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A Flight Delay, a Frustrated Recruit, and Some Key Advice for CoachesMonday, July 29th, 2013

flight-delays-309496Often times, as I head off to conduct a workshop with a college athletic department and their coaches, I have to deal with the inconvenience of flight delays.

(Are there any “convenient” flight delays?)

Weather issues at the Denver airport had me waiting for my flight not too long ago, along with hundreds of my fellow travelers.  Crammed together.  Tightly, with no place to sit.  It was delightful.

But in the midst of the chaos, an opportunity: I overheard a 6′ 7″-ish high school age athlete talking about having come from playing in some basketball tournaments in Las Vegas, and now was traveling home.

Me, with nothing to do while waiting for a delayed flight, and an unsuspecting high school Senior-to-be likely going through the recruiting process just a few steps away?  It was too good to pass up.

I introduced myself and struck up a conversation about playing travel ball, coaches who were recruiting him, and the process he was experiencing from his point of view.  He was the typical college prospect: Dreaming of a D1 offer, hearing from D2 and D3 schools, as well as a few NAIA programs, and not really knowing what to do next in the process.

In the 15 minutes I talked with him, he opened-up about some of his frustrations, and some of his observations about coaches.  While I’m not suggesting he speaks for every athlete around the country, I think it’s worth listening to some of his key points about what he’s gone through so far…there are lessons here for any coach, at any level, in any sport.

Here’s what your “typical recruit” wants from you as they’re being recruited:

  • He wanted to know what to do next, but coaches weren’t telling him.  He has made unofficial visits to campuses, gets the typical recruiting mail, and has coaches calling and texting regularly.  This prospect’s complaint?  Nobody is outlining the process, or telling him what is coming next.  Now, in fairness to college coaches reading this, that might be because they are still evaluating him and trying to figure out where he stands on their recruiting board.  However, I’ve heard this complaint from very highly recruited prospects, as well: Lots of generalized “contact” from coaches, very little direction.  The lesson?  Be the coach that outlines a plan, and keeps prospects updated on what is coming next (and especially, what you want them to do next).
  • He was waiting for a coach to sell him on their program.  Years after we began this campaign to make sure coaches understood how to sell themselves, and why it is so vital to do so, we still have work to do.  None of the thirty or so coaches he was hearing from had sat him down and sold him on why their program was best.  “Don’t get me wrong”, said the player, “they send me a lot of stuff.  But it’s all really general, and it doesn’t spell out why I should come play for them.”  The lesson?  Once you have established a conversation and have developed your relationship with a prospect, they are waiting for you to sell them on why they should play for you.  They want to be told what to do next, and they want to be told why you should be the coach they commit to.  They want bold and passionate, not meet and vanilla.
  • He was getting tired of texts and messages that were boring.  “Coaches text me or call all the time, and it’s just like ‘hey, how’s it going’, or ‘whatta ya got planned this weekend?”, he said.  “It gets old really quick.”  When I asked him what coaches should do, he told me that he and his other friends who are being recruited are wanting coaches to ask better questions that actually mean something to them.  They want to talk via text and social media messaging about things that will help them figure out what to do next, and who really wants them.  The lesson?  This generation of recruits doesn’t just want a coach who “checks in” with them and wastes their time.  That doesn’t win points with them.  Have something to say, and show them that you are reaching out to them for a reason.
  • He is watching who keeps their word, and who doesn’t.  We have made this very real observation about the kids you are recruiting today: They are actively looking for honesty, and honest coaches.  I asked him what makes he and his teammates cross a program off their list, and his answer was pretty direct.  “If a coach lies to us, we’re usually done with him”, he said.  “I have coaches ask me when I’ll be playing next, and promising that they’re going to be in the stands watching.  And when I look and don’t see them, it tells me that they were just b.s.ing me.”  That’s just one way we hear this generation of recruits expressing their frustration about recruiters who don’t keep their word.  It usually doesn’t come down to your facility, how many acres your campus is on, or how many years you’ve been coaching.  It usually centers who the prospect likes the most, and trusts the most.  The lesson?  Understand that your recruits are listening to what you tell them, and they’re keeping track.

