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10 Strategies for Building Trust With Prospects (and Parents)Monday, June 29th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s the most frequent reason why admissions counselors (particularly younger ones) experience inconsistent recruiting results?

An admissions director who was picking my brain on various topics asked me this question the other day. My response was, “They don’t fully gain the trust of their prospects and their prospects’ parents.” It’s a common, yet critical mistake.

Building trust takes time. The relationship with your prospective student and his or her parents must be cultivated and nurtured throughout the entire recruiting cycle. The greater the level of trust, the greater your number of deposits will be. Mark it down.

Ask yourself this question – Would you invest tens of thousands of dollars in a product when you’ve only known the person selling it to you for a week, or maybe even a month? My guess is, probably not.

When your prospects are reading your letters and emails, and listening to you talk on the phone or in person, they’re trying to figure out if they trust you enough to make that financial and emotional commitment to your school. Some of those same prospects have told us that both they and their parents fear that things sound “too good to be true,” and question whether they’re being misled. You can help them overcome that skepticism by making frequent contact and delivering information that they not only view as valuable but at the same time also proves your school’s value.

Here are a few proven strategies for building trust with prospects and their parents:

  1. Demonstrate empathy. If you don’t empathize with your prospects and their parents how can you expect to understand their problems and objections?
  1. Do your homework. Before you make that first phone call to this next class of prospective students be sure you’ve gathered some basic facts and information about whom you’re calling. I continue to be amazed at the number of counselors who reveal to me that they make these calls blindly. The reason I hear most often is, “I don’t have the time.” The easiest way to build trust is to show your prospect or their parents that they’re not just another name on your list. Show them you know something about them that your competition probably doesn’t (because they, “don’t have the time”).
  1. Be helpful during every communication. I’ve told you this before but it bears repeating.  Your prospects want you to solve their problems…all of them. They’re looking for ideas, information and insight at every turn, especially when it comes to paying for college. If you can leave no doubt in their minds that your intent is to be a resource and help them out, you’ll gain their trust every single time.
  1. Don’t overpromise. The last thing you want to do when trying to build trust is cross the line and sound ridiculous. Kids, not to mention their parents, are smart cookies. Never promise results that you can’t deliver because you think doing so will put you closer to “sealing the deal.”
  1. Display a quiet confidence. Your prospect is looking for reasons why your college is that “right fit.” The admissions counselor who isn’t confident or is afraid to tell their recruit why their school is the best is going to have trouble gaining that prospect’s real trust.
  1. Be honest, even if the truth hurts. It would be great if your school were the perfect fit for everyone. It’s not, and that’s okay. Honesty is one of the key traits that allow others to rely on you. When you’re willing to admit that your institution needs to improve on “A,” or that one of your competitors has a better (fill in the blank) than you do, it’s actually a good thing. Your prospects know both you and your school aren’t perfect.
  1. Be a good listener. The quickest way to destroy trust is to rule the conversation. When you do most of the talking, you make it impossible to discover what is really motivating them to consider your school. Anytime you begin a new relationship with a recruit, make it your goal to let them do most of the talking.  If you want to encourage conversation, use open-ended questions. These will lead to valuable information.
  1. Be a resource, not a salesperson. Each of you is one or the other. Which one are you? (Hint: resource is good, salesperson is bad). Both Dan (Tudor) and I tell our clients all the time that the key to achieving successful and consistent recruiting results is to be a resource rather than a salesperson. If they see you as a resource it’s easier to connect with them. When you connect with them they’ll see you as someone they can trust.
  1. Talk about your success stories. Many of your prospects tell us that real life testimonials and success stories from recent graduates are extremely helpful. These words from people just like them provide real proof that your prospect’s fears can be conquered, and their dream of going to college can and will be achieved. Videos in particular have proven extremely effective because the words are literally coming straight from your student’s mouth.
  1. Demonstrate commitment. Showing commitment is one of the simplest things we can do, yet for some reason many of us fall short here. A common example I hear about is making phone calls later than scheduled. If you tell your prospect 7:00pm, don’t ever assume that 7:10pm is okay. “Oh but I ran late with another recruiting call.” Say that and you’re telling your prospect, or his or her parents, that not only is their time not valuable, but that (insert other prospect’s name) is more important than they are.

