his or her coaching philosophy, his or her coaching style, the values he or she tries to impart?

Pat SummitThe Lady Vols under head coach Pat Summitt are one of the most successful basketball programs in the history of the sport, men’s or women’s.  Did you know that over the course of 30 years they have graduated 100% of their players?  What doe’s that say to recruits (and their parents) about coach Summitt’s values?

The answers to the 3 above questions form the building blocks for developing a team’s brand.

These building blocks enable key recruiting messages to be crafted, giving recruits concrete reasons to consider the school.  It helps sell the coach’s program based on value to the recruit.

You build your "brand" by how you communicate your message.  By developing tools that have a consistent message and visually reinforce that message.

Establishing the team’s "brand" should be the cornerstone of a coach’s recruiting strategy.  It will set them apart from the competition and give them the persuasive power they need to win the recruits they want.

The Strangest Recruiting Story of 2008Monday, February 4th, 2008

On the eve of National Signing Day for college football prospects, this story is almost too off-the-wall to believe. 

Think of the strangest recruiting story you can remember. Got it? It’s about to get topped.  Here’s the story, courtesy of Sports Illustrated…it’s one for the ages.

Kevin Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman from Fernley (Nev.), held a press conference this past Friday at Fernley High to announce where he intended to play college football. The local newspaper covered it. So did local television stations. It came down to a tough choice between Oregon and Cal, Hart told reporters, but in the end, he had decided he would sign with the Bears on Wednesday. It was a big moment; no athlete at the school had gone to a Division I school directly from high school, according to the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal.

"[Cal] coach [Jeff] Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind of gave me that real personal experience," Hart told reporters at the press conference.

Several hours later, BearTerritory.net, a recruiting site that covers Cal sports, reported that no scholarship had been offered and that no one on the Cal coaching staff had been in contact with Hart or Fernley coach Mark Hodges. According to the Gazette-Journal, school officials spent part of the weekend trying to discern exactly how Hart came to believe he had scholarship offers to Oregon and Cal. The NCAA was called, Nevada Interscholastic Athletics Association executive director Eddie Bonine said. Hart, reached Monday by Sports Illustrated, declined comment. So did Hodges, citing an ongoing investigation. No one from Cal or Oregon can comment on Hart because NCAA rules forbid employees of member schools from commenting publicly about recruitable athletes.

Is it possible someone pulled off an elaborate hoax and made Hart believe he was being recruited when he wasn’t? It’s easy to guess that Hart invented his recruitment, but if he did, why would he hold a press conference and risk the potential embarrassment of being exposed? That part doesn’t make sense.

A little easier to understand is how a player and a family might not have understood how the recruiting process works. A player offered a scholarship would have received volumes of mail from the school. He also would have received a visit from an assistant coach and probably the head coach. School officials would have ensured the player sent his transcript and test scores to the NCAA Clearinghouse for examination. These things are obvious to those who follow college football passionately, but not necessarily to those who don’t.

If it was a hoax or practical joke, Hart may not have legal recourse. Lyon County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Tom VanDalinda arrived at work Monday with a stack of messages from reporters asking about his department’s investigation into the case. VanDalinda said he could find no incident report concerning the case, and even if the department found someone had impersonated a coach, VanDalinda said he isn’t sure there is a crime on the books with which to charge the offending party.

"I can’t see how we would be involved, because I don’t know what crime would have been committed," VanDalinda said. "Either someone is impersonating a recruiter or a fantastic story has been told."

3 Ways to Get Them Interested (Again)Monday, February 4th, 2008

This time of year, coaches are either really happy with how their recruiting efforts are going or they’re desperate for some ideas on how to re-kindle interest from some of the high target recruits they were going after earlier in the year. 

There are a few reasons I think it’s smart to try and go after this group of prospects:

  • They’re already familiar with you as a coach, your program, and the basics of your offer.
  • They’re still interested in playing college sports somewhere (assuming they haven’t already signed with a competitor).
  • They’re probably feeling a little anxious about their plans for next year as we head into the early Spring.

So, how do you go after this group, get their attention again, and re-kindle the communication and interest in your program?

Here are three ideas on how to approach this group of prospects.  These are some of the strategies we outline in detail in our two recruiting guides for college coaches and are part of the agenda for our upcoming recruiting workshops you can attend, but we’ll stick with these three "basics" to get you started today:

Apologize for the lack of communication.  Sure, its probably partly (or mostly) their fault for not communicating.  But as the person who is initiating the contact, and as the "authority figure" in the relationship, you need to be the one to apologize.  It will take the pressure off of them and open the door for ongoing communication.  I have found that this simple strategy works well for coaches because they feel like they’re calling for a reason, and that they are using their "neglect" as a reason for the follow-up. 

Call with lots of urgency.  Be honest with them that you’re looking to wrap up your recruiting efforts by the beginning of March or April.  Tell them that you’ve been waiting to hear back from them, but haven’t, so you wanted to be a little forward and push the process forward.  Tell them that they are a high priority recruit who can make an impact in your program, but you need a final answer as to whether they are interested in pursuing a spot on your team.  I worked with a college volleyball coach a few weeks ago and we used this approach with a great prospect that was looking at twelve different schools, including my coach’s school.  Since my coach was the only one that had called her with urgency and firmly "asked for the sale", she went with him.  The coach said that his prospect has since told him that none of the other coaches went this far in urgently asking her for a commitment, and was waiting for that final "push" from a coach.  It’s amazing, isn’t it?  We think we might be "pushy" in asking for a commitment, yet the athlete looks at it with a feeling of relief.  It gives them a reason to finally end the process.

Call with the assumption that they’ve signed with someone else, and offer your congratulations.  If they have signed with another school, you’ll come off as a class act.  Make sure you take the time to ask two or three questions about why your prospect choose the other school…that will come in handy the next time you’re selling against them.  If they haven’t signed with another school, they’ll tell you…and the door will be re-opened!  You’ll still look like a class act, and you can re-kindle your recruiting conversation again.  If you do have the opportunity to talk with the prospect again about scholarship possibilities, make sure you use one of the techniques I listed above to get the process rolling again quickly.  Remember, you have a second chance with this athlete…take full advantage of it.

Persistence pays off in sales, coach.  Approach it smartly…you might be pleasantly surprised at what you end up with at the end of re-contacting all of your newly rekindled prospects.

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