We finally boarded our flight, I wished him luck this next year, and watched him cram his giant frame into the coach window seat on the United flight that was supposed to have arrived at our destination two hours earlier.  The conversation I had with this recruit served as a good reminder that there is a little bit of a science to the recruiting part of your job, as well as a healthy dose of psychology and communication skill.

Half the battle is knowing what to say as you enter this crucial recruiting period.  Hopefully, my flight delay – and the conversation that followed – can give you some additional direction as you prepare to communicate with this next class or prospects.

Question Your Daily Routines And Improve Your EfficiencyMonday, July 29th, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Question everything.

From day to day, you do many things the same way. You’ve been doing them the same way for the past 2 years, 10 years, 25 years. These are your routines, your staples, your security blankets. They are yours and yours alone and so much yours that you don’t even think of them possessively. They just are.

They are your habits and your guidelines. Maybe they are conversations you have with recruits, the process of sending data to admissions, or the tone of voice you use with your team. Whatever they are, they are engrained in your being and your psyche. Question them. Question them all. They are not perfect and can be improved. The discomfort to change them is worth the risk compared to the alternative of being left behind.

Less than 10 years ago, recruits existed only in the form of paper and Excel spreadsheets. Now they are accessible through so many mediums that we need software to just track all of them. The technology implications in the next 2 years will force the inefficient to efficiency or leave them in the dust. The productive will become faster and stronger and the agile will win out right. This is a declaration of humility and a request for all to join.

Look at everything that you do and everything you are and massage it toward perfection. Add elements to solidify it, or flat out, throw it away. What you did yesterday may be too slow for tomorrow. Everything is on the chopping block. Constantly improve.

 

Front Rush should be one of the tech tools you and your fellow coaches go into this upcoming recruiting season with.  There’s a reason they have become the #1 choice for recruiting management software among college coaches: They’ve created a system that’s the best in the business, with personalized support to match.  If you aren’t a Front Rush user, consider becoming one soon!

The 10-Minute Recruiting Phone Call RuleMonday, July 22nd, 2013

Check your watch, Coach.  Especially when you make your next recruiting phone call.

Once you hit the 10-minute mark when you’re talking to a prospect, you’ve crossed a line that’s pretty dangerous in terms of the effectiveness of connecting with your prospect.  That advice comes from interviewing nearly two thousand college student-athletes at college campuses around the nation as a part of our On-Campus Workshop sessions.  And their answers to our questions can give serious recruiters some big ideas on keeping their recruiting phone calls short and sweet.

The basic rule I’m recommending that you follow is simple:

Keep your recruiting phone calls to ten minutes or less.

What we found from conducting our surveys on campus was that most prospects get bored with recruiting calls that go past that mark.  Many mentioned that they will put their phones on speaker so that they can do other things while you are talking.  Or, they’ll just engage you in a polite conversation until it comes to an end.

Their biggest complaints from today’s generation of recruited athletes center around long recruiting calls taking them away from studying, delaying them in texting friends or spending time on social media, and being too “sales” focused…coaches that were more interested in selling their schools early on than getting to know the prospect and asking interesting questions.

So what should you do in the ten minutes that they’re giving you?  Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t talk about your school unless they ask you about it.  For coaches and programs who are one of our Total Recruiting Solution clients, we recommend that they don’t try to “sell” their recruits on anything about their school for at least the first several weeks of recruiting them.
  • Make the phone call about them, not about you (or your school, your program, or you).  Come up with a list of great questions that are original and all about them.  Focus on establishing the relationship with your recruit instead of on selling them right on your program right away.
  • Only talk about you, your school and your program IF…they ask you about it.  If your prospect is curious enough to ask you about you or your program, then you can talk about it and “sell” all you want.  According to our surveys, the time limit goes out the window and you can take all the time you want so long as they are the ones driving the conversation.

Observing the ten minute rule can completely change the way your recruits view you.

Oh, and if you are reading this and worrying that the length of the phone call is going to hurt your chances of signing the recruit, fear not: About nine out of ten prospects confided in us that the length of the phone call made no difference in their overall interest in the school.  However, they did rate regular frequency in phone calls as a sign that a program was serious about them.

The big idea to take away from this research is that there is a definite right way and wrong way to execute successful recruiting phone calls with this generation of recruits.

Try following these simple but proven rules the next time you pick up the phone to talk to your prospect.

