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7 Ways to Make It All About You (and Why It’s a Smart Recruiting Strategy)Monday, May 28th, 2012

A few weeks ago at an On-Campus Workshop I was conducting for an athletic department, it happened again.

A coach that I was speaking with had way too much modesty for his own good.  He was the nicest, most humble person you’d ever want to meet.  However, from a recruiting standpoint, it could be making a hard task even harder.

Why?  Because your prospects are trying to get to know their potential coaches.  They are trying to understand whether you want them or not.  And they are trying to formulate the beginnings of a relationship with you.

And when a coach is reserved, quiet, and – yes – even a little too humble, it makes it hard for a recruit to get a good “read” on who you are and, more importantly, whether or not you’re excited about the prospect of them competing for you.

It all illustrates a hard, cold fact of life for coaches that they need to understand about this generation of teenage prospects: Our reasearch shows that one of the two major factors in how they decide if a college is right for them is their view – and their relationship – with the coach at that school.  Take the coach out of the equation, and suddenly the college isn’t viewed in the same light as it once was.

Agree with me so far?  Good.  Now that I’ve established this nearly universal truth about today’s college prospect, here’s the bad news for a lot of you that are reading this:

The letters, emails and other printed material you send a prospect barely reference you.

I’m serious, Coach: What percentage of your mailings talk about you as a coach?  What you are like as a person?  What your coaching philosophy is?  What your plan for them is?  What you’d like them to do next in the process?

When we begin working with a college coach and their program as one of our Total Recruiting Solution clients, one of the first things we do is to establish the coach as the person that is going to be the main attraction to the program.  Sometimes, college coaches are uncomfortable with the idea of not being modest.  I try to make the best case I can for them to get past that feeling.

If it were all about the school, logic would dictate that a coach could leave and the recruits wouldn’t care one bit.  But that doesn’t happen: When a college coach leaves, it causes the recruit to reconsider.

So, how should you put yourself in the spotlight more effectively?  Here are some ideas that we’ve found to work well for our clients:

  • Make all of your messages centered around you.  As you lay out all of the nice facts about your school, make sure the conversation comes back to you.  Never assume that the school or your program is going to sell the recruit on coming to your campus.
  • Talk about the personal side of you along with the professional side of you.  Yes, your impressive win totals count, as do your Coach of the Year awards.  But your prospect is looking for more than that…they want to know the person behind the whistle.  Learn ways to reveal the real you to your recruits.
  • Unveil your screw-ups.  Your prospects know you’re not perfect.  Don’t be afraid to talk about the mistakes you’ve made, and what you learned from them.  In our workbooks for college recruiters, we make the point that this is one of the best techniques for breaking down walls that might exist between you and your recruit.
  • Invest in your Twitter presence daily. It’s an incredible social networking tool that is paying off for the coaches that are using it to build a following.  Twitter is free, it’s easy and it’s a great way to reveal the real you to your recruits (and your fans, and your boosters, and other coaches and Athletic Directors that might be looking to hire you).  It’s important that you maintain consistency, which means posting daily, and making sure that you share things that show your recruits the personality of your team and your program.
  • Create a fan page on Facebook and Instagram. If you don’t have one yet, this is a prime opportunity to showcase your team and update your recruits on what’s going on with you and your program using the most popular communication tool in the world.  This can be one way communication out to a group that broadcasts the daily pulse of you and your program.  While you’re at it, you need to make sure you’re on Instagram, as well. Especially if you coach a women’s team, but increasingly for male recruits as well.
  • Write a blog.  The benefits are too many to count.  If you want more ideas on what makes a great blog, and how to get started, click here for a popular article on the topic that we wrote a few years ago on the power of this under-used medium.
  • Make it all about the conversation.  All of your communication should focus on building the relationship between you and the prospect.  Not the school and the prospect, you and your prospect.  Everything you send out should prompt them to feel more connected with you.

Here’s the bottom line, Coach:

Whether you’re a Division III softball coach that only won three games last season, or a Division I coach that we see interviewed regularly on ESPN, the facts remain the same: Your prospects are going to pick the program who has the coach they feel most connected to.

Still don’t believe me?  Just ask one of the dozens of recently de-committed prospects who are searching for a new coach they feel connected to…they’ll back me up on what I’m saying.

Two Critical Time Management Mistakes Coaches MakeMonday, May 28th, 2012

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What GM’s Cancelled Facebook Ads Can Teach Coaches About Social Network RecruitingMonday, May 21st, 2012

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What Looks Like a Square Hockey Puck and Helps You Present Ideas to Recruits?Monday, May 21st, 2012

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Irrational Recruiting Decisions Made by Recruits (and College Coaches)Monday, May 14th, 2012

It’s the thing that drives recruiters absolutely crazy when it comes to understanding how teenage athletes make their final decisions.

