Dan Tudor

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What YOUR Prospects Want to Hear FirstMonday, May 31st, 2010

Recruiting phone callThe secret is out.

We now know exactly how a majority of your new recruits want to first be contacted by you.  Thanks to a combination of the research we did in our study on how today’s recruits want to be recruited, along with the information we gather during our On-Campus Workshops at colleges who bring us in to work with their coaching staff, the answer is clear:

Your prospects want to be called on the phone when you first start recruiting them.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I think it’s surprising because most kids find it challenging to talk on the phone with you when you call them at some point during the recruiting process.  So why would they want to hear from you by phone as the first point of contact?  Here are some of the answers we discovered:

  • They want to know that you’re serious about them. When you call them, that shows them that they are a serious recruit in your eyes – otherwise, why would you take the time to call them?
  • They want to hear how you found them. Sometimes those introductory letters that you send are a little to vague: “You’ve been identified as a prospect…”  Or, “You’ve been recommended as a prospect…”   Both are a little bit cryptic, and this is one area where you don’t want to be mysterious.  Today’s athlete wants specifics, starting with how you have found them.
  • A phone call automatically puts you at the front of the line. They’ve heard your voice, which is one better than most coaches who are only going to send out a letter.  It will be hard to ignore you after they hear your voice because they’ll be comparing you to the rest of the coaches that aren’t taking the time to call them.  For this generation, they want to be able to starting ranking colleges and figuring out who’s serious about them, and who isn’t.  This is one of the best ways we’ve found to make sure you are doing just that.

So, have I convinced you take the time to make a phone call first with this new group of prospects you’re getting ready to recruit?  Good.  Here’s a model for what should be included in the call:

  • A short greeting and your phone number.  Your name, your college and your contact number.
  • Tell them that you want them to know that they are officially being recruited by your program.  You can play around with the wording a little, but make sure they understand that you are serious about them and that your phone call warrants their attention.
  • Tell them the next two things that they should be looking for from you and your program.  A letter and then an email, two quick emails with questions they need to answer…whatever.  Give them an agenda of whats coming up in the near future.
  • DO NOT ask them for information.  That’s not the purpose of the phone call.
  • DO NOT sell your school, unless they answer this next question:
  • Ask them: “Before I hang up, do you have any questions about me, my program, or the college?”  If they say no (which they likely will, because their heart will be pumping a little too hard to focus on questions they might have), tell them that you can’t wait for the next time you can talk to them and end the call.  Leave them wanting more.  If they do have questions, take the time to answer them and sell your college where appropriate.

That’s the simple formula that we’ve seen work over and over again.  The calls should last no more than a minute or two, they should have a purpose, and you need to sound both confident and excited.

The results will be significant:  You will see greater engagement sooner from all of your prospects, and you will clarify exactly where they stand with them as soon as possible (which is what they all want).

As the date for allowed phone calls gets closer, keep this strategy in mind for your new group of recruits.

Want more information on how to develop a great game plan for recruiting this generation of athletes?  We have two popular advanced recruiting guides used by coaches all over the country…and they’re getting results from the strategies outlined.

The guides are easy to read, and packed with practical information that you can start using right away.  Click here for all the details.

Teaching Your Prospect to “Stay the Course”Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

There’s a great deal of psychology that business sales professionals use daily in their interactions with their prospects and clients.  As a college sports recruiter, you can (and should) use the same kind of techniques to solidify your relationship with your athletic prospects.

One such technique is what I call the “stay the course” technique.  Here’s a sampling of how it works, using an actual study that was conducted to back up my ideas to you today.

When most people (your prospects included, coach) decide on a course of action, they have a very strong desire to stay with that course.   Frequently, this desire is so powerful that they will refuse to alter their chosen path … even when there is overwhelming evidence that it is unwise.

There are several reasons for this. For one thing, there’s the simple power of ego. Nobody likes to feel like they made a bad decision.  Perhaps more important is that nobody likes a “flip-flopper.”  A classic example from the world of politics would be a candidate who “flip-flopped” on positions and, therefore, couldn’t be trusted. There have been numerous instances over the past decade where the allegation alone were enough to derail the political aspirations of many politicians.  As a society, we don’t like people who appear to not keep their commitments.

Once a person chooses a certain position, their desire to be consistent will compel them to behave as promised.

An interesting study illustrated this universal human tendency. A “beachgoer” (an accomplice to the study) would stroll onto the sand and choose a spot near a target subject. The “beachgoer” would then spend about five minutes spreading out his blanket and setting up with suntan lotion and a small portable radio.   Just another person enjoying a day at the beach. He would then stand up and walk away, without saying anything to the target.

