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The Latest News on Parents (And What They REALLY Want)Monday, November 30th, 2009

Parents of recruitsParents are increasingly becoming a major force in college recruiting.

It’s true at the biggest of the big-time Division I programs, and it’s true in the small private school tucked away in a small town in middle-America.

Because parents play such a pivitol role in the process, I wanted to pass along some of the latest information we’ve gathered from our research and focus groups at college campuses around the country.  Here’s what we’re finding:

  • Kids want their parents involved in the process.  More and more, we hear examples of athletes who tell us point blank that they want their parents involved in the recruiting process, and that they look for college coaches who engage their parents when they have the opportunity to talk to them.  Do you do that?
  • Parents are split when it comes to how you’re doing at engaging them during the recruiting process.  54% of the parents of actively recruited athletes we surveyed nationally said that they felt coaches did a good job of including them in the recruiting process.  That’s the good news.  The bad news?  46% are feeling like there could be more done to include them as a part of the process.  So, Coach, here’s what you should do: Take half of your recruiting list, chop it in half, and that’s how many parents are feeling like you’re not doing that great a job at making them feel like they’re important to you.  The scary part should be that you probably don’t know which of your parents are on what side of the line. 
  • Parents want straight talk about why you, your program and your school are different than everyone else.  Too often, coaches try to level the playing field and make their program just like the other one down the street.  The brochures look the same, the websites look the same, and the message is largely the same.  What’s missing?  How you are different from your competition.  Really different.  The coaches who can communicate those real differences to parents will earn their trust, and when you have prospects who look to their parents’ views of a program 91% of the time as an important determiner in their final decision, that’s a big "win" for you in the recruiting game.

During our On-Campus Workshops, the thing we try to stress to coaches and athletic directors in attendance is the importance of having a plan to "recruit the parents".  Even with just a basic understanding of what drives parents and their influence over their athletes, you can begin to create an effective game plan for recruiting them (and their son or daugther) to your program.

By the way, another huge key in being successful with the parents of your recruits is understanding the seven things they want out of interactions with you as a coach.  Its been one of our most popular articles over the years, and I want to recommend it again to you as a good reminder of what else you need to do to effective recruit the parents.  Click here for the article.

Need help developing your plan for parents?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and ask for an outline of what the team at SFC does to help coaches around the country with their plan-of-attack. 

What Should Be On YOUR Technology Wish List This SeasonMonday, November 30th, 2009

Technology wish listby Sean Devlin, Front Rush

With the holidays right around the corner, we thought we would put together some things that wouldn’t be a bad idea for your technology wish list (they are definitely on ours!).  Whether you are a Front Rush client or not, we want to tell you what other programs we are working with have done to improve their productivity when it comes to technology: 

Windows 7
For a long time, you have probably been running Windows XP or even maybe Windows Vista. In the past month, Microsoft released their newest operating system, Windows 7. We have been using this internally and it is a huge improvement over Microsoft’s past platforms. It is stable, fast and focused on usability.  If you use Windows, we highly recommend making the switch to Windows 7. 

Mac
If you are tired of Windows and want an operating system that is easy to use, quick and reliable, then we recommend paying a little bit more and getting a Macintosh. The current MacBook is another example of great innovation at Apple. It may take you a week or so to get used to this type of computer but once you switch, you may question how you ever used a computer before.

A Second Monitor
This is hands down the best investment that you can make for the lowest cost. If you purchase a second monitor (maybe a hundred bucks or so), you instantly improve your computing experience. Imagine doubling your screen size so that you can have your recruiting software in one monitor and your email in the other. You can drag your mouse back and fourth from one screen to the next.  It’s a great (and inexpensive) technology upgrade that will save you time and help keep you more organized.

Smart Phone
If you haven’t done this already, then now may be a good time to jump into the iPhone, Droid, or Blackberry worlds. This will give you instant access to all of your emails, the mobile web and your web-based recruiting software.

Recruiting Software
We are certainly biased on this one but if you have been using Excel and Outlook alone, now could be a good time to invest in an online recruiting management software. This will allow for you access your recruiting stuff from anywhere, whether in the office or on the road.  And, according to our clients, we seem to be the most cost effective option that still gives you all of the cool functionality that more expensive options boast. 

Want to see what our recruiting software can do to help you present a cleaner, more organized message to your recruits?  We can do it.  Just give us a few minutes, and we’ll take you through a short webinar live on your computer in your office.  To set up a time, or to ask any technology question that’s got you stumped, email Sean Devlin at sdevlin@frontrush.com.

