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What Coaches Say They WantTuesday, October 27th, 2009

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Day-to-day, we spend a large portion of our time communicating with college coaches in an effort to understand their goals and initiatives.

Specifically, we want to understand what each coach is trying to accomplish and translate that into our recruiting application here at Front Rush. In this article, we will discuss our conversations with thousands of coaches from a general perspective. Then, we will ask for your feedback and ideas.

Recruiting IS Sales
Coaches want a tool that has a clear focus from a sales perspective; and, they want to be able to fully customize that tool to fit their recruiting needs. We have witnessed coaches track everything from tournaments to favorite movies to give themselves an edge when recruiting.

Software NEEDS to be Easy
Coaches don’t want to give up their time to have to relearn something or spend time learning something that is complicated. They want everything in their recruiting process–especially their recruiting tool–to be very clear and easy to use. In addition, each member of the coaching staff may have a different level of understanding when it comes to computer stuff; and, for the tool to be effective, everyone should be able to use it.

Coaches want more time in their day to recruit and to coach. These same coaches want to spend less time initiating and/or completing administrative tasks. Coaches also want to do less data-entry and prefer having recruits complete online submission forms that automatically sync to the database. Coaches also want the ability to schedule emails to send out later and to have their emails in Outlook work hand-in-hand with their recruiting tool.

Help Me STAND OUT from the Competition
Coaches want recruits to see the key differentiators of their respective colleges and universities. They want their recruiting application to have the best email templates as well as the ability to create more easily. If the team has a great game, coaches want to share this with the recruit immediately. If recruiting is sales then marketing is not far behind. A great way to market to recruits is by sending eye-catching email templates that have the latest article/news about the team included.

I Want My Staff on the SAME PAGE
Coaches want a tool that is collaborative. They want to be able to make a note on a recruit and have their staff instantly be able to see it. If a recruit is coming for an on-site visit, everyone should have it on their calendar. If the head coach sends an email to a recruit, his assistants should know how many times that email was opened.

I Will Always WANT MORE
Coaches want to be part of the tool that is built for them and that continues to be improved based on their feedback. If a coach has an idea for a new functionality then there is a good chance that other coaches do as well; and, it should be included in future updates to the application. Many coaches use their tool not only for recruiting but also for roster, alumni, and camps; and, they do not want these items to be under-dressed in their tool.

From a very general view, we have spoken about some of the needs that coaches have shared with us. If you are a college coach, what would you like to see in a recruiting application? What would make your life easier?  Take a second to give us your "wish list" by clicking here

Front Rush

7 Things to Ask AFTER You Lose a ProspectMonday, October 26th, 2009

Asking the right questionsA few weeks ago, in the middle of one of our On-Campus Workshops, I reminded the coaches and athletic directors of a particular school that even after sitting through our session and following our direction on how to alter the way recruiting should be approached, they would still lose more prospects than they sign.

Losing is a part of being a college coach.  You’re going to lose games, and you’re going to lose recruits.  Both hurt.

You can prepare all week long, and sometimes all of your hard work and dedication just isn’t enough to get the win.  The same thing holds true for recruiting: Sometimes, your best just isn’t good enough to lure a recruit away from one of your competitors.

I’ve talked a lot about what kind of questions to ask during the recruiting process, but we’ve never talked much about what to ask your prospects after they say "no thanks".  Often times, however, the answers to those questions can be even more insightful than the one’s you ask a prospect before they’ve made their final decision.

Why?  Because the answers to those questions can help you shape your strategy the next time around…talking to the next recruit…and battling the next competitor for the best talent.

So, what should you be asking the recruit you have just lost?  Here’s a short list of seven types of questions to ask (Note: If you are one of our Total Recruiting Solution clients reading this, get with us to discuss customized strategies for your situation).

