Dan Tudor

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Why Your Recruiting Letters Might Not Be WorkingMonday, August 25th, 2008

Mailboxes all over the country are getting stuffed with recruiting letters going out from you and your Stuffed mailboxcompetitors to talented prospects.

Here’s what’s scary: A lot of those letters haven’t changed much in the last five years (or has it been ten years, coach?).  That’s why I hear from coaches who have been noticing a steady drop-off in responses and prospect interest.  They’re desperate to change their recruiting fortunes, starting with what they send out to their recruits. 

And that’s one of the most interesting parts of working with a coaching staff, or athletic department, is sitting down with them to actually evaluate their recruiting letters.  Most coaches agree that a good letter, or e-mail text, is essential in getting a prospect interested in their program early on.  Yet few coaches take the time to really analyze those letters for what kind of message they send recruits, and even the "readability" of those letters and e-mails. 

It’s very important that the material coaches send to recruits be simple and straight-forward.  You may have heard that most Americans read at a 7th-grade level. Sounds pretty scary to me, but it does show us why we should keep our writing clear and simple. 

Here’s a great tip for your office computer to help you quickly and easily determine the readability of your outgoing recruiting message, coach.  If you use Microsoft Word, you can test the "readability" of your writing by clicking on "Tools" then "Options" and then "Spelling and Grammar." Then click the check box at the bottom that says "Show readability statistics."

After you spell-check your document, a box will pop up showing the number of words you used, the number of paragraphs, the number of sentences, the number of sentences per paragraph, the number of words per sentence, and the percentage of passive sentences. It will also give you two indicators that are based on the Flesch-Kincaid formula for readability. These indicators measure reading ease (based on 100 points, with 100 being the easiest) and grade level.

I aim for a readability score of around 65 or higher when I’m communicating with coaches, although lower numbers are acceptable when I communicate with all of you because you’re college graduates.  But you need to remember who your letter is being read by: High school students, some of whom tend to be most comfortable when reading at or below their grade level.  Keep that in mind as you’re crafting your messages out to student-athlete prospects.

Here are some other tips that we regularly give to coaches when we’re On-Campus or consulting one-on-one with them as a SFC Premium Member:

  • E-mails need to be very short and to the point, with an easy to follow call to action.  Never write long, detailed e-mails…especially at the start of the recruiting process.
  • Have a specific subject or "theme" for a recruiting letter.  Don’t be too broad, as it tends to let the reader drift off and not finish the entire letter.  Sticking with one central theme will let you drive home a single, clear message to your recruit.
  • Use bold and underlined text to highlight important points.  But don’t go overboard with it!  The more it is used, the less effective it becomes in drawing emphasis to your message.
  • Tell great stories in your letters: How a recruit came in from the other side of the country and found a home at your school.  How an athlete realized their dream of being the first from their family to graduate from college.  What your athletes did during their off-time on that trip to the tournament in Hawaii.  Stories highlight specific events or people, and you can use those people and events to drive home a clearly defined message to your recruit.

Make your recruiting letters effective by making them more readable, and more message-driven.  Be focused when you’re creating them, and make sure that each and every communication with your prospect has a purpose behind it.

7 Tips for Better Personal VisitsMonday, August 18th, 2008

I make the point in each On-Campus Workshop that we lead for athletic departments that the entire goal of all of the letters and e-mails a coach writes to a prospect is to get them in front of you for a personal visit.

Whether it’s on your campus, or in their home, a personal visit is number one on your prospect’s list for determining if your program is the right one for them.  Our national study rates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect will determine what kind of chances you have at signing them to play at your school.

So, once you get in front of them, what’s next?

What do you need to do to prepare for the visit, and make sure that its successful in leading to the athlete committing to your school?

Here’s a list of seven things you need to make sure you have as you head to your face-to-face meeting with the prospect you really want to sign:

1. Print out their personal and athletic information that you can impact. Type their name into a Google search and see what comes up (you might be surprised!).  Get all of his or her information in one place – what you’ve printed from the web, the questionnaire that they filled-out, his transcript…everything.  Go in prepared with everything you can find on them.  These are the pages that frame your ideas for how your your program are best for your prospect.  Use this info to create an individual approach for each prospect. 