How to Beat Margaret McCaffery’s Apple CobblerMonday, November 23rd, 2009

Haven’t heard of Margaret McCaffery or her apple cobbler with caramel sauce?

Don’t feel bad.  Neither had I until I read this week’s Sports Illustrated, which featured this year’s college basketball previews. 

And right there on page 97 is the story of Margaret’s apple cobbler, the secret weapon to the rise of the Siena Saints men’s basketball team.  Here is the excerpt:

Siena’s recipe for mid-major success begins in an actual kitchen in Loudonville, N.Y. 

There, Margaret McCaffery cooks her famous deserts – most notably French apple cobbler with caramel sauce – while fostering the warmth that has enticed recruits since her husband, Fran, became coach of the Saints in 2005. 

The team regularly stops by the McCaffery’s to eat, watch sports and receive impromtu mothering in a pinch.  "We promise our players’ parents that we’ll watch out for them," says Margaret.  Adds senior point guard Ronald Moore of the family atmosphere, "It’s a reason a lot of guys choose to come here."

Margaret McCafferyI added the bold emphasis because what Coach Fran McCaffery and his cobbler-cookin’ wife Margaret (pictured to the left) are doing at Siena is right on target.  Coaches who share the positive aspects of their personal lives, and those that are close to them, with their athletes are following the key principles we discuss in our recruiting guides for college recruiters.  They are adding an effective weapon to their recruiting arsenal.

Why?  Because today’s recruits value personal relationships a lot.  And, most are looking for a connection with a coach as a primary method of determining which school is the "right fit" for them (our studies prove it).

Are you doing that, Coach?  Are you letting your personal side show in a positive way, and letting those that are close to you be involved in your recruiting message? 

You should.  Here are some practical ideas on how to do that based on what we’ve seen work with other colleges we’ve had the chance to work closely with:

  • Don’t look past good home-cooked apple cobbler.  Or lasagna, or cookies, or burgers.  Food is the tie that binds, if you let it.  And if you have a spouse or significant other that can lend their hand at cooking for a prospect and their family, find a way to get them involved.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your kids be kids around your prospect.  I have a three year old son, and any of you who have small boys in the house know that they can be destructive, pooping little horrors.  And that’s just what you want if you have a recruit nearby.  When we conduct surveys with athletes during our On-Campus Workshops, one of the things that we discover is that they are looking for the security of a family while away from home.  The typical mayhem and chaos of a house with kids provides one of those aspects of "family" that they are searching for in a coach.  It also allows them to see who you are as a person, and not just a coach.
  • Don’t look past opportunities to connect in their home.  If you are a coach doing a home visit, take the time to connect with their family.  Not just the recruit, not just their parents…everyone in the house.  Quick story: An athlete at a D1 school we work with told me that she chose that school because when the coach visited her house, he took the time to play with her younger sister in the backyard on the swingset.  "Seeing the coach taking the time to play with my sister," said the athlete, "told me right away that he was someone I could trust and that I wanted to play for."  The truth of the matter is that recruits are looking for "tie-breakers" that will help them choose between schools.  Give them reasons to choose you based on the personal relationships that you forge.
  • Make your relationship at home the subject of your recruiting messages.  Helping your prospect connect with you and your family isn’t reserved for personal visits.  Find ways to include personal stories – family stories – into your recruiting letters and emails.
  • Remember that "family" also includes your current team.  If you can find ways to make them a part of a prospect’s recruiting experience, in the context of your team becoming new big brothers or sisters to this new prospect that’s searching for a place to belong, do it.  Connecting with your team is VERY important for your prospect, Coach.  They are one of your best "family" examples for your recruit.

Can any of this beat Margaret’s apple cobbler?  I can’t answer that, of course.  

However, I can tell you that this generation of recruits put a strong emphasis on feeling connected and looking for a family setting.  Guys included, by the way. 

Actively look for ways to incorporate your personal and family life into the recruiting experience that you create for your prospect.  It works (just ask Fran and Margaret!).

Want more of the story on Margaret, who has coached in the NCAA tournament before and was once kicked out of the arena while watching her husband’s team play a game?  Click here.

Want more information on how SFC can work personally with your program to develop a more effective, more results-oriented recruiting game plan?  Click here. 

