Dan Tudor

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Top 11 Signs Your Prospect is Ready to CommitMonday, March 30th, 2009

O.K., I’ll admit it…   Dan Tudor, Selling for Coaches

Sometimes I am really negative in the advice we give to coaches.  It’s a lot of "don’t do this" and "watch out for that" or "here is what you’re doing wrong". 

True, that advice is really important.  Knowing what to avoid and what mistakes can lead to a prospect losing interest in your program is critical to succeeding in college recruiting.

But today, I want to take a different approach.  I want to give you some hopeful signs to look for in your recruitment of your prospects.  I want to teach you how to recognize thirteen common signs that your prospect might be ready to seriously consider committing to your program.

Hopefully, it comes in time to make a difference in some of those late signees this year.  If nothing else, it will give you a big advantage in catching the early signs of strong interest from next year’s recruiting class.

Here they are:

  1. They ask questions about when you are going to be offering scholarships or opportunities to commit to their program.  If they bring up the question, you should know that they have a serious interest in your program.  There’s no need to wait…if they are the kind of athlete you would want in your program, then jump ahead to talking about a commitment to your school. 
  2. They ask questions about cost.  That can be direct questions about the tuition price of the school, what they would have to pay, or even comments wondering how they are going to afford the cost.  All of those questions and comments revolve around the fact that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford to go to your school.  Recruits who aren’t serious about you will never bring up cost.  Recruits that have an interest in your school will always bring up cost.
  3. They ask questions about how long you’ve been with the program, and if you’re planning on staying with the program.  When a recruit is serious about you, they will try to find out if you have a commitment to the school that they are seriously thinking about committing to.  As we talk about in our two recruiting workbooks for coaches, its important for you to give them confidence in you as a coach and in your program’s direction.  If they sense uncertainty within the program, they will likely delay making a commitment to your program. 
  4. They ask a repeat question.  This is a strong signal that they are seriously thinking about signing-on with your program.  If they ask you to repeat something that they told you earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during your conversations with them, you should know that they are really, really interested in you.
  5. They make negative comments about other schools, coaches or programs.  If you have a prospect who opens up to you and offers an opinion on a competitor, you have a prospect who is highly interested in your program.  We don’t make comments about other people like that if we aren’t really comfortable with the person we are talking to, or if we don’t care about what they think.  The reverse is true if that person is interested in you and your program.
  6. They ask questions about the quality of aspects of the school or program.  "How new are your dorms?"  Or, "How many Top 20 teams are on your schedule next season?"  Or, "What percentage of your graduates are accepted into a Master’s program?"  All of those are questions about the quality of your school and your program.  Only kids (or parents!) that are really interested in your program ask those kinds of questions.
  7. They ask you questions about your qualifications and coaching history.  As we teach athletic departments and coaches when we go to a school to conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops, your story and background as a coach is vital to them buying in to you and your program.  You need to learn how to showcase yourself as the leader of the program, and build the case for good prospects to see the logic of choosing what you can offer them.
  8. They ask specific positive questions about your school or program.  These questions are rare, so when you hear them you really need to take them seriously and accelerate the recruiting process.  It might be a question like, "How did team get to be so close with each other?"  Or, "Can I try to room with the girl who hosted my during my campus visit?"  Positive questions are little nuggets of gold.  Don’t overlook them!
  9. They ask specific "how do I" questions about your school or program.  "How do I sign up for the new suite-style dorms that just got built?"  Or, "How do I know what my final tuition cost will be?"  Any kind of question that starts with "how do I" are important: They signal that your prospect is actively figuring-out the process of being a student-athlete on your campus.  In other words, they are "projecting" themselves as already being an athlete on your team.  Run with that!  Be the coach that feeds that feeling of already being a part of your program.
  10. They ask to see something on campus again.  "Can we go back and take another look at the dorms?"  Or, "Can I see the weight room again?"  Uninterested prospects don’t want to spend more time with you on campus.  They’ll politely shake your hand and be on their way (probably to the next college).  However, the prospects who are highly interested will want to linger and take a closer look at what you have to offer them.
  11. They give you verbal "buying signals".  Parents are great at this.  During a campus tour or phone conversation, listen for comments like "Wow, I didn’t know that".  Or, "Oh really…that’s interesting."  Or, "Great, that’s what I thought."  Those are great signs that they are engaged mentally with what you are saying and what they are seeing. 

