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Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Effective Recruiting as an OutsiderMonday, August 31st, 2015

Politics offers some fascinating lessons for observant college coaches looking for lessons from the real world on how to effectively recruit their prospects.

After all, what is Presidential campaigning if not recruiting a few million votes from your fellow countrymen and women?

The similarities between recruiting and high-level political campaigns are numerous.

The Presidential primary campaigns of 2016, in fact, provide some fascinating examples of how to break through the clutter of the typical campaign white-noise, and what makes candidates rise – and fall – in this new era of message marketing and creating an identity that stands out from the rest of the pack.

Which brings us to the two most curious “recruiters” in this particular campaign cycle: Billionaire businessman Donald Trump on the Republican side, and self-describted socialist Senator Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. At this writing at the start of September 2016, Trump is at the top of a crowded Republican primary field, and Sanders is steadily rising against the favored former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Which candidate you might favor – or despise – is irrelevant to the conversation we’re going to have today. To glean the lessons I want to focus on, you’ll need to suspend whatever partisan politics you might otherwise cling to and just study their methodologies, as well as some sea-changes in our society when it comes to how we perceive politics, candidates, party politics and the outsiders who are challenging the status quo.

If you can do that, I think you’ll come away with some fascinating lessons that you can apply to your recruiting efforts.

To start, lets focus on the question that is perplexing political pundits and much of the media:

How exactly are two outsiders doing so well against established, better funded, party-supported candidates? And what lessons do their candidacies offer college coaches?  Here are my four non-political-expert opinions and observations:

We’re at a time in our society when we are looking for something new. Politically, I don’t know if we know exactly what that is, given the political spectrum extremes of these two non-traditional candidates. There’s an element of frustration with the existing political powers that be, and these two candidates are taking advantage of it so far in these primaries.  The lesson for coaches?  I think it revolves around the concept of figuring out how you, and your program, can offer a recruit something different from the typical program and school. One thing we hear from high school student-athletes in the research we conducted is that they crave a reason to choose a school based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.  What story are you telling your recruits that differentiates you from the competition?

They aren’t afraid to be their own person.  In an age of carefully crafted, focus group tested, sound bite measured talking points, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders break the rules. Sanders is frumpy and passionately plain spoken, and it’s attracting the attention of the political left. Why?  Because his message and personality stand out.  Trump is uber-confident and dismissively insulting to rivals and other opposition, and it’s attracting the attention of the political right. Why?  Because his message and personality stand out. The lesson for coaches? Don’t be afraid to passionately and confidently state your case as to why your program should be the obvious choice to your prospects, even if it’s not perfectly crafted…even if it might cause a certain percentage of your to turn away…even if it causes people to stare. Plenty of the best recruiters around the country have made a name for themselves in the recruiting world by being larger than life and unique; give yourself permission to develop your own unique brand as you aim to take on the traditional powers you recruit against.

It’s important to state your case quickly, and memorably.  In our work with our clients, we accurately point out that telling a compelling story over a long period of time is the key to winning over the best recruits on a consistent basis. The same could be said about candidates who run an effective, long term campaign. But if you’re an outsider, you’d better stand out quickly as you begin to make your case. Why? Because as we often point out in our popular On-Campus Workshops for athletic departments, this generation of recruits (and their parents) are scared of making what they could perceive as the “wrong” decision; in other words, it would be safer to opt for the less risky choice in a college program given the choice in a vacuum of mediocre messaging. All things being equal, the school that’s close to home, has a history of success, or is a little less money might all be considered the “safe” decision unless you make the case quickly that your prospect, and his or her parents, should look at their choices differently.  That’s what both Trump and Sanders did effectively at the start of their campaigns: They got the attention of their audience quickly, made some unique and memorable (if not controversial) propositions, and drew the attention away from their better funded, more “safe” competition. The lesson for coaches?  As you get ready to reach out to a new group of recruits, give them a quick and memorable reason to justify continued conversations with you. (Note: If you’re a client, we’ve created a list of some ideas on how to creatively and effectively initially reach out to your new prospects. Just click here).

