Dan Tudor

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Your Selling Point That Might Be Frightening Away Your ProspectMonday, October 28th, 2013

Have you seen this creepy old pictures of Halloween costumes from the early 1900’s?

There’s something about them that sends a chill up your spine.  I spent my Halloweens as a kid walking around Acacia Street in one of those sweaty plastic masks with the cheap rubber band that barely held it on my sweaty little head.  Had I run into one of these characters walking around I would have high-tailed it home.

The interesting thing is, one of the things that make these get-ups so creepy is that they are so very simple: Flour bags pulled over your head with two holes for your eyes, and a slit for your mouth.  Add a creepy hand-drawn face, and you’ve got a recipe for big-time scares.

Unbeknownst to many college coaches, there’s something else that might be frightening away your prospect.  What’s more, it’s something simple that many coaches use as a selling point over and over again in their conversations with their prospects – especially the good ones.

I’m talking about the selling point many coaches lead with when they’re talking to their top recruits that goes a little something like this:

“If you come play for me, we’re going to build the program around you.  You’re going to be a star here.”  You might have said it a little different than that when you’ve told a prospect how much you’ll mean to your team in the past, but the general message is the same: We need you, you’ll be a star for us, and that’s why you should want to come and compete for us.

In many cases – not all cases, but many cases – the idea of having to star for your team on day one is pressure they don’t want.  A slight majority of female athletes that we’ve conducted focus group sessions with say that having a program tell them that they are going to have the program built around them, or that they can come in and star for the team as a Freshman, is a big negative in their minds.  Not all recruits, but many.  Those that feel that way describe the imagined pressure on them if they were actually going to be relied upon to “carry” a program.  Interestingly, four to six weeks after their first practices, female Freshmen college athletes tell us they are then ready to assume that role as savior to the program (once they scope out other existing team members, and figure out where they stand compared to their new teammates).

On the male side, the number of student-athletes who feel too pressured to respond to that selling point is much smaller than their female counterparts:  Just slightly more than 2 out of 10 athletes we asked responded that they would not want to be put in that situation right away.  However, with male athletes, another phenomenon takes place that is centered around the selling point of “come here and be a star on day one”:

They think you’re lying to them.  More than 60% of the time, male prospects who hear a coach tell them that they’re going to be a star at their school say they are likely dismiss those comments as something that they wouldn’t take seriously…at the worst, they would assume the coach is outright lying to them in order to “trick” them into making a commitment to their school.  “I think every coach lies a little bit to get their prospects to say yes to them, and it’s our job to make sure we take everything with a grain of salt,” said one college Freshman men’s basketball player we talked to.

The bottom line is that for both males and females going through the recruiting process, this time honored selling point is often frightening them into second-guessing their original interest in that program.  The practice also risks creating a communication challenge moving forward in the recruiting process, especially on the male side, since they seem to be judging the honesty of the coach when they hear them talk about how much they’re going to mean to the program that is recruiting them.

So, what do you do if you’re a coach who honestly is looking at a good athlete, who could start as a Freshman and play early, and wants to communicate that to the recruit?  There are two rules we see coaches needing to follow:

  • You need to go into a LOT of detail with your prospect as to why you see them being able to meet that challenge and opportunity that you are promising them.  Map out their first year step by step, in as much detail as possible as you talk to them.
  • You need to assume that they’re going to receive your compliment with skepticism.  If you do, it will probably mean you will change your approach and focus on proving to them that it will happen, and why you’re going to be the best coach to make that happen.  Additionally, assume that they’ve already heard that approach from one of your competitors, and now hearing it from you makes them wonder if both of you are “just saying that” to try and trick you into competing for your respective programs.

Again, this is something that we see frightening a lot of recruits as they talk to programs that they would otherwise be a great fit for.  It doesn’t happen with every recruit, and even when it does it doesn’t mean you can’t overcome that objection and still bring that recruit to your program, but if you can be aware of this feeling among many athletes and adjust your conversation to accommodate that line of thinking, you’ll be more successful as a college recruiter.

 

 

Six Strategies for Constructing Winning Recruiting MessagesMonday, October 21st, 2013

I’ve made the case for years that coaches are actually professional sales people – who also happen to get to coach.

I’m going to add another job responsibility to your title:  Expert recruiting message writer.

It’s not an option any longer.  If you don’t create great messages, you risk not only losing the attention of your recruit…you risk not having the opportunity to start a relationship with them at all.