One of our coaches whose program signed on with our Total Recruiting Solution about six months ago said it best a week or so ago when I was back on their campus: "Learning how to notice the little things in our prospect’s conversations with us, and understanding why it’s O.K. to speed up the recruiting process when we find an interested prospect, is making a huge difference for us.  Increased contacts and more interested athletes is great, but it you don’t know how to convert those to new commitments then it’s all a waste."

Converting prospect leads starts with recognizing the signs that your recruit is really interested, and might just be ready to commit.  Make it your goal to master these commitment indicators, and watch what you next recruiting class looks like!


How to Make Losing Track of Recruits a Thing of the PastSaturday, March 21st, 2009

Losing track of your recruits?  It’s a more common problem than most coaches realize, since many are still using randomly organized file folders and home-made Excel spreadsheets to track the progress of their conversations with prospects.

However, those problems don’t concern the coaching staff of Emory University’s volleyball program. They’ve developed an easy way to track the progress with each recruit. 

Justin Hart, Emory University volleyballJustin Hart, assistant women’s volleyball coach, used  to worry about losing track of communications with his recruits or worry if he was duplicating the other coaches efforts.  Thanks to the popular web-based tracking technology called Front Rush, Coach Hart and the other Emory staff can access their database and know exactly what has been communicated with each and every recruit. 

“The ease of use is what impresses me about Front Rush,” says Coach Hart.  “I cannot only see which staff has contacted a recruit, but also keep track of the amount of contact.”  Hart, whose volleyball team was the 2008 Division III National Champions, also likes the fact that he can send mass emails and see who has opened the emails and clicked through on the links.  That gives he and his fellow coaches a real-time way to gauge the prospect’s interest in their program. 

The coaching staff can track all communications–every telephone call, every email, and every letter–that they have had with each recruit. At the same time, they can see and share all of their communications with each athlete so that all staff members are on the same page. If a member of their staff has spoken with a recruit, they will know exactly what was said as soon as that coach makes an update in the Front Rush system.

Coach Hart and the other staff have access to their data from everywhere.  Since Front Rush is web-based, the coaching staff can access everything on the internet and can see everything that is going on with a particular recruit.  While many of his competitors are still tied to a central server at the college, or software that needs to be loaded on individual computers, Hart has 24/7 access to his recruiting records no matter where he is. 

“We had all seven student athletes we were pursuing commit to our program this past year,” says Hart.  “I’m sure one of the reasons is because Front Rush helped us with keeping track of our communications to them.”

Two New Approaches Yield Big Recruiting ResultsFriday, March 20th, 2009

You don’t have to be a big-time program to change your recruiting fortunes in big-time ways.

Take the case of the small Division III school in the Midwest who approached a new year of recruiting with a determination to make a change in their fortunes.  "We had been mediocre for years and years when it came to getting the right kids here," said the school’s Athletics Director.  "What I mean by that is we didn’t ever seem to get enough kids, and we certainly didn’t get enough really big-time prospects."

The school did two things last Fall as they set out to turn things around:

  1. The starting using Total Recruiting Solution as a way to help their coaches produce a more compelling recruiting message.  "The biggest difference our coaches noticed," says the Athletics Director, "was that they were getting more in-bound calls and interest.  That made the whole recruiting process easier and less stressful."  And, more productive.  The school increased their total incoming recruiting class by 19% and, according to the coaches, brought in more identifiable "next level" prospects than in years past.
  2. Recently, they started using the Troutwine Athletic Profile reports to help their coaches do aTroutwine Athletic Profile better job of coaching their teams.  The reports have let the staff "change the way they develop their teams in some really interesting ways."  The staff also commented that they feel like they are on par with a Division I program in what they can offer their athletes now, and how they are able to "read" them more accurately in order to develop individual training plans for each player.