They don’t care what people think about them. Sounds counter-intuitive for a politician, doesn’t it?  Yet these two candidates are completely comfortable with who they are, what they stand for, and don’t apologize for anything.  You don’t like them? Vote for someone else. They aren’t going to re-calibrate themselves just for the sake of gaining a few percentage points in next week’s polls. The vitally important lesson for college coaches?  Own who you are. Embrace it.  Your school costs $53,000 a year and you don’t offer athletic scholarships? Embrace it. You play in a facility older than Hickory High School’s gym in the movie Hoosiers?  Embrace it. You’re 60 miles from the nearest mall, and a fun night out on the town for your team centers around going to a Subway sandwich place down the street from campus?  Embrace it. If you’re ashamed or apologetic about who you are and what you’re all about, your marketing-saavy recruit will pick up on it.  Truth is, they are more interested in how you view your school and what you offer than their first glance opinions. Are you willing to make the case to them that what they see should be what they want to get? Trump and Sanders have no problem with it, and so far it’s working out o.k. for them.

Recruiting a high caliber group of student-athletes is a daunting task, made more challenging given how competitive the landscape is with your competition.

As you develop your next recruiting strategy, take these four lessons to heart and figure out creative ways to implement the lessons into your approach. The person you may end up surprising just might be your long-standing championship competitor down the road who chose not to implement strategies that fit the times we now live in.

Want more in-depth training and lessons on how to develop a creative and effective recruiting approach? Join coaches from around the country at Tudor University, our online training and certification program for college recruiters. It’s inexpensive and easy to complete on your schedule, and will stay with you during your lifetime of college coaching. Click here for all the details.

4 Things American Pickers Can Teach You About RecruitingMonday, August 31st, 2015

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

TV shows, and movies for that matter, affect our lives more than you might think.

Each time you turn on your television to relax and unwind, there’s a pretty good chance that you, the admissions professional, can either learn a valuable lesson or stumble upon an important reminder that will make you a better recruiter.

Don’t believe me? Start by reading this article that I wrote earlier this summer about Johnny Shelton, a contestant on America’s Got Talent. It’s one of the most read admissions pieces on our website.

The latest recruiting tips come courtesy of “the pickers,” Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz. They travel the back roads of America looking for amazing things buried in people’s garages and barns. Each item they pick has a history all its own.

Here are four things that you can take away from their recent “picks” in New Hampshire:

Be honest and authentic. During most of their trips Mike and Frank usually come across somebody who’s trying to get rid of all the stuff that they’ve inherited from a family member who has passed away. Typically those people don’t know how much some of that “rusty gold” might be worth. If Mike and Frank find something that they know is worth more than what the person asks them for, they’re consistently honest with them and tell them they will pay a higher price because the item is worth more. This generation of recruits is looking for that same type of honesty from college and university representatives. Too often counselors get so caught up in “sell, sell, sell,” that they forgot what resonates with their prospects – an authentic discussion where you listen, let them get to know the real you, and prove you have their best interests in mind.

Good stories impact buying decisions. When I lead an on-campus workshop, I encourage admissions counselors to become a master storyteller. Stories are a big component of how each one of us makes buying decisions. Frequently, Mike and Frank will pay more for an item when the seller shares a great story about it.  You have to give your listener (your prospect) a story to buy into. The best recruiters take time to create stories about their institution that their prospects can visualize and understand.  Are you doing this right now?

Don’t despair if your prospect says “no” to something. One of the people that Mike and Frank met in the Granite State was Walter. He had been collecting for over 30 years and from the start made it clear to “the pickers” that he rarely sold anything. Despite hearing “no that’s not for sale” more than once, Mike and Frank didn’t give up. Instead they worked on cultivating their relationship with Walter. They proved to him that many of his passions were also their passions. In doing so, they established a comfort level. Subsequently, as Mike put it, “the deals got easier.” If your prospect tells you, “I need more time,” that’s probably code for you not making a strong enough case. Just like Mike and Frank, don’t get discouraged. At the same time, however, you may need to analyze the situation and move on. Mike and Frank do this all the time with items that they really want because the seller believes it’s worth more than what the market says.

Being different and unique is a good thing. There are two scenarios I see play out way too often every recruiting cycle. First, you have the admissions director who’s frustrated that their recruiting communications aren’t producing high response rates. Second is the counselor who doesn’t understand why their recruits don’t answer the phone when they call. The reason behind both of these situations is almost always identical – it all sounds and/or looks the same. Mike and Frank are always looking for stuff that’s different and unique when they go “picking.” Your prospects are the same way during the college search process. If your emails and letters look and sound the same as most other schools, and your counselors ask the same early questions as everyone else, don’t be shocked when it’s a struggle to consistently turn prospects into applicants. I encourage you to get creative and try something new with your letters, emails, phone calls and even your interactions at college fairs. I think you’ll be surprised with the results.