To help with that, I wanted to outline a couple of the strategies that we use when we’re helping our clients create their campaigns.  Here are six winning message construction strategies that you and your staff can (and should) try the next time you’re struggling to come up with a great recruiting message.  They work for us, and I’m confident they’ll work for you:

 

STRATEGY #1:  Compartmentalization

Writing a fantastic recruiting letter, email – or even a social media message – is a process that consists of many steps, hundreds of actions, and thousands of tiny decisions:

Thinking about who your prospect is and why he needs your product…

Coming up with your attention-getting strategy – your theme, headline, and lead idea…

Researching what your school offers, what your competitors’ strengths are, and their recruiting strategies…

Organizing your attack – determining the order in which you’ll guide your prospect through your reasons why he or she should commit to your program…

Pouring the appropriate research, notes, and ideas into each section of your recruiting plan outline…

Writing your first draft…

Buffing and meticulously detailing each succeeding draft until you know that you couldn’t improve it even if someone held a gun to your head – and that any change you consider at this point will actually weaken the copy…

And, finally, sticking a fork in it, because it’s done.

Now, if you have any shred of common sense, you’re going to feel overwhelmed when you contemplate all the steps you have to complete in order to perfect the project at hand. And that’s okay. It just means you’re in touch with reality.

But you’re going to have to get past “overwhelmed” and on to work. And the only way I know to do that is to mentally chop the job into little, tiny, manageable pieces. So you tell yourself something like this: “I do NOT have to write a recruiting campaign today. All I have to do is the research. Or part of the research.”

Thinking about the work this way does more than just relieve your anxiety about producing recruiting letters and emails. It blows all that procrastination you’re usually guilty of at the beginning of a recruiting project right out of the water, and gets you moving forward towards creating a good recruiting message.

STRATEGY #2:  Getting into a good flow

Ever have a day when you sit down to work and the next thing you know it’s time for dinner… you have to force yourself to stop… and when you reflect on your day as a college coach, you’re amazed by the quantity – and, more important, the quality – of what you accomplished?

That is the “good flow” that I’m talking about.

The fact is, good flow equals better recruits. Because the more flow you experience during planning and writing your recruiting campaign, the faster the project goes and the better your end product is.

But good flow doesn’t “just happen.” Flow is kind of like hummingbirds: They show up naturally if you just create an environment that attracts them. For me, that means a quiet work area and a good night’s sleep. The right background music. No interruptions. No distractions. A trenta Starbucks unsweetened iced tea.  And every tool I need to do that day’s job readily at hand.

That’s just me. You’ll have to figure out what works for you.

STRATEGY #3: Constantly visualizing success

Yes, I know. What could possibly be more cheesy than dusting off the decades-old concept of “positive thinking”?

Thing is, like all laws that survive the test of time, positive thinking works.  Good coaches know this, deep down.

What personally drives me is the phone call I’ll get from a wowed coach client when he sees our recruiting plan we’ve created for them for the first time… the call telling us he had too many recruits reply back to their recruiting email campaign…and, of course, the high fives we do here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies when a coach gets the athlete they really, really want.

Whatever your motivation, try keeping it in mind as you write.  Make that the thing that drives you and commits you to doing your best.

STRATEGY #4:  “Know thyself”

Feelings are more intense than thoughts.

So, they can have a way of blanking your mind and freezing you like a biker who just spotted a grizzly in his headlights. That’s why you have to understand how negative emotions affect your work as a college recruiter.

For example, you may feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a project to come up with new recruiting messages. Discouraged when a solution doesn’t come fast enough. And then your inferiority complex kicks into overdrive when you see how you think your competition is doing it a lot better than you and your coaching staff is.

It helped me when I realized that 99.9 percent of all negative emotions are probably not caused by objective truth. And, therefore, the vast majority of all bad feelings don’t deserve my attention.

So when I experience a negative emotion while I’m working, I pause for a moment and ask myself, “What thought zipped through my mind just before I got bummed out?” After recognizing how ridiculously wrong that thought was, I can almost instantly dismiss the negative emotion and dive back into the work.

Try it. It works, Coach.

STRATEGY #5:  Forget about the rules!

Not the NCAA’s rules.  Writing rules.

