If you can’t recruit good athletes to your school, you don’t have a prayer for having a long coaching career. Plain and simple.
Just like any business, your primary concern has to be making "sales". When I conduct one of our SFC On-Campus Workshops, I try to make the point that 80% of a coach’s time is spent selling or recruiting in some way. You really only get to coach 20% of the time during an average year. The challenge is, of course, you can’t force your recruits to sign with you instead of a competitor.
Your prospect has the advantage. And if he or she wants to ignore your recruiting message and play for the other guy, you can’t stop them. But what you can do, of course, is give them a compelling reason to choose you over your competitors.
And here’s some good news, Coach: You don’t need a lot of money or staff to find – and keep – great recruits. You just need a few easy-to-come-by strategies that savvy business professionals use on a daily basis.
In fact, being "small" can actually work to your advantage when it comes to one of the all-time best strategies: Establishing a relationship with each recruit. It can:
Get the recruit to trust you enough to take the chance of committing to your program and playing for you, instead of your competitor.
Build loyalty – so the recruit wants to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.
As a bonus, get the recruit to refer you to other potential prospects.
You develop relationships with your prospects the same way that you do it in your personal life. In big part, that means caring for them.
Think about the people you consider to be friends. Aren’t they people you genuinely care about – and who seem to genuinely care about you?
And think about your relationships with companies – big and small – that you deal with on a fairly regular basis as a college coach.
You must admit that it’s awfully hard to believe that the mega-corporations – General Motors, for example – care about you. They are nameless, faceless conglomerates. It’s a lot easier to believe that your local GM car salesman has a sincere interest in you. After all, he lives in your community. His kids go to school with your kids. You meet him face to face when you step into his dealership. That’s why, unlike General Motors, he can – if he chooses – establish real, caring long-term relationships with you and his other customers.
And that’s why you, too, will have an easy time proving to your recruits (and their parents, and their coaches) that you are concerned about them and their problems… and that you’re there to help. Not just to sell, not just to recruit, but to help.
If you want to differentiate yourself from most other coaches who will read this and then forget about it later today, try this classic three-step method for establishing those all-important prospect relationships:
1. Focus on a narrow niche market.
In the same way more and more businesses are focusing on a specific small market segment, have you ever considered doing the same thing with recruiting your prospects? Recruiting from specific regions of the country other than your own? Developing a story that tells your recruit something very specific, or very memorable, about your program? Sometimes, a specific focus can help you tell your story in a much more compelling way, and give recruits a reason to listen to what you’re saying.
2. Take the time to understand your customers and their problems.
Only by putting yourself in your recruit’s shoes – taking the time to figure out not only their wants and needs but also their worries, fears, and hopes – can you develop a message and an offer that will truly help them.
When you do that – when you give them something that will make their lives better or easier in some way – you’re sending a very strong message that you care. Our special report, "Inside the Mind of Your College Prospects" that many of you have used to create a better focus for your recruiting efforts. If you haven’t read it, you should.
3. Make your recruiting messages personal.
Building close relationships with your prospects and their family is all about communicating on a personal level (as it is with your family and your friends). That’s true of any direct contact you may have with your prospects in person or over the phone – and it’s just as true of the indirect contact you have with them in your recruiting materials that you are sending them.
Here are a few suggestions for making your recruiting letter and e-mail copy more personal:
Write your sales message in a conversational tone, as if you’re talking to a friend. For example, instead of a sales professional saying "This business program can help you earn substantial profits," they might instead say "You know that new car you’ve had your eye on? Well, check out this program. It will help you get it."
Share information about yourself. When people feel that they know you, they’re more inclined to trust you and want to play for you, Coach. The more honest a recruit perceives you as being, the better the chance you will connect with them in a real and meaningful way. By the way, coaches who are starting to write blogs are jumping ahead of everyone else who is sitting on the sidelines still trying to communicate exclusively by e-mail and letters (I’d give you some examples of coaches that are doing this right, but they’ve warned me I better not tip off their competition as to what they are doing differently to stand-out from the crowd…sorry!)
Be honest. Say what you really think, not what you think your recruits want to hear. For instance, instead of sugarcoating your recruiting pitch, come right out and tell your prospects to stop feeling sorry for themselves…to stop stressing over choosing the right school and, instead, to take responsibility for whether they will succeed or fail in the future. That might be a little bold for some of you, but the point here is to use your words to get your prospect’s attention. And those who see things your way and appreciate your honest and up-front approach will become profoundly loyal to you when it comes to committing to you instead of the other guy.
You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Your sincerity – or insincerity – will always shine through. Kids today are smart. They know when you’re telling them the truth, and when you are stretching it a little too far.
These three steps will help you quickly establish real rapport with your prospects. And, you’ll do it faster – and in a more substantial way – than your competition will.