3 Main Emotions That Drive Your Recruit’s Final DecisionTuesday, July 16th, 2013

Creating the right feelings in the mind – and heart – of your prospect.

Is it an important factor in the recruiting process?

You bet it is.

Our national study of how recruits make their final decision reveals one solid fact that every college coach should be aware of when it comes to what’s important in developing a recruiting strategy:

Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about you and your program.

That’s the feelings you create while you recruit them, how effective your letters, emails, social media posts and phone calls are at creating the right feelings, as well as the feelings they get when they experience you and your team during a campus visit.

Psychologists have identified three main emotions that center around your prospect’s inner drive and their motivation for making their final decision.  Here they are, as well as detail for any serious recruiter who wants to approach their prospects more intelligently this coming year:

Approach

When “approach motivation” kicks in, your prospect wants to experience or discover more of something. Approach motivation involves positive desire, and the perceived value of what you move toward always increases.

Approach motivation makes recruiting athletes easier if a quality offer exists, whether it be a full ride D1 offer or the chance to attend a prestigious private college. But it can also be used to sell desirable outcomes, ranging from a politician’s campaign for change, to get rich quick and get skinny now products that promise a desired result.

Avoid

You want to focus on “avoid motivation” when your prospect wants to get away from something. Avoid motivation deems something unworthy of attention, and an inconvenience or annoyance that should be ignored or eliminated.

In the real world, people want to avoid paying too much on their electric bill more than any desire for features of the juice coming through the wires, unless you’re using alternative energy sources, in which case many will do business with you to avoid adverse environmental impact. Most charities play on avoidance emotions to lessen the impact of poverty, disease, and natural disasters. Rather than taking a beauty approach, Clearasil plays on motivations to avoid the stigma of acne.

In recruiting, you may help your prospect avoid a bad homelife situation.  Or, you may help them avoid a lesser competitor and their sub-par facilities.  Using this approach relies on your ability as a recruiter to understand if this approach will work with them, and if they have a fear you can help alleviate.

Attack

With “attack motivation”, people want to devalue, insult, criticize, or destroy something. When someone is emotionally motivated to eliminate something (rather than simply avoid it), attack motivation is the way to go.

No, I am not advocating “negative recruiting”…this has nothing to do with that topic.  Think about ad campaigns for weed killer and bug spray (Raid kills bugs dead!). Likewise, we’ve seen more than our share of large-scale campaigns designed to eradicate various complicated problems by waging war against them – the war on crime, drugs, terror, etc.

A good example of “attack motivation” would be signing early to avoid the stress and unknowns of waiting until the last minute to make a decision.  Or, it might be used to prompt and athlete who is dragging their feet at making a final decision by letting them know that your other top prospect is wanting to come to campus and you’ll need to go ahead and offer them the scholarship if they aren’t interested.

Those three motivating factors – approach, avoid, attack – need to be an essential part of your recruiting message.  That’s one of the central approaches we use in helping our clients through our unique Total Recruiting Solution program, and it can be for you as well.

Just remember, these feelings and motivations are present in every single recruiting situation.  The key for good recruiters is to figure out which motivation your prospect is most likely to respond to, and then build your recruiting message around it.

Need help determining the right approach to take with your next prospect?  Dan and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies works daily to make sure our clients are in the best position possible to tell a great recruiting story, and make better connections with the prospects you really need to get to the next level.  Click here to get a quick summary of what the program does, and why it’s working for so many coaches around the country.

The “Dear Coach” Letter I Wish I Had WrittenMonday, July 15th, 2013

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by Dr. Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Last month, an exceptional coach passed away.

Harry Parker had been the men’s rowing coach at Harvard University for the past 50 years. He achieved many remarkable things including numerous national and international championships. He was considered by many to be the Dean of Rowing in the United States.

I had the good fortunate to meet Coach once.

I was not aware that he was sick and fighting a long battle with cancer. I wish I had known. If so, I would have sent a letter to him before he left. This is what I would have written:

Dear Coach,

 We met just but once. You were nice. I want to thank you for that.

 You won’t remember this, but once we were both working with the national team. I was the gofer coach —  the fellow who was always sent off on the craziest of errands. I was at the bottom of the food chain.

 One day, close to the World Championships, you just launched your crew. I happened to be standing close by. No one else was really around. You asked my name.