Most of the time, they make irrational final decisions.

This past year it seems like I’ve seen more examples than ever of that in our ongoing work with college coaches.  Here are some of the constants I see in this generation of recruits when it comes to how they are choosing the school that they would describe as “the right fit” for them:

They are deciding based upon their emotions. That includes both male and female prospects, Coach.  How they feel – and how their parents feel – about you and your program seem to consistently seem outweigh the logic and facts behind your program.

They aren’t taking a long term view of their college experience. Make no mistake, they start thinking about it right after they make their decision (hence all the de-commits and second looks) but as they are making their final decision (the first one, anyway) they are, in large part, considering what feels right at that very moment.  I’ve said it many times before: They choose with their hearts, and justify that decision with their head.

They are conscious of the highs and lows in recruiting. If you skip talking to them for a few weeks, expect them to be looking elsewhere for options.  If you’re consistently talking to them?  You earn big points.  And so it goes…up and down, over the course of recruiting.  And they are remembering who is giving them those highs (and lows) and factoring that in to their final decision.

They are relying on others to help them make their decisions. Primarily their parents, followed closely by their high school and club coaches.  Our research shows that they will often go against what their own gut is telling them and side with these highly influencial outside decision makers.  It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what is happening.

They will often turn to irrelevant statistics to justify their actions. You’ve seen it before:  You hit it off with the prospect, mom and dad love you, she’s a perfect fit for your program, but then at then end she chooses the school that finished two spots ahead of you in the U.S. News rankings for their major.  Will those extra two spots on the list make her happier in the long run?  Of course not.  But right now, it makes her feel like she made a smarter decision.

We could add more to that list, of course.  Or we could end it here and just agree that this generation is a tough one to recruit, and resign ourselves to just rolling the dice and hoping to get lucky every few years with a great recruiting class.

That’s not the smart approach, though.  Yet that’s the attitude of many college coaches: They lament the problem after correctly identifying it, and then don’t do anything to change their prospect’s irrational outlook despite knowing that they are taking that approach.  In other words, I see coaches reacting to their prospects’ irrational behavior during the recruiting process with their own irrational behavior.

Am I suggesting you fight irrational behavior with your own version of irrational behavior?  Yes.  I’m giving you permission to attract this next class or recruits using techniques that will help prompt your recruits to stop in their tracks and snap out of their irrational decision making process.  See if any of these ideas might work for your recruits:

  • Make your case with more passion than the other guy. If your prospects are using emotion to make their decision, we’ve seen plenty of cases where the coach who shows the same kind of passion and emotion connects the best with that athlete.  And the last time I checked, passion isn’t a budget related item that your competitor has more of (unless you let them).
  • Challenge them: Tell them that they are going about all this the completely wrong way.  Once you have their attention, make your case that they need to reconsider how they’re deciding on a program.  Get them to take a second look.  Compel them to continue the conversation with you…but start it off by contending that they are doing it wrong right now.  Get their attention!
  • Ask them, “Is that the smart way to do it?”  Maybe the answer is yes.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Asking that question and actually getting them to think about everything in a new light is one of the most productive challenges you can issue during the recruiting process.
  • Counter their illogical views with logical facts.  Again, the theme here is “do the opposite”.  It worked for George Costanza, it can work for you (if you aren’t a “Seinfeld” fan, that won’t mean much too you).  If they are all about the feelings, and you can’t seem to connect with them, stop them in their tracks with facts that go against their emotions.
  • Always include the parents and coaches.  Clue them in on what you’re talking to the prospect about, and why it’s important that your point of view should be seriously considered.
  • Exude a confidence – even if you’re not feeling like you have any! – that tells them they’d be CRAZY not to choose you.  No explanation needed, Coach.  The only thing I’ll tell you is that your prospect and their family are looking at you closely, and trying to figure out if you really believe what you’re selling.

Don’t fret about a prospect acting irrationally, Coach.  Develop a strategy around it to ensure that they’ll pick you and your program!

We’re beginning our planning sessions with new clients for this next recruiting class.  Want to talk to us about working one-on-one with you and your staff to develop a rock-solid recruiting plan?  Contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com so we can set up a time to discuss how we do it, and why it works.


Cementing Your Prospect Relationship Using This Tested TechniqueMonday, May 7th, 2012

There’s a great deal of psychology that the professional business world uses 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.

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 really improves your odds 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, you’ll get that application paperwork I sent you  last week turned-in early and start planning your college career here  at our university right away?”)

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

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