Developing trust is essential. Without it you significantly decrease your chances of turning prospects into deposits. With it you’ll have an opportunity to cultivate highly profitable relationships. It’s worth the effort.

Jeremy Tiers and the team of recruiting experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies answer questions and work with admissions professionals every day.  If you have a question, just email Jeremy at jeremy@dantudor.com.  

How To Be the Best Recruiter in the Shark TankMonday, June 22nd, 2015

Ever watch the CNBC show, Shark Tank?

It’s one of my favorite television shows, along with The Profit.  And just like the important recruiting lesson we gleaned from The Profit in a previous column, there’s a fantastic example of how to lead a prospect through the recruiting decision making process from the panel on Shark Tank.

As you watch it, don’t look at this business pitch from the Sharks for a piece of Bobbi’s “FunBites” business.  Picture it as a fairly typical recruiting situation, especially late in the process.

And as you do, copy the strategy that Lori Greiner employs against her competition.  Here’s the breakdown of the clip:

:00 Bobbi is nearing the end of the pitch, and she has offers on the table.

:21 Bobbi gets a smile and nod from billionaire Mark Cuban, who is counting on her letting him come in at the end and make her an offer that she won’t be able to refuse.

:42 Lori comes in with her offer. Whether it’s better than the other offers or not isn’t important. Note her confidence, and clarity. She feels her offer is the best, and she wants Bobbi to understand that.

:50 The noise starts. The other Sharks who have made offers all start talking at the same time, and you can see the confusion and pressure starting to mount for Bobbi as she realizes she’s going to have to make a decision. Confidently, Lori offers her rebuttal with a smile.

1:00 More noise, more pressure. How is she supposed to make a final decision with all of that noise and incoming information from all of the people that want a piece of her deal?

And then, Lori does what I would advise every college to do. If you want to try copying her word for word the next time you want a recruit to make a final decision in your favor, that might not be an unwise thing to do:

At the 1:12 mark, Lori makes her move:

“I’d like you to take my offer now, because I feel like you know whether or not you’d like to partner with me.  So if you want to partner with me, I’d like you to say yes right now.”

It’s brilliant.  Here’s why:

  • She sets a fair, but very firm, deadline. The inventor has multiple offers, she’s heard all the pitches, and is now obviously struggling to make a final decision (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She uses the important word “because” to initiate action. If she didn’t, the recruit would probably seek out just one more good option, delaying the difficult final decision as long as possible (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She focuses on feelings, not facts. Her prospect has all the facts she needs to make a decision. But most of us make our decisions based on the way we feel about something (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She comes back to the deadline again. If she doesn’t, there’s no imperative for her prospect to make a final decision. There’s always one more offer to consider, and it’s intoxicating to be wanted by just one more good option (sound familiar, Coach?)

And, it works. She gets the deal at the 1:30 mark in the video.

Although, if you watched it until the end, you’ll notice that even after Bobbi “verbally commits” to Lori, the other Sharks keep recruiting her.

How does she keep the commitment?  By smiling confidently, restating her position, and then doing something at the very end that more coaches need to put a focus on as it becomes more and more challenging as recruiting commitments get earlier and earlier: Lori tells Bobbi, “I know you’re a person of integrity” as the commitment sticks.

There are lots of ways to close a recruit, and lots of ways to construct the right language to elicit the feelings from your prospect. A multi-millionaire that has built and empire selling products on QVC just gave you another great option as you prepare to talk to your next high caliber recruits.

Have you been trained in advanced recruiting and communication methods? We now offer that resource for college coaches around the country, and will even certify the training to demonstrate your proficiency to your athletic director, head coach, or future employer. It’s called Tudor University, and you can get all the details about this fantastic training option here.

Winning Over Your Prospect’s ParentsMonday, June 22nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Breaking bad news to someone is never fun.