Shortly after the “beachgoer” left, a second accomplice would approach the unguarded blanket and make a move to steal the radio. Only five percent of the time would the target make any effort to confront the “thief” or do anything to try and prevent what appeared to be a crime.

Now … here’s the interesting part of the study: With a second group of targets, instead of simply walking away from his blanket, the “beachgoer” asked them to keep an eye on his things. And the results were drastically different. Ninety-five percent of the time, these targets aggressively attempted to prevent the “thief” from stealing the “beachgoer’s” radio.

What made the difference?

Like the first group, this second group of targets didn’t know the “beachgoer.” The only communication they had with him was that single verbal exchange when he asked them to watch his things.

But because these subjects had agreed to do something, they aggressively stayed the course … despite the fact that it was not in their best interests.   In fact, it put them in the potentially dangerous position of confronting a brazen thief in order to protect the low-value property of a stranger they’d only spoken with for one moment.

Understanding this tendency of people to follow a consistent course of action can help you persuade them to act in a way you want them to act – whether you want to get your boss to assign you to a particular project or get your child to do better in school.  Or, get your recruit to commit to your program.

One of the things that we constantly hear from college coaches who read our two foundational recruiting guides is that they now understand how their prospects feel makes them most likely to commit to a particular program or a coach.  How they feel about the coach, how they feel about the players on the team, and how they feel about the thought of playing for you as a coach.  If you’ve read our study of how prospects go through their decision making process when being recruited, you also see how this concept of “commitment” comes into play with our findings and recommendations that we’ve made to you based on our study’s findings.

There are three steps to making this technique work, Coach:

1. Make a statement of fact that your prospect can agree with. (“Playing for us here at our college is going to give you a great chance of being able to start as a freshman.”)

2. Link a conclusion to this statement of fact. (“In order to make sure that happens, we need to make sure you’re one of our early commitment prospects so that we can stop recruiting other athletes that play your position.”)

3. Obtain a commitment from your prospect based on that conclusion. (“So, can we depend on you to get that application paperwork I sent you last week turned-in early and start planning your college career here at our university right away?”)

You can change the wording, or the subject, but the principle at work is key.

It’s easy, it works, and it begins to get your prospect thinking about a permanent athlete-coach relationship with you and your program.

Getting the prospect to feel emotionally tied to your program is just one of the topics we’ll be covering at the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this June.  Coach, you need to be there and you need to register soon.  Click here for the details.

One Super-Easy Way to Improve Your Campus VisitMonday, May 17th, 2010

I’m going to make it very, very easy for you today.

A big focus for many coaches that we meet with, or who we get to serve as clients, are curious about how to improve their on-campus visits with recruits.  Among all of the complicated, in-depth strategies that we might suggest, there is one which any coach can put into practice immediately.

No dent in your budget, no extra time involved on your part.  It’s easy.

Here it is:

Stop having your visiting prospects meet with professors and sit in on a class.

Let me explain why this is one of the best things you can do as a college coach interested in securing a visiting prospect, and also two reasons why you might be hesitant to actually follow through with erasing it from your campus visit schedule.

First, why is it such a good idea?  Simple: Your athletes tell us.  Quite regularly, in fact.

Bored in classJust about every week, we’re on campuses leading workshops for coaches and athletic departments.  As a part of our review and research for those projects, we conduct detailed focus groups and surveys with current college student-athletes.  When we do, one thing we ask them to tell us are what factors were most important - and least important – in helping them choose a college program.  Without fail, nearly 100% of the time, student-athletes tell us that sitting in on a class and meeting with a professor or dean is the least effective, least important aspect of their visit to a college campus.

“A big waste of time”.  “I was bored the entire time, and it was way too long”.  “I would have rather just hung-out with the team”.  All of these are actual comments from your recruits.

So is it smart to make that a significant part of your campus visit?  No.

That being said, let me give you two reasons why you will probably not make any changes to this part of your campus visit, even though most of your prospects would be much happier with their visit to campus if you did:

  1. Campus culture. Your friends in admissions, and the deans who are a current integral part of your campus visit routine, might protest your decision to change this part of your campus visit.  Everyone has a role to play during a campus visit, and you’ll be reluctant to eliminate their role in the process.
  2. “But we’re a college.  Shouldn’t they experience a class?” Let me answer by telling you what many of your athletes have told us: “It’s a college…we get it…they have classrooms.”  In other words, it doesn’t matter.  Now, let me clarify: If you have a prospect who asks to meet with a dean or sit in on a class, that’s a different matter altogether.  However, for the vast majority of athlete prospects visiting your campus for a short period of time, they would rather spend time interacting with your team.  Still, chances are you won’t be able to get around the whole ”college…classroom…professor…must make them see it” line of thinking.