The main point to take away from their lesson?  It doesn’t take a lot of time or a lot of money to change the results of a typical recruiting year.  The important thing is to identify where your shortcomings are, and what kind of plan needs to be created to address those deficits, and then execute that plan.

If it can work for a small Division III school the same that it works for our Division I clients, it can work for you.

The Importance of Making Your Prospects Feel This WayFriday, March 20th, 2009

Dan Tudor, Selling for CoachesWhy didn’t they sign with you?

There are lots of potential reasons.  But if you’ve hosted us on campus to work with your athletic department and teach you how to recruit more effectively, you know what our studies show: It all comes down to how your prospect "feels" about you.

Forget about your new facility (or your old one).  Forget about the media guide (trust me…your prospects do).  Forget about the won-lost record (precious few prospects use something like that to choose a school).

It all comes down to how they "feel" about you and your team.

Is it good enough to make them feel "wanted"?  Nope.  And it’s not good enough to make them feel "needed".

No, if you really want to penetrate the hard exteriors of today’s jaded teenage athlete you need to make feel essential.  The root word of ‘essential’ is essence…that means getting to the core of the athlete – and the parents – that you want as a part of your program.  If you stop short of that, you’ll risk losing the prospect to another program.

How do you do it?  Here are seven ideas that you should put into practice:   

1. Give your prospects the gift of three important words. “I appreciate you.” Not, “I appreciate that…” and not “I appreciate what you’ve…” No. “I appreciate YOU.” Why do your prospects need to know that you appreciate them?  Because it goes to the heart of what we all want: To be valued and viewed as important to someone else.  What can you tell your prospects this week that emphasizes the idea that you appreciate them? 

2. Throw in another set of important words. “I believe in you.” Coach, you’ve got to look prospects straight in the eye. You have one chance to say it and make an impact with your prospect, and it has to be done in person.  Second best option?  A hand-written letter.  These are powerful words that your prospects will respond to.  It’s hard not to be drawn to a coach that believes in you if you’re a student-athlete.

3. Write stuff down when you are talking face to face. Taking notes is proof. Taking notes keeps Taking notesyou mindful in the conversation. Taking notes honors someone’s thoughts. This works well when you’re talking to parents as well as athletes, and its not a bad practice to adhere to in your normal workday around the office, either.  It makes an impact with the other person who sees you valuing what they are telling you.

4. Come back to notes you’ve taken. At a later date, refer back to the notes you took while listening to somebody. If possible, physically show that person the notes you took.  Again, it shows that you value what they say and treat them as an important individual.  Plus, this fits into any program’s budget. 

5. Ask prospects – and their parents - to repeat things. Not because you didn’t understand their point; but because you are showing them that their insight was powerful. This demonstrates your desire for clarity. It also gives them a chance to rephrase, repeat or re-tweak their original idea, making it as strong as possible.  This is great to practice face to face with a prospect and their parents.  It really makes a positive impact, and draws them in to their conversation with you.

6. Bring your prospects joy. Heck, why limit it to your prospects?  Make this a daily habit with your fellow coaches in the athletic department.  If you focus on doing this at least three times a day, your life won’t just be "full"; it will by full with happiness and purpose as a coach and as a person. And so will the lives of the people you touch. Look people (especially your prospects!) and make it your goal to make them smile.  If you do that, watch what happens to your coaching career.

7. Acknowledge everybody, all the time. This one shouldn’t even be on the list. It sounds so basic, yet so many coaches avoid making it part of their everyday recruiting strategy.  When I say "acknowledge" everybody, I mean make everyone you meet feel like they are the only person in the room. Stay present. Hold your eye contact with everyone you encounter for one additional second. That’s what Bill Clinton does, and what many who know him say is one of his most compelling traits. See if you can acknowledge every single person you encounter for one day. It’s harder than you think. Then again, it all depends on what you see when you see people. Think back: How many co-workers in the athletic department did you go out of your way to avoid the past few days?

