When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had this bad habit of hiding my algebra homework under the desk in my room so I wouldn’t have to do it. Immature, yes. Self-destructive? Mr. Grayson tried to make that case a few times. And yet, I did it. Over and over again.
Before I could fly to visit clients today, I had to submit to various levels of security checks from the wonderful folks at the TSA. I’ve been patted, scanned, swabbed, and questioned. I’ve been asked if I have any liquids in my carry-on, and if I remembered to remove my belt before walking through the scanner. Over and over again.
Do you have an insurance policy? Do you get an annual check-up? Do you get a little nervous when a Friday the 13th rolls around?
It’s all about our fear of fear. Understand what I’m saying: When I was foolishly avoiding my algebra homework, it wasn’t a fear of math that I was suffering from. Avoiding the homework was a preventing me from fearing the test and my impending D+ in algebra class. Insane line of thinking, right?
(Lets forget for a moment that a lot of coaches I’ve talked to over the years are reluctant to press their prized number one recruit for a final decision because they don’t want to hear “no”, even though it’s likely that the non-response from that recruit clearly signals that a “no” is only a matter of time. Not that different from my irrational fear of my algebra homework, is it?)
Now, let’s apply this to your prospects:
If you’ve had us on your campus anytime in the past few years, you know that one of the big things we try to make coaches understand about this generation of college recruits is that they have a fear of making the wrong decision. They are scared of saying the wrong thing to you during a phone call, scared to commit to an unofficial visit, and scared to answer your phone call.
They, like you perhaps, have a fear of fear. They’ll avoid an honest conversation with you to avoid the fear of saying something wrong. Insane line of thinking, right?
That’s who you’re recruiting, Coach. That’s why your prospect avoids fear, and why it’s sometimes so hard for you to do your job as a recruiter.
With that in mind, here are a few key principles we see working well for programs around the country that we get the chance to assist as clients:
- Always focus on their feeling of being fearful. It’s not actual facts that your prospect is scared about…it’s the feeling of being scared that they’re trying to avoid. So, if you’re a recruiter who is focusing on selling your facility or last year’s record as a way of overcoming that fear that’s ingrained in the mind of your prospect, you’re going to struggle. Instead, address the question of why they are feeling scared about something – making an early decision, visiting campus, returning your phone call. That’s the secret, Coach…focus on the feeling that’s creating the fear.
- Ask them what scares them most about the whole recruiting process. Logically, if they have an irrational fear that needs to be discussed as a part of the recruiting process, who is more equipped to lead that conversation: You, or the teenage recruit? (If you chose the teenage recruit, go back to the beginning of the article). Of course you have to lead that conversation! And it starts by asking them the question that most coaches don’t think to bring up: “What scares you the most about the idea of choosing a college program?”
- Put fear on the table, and tell them what you think they’re thinking. Tell them what you see them being scared about, and see if they agree with you or not. It’s easier for them to react to a statement about what you think they’re thinking, than it is for them to tell you what they’re thinking. Confusing and a little sad, yes. But we find it to be true, so use it to your advantage.
There is a lot that’s tough for us to outline exactly what you should do when it comes to this fact about their fear, because so much of it revolves around the core principles your coaching staff chooses to adopt. For example, I can’t tell you whether or not it’s time to press this year’s #1 recruit…maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t.
The point is, fear is driving everything that your prospect does during the recruiting process. How you react to that fact will determine how successful you are with this generation.
There’s no reason for not having a will, other than to avoid thinking about death. Applying that truth to how your recruits are reacting to your invitation to come visit campus – and how you change your message – is going to be more and more important with this generation of teenage prospects.