You’ve learned too many letter-writing rules. And, frankly, they’re getting in the way. If you’ve had us to your college for one of our On-Campus Workshops, you know what I think of many of the letters that go out to your recruits (they need major re-working, in many cases).

So instead of worrying about the rules you learned in high school and college, focus on your prospect and be a sales professional in print. Think, “If I were in a room with my best prospect and needed to get his attention, engage him, present the reasons why he should come to play for me and my program – what would I say to him?” Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard and into your document, as if you were talking to them one-on-one.  Less formal, more conversational.  That’s the key.

There’ll be plenty of time in later drafts to think about which rules you broke or didn’t follow. The first draft is about speed.

STRATEGY #6:  Do some bedtime reading

Let your last action each day at the office – or even literally before you fall asleep – be to read what you wrote to a recruit that day. File it away in your subconscious mind. And go to work the minute you wake up in the morning so the connections your brain made overnight find their way onto the page.  Try it once…you’ll see how well it works.

One, or all, of these strategies will help you spark a creative approach.  It’s absolutely necessary with this generation of prospects…and for the success of your next recruiting campaign.

“Travel Hacks” That Can Make Your Recruiting Trips EasierMonday, October 21st, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

There is this idea of ‘hacking’ in the computer world. No, not gaining access to networks and other people’s computers like you see in the movies.  More like using little known secrets to improve your situation (think MacGyver). In this article, we are going to discuss some travel hacks that we have learned over time that can help you on your next recruiting journey.

Know Which Side The Gas Tank Is On In Your Rental

When your are in an unfamiliar car (typically a rental) and you go to get gas, take a quick look at the dashboard. The car will have an arrow (or something similar) indicating which side of the car the pump is on.

Get A Free Upgrade With A Van

Have you ever rented a van instead of a standard coup? In our experience, the vans typically have all the amenities. They come with Sirius internet radio, backup cameras, more leg room and they can double as a hotel room which makes up for the additional cost of gas. And what is really great is that rental companies want to get rid of them because nobody wants to rent  them. So rent a normal car at normal car prices and then ask for the upgrade to a van.

Hang Out In The Baller Lounges At The Airports

Most airports have lounges that offer free wifi, comfy couches, free food, free drinks and some even have showers. There are a number of ways to get into them but the simplest and cheapest is the Priority Pass . You can find information on the website at http://www.prioritypass.com/. There is nothing better when you have a long layover then heading to one of the lounges where it is quiet, and you can grab a free Coca-Cola and get some work done on the free wifi.

Organize Your Travel Through Tripit

Tripit https://www.tripit.com is the way to organize all of your traveling and have access to it on your mobile device. It automatically tracks all of your travel plans without having to do any data entry. It simply connects to your email account and whenever you get an email regarding a travel itinerary, the information  automatically gets pulled into Tripit.

Never forget your iPhone charger

This is just cool. It has not been released  yet, but we think people will love it. It’s an iPhone charger that is the size of a standard key that fits on your keychain. For information go to http://www.hellonomad.com/products/chargekey-iphone5.

Shorten Your Airport Check-In Experience

If the check-in line is really long AND you must check-in first, then use the curb side check-in. They can perform the same actions but are often overlooked as people run inside.

Upgrade Your Room For Free

Always ask for a free upgrade when you get to the hotel. It’s just silly not too 🙂 The probability is just too high.

 

 

3 Ways Your Prospect’s Feedback is Getting Lost in TranslationMonday, October 14th, 2013

When you think about it, your prospects – and their parents – actually do say quite a bit during the recruiting process.

I mean for all of the complaining that we do when it comes to the non-communication coming from the recruits you’re trying to have a conversation with, when you think about it they give you a good deal of feedback.  They’ll tell you what they’re looking for in a college, or what they like in a coach, or what they think about the idea of leaving home.  When you ask a question, they’ll do their best to give you an answer.

And that’s where we find the problem occurring.

Coaches are listening to what they’re hearing from prospects and parents (or, many times, from their coach) and they’ll take that feedback at face value.  In other words, a lot of coaches assume that the recruits they’re talking to are actually giving them accurate, truthful information.

Much of the time, that’s not the case.  I’m not suggesting that your prospects are being deceitful on purpose, by the way.  However, I do think that much of what you’re hearing during certain points in the recruiting process needs to be “translated”…their feedback needs to interpreted differently than you’re hearing it.  Not all the time, but much of the time.