Essential.  Making your recruits feel essential.

Don’t think it’s important?  Like I said at the start, not doing it will probably mean you will lose your prospect to the competition, even if your arena is bigger, you have more wins, and your uniforms are cooler than their uniforms.  If they make the prospect "feel" essential, they’ll win. 

Selling for Coaches can help you plan out a winning strategy for making recruits feel more connected with you and your program.  It’s called Total Recruiting Solution, and its working for college programs all over the country.  Want more info?  Just email Dan Tudor at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and type "Give me the TRS details" in your subject line.  We’ll send you an email telling you how it might just be the thing that puts you over the top with your next recruiting class.

4 Principles You Should Build Your Recruiting OnMonday, March 16th, 2009

Dan TudorThere are two types of coaches reading this today, and you fall into one of those two categories.

Either you’re a coach who is still scrambling to scrape together the final tattered remnants of what was supposed to finally be a great recruiting class, or you have pretty much wrapped-up recruiting for the year and are evaluating how to do it better next year.

Today’s article works for both groups.  Granted, it’s better to be sitting in the second group, but even if you are sitting there in the frist group stressing about this year’s class, you can put these principles to work right away.

They are four principles that are a great foundation for building a solid approach to recruiting.  Talk to a successful coach and recruiter in your sport, and I’ll bet they have a few of these down cold and part of their annual recruiting plan.

Here they are:

Over-deliver on what your prospect gets from you.  By "getting", I’m not talking about a bigger media guide or longer letters.  That stuff plays virtually no role in getting an athlete interested in you and your program.  What does?  Being genuine in the way you communicate with them, and delivering more than what they are probably expecting: More focused on them, more focused on what they want out of their recruiting visit, and more personal interaction from your team when they get a chance to interact with them.  That’s the stuff that matters…if you over-deliver and exceed their expectations in those areas, you’ll win almost every time.

Focus on creating a bond with your recruits, not selling your program.  As I explained to this past weekend’s group of coaches who came to one of our recruiting conferences, you need to resist selling your program too early.  Instead, focus on creating a solid bond with your prospect.  They aren’t ready to listen to what you have to sell early on anyway, so spend that time making sure you’ve build the beginnings of a relationship.  Don’t focus on selling too early…to do that effectively, you need to have developed a really solid communication basis with your teenage prospect.  Don’t rush it, and don’t worry about selling (there will be plenty of time for that later in the recruiting process).

FamilyMake sure you, your department, and your team go the extra mile in making prospects feel like family.  Two big words in that sentence: "Feel" and "family".  If you’ve read our study on how prospects make their final decision, you know how important their feelings are: About you, about your team, about your school…they are all big factors in how they make their final choice.  And, if they get the feeling like they are part of a family on the visit, you’ll be at the top of their list.  "Feeling like part of the family" is always cited as a big reason for why coaches end up signing their recruit.  So here’s the question for you, Coach: What kind of planning goes into your campus visits, and how are you ensuring that your prospects feel like famiy when they are around you and your team?  It’s an important question…take it seriously.

Don’t give up too easily on those top tier prospects.  Most of you do, and you shouldn’t.  Persistence is a learned skill, and if you haven’t learned to keep going after recruits even though they don’t show immediate interest, you need to.  The more I visit campuses and conduct closed-door focus group sessions as a part of our On-Campus Workshops, the more I hear stories from athletes that said they came to the school because their coach didn’t give up on them.  At the school I visited this past week, a few of their athletes specifically mentioned that the coach who was recruiting them at that school never, ever gave up.  Even after a few of them said that they had decided that they weren’t interested, the coach kept at it.  They didn’t take no for an answer.  And in quite a few cases, they are able to turn things around and get the prospect to change their mind.  At some point, recruiting a prospect comes to an end.  I just see too many coaches give up way too early.