Last week during a phone call with an admissions director that wanted to talk about strategies for improving his college’s yield, I had to do just that. The facts of our conversation were pointing towards one big reason why his office experienced completely random recruiting results this past cycle – his entire team (mostly new counselors) underestimated just how important a factor parents are in the recruiting process.

Sending parents an occasional email and talking to them during the campus visit is not a winning strategy. Take that approach, and you’ll be hard pressed to discover what the parents of your recruits are really thinking (yes it matters). Plus, you’ll probably become frustrated at the power you ultimately see those same parents having on their child’s final decision.

Put yourself at your prospect’s kitchen table for a minute. As a parent, would you let your 16 or 17-year old son or daughter call an admissions counselor that’s requested contact, and allow your child to take anything beyond the very basic first steps of communication with him or her?  Not without talking to you, their parent, first right?

You’ll understand then why I find it surprising that many talented, smart college admissions recruiters spend a majority of their time and energy forming a relationship with a prospective student without really talking to the parents first.

Easier said than done, I get it. That’s why today’s article is here to help.

The first thing a number of you will need to do is embrace the idea of talking to your prospect’s parents. The reason is simple. In some of our latest research, we found that 91% of recent incoming college freshmen say that their parents had substantial influence in their final decision making process. Knowing that fact, how can you even consider not making it a priority to start the conversation with the parents as early as possible?

As we explain in our On-Campus Workshops for admissions, one of the big differences with this generation of prospective students is not only do they want their parents to be involved in the recruitment process, but they expect it. More and more, we hear examples of students who tell us point blank that they look for admissions counselors who engage their parents when they have the opportunity to talk to them.  Do you do that?

Furthermore, when we asked the parents if they felt like colleges were doing a good job of including them in the recruiting process only 54% “agreed strongly.” That means 46% are feeling like there could be more done to include them as a part of the process.  Imagine chopping your previous recruiting list in half.  That’s how many parents are feeling like you’re not doing a good enough job of making them feel like they’re important to you.  The scariest part should be that you probably don’t know which of your parents are on what side of the line.

My advice to you then is simple. You need to become okay with talking to your prospect’s parents, sometimes even in place of your prospect. They’ll most often accurately speak for their son or daughter and actually give you a lot of intelligent, useful information.

Next, I want you to ask yourself the following 3 questions as you prepare to begin another recruitment cycle. I would even recommend bringing these up at your staff retreat or planning session this summer. If you’re going to win over your prospect’s parents you’ll need to address all three.

  1. How soon are you incorporating a conversation with the parents of your recruit into your recruiting plan?
  1. What percentage of messaging are you dedicating to recruiting the parents of your prospects? (Yes, separate messaging to parents is a must.)
  1. What kind of questions are you asking parents to get them to reveal what’s important to them as they help their son or daughter make their final decision?

By this point I hope you agree that parents play a pivotal role in the recruitment process.

Here’s some more useful information that we’ve gathered from our research and focus groups at college campuses around the country.

  • Parents want honest answers about how your school is different from the competition. The college brochures look the same, the websites look the same, and the message is largely the same. How are you different from your competition?  I mean really different The counselors who can communicate those real differences to parents will earn their trust. Considering how important the parents’ views are to their child come decision time, this will be a big “win” for you in the recruiting game.
  • The biggest things that parents want content about are cost and ROI. Specifically, how much will your school truly cost, and will their son or daughter be able to get a job when they graduate? Your messaging to and communications with parents absolutely must address these two “wants.” Additionally, I would suggest you include clearly defined qualifications for various scholarships and other aid as well as employment rates and starting salaries. Be prepared to start this conversation early, and make sure what you’re telling them isn’t going to be different when they speak with a financial aid counselor later in the process.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to parents on Social Media. Want to know why more and more teenagers have left Facebook for Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Parents have joined the social media revolution, primarily Facebook (that means it’s not “cool” anymore). Our research has shown that prospects want you to reach out to their parents this way. Some colleges are even taking things one step further by creating Facebook pages specifically for parents of prospective or enrolled students. It’s yet another way to answer questions and increase engagement.
  • Consistency matters to parents. Once you make contact with parents it’s vitally important to know that they expect you to communicate with them as much as with their son or daughter.
  • Enthusiasm about your prospect goes a long way. 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.