Here are four main topics or phrases that you may be hearing as a college recruiter that need to be “translated” into what they might really be trying to say:

“We’ve still got a few more campuses to visit before we make our final decision.”  

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

“Your campus was nice, but we’ve still got a lot of unanswered questions before we could think seriously about committing to you, and we’re hoping that another coach makes it easy to love them by giving us the information that you didn’t.”

I started with this because I know many of you are in the middle of campus visits, and you’re always anxious to hear how your prospects liked you, your team, and your college.  If they talk about still needing to take campus visits, and they aren’t ready to decide that you are “the one” after visiting your campus, you can be fairly certain that there are objections left unanswered in their mind, or something on the visit didn’t quite mesh with what they were looking for.

Your job, as a serious recruiter, is to ask them questions that can get them to reveal how they really feel after a visit.  And, if they don’t seem ready to get serious about taking the next step, it’s your job to find out what they didn’t seem to find when they visited campus, or what new questions the visit raised in their mind.

Far too often, college coaches that we advise give their prospects the benefit of the doubt waaaaay far too many times, assuming that the family is engaged in a logical, reasoned evaluation of their visit and just wants to compare apples to…even more apples.  Most of the time, that’s not the case.  It’s far simpler than that.  They just didn’t find all of what they were looking for when they were face to face with you and your program.

“I’ve never really thought about going away to school that far away from home.”

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

“At this point, there’s no way on God’s green earth that I would go to school that far away from home.”

If you’re recruiting out-of-area prospects (and you should) understand that the number one reason you will end up losing that prospect to another college is due to the distance from home.  Many recruits are very open to going away from home, but a large percentage either haven’t considered it as an option because of their parents, or have decided that it’s not an option even with their parent’s support.

Not wanting to go away to college is fine, of course.  It’s not for everyone, and I don’t suggest that any coach should fault a prospect for not being interested in your opportunity.  However, I do want them to tell you the truth and reveal – as early in the process as possible – whether or not going out of area for college is a possibility.

How should you do that?  First, focus on the parents.  Our research shows pretty conclusively that how a recruit feels about going out of the area for college is a direct reflection on how the parents feel about it.  And if the parents aren’t on board with the idea, it’s not likely you will be successful recruiting that prospect.  Ask the parents of your out-of-area prospect how they feel about the idea, and if they see it as a possibility.

With your prospect, you need to ask them why specifically they feel they would want to truly go away to college.  What makes that exciting to them?    Why do they feel that would be best for their athletic and academic career?  What have their parents said about the idea, and are they o.k. with not seeing you compete on a regular basis?  If your prospect has trouble answering those questions, or it sounds like they really haven’t thought the whole thing through, it means you have more work to do.  It’s not a lost cause by any means, but don’t assume that it’s a slam dunk, either.

“We’re still thinking about everything, and really haven’t made a decision yet, but don’t worry…we really like you and your staff and you’re one of the schools we’re seriously considering.”

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

“We’re not coming to your program unless these three other possibilities fall apart, but you’re a really nice coach so we don’t want to hurt your feelings by having to tell you ‘no’ directly.”

As you move through the process, you may hear something like this given to you as feedback by your recruit.  What I want to tell you is that they aren’t telling their top school this…just you.  And that’s a problem.

The later the recruiting process goes, the more you need to assume that your prospect is not being truthful with you.  I hate to be so negative, but it’s for your own good…more coaches are suckered in to that feedback from their recruits and end up getting jilted at the end when they say yes to your conference rival (the one that’s closer to home, of course) than get word that after careful and measured consideration, you are the program that they’re choosing.

If you hear this kind of feedback as the recruiting year gets later and later into the calendar, you need to start asking your recruits – and their parents – some serious questions: What is it that you’re thinking about?  What are the one or two big questions that you still have in your mind when it comes to my program our the college?  Look for things that they’re unsure about, or need more details on…or, get them to admit that your program is a long shot, and determine that it’s probably going to be a “no” (because in our experience in tracking lots of recruiting conversations for our clients, you’ll get the same answer three months from now as you did when you press for an answer today).

Those three scenarios aren’t an exhaustive list, of course, but it’s a good representation as to what we hear prospects telling coaches, when they mean something completely different.

We just want to make sure you’re looking at your recruiting list – and every prospect on it – with complete accuracy and honestly.  To do that, you need to intelligently interpret their “recruit-speak” into real world feedback that you can use to make important decisions for your program.

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