Dan Tudor

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Do Parent Emotions Trump Your Prospect’s Emotions?Monday, June 27th, 2011

Ward and June Cleaver never seemed to show much emotion when they were solving 1950’s TV family problems.

Today, parents wear their emotions on their sleeves a lot more often.

Most of us, in fact, make emotional buying decisions on a daily basis.  The parents of your recruits, included.

A cup of coffee that you absolutely “need” to start your day, for example.  Or, name brand jeans.  Even the uniforms you choose for your team’s next season.  Every day, we choose emotion over logic in order to make a decision.

So how do emotional buying decisions affect your prospects?  The results may surprise you, actually.

Here’s why:

As we gather and analyze our data and focus group research from the past year of being on campuses and talking to athletes, we’re surprised to learn that this generation of student-athletes are picking schools based largely on the quality of the relationships they feel they’ve established with the coach and your athletes (see our other research references for more details on the reasoning behind that).

However, we’re seeing an interesting twist when it comes to the ways parents tend to influence their sons and daughters as they come to their final decision:  They get emotional about a college, either in a good way or a bad way, and let those emotions guide their advice with their sons and daughters.

That means a couple of things for you as a recruiter preparing to convince a new class or recruits to get interested in your program and your school:

  • We continue hearing consistent stories of parents deciding what school is tops on their list very early in the recruiting process, and they’re picking that school based on two main reasons:  1) The prestige and/or financial benefits offered by the college that is recruiting their son or daughter, and 2) which coach or program they decide is treating them with the most respect (which is why if you’re a client of ours, you see that we design a lot of message content centered around engaging mom and dad with you as a coach).
  • They’ll use logical reasoning to support their emotional decision about their favorite college or program.  In other words, we see that parents are settling on their “favorite” very early on, and then using facts that you (or your competition) presents to support that emotional decision.  And, they have no problem mentioning their feelings and observations to their son or daughter.

One other thing we’re finding that we see as pretty interesting:

You know those recruiting emails that you send to your prospects?  Their parents, the majority of the time, are the ones that are replying to your emails.  About 6 out of 10 times, to be exact.  Kind of scary, huh?  We’ve heard dozens and dozens of accounts from current college athletes who have told us about their parents managing their recruiting conversations and actually communicating back and forth as the recruit.  (Another reason to curse those helicopter parents under your breath, right Coach?)

Now, before we give you some advice on how to successfully combat the emotions of your prospect’s parents, a little clarification:

We’re not talking about every parent.  Just a lot…a slight majority.  And, I’m not suggesting that you should assume a parent is strongly influencing your prospect’s decision in this way.  There’s no doubt that we see parents playing a major role in helping their prospect with their final decision, but this is less about that indesputable fact then it is about what drives their motivation to influence their kids.

With that being said, here are three ways to target your strategy if your goal is to sway the parents over to your side:

  1. Prove that you’re a player.  One thing I can now tell you about the parents of your recruits is that they want their sons and daughters to compete at a place they can feel good talking to their friends about.  So, figure out what you can point to in your program, or on your campus, that is going to give them something that they can feel good about telling other people about.
  2. Start to write your emails with the parent’s eyes in mind.  Just keep that statistic we quoted earlier in the back of your mind, Coach.  What you’ll want to do is write your email to your prospect with the expectation that the parent is going to read it, respond to it, and then talk to your prospect about what you’ve said them.
  3. Enthusiasm about your prospect counts for a lot!  Parents want to see you pay consistent, serious attention to their kids.  The more passion you show will – over time – cement the idea that you want their son or daughter more than anyone else, in the mind of the parent.  We’ve seen passion cause prospects and their parents to overlook a conference, facilities…even the lack of the prospect’s major at the college!…all because of the passion that a coach showed the prospect.

I know a lot of college coaches view parents as a necessary evil in the recruiting process.  Whether you hold to that belief, or actually enjoy getting to know the parents of your recruit and want to actively make them a part of the whole process, we want you to have a good idea of what drives them.

And, the research doesn’t lie:  Parents rely on their emotions to make this big decision, just like most of us.

Want us to be on your campus in the coming months?  We’re setting our visit schedule to campuses around the country, and we’d love to come work with you and your athletic department.  The research we’ll use to uncover some of the secrets to effective recruiting on your campus will change the way you plan your recruiting campaigns (for the better!)  Click here for all the details, or email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to ask him for options and potential workshop dates with your staff.