So there you have it.  One easy solution to better campus visits, along with two major hurdles standing in your way.

The ball is in your court now, Coach.  Are you ready to start revamping your campus visit by starting with this one very easy and inexpensive fix that’s based on national research and advice from the very people you are trying to attract to your program?

We have more campus visit strategies ready to talk about at this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in June.  You should be there, Coach!

The discounted early registration price expires soon.  Register today!

And by the way, if you can’t make it but still want all the information from the conference, order our DVD and notes…it’s the next best thing to being there.

How to Get Personality Into Your Online Recruiting QuestionnaireMonday, May 10th, 2010

Willie Nelson?....or, Sean Devlin?by Sean “Call Me Willie” Devlin, Front Rush

What song would you sing if you were on American Idle?

More and more we have seen coaches who are our clients add a little personality to their online recruit questionnaires, and candidly we love it.

The premise is that instead of just having questions like “height?” “weight?” “email?” – why not show a little personality in your questionnaire? Why not ask questions like “if you were a wrestler, what would your entrance song be?” Or, “if you were stranded on an island, what three items would you want to have?” Or even, “are you ready to work harder than you ever have in your life?”.  Questions like these have a few key benefits:

1) It gives you the opportunity to introduce a little of your team’s culture, potentially before you have even spoken with the recruit.

2) It gives you something to talk about when you call the recruit.

3) It allows you to stand out amongst a sometimes crowded field of competing coaches.

4) It let’s you dialog on the web in a similar fashion that recruits are used to in their everyday surfing.

The above examples may be a bit extreme for your program and your team’s message…fair enough, Coach. But, it doesn’t mean that you can’t introduce your own ideas beyond the standard “first name” and “last name” boxes on your questionnaire.  Most importantly, it should be representative of you and your team’s personality.

If you come up with any great ideas, we would love to hear them — Oh and for the record, I would sing anything by Willie Nelson.

Got questions about how to add personality to your web recruiting questionnaire?  Whether you are a Front Rush customer or not, email the undisputed expert of web recruiting technology – Sean Devlin – at sdevlin@frontrush.com.

And, if you ask nicely, he may even belt out a Willie Nelson song for you after he and his team at Front Rush give you great technology advice.

Adding Quantity (and Quality) to Your Summer CampsMonday, May 3rd, 2010

Soccer campby Scott Alexander, NCSA Recruiting Coach

Preparing for summer camps have traditionally created several dilemmas for college coaches. For most, it’s not uncommon to feel unprepared as you enter a camp session. Not knowing who a recruit is or whether or not they could actually be a player for you will obviously put you in poor position to maximize your time while at the camp.

It’s likely that you also struggle with your overall camp attendance, which may be a result of your pre-camp outreach. Finding the balance between quality and quantity is always a slippery slope. Of course, having the right types of recruits on campus can go a long way with your overall success in recruiting, but how can you as a college coach efficiently target recruits that will meet your recruiting qualifications?

The good news is there are several free tools available that can help you with several of these dilemmas.

The free NCSA Recruit-Match Database provides college coaches with critical information on recruits across every sport, housing information on over 200,000 prospects.  The NCSA database can help you put not only faces, but film, transcripts, and statistics to those names on your camp list, thus allowing you and your staff to be more prepared to make your evaluations and spend the optimal amount of time with your most prized recruits.

The NCSA Recruit-Match Database will also allow your staff to concentrate your recruiting effort specifically on the needs of your program. For instance, if you are in high need of a Wide Receiver over 6’2″ from your recruiting area, the NCSA database can provide a list of players who meet your criteria with film and transcripts ready to go.  Once the search field has been populated you can then transfer the recruits on to a mass mailing list and send out camp invites directly through the system. This feature allows you to personalize each email with the recruit’s first name, thus increasing your ability to recruit players into your camp that fit your need and hopefully increasing both the quality and quantity of campers in attendance.

While the importance of approaching the right campers is a vastly important step in your pre-camp preparation, it’s always important to consider why recruits choose one camp over the other. Through NCSA’s interactions with recruits and their families one of the common themes that stand out is that most families are more willing to make an investment in a camp when a coach chooses to be more personal with them in through the invitation process.  So while targeting the right group of players is an important step, a good recruiter will acknowledge that there must be a balance between the generic outreach and the personal follow up to ensure the recruit is considering your camp as an option.