While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection.

It’s critical that you develop recruiting plans for your prospect’s parents. You need to schedule calls, send emails, and probe the parents regarding their wants and needs for their child. If you do, they will look at you as the admissions professional that respects their opinion and input and sees them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter.

Need help creating effective recruiting letters and email messages that will win over parents (and prospects)? We work with admissions clients year-round doing just that! Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

Trust Over PriceMonday, June 22nd, 2015

542242_10201795155827901_994503587_nby Michael Cross, UltimateSportsInsider.com

Recruiting is a euphemism for sales, and sales isn’t for everyone. But we are ultimately all in sales – selling yourself, your institution and your program. Selling isn’t easy and you probably hear “no” many more times than you hear “yes.” People in sales often resort to price as a primary means to get a commitment. If you are selling a commodity (such as gasoline) price and location are a strong determinant because only the most sophisticated consumer can determine the difference between Mobil and Shell. You don’t need a high level of trust.

Two family purchasing decisions – cars and pet care – come to mind where trust is essential.

The other day I took our car for an oil change and new tires at Mike Miller Auto Park in Peoria, Illinois, a purchase that was going to approach $1000. Many people think there is no more expensive place to have this type of work done than the dealership. But Mike Miller’s service and relationship building is legendary. He’s given Green Bay Packers tickets to people who have purchased cars from him. He remembers birthdays. He is fair and honest. He is personally invested on a daily basis in making sure that the customer is always right and feels valued. Most importantly, he established TRUST from the day we purchased a car, when we left feeling great about the purchase rather than beaten into submission. Today we never even think of comparison shopping to save a couple dollars and the volume of people having work done at his dealership the day I went said we weren’t alone. In fact he singlehandedly saved the Cross Family as a customer for Hyundai after a horrific car purchasing experience at a counterpart dealer several years before that left us swearing we would NEVER buy another Hyundai.

The other example is Play All Day Doggie Day Care. We love our English Golden Retrievers, Jocelyn and Clara. We trust they are safe and happy when we travel. How do we know? When they first went to Play All Day, the dogs (and my wife and kids) were skittish. We had recently adopted them and they were older and a little shell-shocked from the transition into our home. To aid in their transition, the day care owner had both dogs stay at her house for multiple nights until everyone was comfortable with the new environment. She groups dogs by size and demeanor, has birthday treats, and posts daily facebook videos for the owners to see that they are having fun. Yes, it’s a little over the top and it costs a few dollars more – but the peace of mind is priceless. We would never go anywhere else.

So as you try to figure out how to get a recruit to commit focus on trust over price. In fact, if you are recruiting someone who is solely focused on where they can get the best deal, I’d encourage you to thoroughly evaluate their fit for your program. While college is a very expensive investment, the long term value of building trust with recruits and honoring your commitments when they are current athletes will provide the results you are seeking year after year and create a more enjoyable and differentiating recruiting approach. College and your team are more than a commodity – they are priceless opportunities where trust is paramount.

Michael Cross is an intercollegiate athletics consultant with an emphasis on athletic department evaluations and organizational culture development, as well as career development for coaches and administrators. You can read other similar posts and subscribe to his blog at UltimateSportsInsider.com.   You can contact him through LinkedIn or connect with him via Twitter @USinsider.

NCRC 2015 HighlightsThursday, June 18th, 2015

Take a quick look at the outstanding 2015 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville!

150+ coaches, experts and speakers who devoted their weekends to the core part of their job as college recruiters.

 

 

If you couldn’t make it to NCRC 2015, please make plans to attend the next NCRC in June 2016. Stay tuned for the dates and location coming soon!

 

How Good Are You at These 8 Things?Monday, June 15th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When’s the last time you did a self-evaluation? If your answer is “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember,” then today’s article is definitely for you.