Do these four things throughout the recruiting cycle with this next class of prospects and watch what happens.

If you like the advice you’re getting in this newsletter and in my blog, you’ll love the one-on-one access you have to me and the extra training you and your colleagues will get as one of our clients. Email me and we’ll start a conversation.

Making Your First Contacts Count on September 1stMonday, August 31st, 2015

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10 New Things To Fire Up Your Coaching Experience This WeekMonday, August 31st, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

So let’s talk coaching …

Below are 10 things I thought could positively impact your coaching experience this week:

     1. Having a positive peer group can make or break you. Here’s how to, and how not to build a good one.

     2. When your life is falling apart what should you do? Try giving away your ideas, of course.

     3. If Tiny Gains can have a massive impact, think what they could do for you — and your team!

     4. This has nothing to do with coaching, but it is so bizarre that I just had to pass it along

     5. If you think US coaches were lacking, this might change your mind

     6. When the parent thing gets really crazy, we coaches need to say, “Stop!”

     7. The man’s perspective on what to do when you give it your all, but it’s not enough.

     8. Are you and/or your team working too hard (Hint: probably so)

     9. Nothing like a good send off speech. This stuff should be in all coaching manuals

     10. It looks like a new season of This Old Coach, my podcast will be starting in September.

Rock your week, and coach well. Ya’ll know we need ya!!

– Mike

PS: As always, thanks for being here — I’m grateful for your time and attention. And if you think there is someone who would get benefit from this, I’d appreciate a share : )

7 Tips for Making Skype and Google Video Calls to Your ProspectsMonday, August 24th, 2015

Video calls used to be an intriguing option for college coaches to consider when they wanted to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile to impress one of their better recruits.

Today, video calls using technology platforms like Skype, Google and FaceTime are becoming a go-to method for connecting more effectively with most of a college coach’s recruiting list.

But that can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the technology available to a coach today makes it so easy and seamless to connect with a prospect quickly and easily through video gives them the ability to add an extra dimension (sight) to the typical recruiting phone call.

On the other hand, many coaches struggle to make an effective call, meaning that they don’t treat it like the live television show that it is. And, you’re the star.  If you appear to be uncomfortable, boring, or unsure of yourself, those traits are only magnified when you’re on a prospect’s computer screen.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my short lived television sports career taught me more than a few iron-clad rules to follow when you’re in front of a camera (most of which I promptly broke, which is why it was a short lived television career. But if you want to know what a younger, fresher Dan Tudor looked like close to 25 years ago, here’s a clip someone unearthed and placed on YouTube).

The point is, the rules for appearing on video haven’t changed.  So if you’re a coach that is determined to make video calls a part of your regular contact with prospects, I’d recommend you follow these seven tips to make sure you’re looking better than your competition:

  1. Pay attention to what you’re wearing.  Go for solid colors, preferably with your college’s name or logo displayed.  Video is a prime venue for branding, and since your prospect is going to get tired of looking at you they’ll search the rest of the screen for hints about who you are and what you’re all about. Stay away from busy patterns, as well as wearing white…it can reflect light rather than absorb it, which can lessen the quality of the video your prospect is seeing on the other end.
  2. Pay attention to your background.  Your office wall behind you is boring. Your cluttered office is boring (and not good branding). A darkened background is boring (and kind of creepy). Opt for something that has good indirect lighting, with depth of 4 to 8 feet if you’re indoors. Me?…I’d try to be outside on campus somewhere with a great background: The student union, your facility, the weight room…somewhere that showcased energy and people in the background. Don’t be boring.  And, very important: Don’t have a window in the background.  It will darken your image, and make it really distracting for your prospect.
  3. Be well lit.  You need some kind of lighting directly facing you. Natural light from a window in front of you is great, but you can even use a desk lamp angled towards you as a good option. This is one of the top mistakes beginning video callers make. Not lighting yourself gives you shadows under your eyes, and poor coloring. Face some kind of light source for your video calls.
  4. Sit up straight.  And, have your computer, camera, tablet or phone at eye level in front of you. One of the weirdest visuals teenage recruits comment on is when a coach is slumped over their computer, staring down at the camera. It doesn’t look professional, Coach.
  5. Look at the camera, not at the screen.  You’ve been on a video call when someone is talking to the screen, right? It’s really disconcerting to the viewer.  As a serious recruiter, you’re not on the call to watch a show; you’re making this call to showcase yourself and your program to your recruit. Focus on how you are looking to them, not what they are doing in their camera. Even when they are talking to you, look at the camera…react to what they are saying…pretend you have a person in front of you and you are trying to maintain eye contact with them.  This is important, Coach. If you’re shifting your eyes down to watch the screen, you’re taking your eyes off of your recruit. And they notice.
  6. Use your hands and show off your personality.  Yes, you should sit up straight and look at the camera.  But you also don’t want to come across as stiff and uninteresting. So, “talk with your hands” a little bit.  Also, make sure you over-eggaerate your facial expressions and your tone of voice. It will sound a little odd to you, but it will come across as normal to your prospect. One of the rules of television that I still use today is to over-eggagerate a little bit. If you don’t, you will most likely appear too dull and non-energetic to your recruit who is watching you. Next time you watch any kind of TV host or newscaster, notice how they over-eggagerate their voice inflections and their facial expressions. There’s a reason for that coach – and it’s the same reason you should do the same thing when talking by video with your recruits.
  7. Have something to say.  That may seem like an obvious recommendation, but I’m making it because once you’re on a video call with a recruit, it’s like the pilot of a new TV show a network is trying out. If the viewer doesn’t like what they’re watching, don’t expect them to tune in for more in the weeks to come. Keep your message on point, ask a lot questions and let them do most of the talking, and end the call a little sooner than you might normally.  Leave them wanting more.

Video calls aren’t rocket science, but there are some rules to follow for appearing calm, confident and engaging on video. If you don’t follow those rules, you could wind up being called the worst sportscaster ever.

Or, even worse: You could ruin your chances to land the recruit you really need.

Your Recruiting Letters and Emails Must Do These 3 ThingsMonday, August 24th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When we work with an admissions department to adjust their recruiting strategies some of the advice we give goes against what their institution has been doing for years.

I’m used to hearing feedback like, “It doesn’t feel right,“ and “Jeremy, I haven’t heard of other schools doing it this way.”

Change is hard, but I think we can all agree it’s essential for growth and development. If your current recruiting methods aren’t producing the results you know they should be, now is the perfect time (early in the recruiting cycle) to modify your approach.

One of the topics I’m asked to speak on most often when I lead a workshop is communication flow. During those discussions I often pose this important question to the admissions staff – “What do you want a letter or email that you send to a prospective student to do?”

Here are the answers I hear most often:

  • “I want to know if the student is interested in us.”
  • “I want to tell them why we’re such a great school.”
  • “I want to tell them how much we like them.”

Those are all good answers. However, there’s an even better strategy that we’ve found over the years to be very effective.  For those admissions staffs that have signed on as clients, they see this strategy being used on a regular basis with great success.

The strategy is simple: When we create a message that will go to a prospective student, we want them to reply to that message,  leave some questions unanswered, and to have that communication to set up the next message. Let’s break down each of those strategies and why they’re vital to any effective recruiting campaign through the mail or e-mail:

  • Generate a response. The point of any letter or email that you send should not be to sell your school or convince a prospect to choose your school based on what’s written in one letter.  The focus of each of your written communications should be to generate a reply from your prospect.  Usually that will be in the form of an email or a phone call.  Why should getting a reply be your primary goal?  That’s easy.  You aren’t going to be able to effectively “sell” your college or university until a prospect feels like he or she can be comfortable interacting with you.
  • Leave some questions unanswered.  If your school is still trying to cram every single fact and statistic about, for example, housing into one letter or email, stop it! Your recruits tell us this is the wrong approach. They don’t want you to try to answer everything in one letter.  Instead, leave some details and answers out so that they have a reason to listen to you the next time.
  • Set up the next message.  One of the biggest findings that resulted from our research study on how today’s prospect makes their final decision was the importance of the prospect knowing what to do next in the process.  When you send a prospect a letter or email, make sure that you let them know what’s coming next.  In other words, a letter that goes out next week should set up an expectation that another message is following in the coming days.  Your recruit should be expecting the next step, not wondering when it will come.  The only way to do that is to very clearly spell out the steps that you’re taking in the process.

It’s imperative to establish this system as early in the recruiting process as possible.  As many of you begin written contact with this next class of recruits, I encourage you to make sure your letters and emails include these three important elements.