Getting Prospects to Read Every Single WordMonday, November 16th, 2009

Dan Tudor, Selling for CoachesI’m sure we can all agree that writing really effective recruiting messages is one of the keys to getting the attention of the recruits you really want, right?

Recruits are going to be naturally drawn to coaches with similar tastes, whether it’s a matter of liking the same pro sports team or having the same music on your iPod. If you can make that happen, you will elevate your chances of capturing your prospect’s ongoing attention.

But that’s only the first step in stealing their attention away from the other competitors that are also jockeying for position in the high stakes game of college recruiting.  If you read the rest of today’s recruiting tip from Selling for Coaches, you’ll get a complete step-by-step plan on creating an effective opening to practically any recruiting message that you sit down to write.

Re-read those two opening paragraphs.  There are three components to the structure of the paragraphs that may just hold the key to creating a really effective recruiting letter.

Here’s how it works…

First, try to get them to buy in to an agreeable opening sentence.  I did it in the sentence that opens with, "I’m sure we can agree that…" 

Some other opening sentences in recruiting letters might sound similar:

  • “Can we shake hands and agree that…”
  • “As a college prospect, you probably are looking for a coach who is going to be honest with you…”
  • “You’d risk being called foolish by your friends if you didn’t take a serious look at the full-ride offer we’re talking with you about…"

When you get your athletic prospect to agree with you as they are reading your message, you make them feel like they are on an equal level with you when they see that their own opinions are being positioned as widely accepted fact, which will also make them more apt to want to continue reading. 

Step two of the process involves getting your prospect to buy-in to a core need of theirs that you want them to agree with you on.

The simplest way to do that is with a statement that establishes that what they just agreed on isn’t enough, or isn’t the final answer . . . and that they’re going to miss out if they don’t keep reading.

It shouldn’t be too hard to do.  Take a look at the second paragraph above.  See what it does?  Here are some other examples you might use in your letter to a recruit:

  • “But the promise of playing time as a Freshman may not be a promise most other coaches can keep…"
  • “Picking the right school isn’t as easy as it sounds…”
  • “The stadium you play in is only a small part of what makes a college the right fit…”

Set up the need, and you can be sure that your prospects will continue to read, if only to see if they already know what you’re about to reveal to them.  At this point, they’re not going to leave your message.  They are fully engaged in what you are saying, which is what you want.

The third and final step is to get your prospect looking ahead and anticipating something you can promise them in your message.

It’s not necessarily a promise of a scholarship.  It’s the promise of a conversation about good things to come:

  • "…you will find that what we can offer a lot more with our new dorms than most schools can."
  • "…we’ll show you that our conference is going to challenge you and make you a better athlete."
  • "…you’re going to get a REAL chance to play from the word go here in my program."

Once you’ve established a connection with them, convinced them of their need and given them assurance of an immediate take-away, the stage is set for them to read down to the very last word.

Not only will they read every word of this particular message, they’ll be more curious and engaged the next time they get a letter or email from you.  In recruiting, that’s the ultimate "win-win" situation.

A great customized recruiting plan is easy to develop with the help of the recruiting experts on Dan Tudor’s team at Selling for Coaches.  For more information on this incredible recruiting tool that can make a big difference in the way you recruit, just click here or email Dan personally at dan@sellingforcoaches.com with your questions about the Total Recruiting Solution plan.

How Twitter Lists Can Help Coaches Get More OrganizedMonday, November 9th, 2009

Twitter for college coachesby Sean Devlin, Front Rush 

As the true beauty of Twitter lies in what we can get out of it, most of what we read about Twitter is how to post content—particularly, relevant content. If you follow individuals whose tweets cover topics you care about, you can get real-time information/news delivered directly to you.

The only setback to tweeting was finding ways to organize its contents. Recently, however, Twitter released the ‘lists’ feature which allows you to group the people you follow into lists of your choosing. With this functionality now live, we decided to share some lists we’ve recommended to our Front Rush clients that you could use to organize your content.

Other Coaches
This list would include other coaches that are tweeting daily. Often times, the best way to learn is by observing others. You may not care about their specific content. You can utilize this list, however, to give you topic/subject ideas that you should be tweeting about.

Competition
This list would include coaches that you are competing against. In essence it is a real-time view of what your competition is doing. If you pay close attention, you should be able to find some hidden gems you could use in this list.