If we’re sharing, my last self-assessment was this past week. It came on the heels of our National Recruiting Conference. After three days of learning and networking with college coaches, admissions professionals and business/marketing experts from around the nation, I re-evaluated some the approaches that I use. Why, you ask? It’s my belief that true professionals never stop learning. Research is always discovering new things, and trends are always changing.

One of the most popular parts of our Admissions Recruiting Advantage Workshops is the 1-on-1-counselor consultation. During these meetings one or two counselors inevitably ask me what skills and traits I believe separate a high performing recruiter from an average one.

If you’re expecting to see bullet points like “organized,“ “friendly,” and “good communicator,” that’s not where this list is going. Those are givens. Instead, I’m going to share some skills and characteristics that I see consistently, not just in top admissions recruiters, but also in nearly every elite recruiter or sales professional that I’ve met.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Problem solver. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with teenagers who want to have their problems (chiefly – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. Approach those problems, and any other objections, with the frame of mind that you are a problem solver. Counselors who do that will be the ones who turn admits into deposits.
  1. Translator. Don’t ever assume that a 17 or 18-year old student, and quite possibly many of their parents, know what FAFSA, EFC, COA, ROI, Early Action and Rolling Admission all mean. You will need to translate those industry terms into layman’s terms, quite possibly more than once. You’ll also need to do so in such a way that doesn’t make your prospect (and his or her parents) feel inept.
  1. Listener. One of the biggest mistakes a lot of salespeople make is they give information before they get information. They provide more information than is necessary, and in many cases they give out the wrong information (based on their prospect’s wants and needs). Want to know how to determine if you’re a good listener? The good ones, and I mean the really good ones, ask effective questions that get their prospects to not only reveal their “wants” and “don’t wants” but also how they would like the process to play itself out.
  1. Closer. Simply put, effective “closers” (those who turn admits into deposits) understand it’s about the relationship just as much as it is about the sale. Your average recruiter only focuses on closing the sale. Selling is also about building a relationship with your prospect (and their parents) throughout the recruitment cycle. When you prove you’re a resource and come up with ways to answer their wants and needs, you develop trust and loyalty. That will lead to positive recommendations and future deposits.
  1. Empathy. Some people are born with this skill while others have to develop it over time. Truly understanding your prospect, their life situation, fears, motivations, and dreams isn’t an easy thing. The counselors that struggle with this skill are generally the ones that are more concerned with what they need from their prospects and not what their prospects want from them. Let your recruit know that you understand his or her “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want.”
  1. Always look to improve. With success often comes comfort. When a person reaches a goal, there can be a tendency to assume that if they repeat the exact same steps again it will produce the same results. It’s a common mistake. Those that rise to the top value both positive and negative feedback and are willing to invest to improve their skills and attitudes. Be proactive, and seek out learning opportunities. Utilize professional coaches and mentors.
  1. Remain in control of the sales process. A common mistake that counselors make is losing control of the sales process at some point. The high performing recruiter takes his or her prospect through an orderly, planned, systematic process of agreeing that their college is best suited for their prospect’s needs and goals.
  1. Remain passionate. There’s that magical word again that can help you win over recruits. As I’ve said before, passion is not an act. Real passion for who you are and what your institution provides can make all the difference in the world. The passionate person consistently says, “I’m going to make a difference today,” whereas everybody else thinks, “same (insert nasty word), different day.” Passion will lead to meaningful long-term relationships with your prospects (and their parents) every single time.

Want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these eight critical skills and attributes, and how you can incorporate them into your recruiting strategy? Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com or give me a call at 612-386-0854.

How to Make Sure Your Recruiting Emails Are Opened and ReadMonday, June 8th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When you log into your email account how do you decide what messages to open?

Unless it’s from your boss, most of us use the subject line as the deciding factor. It’s a quick and easy way to decide whether to read the email now or later (which means it probably gets deleted without ever being opened).

That same type of decision-making occurs every time one of your prospective students goes to his or her email inbox and finds messages waiting from you and your competition. Which ones do they read? Which ones do they scroll past?

Just like you, it often comes down to the subject line. The more creativity and thought you put into your email subject lines, the greater chance you have of getting your message opened and read by your recruits.

