When it comes to selling and interpersonal relationships, the master of them all is Dale Carnegie.
Even if you’ve never read his books, you have heard of one of his most famous titles: "How to Win Friends and Influence People." It is considered one of the foundational texts of sales and communication best practices.
Is there a way to apply his principles into your recruiting efforts? You bet.
Here are the first three of his six famous principles, with some slight adjustments for college coaches and their recruiting needs:
PRINCIPLE #1: Become Genuinely Interested in Other People
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? And yet, for many of today’s college recruiters, this is the one that is the most difficult – or certainly the most frustrating.
The primary reason this develops into a rather large hurdle for many coaches is because of the two conflicting points of view: Recruits want to get to know you and aren’t in a hurry to do it. You, on the other hand, have deadlines and decisions you are juggling. You have three scholarships to give, and eight prospects you are recruiting.
These two totally different perspectives make it hard to really invest in becoming genuinely interested. Hard, but not impossible. Some ways to show that you are genuinely interested in them that they will take note of? One of the biggest ways is to send your recruits short, hand-written notes that are specifically about them. Another way is to spend the first five minutes of your next phone conversation asking them about something personal, but not athletics related. Their dad’s new job…the upcoming vacation their family is going to take…anything that allows you to ask open-ended questions that don’t "sell" your school or sound like the same questions you’ve asked your other twenty recruits.
PRINCIPLE #2: Smile
Why was a smile so important to Dale Carnegie? Because it changes attitudes and affects people’s outlook and opinion of you.
I dug-up some really interesting studies that have been done on "effective smiling" in researching for this article. The most interesting was a study done in 2007 which found smiles that are viewed as authentic tended strongly to be those that were long and sustained. It also found that tilting your head while producing that kind of smile strongly gives the impression that you are genuinely interested in the other person, and you are viewed as more trustworthy by the other person.
The study also found that men who produced long, sustained smiles were judged more authentic than women who did the same. However, females were found to be the better judges of which individuals were "faking" a smile and which ones were genuine.
Minor stuff? Maybe. But when we are asked by athletic directors and coaches to come to their campus and train them on the latest effective recruiting techniques, those staffs are usually interested in the little things that can set them apart from their competition. Consider this one of those little things that might just connect with prospects you are recruiting.
PRINCIPLE #3: Remember That a Person’s Name is to That Person the Sweetest and Most Important Sound in Any Language
The reason? We want to feel important, and hearing your own name from someone else’s lips is satisfying and ego-boosting. Plus, psychologists say that it creates a feeling of connecting with the person that is saying your name back to you.
This principle is simple to put into practice during your recruiting. For example, one of the things we strongly suggest to coaches we are helping plan and execute their recruiting campaigns is to try and use the prospect’s name at least two or three times in every email or letter. When you are speaking with that person – especially over the phone – reply to their questions by starting with their name: "Jason, I think what you are going to like most about our business school is…" Say their name as much as possible.
These three principles are part of the foundation of selling and relating to people developed by the undisputed expert of personal selling and relationships, Dale Carnegie. In part two of this article next week, I will talk about the other half of his bedrock principles of selling (and recruiting) success.
Another way to master the fundamentals of recruiting this generation of athletes? Read our ground-breaking study of how today’s prospects make their final decision, and our recruiting workbooks for college coaches on mastering the latest recruiting techniques. Click here to visit the SFC online store that has numerous resources available for college coaches.