  1. "What was the biggest factor in choosing that program?"  You want to find out the single biggest reason they chose a competitor’s school.  Not a list of reasons, the biggest reason.  By the way, according to our studies with hundreds of student-athletes over the past three years, their reasons for choosing a school are not usually in line with the reasons coaches see as the way their decision are made.  That’s why this is such an important question.
  2. "Tell me about the feelings you had when you met with their coach and visited their school."  The answer to this question is most likely the REAL reason they choose that program.  The first question you asked?  That’s the "logical" answer they are giving…the "smart" answer that will make them sound like something other than the unsure teenager they really are.  This second question will get you to the heart of the matter.  The answer that they give you to this question will tell you why they really chose your competitor.
  3. "Was there anything that almost made you choose us?"  This will give you two valuable pieces of information: Your program’s strongest point in their eyes, and how close you actually came to signing them.  This second piece of information might be sobering…many honest prospects will reveal that you weren’t actually in the game at all, even though you thought you were.
  4. "When did you know that our program wasn’t the right fit for you?"  You want to find out what it was about their visit or your message that just didn’t connect with them?  This question will probably give you some insights.  
  5. "So now that you’ve decided, what do you see your first year at ______ being like?"  This might tell you what they’ve been promised or told by the other coach.  It will also tell you a lot about what this generation of kids responds to in terms of the recruiting messages they choose to believe, and those that they reject.
  6. "What do your parents think about _________ ?"   We know that parents play a crucial role in the decision making process.  In our recruiting guides for college coaches, we spend a good deal of time talking about how to reach your recruit’s parents because of this very reason.  If you can find out what the parents think of you, you’ll get some good direction on how to change your recruiting message.
  7. "If you ever wanted to transfer, would our program be one that you would consider?"  They will probably tell you yes, just to be nice.  But that’s not the point.  I think you should ask this as a way to let them know that you would certainly love to have them on your team if something didn’t work out, and give them a final reminder that you are a program that remains interested in them.  Who knows…maybe that change of heart will take place just a few weeks later?  I’ve seen it happen, and the program that lets them know that they are welcome even though you weren’t their first choice stands a good chance of getting a surprise signing late in the game.

Consider this process your "autopsy" of the recruiting process that has just ended unsuccessfully.  But as with any good analysis, you are going to come away with some incredibly valuable information to use the next time around.

It’s getting late in the recruiting year.  Are the results what you expected?  More importantly, are the results what you want and need?  If the answer is "no", then let us explain what our Total Recruiting Solution program is all about.  Here’s what to do…email Dan Tudor at dan@sellingforcoaches.com so we can arrange a time to show you what many other coaches and athletic departments have already discovered. 

Balloon Boy’s Four Recruiting LessonsMonday, October 19th, 2009

Balloon boyYou know about "balloon boy", right?

He’s the little 6-year old Colorado kid that allegedly floated away in his dad’s homemade UFO-like helium balloon, only to be discovered hiding in the attic of his house as a part of his father’s odd plan to score publicity.

Of course, we all know the outcome: The scheme was uncovered, the dad is being discredited, and the publicity has turned negative.  His plan to draw attention to himself has completely fallen apart (actually, he has drawn attention to himself…but not the kind that is going to help him).

Believe it or not, this bizarre story has lessons for college coaches in their role as a recruiter.  The bad news: I’m not going to teach you to build an aluminum foil UFO.  The good news: If you avoid the following mistakes, you will be a much more effective communicator and recruiter.

  • Be honest.  Balloon boy’s dad wasn’t, and before long the news media and the public smelled something fishy.  This generation of recruits who you are recruiting have the same finely-tuned senses.  They are actively searching out coaches who will be honest and straight-forward with them.  If you aren’t, you’ll probably lose your chance at signing them.
  • Keep control of your message.  Balloon boy’s dad, Richard Henne, relied on outside media outlets to tell his story.  But it’s hard to control the media, not to mention your 6-year old son who mentions the whole thing was an act on national TV, which goes to prove that if you don’t control your own story and message others will do it for you.  The best way to keep control of your message?  Start a blog and tell your story to your recruits, your fans and your alumni.  It’s easy, it’s inexpensive, and it’s the best way to frame the message that keeps you in control of your program’s story.
  • Be interesting, but not odd.  We like people who are original and interesting.  But there’s that line that is crossed when a person goes from "interesting" to odd.  Or, tyranical.  Or, confusing.  Today’s recruits want a coach who they can trust and also follow, which is easier to do when they are attracted to that coach as a person.  Once you cross the line and become "odd", you lose credibility – quickly, and permanantly.
  • Answer their questions fully and completely.  One of the odder moments in theThe question box whole balloon boy saga was when his father announced to the news media that he was no longer answering questions in live interviews, but only through questions they could leave him in a small cardboard box that he would leave by his front door.  The lesson here?  Your prospects are just like the media.  They have questions they need answered (and a little cardboard box isn’t going to cut it, coach).  Actively seek out your prospect’s questions, and make sure you give answers that connect your information with their wants or concerns.

The balloon boy story that unfolded also had a lot of ingredients that would have made it a compelling lesson for coaches in what to do right for creating a great story:  It had drama, an original story-line, and fascinating characters. 

However, the mistakes and oddities made the story unbelievable (and downright criminal from the looks of things).  The stakes for you are almost as high.  So, don’t make the same mistake, Coach.  Make sure those four aspects of your recruiting plan are solidly in place so that you can avoid the mistakes that some balloon-building fathers have made recently.