It’s something we factor into the messaging that we create for our clients as part of the Admissions Recruiting Advantage. Why?  Our job is not only to improve the click-through rate but also generate a response from recruits for our clients. Great subject lines are a big key to doing both of those things.

For those of you that are wondering if today’s recruit still uses email, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” One of the questions we ask in the focus group research survey we conduct as part of an on-campus workshop is, “What was your preferred method for admissions counselors to contact you?” Email is the leading vote getter every single time.

Before I give you some ideas that we’ve seen work, there are two key questions that you need to ask yourself if you’re serious about improving this part of your recruiting campaign:

  • Is your content useful to the prospective student that is reading it?
  • Has your communication up to this point built anticipation of what’s coming next?

For your messaging to be effective, what you talk about has to matter to that specific recruit. For example, sending out information on student housing isn’t going to be helpful if your prospect lives in town and is strongly considering commuting from home due to finances.

Regarding anticipation, your recruit will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message. Simply put, one message should set up the next message and so on. This is something that we see a lot of counselors struggle with.

Okay…If you’re ready to improve this aspect of your recruiting in an effort to get more prospective students to open more of your emails, here are some subject line ideas that will produce results.

  • Make it clear exactly what the email is about. Subject lines should clearly convey something important or timely to your recruits. In a nutshell, you want to communicate that if they don’t open and read this email, they’ll miss out on something of real value.
  • Don’t make it so formal. If you’re sending out information on your student housing, don’t make the subject line “ABC College student housing information.”  That’s what most of your competitors will do. You need to STAND OUT. Get creative and write something like, “Here’s where you can live next year!” See the difference?
  • Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases are attention getters.  In this case, because most subject lines are long and rather mundane, you need to use a few well-chosen words. Effective keywords include “New,” “You,” and “Deadline.”
  • Create curiosity by asking a question. To increase the chances that your email is opened it needs to offer intrigue. Using student housing as an example again, you could say, “Is your room at home as nice as our new on-campus suites?” Keep in mind, however, that the body of your email must deliver what you promised in the subject line, or your future email messages will lose credibility.
  • Cut off half the sentence. It might prompt them to wonder what the other half says.  For example, “My admissions director wanted to know if…”
  • Be different every single time. Do not become a repeat user no matter how effective a particular subject line was previously. We’ve found that there’s a noticeable drop in open rates when you do. Take a few minutes to be creative.  Don’t be boring.

There’s one final fact that I want you to keep in mind about the way today’s recruits process email from colleges and universities: At the end of your message, they want to know what’s next.

If you’re a client of ours or a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how important it is to have a clear call-to-action. We recommend you narrow it down to just one thing.  Make it simple versus complicated and time-intensive.

Remember, early in the recruitment cycle your goal is a conversation, not a conversion.  Aim to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Getting this next class (and future classes) of recruits to open and read your emails doesn’t have to be a constant challenge. It all starts with an effective subject line.

Now is the time to schedule Jeremy Tiers to come and speak at your college this fall.  Our On-Campus Workshop has trained numerous counselors and admissions professionals on more effective ways to recruit this generation of prospects (as well as their parents).  Get the details by emailing Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com with the subject line, “We want to hear more about you coming to campus!”  He will respond with all the details.

They Don’t Care About You (Until They Know Who You Are)Monday, June 1st, 2015

They don’t care about you.

Until, that is, they know who you are.

You might have the best facility, you might be the nicest coach, and a degree from your school might send your prospect out into the world as the best prepared college graduate on the planet.

But if they don’t know you, they aren’t going to listen.

Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and legendary rock band U2 prove my point. They headed out to a subway platform in New York City, in disguise, and started playing. Free concert from U2, hosted by Jimmy Fallon. Here’s what happened.

 

Notice the before and after?

When they were viewed as just an average group of New York street performers, nobody paid much attention. But did you notice the change in the crowd’s energy level once the disguises came off?  Completely different.  Once they knew who it was, it was worth their time to stop what they were doing and give the band their full attention.