2. Be prepared to find out, and talk to, the real decision makers. Just because you’re talking to the prospect doesn’t mean you are talking to the primary decision maker.  Are you a Division III coach?  I can guarantee you that in most cases, the parents are heavily involved in making the final decision (after all, they are paying for it!).  Are you a Division I coach?  Guess what: The parents areCampus visit heavily involved in that decision, too.  It might be their dream to have all those travel teams and club practices pay off with a big D1 scholarship.  My point is this: Make sure you get a personal meeting with EVERY decision maker involved.

3. Come up with at least five questions that you don’t understand about your prospect.  Be curious, and show them that you’re really interested in digging in to what makes them tick.  For example, you might ask "What kind of schedule do you have to keep focused on to earn a 4.2 grade point average?"  Or, "How in the world did you shave five seconds off of your time in just a few months?"  Be amazed in front of them, and make it all about them. This will give you an opportunity to create meaningful dialog with the prospect. This will give you conversation ideas and questions that relate directly to the prospect.

4. Have three killer questions you are CERTAIN your competition is not asking. This will create "buyer engagement" and respect.  Good questions are key to connecting with your prospect and setting you a part of every other coach that is recruiting them. 

5. Have two ideas that the prospect will benefit from. Something that they’ll get that’s meaningful for them by signing with your program.  If you bring an idea to your meeting, it shows you’ve prepared, and it shows you have genuine interest in helping them.

6. Bring your laptop computer with wireless Internet capability. This gives you the ability to access any information you need in seconds.  Sounds basic, I know, but a laptop computer should be part of your aresenal for any visit.  "But my school doesn’t provide me with a free laptop, Dan."  Then plan on purchasing your own.  This is your coaching and recruiting career, and it’s your responsibility to give yourself the tools you need to be successful.  If you don’t have one already, get a laptop and start using it to help you be a dominant recruiter.

7. Have written or video testimonials to support EVERY claim you make about your program.  Keep those testimonials handy on your laptop, and on a separate DVD if possible. This will enable you to show and PROVE, not just show and tell. And it will enable you to leave a copy of your testimonials with your prospect.  Having other people back-up your claims in their own words.  It’s powerful, Coach.

Can I wrap-up this list by telling you what your overall goal should be for a personal visit with your prospect?  Here it is, Coach:  Show them the value in your program, not the sales pitch. Be prepared to show the recruit how they gain and succeed from signing with your school.

For our Premium Members, I’m going to expand on this list later in the week.  But for right now, focus on the goal of the visit: Connecting with your prospect, showing them the value in what your program has to offer, and demonstrating how you will help them achieve their goals at the college level as their coach.

6 Keys to a Successful Campus VisitMonday, August 11th, 2008

You’ve written great letters.  You’ve crafted amazing e-mails.  And the phone calls have been long and fruitful.

The only that’s left is the campus visit.  A mere formality, right?  After all, they’ve basically been sold on your school through all of the stuff that you’ve sent them, right?

Think again, Coach.

In the vast majority of cases, the decision on whether to attend a school or not comes down to the campus visit.  We go into that in detail in our special report, "Inside the Mind of Your College Prospect", which details the decision making process of today’s student-athlete that you are recruiting.

The topic was discussed in detail by Mandy Brettingen, a longtime college soccer coach and the SFC Conferenceresident sports psychology here at Selling for Coaches.  She helped us put together a list of eight key ingredients to planning and executing a successful campus visit at this past weekend’s SFC Recruiting Kick-Off Conference.

