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3 Logical Ways to Earn Your Prospect’s YesMonday, May 30th, 2011

Figuring out the right way to make effective recruiting phone calls seem to be on the minds of college coaches this time of year.

Not a surprise, really.  The NCAA is increasingly giving college coaches more flexibility when it comes to calling recruits, and there’s no doubt that a phone call is critical to moving the recruiting process forward.

Forward, that is, towards getting a “yes”.  The yes is what every coach is looking for, and there are definite rules that apply when it comes to putting yourself in the best position to get that thumbs-up from a recruit.

So with that in mind, here are three really important strategies when it comes to getting a “yes” from a prospect you are recruiting:

YES STRATEGY #1: Don’t react negatively

We’ve all sent an email, or said something in haste over the phone, that we wish we could take back.  Either we’re upset by what we’ve just heard, or we say something that just doesn’t put us in the best light with a recruit (or their parents) as the recruiting process gets started.

It doesn’t even have to do anything with recruiting…we’ve all overreacted to something trivial, and wish we could take it all back and start fresh.

What it means to your recruiting conversation: It’s great to feel passionate about what you’re selling, especially if your school or program has a lot to be proud of. But before launching into a feverish sales “rationale” with your teenage prospect or their parents, take a minute to figure out what your prospect really wants. Some prospects want security and might be looking to commit early, while others might like the excitement of trying to see how many top tier schools they can have a shot at. They might want a challenge, they might want to feel wanted, they might want to know that they will fit into your team dynamic.

What is it you’re really selling, Coach? Is it what you should be selling to that prospect you’re about to call for the first time? Know before you get started. For this generation of college prospect, it’s often something more or deeper than the thing you’re excited about. And sometimes, it’s less.

YES STRATEGY #2: Disarm Your Prospect

In recruiting, we’re not really talking about “opponents” in terms of how you might view your recruits.  The prospect – and their parents – are not your enemy. And in a negotiation about what you’re offering them at your program you’re better off thinking the same way. That is, instead of looking at the recruiting process as two sides facing off over the offer you’re making, you’ll get much better results if you “step to the other side.” In other words, do the opposite of what your recruit expects.

And the easiest way to do this? Simply agree with your “opponent” on as many points as you can. Build consensus first, before you try to defend a single counterpoint of your own. Most negotiation experts tell us the best negotiators even steer clear of using the word “but.” They instinctively replace it with “and” wherever possible.

What it means to your recruiting conversation: This is a lot like what we’re doing in our Total Recruiting Solution plans that we develop for coaches and programs when we try to ask questions designed only for a “yes” response. For instance, stating our prospect’s own rationale right back to him and tacking on a line at the end – something that might sound like, “Wouldn’t you agree?”

At their root, these are just time-tested copywriting techniques, of course. The bigger idea I want to try to convey to you as a recruiter is that when you can show agreement with your prospect’s own opinions – in person, over the phone or in print – do so. It will pay off in the end.

YES STRATEGY #3:  Change their frame of mind.

This is a more advanced tactic, because it requires listening better than most people and thinking more creatively than anyone else in the negotiation. Its one of the things we go into more detail on in our recruiting guides for college coaches.

What you’re doing is looking for solid ways to “reframe” the objections to your counterpoint in the discussion you are having with your prospect. You’re actively exposing the objections and stonewall tactics… then finding a way for both of you to get around them.

This is where a real recruiter shows his or her expertise in overcoming an objection.

What it means to your recruiting conversation: As tough as this is to do, the parallel here is easy. Too often, I’ve seen new college coaches try to avoid the prospect’s potential objections to an offer or opportunity rather than raising them in their recruiting letters, emails and conversations. But just because you don’t confront the reader’s doubts or objections doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Or that they won’t stop your recruiting effort cold in its tracks.

When you get the urge to sneak around an objection, don’t. Especially at the start of a relationship with a new recruit.  Take time to actually list every objection you can. (Even better, make this list before you start writing the recruiting letter.) You’re playing your own devil’s advocate, coming up with every reason why a prospect might NOT want to take a serious look at your program.

Once you’ve got this list, you can use it to tweak your recruiting outline. You can even hit each objection head on, writing responses almost in a Q & A style. Or try making every subhead a persuasive resolution to every doubt you suspect your prospect might have about what your program is offering.

But be careful. This isn’t about dismissing a legitimate objection out of hand. Rather, you’re easing doubts and building consensus, and getting them to see the advantages of what you’re offering them.

As many of you start your phone calls in the not-to-distant future, you have a desire to start hearing “yes” as soon as possible.  That doesn’t happen by accident:  You have to earn the “yes”.

And, earning the “yes” from a new prospect requires active, engaged communication that helps them overcome their initial objections they might have about the idea of competing for your program.