Let me bring this back to your world as a college recruiter with this core truth:

The reason why many of your prospects aren’t paying attention at the start of the recruiting process is because they don’t know who you are.

That doesn’t mean you have to be famous.  It really doesn’t even mean you have to be all that talented.  But it does mean that you have to be known.

So if you’re serious about achieving that with this generation of high school student-athlete in your next recruiting campaign, here’s what our research shows as being some of the essential things you need to do to become “known” to your recruits:

First and foremost, be the coach that’s easy to talk to.  It’s such a simple concept, and yet it’s something that many coaches just don’t pay attention to. In the way you communicate – the text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages – you need to make it easy for your prospect to actually reply to your outreach. If you aren’t getting kids to reply to you, it might mean that you aren’t “sounding” like you are easy to talk to. Which means they aren’t going to ever really get to know you.

Have them listen to your team’s stories.  In any way you can, get your athletes involved in telling the story of you and your program.  Especially you.  They need to talk about how you operate as a coach, why they like the school, and why they’d make the same decision all over again.  Your team has way more credibility than you do as a coach, because as a coach you are really seen as the salesperson. And that gets viewed with a degree of skepticism by this generation, especially as the process extends beyond the first initial points of contact. Your team, on the other hand, has credibility: They’re closer to the same age as your recruit, and are less likely to be viewed as someone trying to trick them into committing to the program.  So, ask yourself, “How are you utilizing the power of my team in telling our story to my recruits?”  If you can’t name concrete examples of how that happens, it’s unlikely your recruits are really getting to know you.

Build a reputation.  Don’t wait for a reputation to develop, build a reputation. Decide how you want to define your program, and then start telling that story. That’s taking an active, controlled approach to the way others view you and your program.  One great example of what I’m talking about is how Jim Harbaugh began to develop an attitude and swagger around his University of Michigan football program…before he even coached his first game at his alma mater. He took a program that was slipping into mediocrity from a reputation standpoint, and turned around that perception overnight.  To be known, sometimes you have to decide what your reputation is, and then start selling it to your recruits.

Enlist your famous friends.  U2 needed Jimmy Fallon to help make the transition between average street performers in disguise to world-renowned rock superstars. Minus Jimmy, the whole thing may not have worked.  Who are the famous friends you have around you on your campus? Another coach on campus? A school president who doesn’t mind having you drop by with your recruits to say hi? Another team on campus that wouldn’t mind coming and saying hi to your recruits and talking positively about the campus?  All of those count as your “famous friends”.  They’re the people that your prospects will talk about after they leave campus (and believe me, they do!)  Enlist those famous friends to help you become known.

Those four recommendations aren’t an exhaustive list, of course.  But I hope it gets your mind turning a little bit.  This entire topic of how you build a reputation, and what recruits respond to as you reach out to them, is an area that most college coaches never take time to think about.

Be the coach that does, and watch how recruits start to view you differently.

Did you know that our team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you develop your approach with recruits?  It’s true.  We’ve been working one-on-one with coaches and their programs for over a decade, and we’d love to help you to.  Email us at dan@dantudor.com to have a conversation about how we’d do that, or click here for more information on our Total Recruiting Solution program.

5 Recruiting Lessons for Admissions Courtesy of Johnny SheltonMonday, June 1st, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you didn’t watch the season premier of America’s Got Talent last week you probably have no idea who Johnny Shelton is.

Hopefully after this article you’ll remember him for what his story and stand out performance can teach you as you strive to have more meaningful conversations and develop a deeper connection with your prospects.

Shelton is a 25-year old singer/songwriter. In a segment shown by AGT before he went on stage, Shelton shared his story about his son who lost his battle with cancer on his fifth birthday.

When Shelton came out on stage, he explained that he wrote the song he was about to perform as a tribute to his son and uses it as his special way of communicating with his child. Once the crowd learned the entire backstory, it quickly became clear that everyone felt a connection to Johnny Shelton.

His performance was nothing short of remarkable. Emotions ran very high. The next day his Facebook page was filled with supportive comments from people around the country. No doubt about it, Johnny Shelton had captured the hearts of many.

