So there I was, facing an audience of college students on the campus of one of our clients. I was part of a panel that had been invited to talk about careers in the sports world, and it was a great opportunity to be reminded about how to talk to this generation of student-athlete.
After the panel gave their individual speeches, we broke-up into different parts of the hall we were gathered in so these college-age kids could come and ask individual questions.
What followed was a lesson in talking to individuals who haven’t grown-up withly some of the same communication skills that you and I did. And finding that “sweet spot” in connecting with a prospect you’re recruiting could make all the difference in whether or not they serious consider you and your program.
Here are my six observations from my interactions, and lessons for you as a college recruiter needing to “connect” with these kids in order to put together your next great recruiting class:
- They don’t want to start the conversation. Several of the students hovered around me like shy puppy dogs, to the point where I actually had to make eye contact and ask them a question to get the conversation started. As a recruiter, you should expect to have to do the same thing.
- Ask them about themselves. What I find works the best is when you ask a very specific question about one segment of their lives. Your initial questions can’t be too broad…they need to be easy enough for them to answer to get them comfortable talking to you.
- Try to make them laugh (or at least smile). If you can use humor to break the ice, great…do it. But even if you don’t feel like you’re a natural born comedian, at least smile. Smile big, and right at them. If you can get them to smile back, you’re on your way to connecting with them.
- Get their opinion about specific issues. In a recruiting situation, if you ask them, “So, what did you think of our campus when you visited?” you’re going to get a wishy-washy, vague answer. For most kids of this generation, that is too big of a question…one that they may not have had time to form an opinion about. However, if you ask them, “So, when you were inside the dorm room, did it seem like a place where you could see yourself enjoying?” That’s a much better question because it gives your prospect a chance to zero in on a specific opinion. In my conversations with the students I had just talked to, I quickly found that the smaller, more “specific” questions, got the best and most detailed responses.
- Don’t linger when it seem like the conversation should end. There were several times when I had more advice to give them, but could tell from their body language that it was time to end the conversation. So I did. For the kids in this generation, when they are done talking they are not shy about wanting to call it quits. You know how you sometimes drag out a recruiting phone call to half and hour or more, and you are doing all the talking? My advice is to stop. You’ve lost your prospect’s interest in that call, and it’s time to stop talking.
- Follow-up quickly. After the event, I went back to my hotel room and emailed those attendees that gave me their email address. I told them that I enjoyed their conversations, appreciated their interest in what they had to say, and told them to get back to me with any questions they had. Lo and behold, they found their voices! I was bombarded with contact from them, which was a good reminder about another aspect of this generation that you should keep in mind: They want to know that you are interested in hearing from them. The best way to do that is to immediately reach out after you talk to them, and open the door for more communication.
On the surface, these are all pretty simple lessons. However, what I find is that coaches develop a communication system with their prospects that is far more complicated than it needs to be. When you reach the point of one-on-one communications, keep these simple rules handy. They work, and will let you enjoy much more productive conversations with your prospects.
Communicating with this generation of prospects is the theme for this year’s 2010 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference, a one-of-a-kind gathering of coaches and athletic directors with one goal: Make every attendee a DOMINANT recruiter! Want to be a part of it? Find out all the details – and inside information on a great early registration discount – by clicking here.