  1. The Atmosphere: Are You Thriving or Surviving?  In other words, when your prospect gets on to campus, are they going to see a program that is hanging on by a thread in terms of the team interpersonal relationships?  Or, is it a healthy, thriving team that has great team chemistry.  If the answer is anything other than "thriving", you need to begin building team relationships and doing things internally that will improve the atmosphere.
  2. Get the Team’s Insights.  Many coaches use their team for hosting and interacting with a recruit, but then don’t use the team to help assess how well the recruit will mesh with the existing team.  Listening to your team in this way can help you avoid a bad mix of personalities that can damage team chemistry.  Remember…your team’s opinion counts when it comes to adding the right new members to the team.
  3. Going on the Campus Tour.  How long will the tour be?  Who will host it?  What’s the schedule going to look like?  Coach, you need to plan out a campus visit in excrutiating detail.  Leave nothing to chance.  Since it all comes down to a great visit, you need to do whatever you can to ensure that they have a great experience.  And it all starts with a master plan that helps manage the experience your prospect has on campus.
  4. Be Careful About the Class They Attend.  Part of a campus visit usually includes having your prospect attend a class at your college.  Here’s an important tip: Make sure they go to a class that is discussion based, rather than lecture based.  Why?  Because discussion based classes are usually full of lively talk and opinion, which is something that they don’t usually see in their high school.  Most come away with a positive impression with that kind of class, instead of sitting in something that looks and feels just like high school.
  5. Let Other Athletes Know You Have a Visitor!  One thing that we discuss in our recruiting guides for coaches is how important it is to have your team, and the other athletes in the department, treat your prospect well.  That’s the number one way they determine whether they get a good "feel" about the college.  Here’s a suggestion: E-mail your athletes, and others in the department, that you will have a recruit on campus and if they see them with you or their host, that they should come up and say hello.  Sounds simple, i know, but the schools that do it report a really great response from their on-campus visits.
  6. Make Sure There’s Time to Just Hang Out.  When we interview student-athletes as a part of our On-Campus Workshops, they tell us that sometimes they feel really over-scheduled during trips to visit a campus.  Meeting after meeting, activity after activity…sometimes recruits report that they feel exhausted by the end, and still haven’t had a chance to get a "feel" for the campus they are visiting.  What should you do?  Focus more time on just relaxing.  Let them hang out in your host’s room.  Let them play games, watch movies, and just be a kid.  That’s what they want.

There are actually three or four more tips for hosting incredible campus visits, but we’ll save those for a future discussion (and if you’re on the list of upcoming On-Campus Workshops we have, we’ll go over them in detail with you).

Campus visits are vitally important to a great recruiting plan, and it takes planning and precise execution to pull off a really great experience for the prospects.  If you need help with planning your on-campus visit, just let us know. 

SFC Recruiting Kick-Off Conference – Indianapolis, IndianaMonday, August 11th, 2008

Twenty four coaches from all over the country converged on Indianapolis to learn training, techniques and strategies as they prepare for a new year of recruiting college prospects.

Conference attendeesCoaches from D1 to D3, ranging from programs like Duke basketball to College of St. Mary cross country, learned about the latest recruiting strategies and shared ideas with their fellow coaches.

"I think the one thing that surprised me about coming here was how many good ideas I got not only from Selling for Coaches, but also from the other coaches who came here," commented one coach.

Several coaches made this their second or third conference they had attended.

 

Dan Tudor leads a discussion

 

Dan Tudor, President of Selling for Coaches, leads a session on overcoming objections that taught coaches how to convert objections into selling points, and to re-direct an objection into a selling point.

 

 

 

David Pickle, NCAA Director of Publishing

 

David Pickle, the NCAA Director of Publishing, spoke about the challenge that he faced in getting news and information to his audience – college coaches and athletic directors – in a new and different way.

Pickle gave his insights on how today’s college coach can change they way they communicate, and why adapting your message to the changing times is essential if you want to keep your audience’s attention.

 

Mandy Brettigen

 

Mandy Brettingen passed along her expertise in recruiting and sports psychology to the coaches gathered for the Conference.  Brettingen laid out some great ideas for coaches to use in team development and relationship management between players and coaches.  She drew from her successes, and struggles, as a college coach. She gave the audience some fascinating insights into what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to successful team building. 

 

 

Charlie Adams

 

Charlie Adams got the coaches pumped-up for a new season as we started day two of the Conference by asking coaches "What’s Your Vinny?" (you had to be there).  Later, Adams gave his seven tips for using local media to help you recruit and build your program’s reputation with fans, alumni and prospects.

 

 

 

Selling for Coaches conference

 

Lots of notes, lots of sharing, lots of good ideas.  And, this year, all conference attendees get a post-conference eBook with all the notes, and all the new ideas to put together with their notes from the two days of learning.

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

The Secrets (and Benefits) to Building Great Player RelationshipsMonday, August 4th, 2008

If you’ve noticed that your players have changed drastically over the past decade, you aren’t alone. 

College coaches collectively scratch their heads at what happened, and when it happened: When did their athletes change?  When did it get so hard to relate to them?  When did it get so hard to recruit them?  What’s the secret to understand how today’s athlete actually makes their final decision on where to play and go to school?