In the midst of watching his performance some very important recruiting lessons for college admissions surfaced. Since my previous “lessons from my daughter’s soccer practice” article is one of the most read on the admissions portion of our website, I thought it would be good to write a follow-up article that another real life lesson can teach you about effective recruiting:

  • Capturing your audience’s emotions. Shelton delivered a moving performance that inspired the AGT judges and brought members of the audience to tears. Judge Heidi Klum said his song, “made me very emotional.” Your goal should be to create those same feelings and emotions in the hearts and minds of your prospects. Our national study of how recruits make their final decision revealed one solid fact that every college admissions professional should be aware of when it comes to developing a winning recruiting strategy – Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through the various methods of recruiting communication as well as the feelings they get when they visit your campus.
  • Everyone talks about the “good.” Don’t be afraid to talk about the “bad.” Admissions counselors who only talk about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat. It would be great if your prospects never had an objection to your school…but who are we kidding. Johnny Shelton could have just come out and sang his song. Instead he didn’t shy away from talking about a very difficult time in his life. This generation of students (and their parents) are looking for someone that can demonstrate honesty during the recruitment process. As we’ve said in the past, it’s good to show your school’s “cracks” to your prospects. Think of it this way. If you try and present the “perfect” college situation for your recruit in everything you show and tell them, you likely run the risk of making the prospect question whether they are getting the real story from you.  In other words, it’s best to show them your “cracks” (the bad) before a competitor paints that picture.
  • Passion wins. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know that I think this 7-letter word is the most underrated tool you have at your disposal. Shelton received a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges, thanks in large part to a very passionate performance. If you prove you’re a passionate recruiter who sincerely cares and takes the time to understand the wants and needs of your prospects, you’ll come out victorious more often than not.  This is especially true when the final decision is a close race.
  • Great recruiters understand the importance of storytelling. The lyrics of Johnny Shelton’s song told the heartbreaking story about his son. Afterwards, judge Howie Mandel said, “I’m speechless when you told us your story.” Effective stories are essential to the recruiting process. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to make up something that’s untrue or embellish the prestige of your school so you can gain a prospect’s commitment. What I want you to do is give your prospects something they can connect with when it comes to what your institution is all about. Your recruiting materials, phone calls, and even campus visits have to tell a “story” that you want them to buy into. Are you doing that right now?
  • Go ahead and be gutsy. It took a lot of guts for Johnny Shelton to come on national television and perform a song as personal as one about losing a child. It also takes some guts for an admissions counselor to ask their prospect an effective question like, “Right now, where can you picture yourself going to college next year?” Some of you won’t feel comfortable being so forward, but this effective question can yield a gold mine of information when asked correctly. It’s important to note that you’re not asking them to make a decision on the spot but rather what their thoughts are right now in terms of where they can picture themselves attending college next year. There’s a big difference.

Remember these five lessons that I’ve laid out as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects.  They will pay dividends.

Want to speak further about these or other valuable recruiting lessons?  Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

What’s On Their Minds?Monday, June 1st, 2015

by Ingrid Rockovich, NCSA Athletic Recruiting

It’s one thing to find all of your potential recruits in one place. But learning how to make your program seem more viable to talented recruits that would be great fits academically and socially?

Between other coaches providing advice, consultants who are hired to help advise you in your search for recruits, and recruiting services who work with recruits every day, knowing where to find definitive insights into the mind of a high school prospect can be pretty difficult.

In an effort to make recruiting easier and lessen the mystery of working with high school prospects, we would like to share some of what we know about how prospects feel about the recruiting process.

There’s something unique about hearing these stories directly from student-athletes: to hear about what they went through, to hear about what scared them or intimidated them, how they were able to succeed and to hear about their final decisions is a pretty powerful experience.

In order to share that experience with others, we started this blog – Recruited Today. This blog is full of stories from prospects about their experiences throughout the recruiting process.

It is our hope that these stories can provide coaches with the real stories about what it’s like to be a high school prospect today and help better the recruiting process for everyone.

Keep an eye on this blog for new stories every day.

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