Recruiting/Sales Experts
You may already be an expert recruiter. As you know, though, there is always more to learn. Fortunately, there are innumerable resources out there to help you improve your recruiting skills. Dan Tudor (Twitter.com/dantudor), for example, tweets consistently. In addition, with the close relationship between sales and recruiting, you can easily search for some expert sales authorities as well.

College prospectYour Recruits
Although tweeting has not necessarily taken off with the teenage demographic to the extent that it has in the adult world, there are still plenty of athletes on Twitter. With this list, you can keep a close eye on your recruits, on their parents, etc., and get a feed of what they are talking about.  You should also encourage your prospects to sign-up for Twitter and start tweeting. 

High School/Club Coaches
Find out about the latest happening with the teams that your recruits are playing for. This could be very informative, even at the lowest level of knowing about game time or field changes.

Conferences/Schools/Leagues/etc.
Why not get the latest news going on with the NCAA, your conference, your league, etc. In this list you can get up-to-date information about everything that is going on around you and the leagues that you are competing in.

Your Vendors
Many companies are now tweeting about all of the real-time happenings within their company. This information may range from the latest sales deals (need extra cash!) to new product releases or even to issues the vendors are dealing with.

The above is a short brainstorm of some of the lists that you can put together. Be creative. Whether you use the above or come up with your own list, your life in Twitterverse will certainly be a lot easier.

Need help organizing your Twitter list?  Front Rush can answer any and all technical questions, whether you are a client or not (and if you’re not a client, seriously…what’s going on???)  Email Sean at sdevlin@frontrush.com and tell him what you need help with.  They’ll even help you with questions about a competitive web-based recruiting management system!

Consequences of a Recruiter’s Erudite VernacularMonday, November 9th, 2009

Recruiting letters“Keep it simple, stupid.”

When we work with college coaches advising them on overhauling their recruiting campaigns, that’s the advice we give when it comes to creating winning recruiting messages. A new study backs the wisdom of that advice.

Long words used needlessly (like in our headline!) along with complicated font styles — two tactics employed routinely by coaches who are desperate to get the attention of increasingly jaded prospects — are perceived as coming from less intelligent writers.

Here’s another way to put it: Short words and classic fonts make you look smart to your prospects.

Daniel Oppenheimer at Princeton University conducted five experiments manipulating the complexity of vocabulary or font style. Samples included graduate school applications, and sociology dissertation abstracts.

Times New Roman, the default font for Internet text and writing programs like Microsoft Word, was contrasted by the italicized Juice font (the sort of font you might see in a “fun” recruiting letter that I’ve seen some coaches do).

The simple writing done in the easy-to-read font tended to be rated as coming from a more intelligent writer than the more complex drafts.

“Anything that makes a text hard to read and understand, such as unnecessarily long words or complicated fonts, will lower readers’ evaluations of the text and its author,” Oppenheimer said.

He added, though, that the study does not suggest long words are inherently bad, but only that using them needlessly is a problem. So why do so many college recruiters do it?

“The continuing popularity amongst students we surveyed of using big words and attractive font styles may be due to the fact that they may not realize these techniques could backfire,” Oppenheimer said. “One thing seems certain: Write as simply and plainly as possible and it’s more likely you’ll be thought of as intelligent.”

Let me give you two examples of phrases that I think could be simplified using Oppenheimer’s study findings.  These are two commone phrases I’ve seen in recruiting letters that coaches have asked us to review for them:

  • “You have been identified as an outstanding student-athlete prospect, and we would like you to consider our program after you complete your high school career.” That’s the long version that this new study says won’t work as well as a shorter, simpler version.  What if you changed it to something like, “Wow, did you do great at that tournament last weekend!  We were there, and I think we need to talk.  You’d be perfect here at State University.”  Sound better?  Here’s another one…
  • “If you are interested in hearing more about the opportunities we have for you here at State University, please feel free to contact me with any questions.” That’s way to wordy, and way to passive.  Maybe you should try, “Here’s the next step: We need to talk right away.  Reply back to my email and let me know when you could give me a call next Wednesday or Thursday.”  It’s simpler, and more direct (and not passive at all!)

Shorter, simpler words in your recruiting messages works best.

Enough said.

We’re booking our Winter and Spring On-Campus Workshop schedules.  Want us to come to your campus for two days of learning, analysis and customized strategy development?  Email Dan at dan@sellingforcoaches.com.  We can lead workshops for an entire athletic department, or a single coaching staff.  For more information on what we do, click here.