Here’s my promise: If you put these four principles to use, and make them a part of the foundation that you build your recruiting upon, you will really see a difference in your results.  And, you’ll find that the recruiting process itself is less stressful and more productive earlier in the cycle.

These four principles are the foundation of our work with college coaches and athletic departments who have us helping them produce and manage their recruiting messages through our Total Recruiting Solution plan.  Want to learn more about exactly what happens when you bring the TRS plan to your program?  Email us at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and use the subject "Tell me about TRS", and feel free to include any particular questions you have about it. 


New Coach Finds Secret Weapon in Uncovering How to Coach His TeamSaturday, March 7th, 2009

"When I heard about these TAP Reports, it really made me curious", says Peter, a fairly new D3 coach who inherited a mediocre program with athletes who didn’t seem to get along or work as a team.

"In my gut, I knew it was going to be an uphill battle if I didn’t jump-start my understanding of how to coach these guys and get the right combination of leaders on the field."

TAP ReportThe solution he settled on was the Troutwind Athletic Profile (TAP), a mainstay in professional sports for years and years now made available through Selling for Coaches for the college coaching community.

"I’m a Patriots fan, and I had heard that Bill Belichick loved these reports and what it told him about how to coach his players", says Peter.  "I figured if it was good enough for him, it was good enough for our small college soccer program."

The process was simple, affordable and fast.  "Within a week or so I had almost unbelievable insights into what made our two team captains tick.  In fact, after reading the results of one of the reports, it was clear to me that one of these guys shouldn’t be in a position of leadership", says the 26-year old coach.  "I’m a little surprised that the previous coach put this guy in a position of leadership, to be honest."

The other findings of the report helped this new head coach determine a big change in how he was going to plan his practices.  "It was clear that the results of the report were telling me that this was a team that wanted, and actually enjoyed, a challenge and hard work," says Peter.  "That was a pleasant surprise, especially considering that these are D3 athletes who get stereotyped as only being focused on academics."

All in all, using the TAP Report offered at a discount through Selling for Coaches has given this new head coach a true "head start" in re-building a program that has suffered through three straight losing seasons. 

"It actually feels like I’m cheating a little because I know that the program that I came from could use this big time…for a coach, it has given me such incredible insights into this team I inherited that I feel like I’ve saved about six months of ‘getting to know you’ stuff that most new coaches have to wade through when they get a new job," says the coach.  "I get to skip all that now."

TAP Reports give college coaches insights into their players leadership abilities, practice habits, game-time performance, and much, much more.  Want to see an sample TAP Report?  Email Dan Tudor at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and just type "show me the TAP!"  We’ll email you the report, and answer any questions you have about how it can work for your program.

How “Stitching” and “Story Time” Can Transform Your Recruiting MessageSaturday, March 7th, 2009

The secret to great recruiting letter and email writing?

"Stiching" and "Story Time".

Let me explain…

These two tricks-of-the-trade are simple and super-effective.  Why?  Because they ensure that your writing flows nicely, and that it’s easily understood by the reader.  Doesn’t that sound like two good goals to have for any message you are creating for a prospect you want for your program?

We use them all the time as we do work for our clients who are a part of our Total Recruiting Solution plan, and they are part of the principles we teach during our On-Campus Workshop we give to college coaches around the country.  And, we’ve seen the results: More responses and more real interest from recruits.

Here’s what they are, and why they work…

Recruiting letter"Stitching".  That’s the not-so-technical term for adding a short phrase in between major themes and paragraphs that help tie on idea to the next.  Think of it as a verbal knot that "stitches" sections of your letter or email together, and keeps the reader moving to the next thought.

Want an example?  I used two very simple forms of the principle in this recruiting column: Near the top of this story, I wrote "Let me explain…"  I devoted a single line to it, so that you – my reader – would see it, recognize that I was about to give you some more informaiton that you would be interested in, and lead you to the next section of text.  Then, just before this section on "Stitching", I teased you with a double-promise when I told you that you would find out "what they are, and why they work."