Want more in-depth training on how to effectively, and creatively, earn your prospect’s “yes”?  Make sure you attend the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference!  You can also enroll in Tudor University, the nation’s first comprehensive online recruiting training and certification course for college coaches. Both are excellent, cost effective resources that allow you to invest in your career as a college coach.

Bad Mechanics Fixed with Good SoftwareMonday, May 30th, 2011

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Podcasts: What’s In It for College Coaches?Monday, May 30th, 2011

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Are Your Summer Camps Hurting Your Brand, Your Recruiting AND Your Wallet?Monday, May 23rd, 2011

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Building Your Recruiting Philosophy for 2012Monday, May 16th, 2011

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Four Ways to Make More Time for RecruitingMonday, May 16th, 2011

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Making Sure You Have Top Tier Technology in Your CornerMonday, May 16th, 2011

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Warning: Beware of Summer Prospect Visits to CampusMonday, May 9th, 2011

I’m an optimist by nature…a “glass-is-half-full” kind of guy.

So when I was asked recently by a coach we are working with for my opinion on having a top recruit visit their campus during the Summer, my inclination was to put a positive spin on the possibilities.  At least the coach is getting the prospect on campus, right?  At least the family is going to get a look at the buildings…walk around the quad…see the dorms.  All that’s better than nothing, right?

Just barely.

The stark reality is that on-campus visits during the Summer, when there are less students and less energy on your campus, are not factoring significantly in a decision by the prospect, according to our research.  It’s not going to turn out as badly as it did for the Griswold family during their Summer vacation, but it could get close when it comes to the end recruiting results.

That should be significant to you if you’re a coach who looks at Summer as a convenient “down time” to take time and have a recruit visit campus.  Here’s why:

A summer visit is missing a key ingredient to their final decision: Your athletes! Also known as their future teammates…their friends…the big reason they determine whether or not a particular school feels right to them.  Yep, all of it is missing.  That’s a big piece of the puzzle, and it’s difficult to duplicate during the Summer.

A summer visit is missing the normal energy of your campus during the school year. You know the great random moments that end up being the really memorable moments during your recruit’s visit?  Those are probably going to be missing during a summer vacation visit.  Even if you have some of your team working out and actually staying on campus, it can’t duplicate the normal school year feel that you can show your prospects.

However, in addition to being an optimist, I’m also a realist.  Sometimes, the best time for a family to schedule a visit is during the Summer.  They drop by while they’re at a tournament nearby, or they schedule you as one of four other colleges they’re going to visit on a family trip…sometimes, a visit by a prospect to your campus over the Summer is unavoidable.

Don’t misunderstand me: I think it’s wise to have them on campus during the normal school year.  However, if it’s unavoidable, here’s how to make lemonade out of Summer recruiting visit lemons:

  • Focus on your one-on-one time with them.  Much of the time, a prospect visit during the regular school year is packed with other items on their visit agenda (a separate problem that you need to address, actually…but we’ll save that for another day).  So, make this day a lot of good one-on-one time with your prospect, and make it personal about them: Ask them the right questions, talk about how they fit into your plans, and what you see as the next step for them as you consider them for your future roster.  This is an opportunity to make that connection with you as their future coach.  Use it.
  • Schedule shorter visits. One thing we’re finding, when there’s no way around a Summer recruiting visit, is that coaches who schedule shorter visits with their prospects.  You don’t want to create a vacuum with the missing elements of the traditional campus visit.  So, shorten it.  Make it two or three good hours with you, a quick campus tour that includes the dorms (a must…don’t fail to show them where they’re going to live!) and time in your athletic facilities.  In fact, try to have a good deal of your conversation outside of your office at your athletic facility.  You’ll want to create as many unique, positive visuals as possible since they won’t be getting some of the normal images and experiences that they would be seeing during the school year.
  • Use it to set up the NEXT campus visit. In other words, use a Summer prospect visit to justify their return trip once school gets back in session.  If you accept this piece of advice, it could really alter your entire approach to the visit.  How would your conversation and approach to their short time with you during their Summer campus change if you were totally focused on setting up the next visit?  Radically, I imagine.  I’d make the case to you that your next visit should focus on setting up a time when they can come back, experience the energy, and – most importantly – spend lots and lots of time with your team, which will be easier to do since you’ve spent the bulk of this visit talking to them one-on-one about your plans for them once they commit.

Again, I don’t recommend Summer visits when it’s avoidable.  Your chances of signing a recruit that visits over the Summer is significantly less than a visit during the normal school year.

However, if it’s the only way to get a chance to visit with a prospect you really want, it’s better than nothing.  And, you can increase your odds of having it turn out favorable by following a few simple rules built on our research from campuses around the country.

Summer recruiting visits are advisable, but becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies should be a definite “to do” on your schedule.  It’s the perfect time to put a proven, systematic approach to work for your next recruiting class.  Want to see how it would work for you?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com.

4 Easy Ways to Get Your Recruiting Message ReadMonday, May 2nd, 2011

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