The Latest Tools for Coaches Who Use TwitterMonday, November 2nd, 2009

TwitterAlmost one year in to the college coaching Twitter craze, we wanted to give coaches who are now using tweets to boost their recruiting messages some of the last tricks and shortcuts that we’re recommending to coaches during our On-Campus Workshops

Here’s a few of our favorites:

TwitterFox: This Firefox web browser plugin allows you to view Tweets within your web browser (in a popup menu). This is very handy and eliminates the need to constantly go to Twitter.com.

TweetLater: Now known as SocialOomph, this powerful service allows you to schedule tweets (much like you would schedule emails). Another very powerful feature is the ability to receive email digests of keyword activity in the Tweetosphere. This allows you to join a conversation or track topics and trends.  It’s one of our favoriate tools…check it out, Coach.

Ping.fm: If you have accounts with many services, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, this amazing and simple-to-use site allows you to post updates across ALL of your social media sites in one single step.

Twitter for Facebook: If you are on Facebook, this application forwards your Twitter updates directly to Facebook as status updates.  It’s very, very convenient. 

If you are a coach that "tweets", these tools have a great chance of making your social networking life a whole lot easier.

 

4 Powerhouse Negotiation Strategies You Might Be Scared to TryMonday, November 2nd, 2009

Once the recruiting process moves past the first phase, you’re going to be faced with an interesting decision.  In fact, it might be down-right scary:

Do you take control of the negotiations?  Or, do you let your prospect and their parents (and maybe their coach) control the process?

Understand, I’m talking about late in the recruiting process.  You like the prospect, they’re interested and serious about what you have to offer, and now it’s time to come to an agreement on what their offer looks like and what you’re going to be giving them if they sign with you.

Is it something coaches "want" to do, or "like" to do?  Probably not.  But there are times when you’ll be forced to roll up your sleeves and iron out differences that you have with a prospect and the other decision makers that they may be relying upon, and doing it correctly will help define the relationship you’ll have with them for years to come.

So, how can you help foster a strong relationship but still maintain your upper hand in the negotiation process?  Here are four key negotiating tips that you can use next time you’re locked in give-and-take battle with a recruit:

1. Learn to be shocked.  "You want how much in books and tuition???"  "You think you should be the starting center fielder how soon???"  Shock.  Surprise.  Visable flinching.  All of these things make an immediate impact on the other person.  And, unless they are a savvy sales and recruiting expert, they will immediately either become uncomfortable and try to rationalize their line of thinking, or they will concede some key points to you immediately.  It works, coach.

2.  They ask, but will they receive?  A lot of people – your teenage prospects and their parents included – will often ask for a lot more than they expect to receive.  And, they’ll try to make you think that they other guys are offering more than they actually are.  Keep this fact in mind, and avoid the temptation to immediately "price match" to stay in the game.  That doesn’t mean that you never equal an offer made by a competitor, but do so once you let the prospect explain how that point would be a key factor in them taking a closer look at your program and your offer. 

3.  If you have the most information, you’ll win.  Know your competitors inside and out.  Ask the right questions to understand your prospect’s situation and decision motives.  A large portion of our Selling for Coaches workbooks are devoted to effective questioning of your prospect.  Why?  Because it’s the most important part of establishing your negotiating and information base on that individual prospect.  To get good information, ask open ended probing questions such as:

â—¦Who else have you been talking to?
â—¦What was your experience with that other coach when they spoke with you?
â—¦When will you be making your decision?

4. Maintain your power of walking away.  That’s tough for a lot of coaches, and in some instances it isn’t recommended.  But if we’re talking about an athlete that is abusing his relationship with you and your staff – taking too much of your time, demanding too much, parents are making unrealistic requests…you know who I’m talking about, coach – then its your right to walk away, and that’s a very powerful negotiating tool.  If they know that you will move on to another recruit without hesitation, you’ll maintain your control of the process and your position as the power player.  And can I tell you something else?  You’ll actually build respect in the process…your prospect could end up liking the fact that you’re taking a strong position.  People are drawn to strength, and it will often command more respect than groveling and pleading the athlete to stay interested.

The big key to making these work?  Practice.  Over and over and over again. 

Why?  It makes a difference come "game time" when the prospects are real, the objections are tough, and successful negotiations can make the difference between players wanting you to add them to your roster, or you looking in the want ads for a new job.

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