Most families will want to hear specific triggers to make them feel comfortable with their decision to attend one camp over the other. More often than not it is as simple as acknowledging the fact that the player is truly a recruit for your program and that his/her attendance will aid your evaluation process and increase the likely hood that they receive a scholarship or roster spot decision sooner rather than later.

Like any other aspect of athletics, preparation is the key to hosting a successful camp. Using these tools and strategies will allow you to maximize your pre-camp productivity and allow your staff to make informed evaluations backed up with full scouting reports of all NCSA prospects.

If you would like to learn more about the NCSA Recruit-Match database and how it can be used to help you maximize your recruiting efforts, call NCSA at (866)-495-7727 or go online to www.ncsasports.org.

Nazi’s Playing Tennis and Other Super Attention GrabbersSunday, May 2nd, 2010

SF Airport BookstoreIf you’re a college coach, you probably do a lot of traveling through airports.

I know I do.  I can’t say for sure, but I think I single-handedly kept U.S. Airways financially solvent in 2009.

On a recent trip through San Francisco on the way to work with one of our clients, andfacing a few hours to kill in between flights, I spent some time in the airport bookstore.  And it was there that I found the inspiration for today’s recruiting training.

It’s the books.  The titles, specifically.  They hold great lessons in how to get the attention of your recruit through great email subject lines, as well as headings and first paragraphs in your letters to prospects.  I think what these examples will show you is that if you don’t capture the attention of your recruit early on, it’s tough for them to get through to the rest of your message.

Here are some examples I thought were great:

Ode to Joy

“The Joy of Dirt”.  Huh?  There’s joy in dirt?  Apparantly so.

Here’s what you can take-away from this example of a great headline: Contradict your prospect’s expectations in what they’re reading from you.

Link expected negatives with unexpected positives.  It’s one of the easiest ways to get your prospect’s attention and sell your story to them.

Super Freakonomics

As if “Freakonomics” wouldn’t get your attention on it’s own, the word SUPER really draws your attention.

And notice the subtitle…”global cooling”?  “Patriotic prostitutes”?  And my favorite, “Why suicide bombers should buy life insurance.”

The lesson you should learn here: Bold curiosity gets our attention.  When you think about all the books on the shelves to choose from – just like all the programs your recruit has to choose from – you’d better be bold with your message, or get ready to have a tough fight on your hands to get your prospect’s attention.

Terrible Splendor

Nazi’s playing tennis.  How could I not look closer?

The key here is the word “terrible”.  It’s a great use of our natural attraction to things that are negative or forbidden.

How you should use it: Focus on the negative once in a while.  I’m not talking about negative recruiting, I’m talking about negative imagery.  “Fear of loss” of the best housing…a chance to commit early…all of these things are powerful motivators for this generation of college prospect.

Oh, and the little secret that I usually only share with coaches that are a part of the On-Campus Workshops we conduct throughout the year?  Kids like being approached with negative questions: Ask them what they like about something, and they’ll have trouble defining it for you.  Ask them what they don’t like, and they’ll have no problem talking forever about it.  Try it…you’ll see what I mean.

How Sex Works

No, you shouldn’t focus on the word “sex”.

Focus on the word “how”.  We all love to understand the “how” of something, and your prospects are no different.

So do this: In your next email subject line, include the words “how to” at the start.  If you reveal some secrets, or promise to if your recruit reads your message, you’ll see significantly more opens for your emails.

For example: “How to make sure you get the best dorm room here at State University.”

Black Death

What happens when your headline or opening sentence is dry, dull and even a little boring?  You get shoved aside for something more interesting.

Notice what this headline doesn’t have that the others do?  Curiosity.  Engagement.  Lifting up the reader.

For most college recruiting emails and letters, this is the book equivalent.  And the outcome described in the book is probably what awaits you when it comes to your recruiting fortunes.

Your opening headline, subject line or first paragraph is crucial to the success of your recruiting campaign.  Pay attention to it in the same way that book publishers spend tens of thousands of dollars testing headlines and images to try and get their author’s book to stand out from the crowd as you walk down the aisle.

You’ve got the same challenge.  The good news is, you don’t need tens of thousands of dollars to test out your message.  All you need is a little creativity, an extra ten minutes of your day, and the willingness to commit to the task of making your recruiting message “covers” something amazing.

Your recruits will notice the difference.

Looking for more secrets on how to write messages that stand out from your competition?  Register for one of the biggest and best recruiting conferences on the planet: The 2010 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference, July 16-18 in Chicago.  Click here for all the details (hurry!…the early registration discount ends soon).

Can’t make it to the NCRC but still want to see the whole thing?  Order your conference DVD today.