Did you know that Dan Tudor and his team of recruiting and marketing experts work with programs around the country, helping them craft the right message for their recruits and developing customized strategies for helping them overcome the objections raised by their recruits?  It’s true!  Want to see what Dan and his team can do for you?  Email him at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  We’ll show you how we do it, and pleasantly surprise you with how affordable it is. 

The Recruiting Genius of Selling the SizzleMonday, October 12th, 2009

Elmer WheelerA guy named Elmer Wheeler is about to teach you some valuable lessons that you can use to recruit more effectively.

More than likely, you’ve never heard of him.  And that’s understandable, because he made a name for himself back in the Great Depression.

Back then, Elmer Wheeler was paid $5,000 for coming up with nine simple words that proved to be golden for a major oil company.

Here’s the story: Texaco was looking to sell more motor oil to their customers. Too many people, without giving it a second thought, said "No" when a service station attendant asked "Check your oil today?"

Wheeler suggested replacing "Check your oil today?" with "Is your oil at the proper level today, sir?"

Now asking something like "Is your oil at the proper level today, sir?" would seem to make good sense. A line so simple you’d think most gas station owners would naturally come up with it — but few did.

Which is why Texaco paid Wheeler $5,000 for it, which was a small fortune back then.

They got their money’s worth and more. In one week, Texaco attendants got under 250,000 more hoods!

Another Wheeler triumph came when he was asked by the president of Barbasol to help them sell more shaving cream.

The slogan they had tried was "How Would You Like to Save Six Minutes Shaving?"

Wheeler suggested: "Use Barbasol. Just spread it on. Shave it off. Nothing else required!"

When they tested it, they found it increased sales by 102 percent.

A light bulb went off in Wheeler’s head, and he came up with another suggestion: "How would you like to slash your shaving time in half?"

That one increased sales by another 300 percent!

Over the years, Wheeler tested 105,000 selling statements for 5,000 products. He eliminated 100,000 of them.

Here’s how he summed up the philosophy behind what he called "Tested Selling", which is what you need to pay attention to as a college coach who is interested in attracting more recruits.

"Don’t think so much about what you want to say as about what the prospect wants to hear — then the response you will get will more often be the one you are aiming for."

Great advice.  As a college coach, here are the key points you need to remember as you develop your recruiting message, courtesy of good ‘ol Elmer:

Selling the Sizzle"Don’t sell the steak — sell the sizzle."
This just might be the most famous piece of sales advice ever, and it has great applications for today’s college recruiter. So what does it mean? Sell benefits and deeper benefits. Your prospect could care less about the product itself, in this case your college program. Wheeler wrote: "The sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever has, although the cow is, of course, mighty important."  As I tell coaches all the time, today’s recruits make their decision with their heart but justify it logically with their head.

"Don’t write — telegraph!"
Back in Wheeler’s day, telegraphs were a popular way for people to send messages. But they were charged by the word. So, to keep the price down, they had to choose their words wisely. By saying "Don’t write — telegraph," Wheeler meant "Make every word count." He often said that the first 10 words of your sales copy are more important than the next 10,000, and you have only 10 short seconds to catch your prospect’s attention with them.  In today’s age of text messaging, the same rules apply to your recruits who have a very, very, very limited attention span

"Say it with flowers."
This simply means that it’s not enough to make a statement to your prospect, you have to prove it. In other words, you say "I love you," and then you prove it by sending flowers. (Of course, you have to be sincere and do it convincingly).  The past year of conducting On-Campus Workshops has revealed that a growing trait that today’s recruits value is honesty.  They look for it all the time.  "Flowers" you send them count for a lot when it comes to attracting recruits.

"Don’t ask if — ask which."
Meaning, always give your prospect a choice between something and something … never between something and nothing. Seventy-plus years ago, for example, Wheeler worked out a way for owners of soda fountains to sell more eggs. Instead of asking "Would you like an egg with that?" the clerk would ask "One egg or two eggs?" while holding an egg in each hand. The result? Seven out of 10 customers added at least one egg to their order.

It works in restaurants, although most waiters and waitresses don’t use this gentle sales technique. Most ask if you’ll be having wine with dinner. Few say, "Will you be having white wine or red wine with dinner tonight?"

Barking dog"Watch your bark!"
This one came out of Wheeler’s love of dogs — and how much you can tell about how dogs feel by the way they wag their tails and the sound of their barks. By saying "Watch your bark!" Wheeler’s reminding us that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. For college coaches, that means keeping the tone of their recruiting copy conversational and engaging.

Follow the lead of a guy who invented the concept of "selling the sizzle".  Now, start putting it into practice in your recruiting messages.

The art of conversational recruiting messages can make all the difference in the world.  If you want a team of proven recruiting experts to help you make it happen, click here for more information.


Monday, October 5th, 2009