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 the 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.