 Then, where was I from. And then you asked me, “I think this will be an exciting race, don’t you?” I’m sure I stuttered something unintelligible in response. And you nodded your head.

 And then you were gone.

 I wanted to tell you, thank you for being nice.

 You could’ve easily told me to get out of your way. Or to go get something. But instead, you were nice.

 It may not seem like much, but to a new coach wet behind both ears and trying not to screw up everything I did, it was like a sunrise after a week of rain.

 I keep that memory alive as I now work with new coaches. I see plenty of them who are wet behind both ears. Afraid of screwing up.

 And I try to be nice, because I know it makes a difference.

 Thank you Coach

 Even though I did not write that letter, you could.

Is there a coach, or teacher, or anyone really, who has had a positive impact on your life? Someone who has put together a legacy that impacted you? If so, please let him or her know how you feel. It’s always better to say those words and acknowledge a positive legacy before, than after.

Mike Davenport is in his third decade of coaching college rowing, and is one of the most respected leaders in his sport. His website, CoachingSportsToday.com, is dedicated to helping 1,000 coaches craft a positive legacy.  Dr. Davenport is a frequent contributor to College Recruiting Weekly and the educational events at Tudor Collegiate Strategies.

Using Retention Techniques To Build, Change, And Grow Your ProgramMonday, July 8th, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Retention is such an important thing these days. Everyone is talking about it. You know, keeping athletes on the team and in school…your school and your team. Here at Front Rush we have a very similar concern which is client renewals. We want coaches to renew and not leave our team. As a result, we thought we would provide some insight into our best practices that are applicable to coaching. (Note: we have a 90% renewal percentage with 1 year contracts)

Retention starts when recruiting starts, and recruiting starts with setting expectations.

Wow Factor

We don’t try to sell coaches on bogus stuff. We let them know the facts and often times will leave out some of the coolest benefits. Then when they sign up, there is an additional “wow” factor. When you are sharing your message with recruits, be honest. You don’t want them showing up on campus and being disappointed on day one. You want them to be wow’d. You want them to be wow’d time and time again.

Wiggle Room

My co-workers and I recently went to a restaurant in town – the place was hopping like crazy. It is a small Mexican restaurant, but always jam packed. When we showed up, they told us that they were happy to seat us, but the kitchen was overwhelmed and that they were running extremely slow. They gave us an out, but promised to do their best to speed things up. After we sat and ordered, 25 minutes passed and we still did not have our food. Have you ever been at a restaurant and waited 25 minutes for food? Yeah – you start to get annoyed and frustrated. We weren’t because we knew it would take this long. Our expectation was that it would be awhile so we had already settled in. It’s just like going for a long drive. When you know the drive is going to be long, you settle in a bit.

Over Deliver

When you are waiting in line for a ride at Disney World, there are always signs that say how long the expected wait time will be. It says “Expected wait time 45 minutes”. Well have you ever noticed that you have never actually waited 45 minutes. Typically it will be more like 25 or 30. This is by design. They are  promising 45 minutes, but delivering in 30. Over deliver!

Do Less Better

When buying software, consumers look at a feature list and of course buy the software that has the most. There is a direct correlation between the number of features and the number of sales. Ironically, there is the opposite correlation between the number of features and the renewal percentage here at Front Rush. You see, the more features that a piece of software has, the more likely someone is to buy. However, it turns out that Front Rush renews the most clients with software that has the least amount of features. This is because most people don’t use them all and instead only use a select few.

It is like comparing a pocket knife and a steak knife. The pocket knife has everything from a knife to a fork to a magnifying glass. A steak knife has one thing and that’s a knife. On the surface the pocket knife is more appealing because it does so much more…it even has a toothpick for your teeth. Unfortunately though, most pocket knives don’t do one thing particularly well (you lose the toothpick, the knife breaks, the magnifying glass it too small, etc). Now compare it to the steak knife which does one thing and that is to cut. The toothpick is the software with a ton of features and the steak knife is the software that renews.

It’s up to you to find the balance.

Front Rush is the #1 choice of college coaches across the country when it comes to recruiting management software.  If you want to be more organized, more effective, and more up-to-date with your prospect conversations, Front Rush is the go-to choice.  Now is the time to have a conversation with them about how they can help your program, Coach!  Click here.

 

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