Those questions will be answered at this weekend’s SFC Recruiting Kick-Off Conference.  Mandy Mandy BrettingenBrettingen, a women’s soccer coach with ten years of coaching and recruiting at the Division I and II levels, is tackling the subject that she has become an expert in over the years.

"Based on the interviews I’ve listened to and books that I have read about successful coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Pat Summit, and others), there is a new shift in focus for coaches that is getting the most out of their athletes," says Brettingen.  "Traditionally, coaches used fear and intimidation to motivate athletes, coaches now seem to be focusing on developing strong relationships with athletes based on trust and respect.    I have found that when players feel like they are cared for, being listened to, know what is expected of them, and have a role in accomplishing the team goals, they will go to war for you and for the team."

Brettingen, now a part-time assistant women’s soccer coach at Loyola Marymount University and a workshop presenter for Selling for Coaches, will be focusing on several key strategies for creating a cohesive team atmosphere:

  • How players are changing, and what coaches can do to cope
  • The importance of building solid relationships with your players
  • 10 things you need to know about today’s players that you are coaching
  • How to make your players your #1 recruiters

"Working to develop relationships is most definately a challenging task," says Brettingen.  "However, the rewards for the coach who is committed to building relationships are more motivated, loyal, disciplined, and committed players."

I want to help coaches become more aware how important the coach/player relationship really is this weekend," says Brettingen.  "I also want coaches to able to walk away from this presentation with practical ideas that they can take back and apply immediatly with their athletes.  Then, better coach-player relationships should equal better recruiting becasue bottom line is that the players on your team are going to be your best salespeople.  They will be the ones who make or break you in your recruiting efforts."

Mandy Brettingen is a veteran college soccer coach and a Recruiting Solutions Consultant for Selling for Coaches.  Brettingen has a BA in Psychology from Macalester College and a MS in Sports Psychology from the University of Utah.  

How the NCAA Changed the Way They Got Their Message Out (and what YOU can learn from it)Monday, August 4th, 2008

David Pickle’s job at the NCAA rivals that of most big city newspapers.  He’s the man at the center of every piece of news and information that’s published by the NCAA, and has overseen a dramatic shift in the way that information is presented to coaches, athletic directors and the nation.

David Pickle, NCAAPickle is set to talk about the challenging task of completely overhauling the way the NCAA gets its information out to their readers at this weekend’s Recruiting Kick-Off Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana (last chance to register!)

"We serve several important functions," says Pickle. "First, we facilitate the delivery of information that the membership needs to do its business – items like the NCAA Manual, playing rules books, statistical records and the like."

"Second, we deliver the news of the day. This includes material that the membership either needs or might want to be aware of. Third, we play a promotional role. In particular, our magazine is designed to enhance the overall image of college sports."

But a short time ago, Pickle recognized the shift in how information was being delivered and read thanks to the rapid advances in the way his readers were using the Internet.  "We began to examine the matter seriously in early 2006 when I became concerned that we might be generating too much paper and not getting enough results," says Pickle.

So the NCAA, lead by Pickle and his department, undertook the daunting task of changing the way thier message was delivered.  He will be talking to coaches attending the SFC conference this weekend on how they did it, and give them lessons on what they can do to adjust their messages to one of their most important audiences: Their recruits. 

"We chose apply various media based on their strengths and liabilities," explains Pickle.  "Paper, forChampion Magazine example, permitted us the opportunity to create dramatic presentations and permanence, but it was a poor medium for speed – hence the magazine. The Web, on the other hand, provided us with the potential for immediate delivery. That made more sense for the timely, regulatory type content that might be hard to display attractively."

Just how hard of a task was it?  That’s the question that’s going to be on coaches mind this weekend, and Pickle is ready to tell them that while the task was difficult, the results were well worth the blood, sweat and tears.

"It took a lot of work, and there were times when I wanted to put myself in a time capsule and be transported past our January 2008 launch date," remembers Pickle.  "But we had the luxury of time and were able to go about things in an ordered way that achieved great results and acceptance. Some of  what we’re doing is still a work in progress, but I feel better about where we are now than where we were two years ago."

Pickle will be going into detail on the transition, how it happened, and how coaches can duplicate the NCAA’s success in the way they adapt their message to their audience.

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