Changing Their Worldview of You and Your ProgramTuesday, June 21st, 2011

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High Tech Secrets to Fixing a Ruined White BoardMonday, June 20th, 2011

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How to Use Headlines to Keep Your Prospect’s AttentionSunday, June 12th, 2011

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4 Easy Ways to Be a More Persuasive RecruiterMonday, June 6th, 2011

Being original, and creative in your message development as a coach, can be exhausting.

I know it, and you know it.  That’s why it’s so easy to just revert to what you’ve done in the past with your recruiting letters and your recruiting emails.  Recycling your past messages saves a heck of a lot of time, after all.

That’s true, but it also puts you in the risky position of losing your prospect’s attention and not engaging him or her in a real connective message.  If your message looks and sounds like everyone else’s message, why should they choose you?  It’s hard to get the “yes” if your message doesn’t set itself apart from the rest.

With that in mind, I pulled-up four easy-to-use strategies to start the Summer off for you.  They were originally developed for a struggling D1 college football program almost three years ago.  These tips, coupled with time we spent on their campus for their coaches, helped to turn their recruiting around (this year, they just missed out going to a bowl game…but they’re much closer to making it happen than before).

I think any coach, at any level, can use these to become more persuasive, more genuine recruiters:

  • Tell more stories about failure.  Most home recruiting visits consist of boasting, bragging, or tearing down a competitor.  Coaches we start to work with seem to want to cram as many success stories down the throat of their prospects as possible when they get the chance to get in front of them via letter, email or personal visit. 

So, the first recommendation that I’ll make is to tell stories of athletes that have failed at your school – IF that failure was the result of a poor choice they made or advice that wasn’t followed during their time under you as their coach.  Telling a story about failure can enhance your credibility, and let the athlete know that you’re being honest with them in what mistakes not to make once they commit to your program.  Honesty, as I’ve been telling coaches this week during our On-Campus Workshops we’ve been doing for college athletic departments, is one of the key things prospects actively look for in a coach and their program. 

One more word of advice: Make sure not to use the real names of athletes that are the subject of your failure stories…your prospect will want to know that you’ll keep their mistakes and failures confidential if they occur once they get to your program.

  • “Understate” rather than “Overstate”.  Instead of making promises of stardom and glory and happily-ever-after, present a range of possibilities that might happen in the athlete’s career at your school. 

Don’t promise them the starting job; instead, let them know what kind of competition they’ll face along with the promise of an equal shot at the job.  In general, make promises on the minimums you can deliver to your prospect.  You know what will happen?  Something really interesting…your prospect will “add to” your minimum promise in their mind, instead of “discount” your pie-in-the-sky promises that are too good to be true – that’s human nature, coach.

  • Never feel bad about taking the “underdog” role.  Why?  People (even your prospects and their parents) have a tendancy to root for the underdog IF a compelling story is presented that builds the case for them joining your quest to build a champion.  Too many coaches I talk to are ready to jump off of the gym roof if they finish last in their conference or take over a struggling program. 

Instead of shying away from being the underdog, embrace it!  But do so with the right approach and the right motivation for your prospect to “join the revolution” and becoming a champion.  Need help with developing your story?  Click here…we’d love to help you. 

  • Plant questions you’d like your competitors to address.  Attacking your competitors directly comes off as petty and unprofessional (like I said before, it loses more prospects than you probably realize).  But during your conversation with your prospect, you can bring up issues, questions or topics that would raise doubts about your competitors.  This is a good, subtle way of planting questions in the mind of your prospect that they’ll want to raise if and when they talk to a competitive school that would recruit them.  Done correctly, this is a great technique for raising your stock in the mind of your prospect.  We go into a lot of detail on how to do this in our two recruiting workbooks for college recruiters.

Persuasive recruiting happens when you have a plan in place, and you execute that plan.  These are just a few of the many techniques you can use to break out of the recruiting doldrums, and do it in a way that propels your recruiting results to levels that would really surprise you.

Look, we all know recruiting at the college level is stressful, competitive and confusing.  Being more persuasive is the great equalizer…it doesn’t cost more, it doesn’t reward longevity, it doesn’t discriminate based on division level.  Learning to be persuasive is the greatest tool you can develop as a college recruiter.

Start with these four principles, and grow from there.

During this Summer break, consider becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  We’ve done some really exciting things for the coaches we’ve worked with this past year…click here for more information!

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