The principle is simple: You want your high school prospect to keep on reading your letter or email, so every once in a while you’ll need to re-focus their attention on what you are talking about and the points you are trying to make.  A proven way to do it is by "stiching" your ideas together with short phrase like the one’s I just used.  Here are some others we recommend:

  • "And that’s just the beginning…"
  • "But better yet…"
  • "Here’s the deal…"
  • "It all boils down to this…"
  • "Listen, there’s more…"

As you begin this year’s next recruiting campaign, consider editing your current letters and emails and insert some of these stitching techniques to ensure that your reader stays with you all the way through your message.

Recruiting letter"Story Time".

This is one of the best things a coach can do with their message, and yet as I type these words I know that fewer than 2% of the 32,000 or so readers of this article will take the steps to make it happen.  So, for those of you that do, you’ll have a message that sounds better and is more effective than the other 98%.

What you need to do, after you apply the "stiching" technique to your text, is to give it to someone else - a fellow coach, your spouse…whoever - and have them read your message back to you.  Don’t coach them on how it is supposed to sound, just let them read it as they understand it.

What’s the point?  You will hear how your prospect is going to take in the message, and how it’s going to sound to them in their mind as they read it.  If you don’t like how it sounds as you have it read back to you, then you should re-edit the text immediately and start the process over again.  You will eventually end up with text that flows beautifully, and a message that sinks in more deeply and with greater long term impact.

Two simple techniques that are proven to work…and can fit into any budget, last I checked!

Take a good, long look at how your recruiting messages sound in their current form.  Then, use these two techniques to make them easier to read and more likely to work.  As you begin another year of recruiting a new class of prospects, seeing those two results will make an impact on the rate at which you sign those "next level athletes" that you so desperately want..and need.

Would you rather focus on coaching than developing creative recruiting campaigns?  SFC offers their Total Recruiting Solution service to college programs.  We have clients from small NAIA schools to large D1 programs, and everything in between.  Want to find out how to we can plan, write and help manage this year’s recruiting campaign?  Click here.


Getting the Right Look to Catch a Prospect’s AttentionFriday, March 6th, 2009

Peter Haley, Springfield CollegeCoach Peter Haley, Springfield College’s Head Men’s Soccer Coach, was looking for a way to catch the attention of his recruits using the emails that he sends.  Since discovering Front Rush and the custom branded email templates they offer with their online program, he can create and send emails quickly with an overall look and feel of his athletic department. 

“The emails I now send actually look professional now,” says Peter Haley, Springfield College Men’s Head Soccer Coach.  “They have provided a look that is really pleasing to the eye.”

Coach Haley, who is in his 24th season of coaching at his alma mater, can include action shots of his team and also dedicated links back to Springfield’s website.  “The links located in the template allow recruits and coaches alike to access other content areas I feel are important,” says Haley.

Creating templates on the fly is another reason the coaches at Springfield College enjoy Front Rush.  They can bulk email their recruits about a recent win or update their past players about an alumni event. The staff can send out one or one thousand emails at the same time. Each email is sent individually - not in a mass group - and arrives personalized for each recipient by merging in their name.

And after the email is sent, the coaches can gauge the interest of their recruits by tracking who is opening the emails and when they are being opened. In addition, see what links they are clicking on and how many times.

Coach Haley also likes the fact that Front Rush is web-based. 

Springfield College soccer uses Front Rush“Being web-based is a tremendous advantage for not only myself, but for my assistants and my work study person. Now everyone on the staff can access the information to update, edit and track prospect or coach information.”

And, because it is web-based, they can share information in real-time.

“What is impressive when you purchase Front Rush is the service you buy into. The attention to my needs and requests are met quickly and thoroughly,” says Coach Haley.  “I can’t say enough about how professional they are and how great their product is.”