If you include them, and they are structured correctly, you’ll get results and responses that exceed your expectations.

Our team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can revise your current recruiting messages, develop a new plan and messaging, and assist you with your top prospects on an ongoing basis. If you’d like to learn more, the NEXT STEP is to email me at jeremy@dantudor.com

The Year Of Soulless Coaching, And How I StoppedMonday, August 24th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I leaned against the wall. It’d been a terrible season.

Nothing helped. Whatever I did made it worse.

It wasn’t them. Wasn’t the kids. It was me.

Been there?

Coaching is hard. Not all the time, but a lot of the time. This time it was wicked hard.

Yet as sucky as it was I learned something valuable: my coaching experience lacked soul (but I could fix it).

I was going through the motions. A ghost playing the role of a leader. There were three specific sins I made which eroded the soul of my coaching that season.

Sin #1: I Stole — The Wrong Stuff

Bottom line … coaches steal. Like all artists, our “art” is based on the work of others.

And like my fellow coaches I was stealing stuff, so that wasn’t the sin. The sin was I did not make the stuff my own. I was trying to coach like someone else.

I would read an article, hear a speech, watch a practice, and think, “Yeah, I’m gonna try that …” And would without adapting it to my group, and it wouldn’t work. Olympic level workouts seldom work for walk-on college freshmen — just in case you were wondering.

I was failing because it wasn’t my stuff. Wasn’t authentic. Wasn’t right.

Sin #2: I Lied

I lied that year, to the one person who should never be lied to — myself.

  • I told myself I was a better coach than I was
  • I told myself the fault was the athlete’s — it wasn’t, it was my fault
  • I told myself “Things will work themselves out”, and I knew they wouldn’t

There are instances when it’s okay to lie, especially if the truth is just too bitter of a pill to swallow. But self delusion, what I was doing, helps no one.

Sin #3: I Coveted That

My third sin, probably jealousy, was the worst one. I wanted what others had. The grass was greener, and I wanted me some of that.

Which proved to be a distraction, and a thief. My jealousy made me miss the good things that did happening with the team, and it stole my PMA (positive mental attitude).

Finding Soul

Things finally got better towards the end of the year. It happened when I did this — I wrote down ideas, lots of ideas.

James Altucher, who we’ve discussed before, promotes ideas. Mucho ideas. Your own ideas. He says ideas are powerful. Can be explosive. Helpful.

I agree.

I remember writing down idea after idea of what could fix what was wrong. No editing, just idea after idea. I wrote while driving, while eating, while showering, while sleeping. A small notebook quickly filled with lots of scribbles.

Most were worthless. Most — but not all. And several made a big difference.

Action You Can (and should) Take

Something to consider, whether you are having a good or bad season, is recording your ideas. Write them and edit later. Put down ten every day. The first 3-4 will be easy. Then it gets harder — but that’s where the soul is.

And construct a positive peer-group. A few select folks who can cheer you on, listen, and support can be worth their weight in platinum, gold or pistachios (pick your favorite precious metal)! So you know the positive peer-group was one of those ideas I wrote down back then. Try it yourself.

Now let me ask you, how’s the soul of your coaching? Remember, don’t lie.

Answering Your Prospect’s FearsMonday, August 17th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Last week I kicked off my 2015-16 campus workshop tour with a trip to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” (Aka Minnesota). Right now I’m currently leading a workshop for an admissions client in the Northeast. The next two weeks I’ll be visiting and working with colleges in the Great Plains.

Each of those trips involves a visit to my local airport (IND). That means I’ll be submitting to multiple security checks from the wonderful folks at the TSA. I’ve been patted, scanned and questioned. I’ve been scolded when I put more than one item in a bin before sliding it into the x-ray machine. During last week’s trip they asked if I remembered to remove my belt before entering the body scanner.

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.

Now let’s apply this to your prospects who in many cases have not one but multiple fears when it comes to the college search process.

If you’ve had us on your campus you know that the biggest fear this generation of students has is the fear of making the wrong decision. They’re scared to answer your phone call, scared of saying the wrong thing to you during said call, and scared to ask you for help solving their problems.

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.  Sounds crazy, right? That’s whom you’re recruiting. 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 strategies we see working well for schools around the country that are TCS clients.

  • 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. For example, if you’re focusing on selling last year’s ranking by publication ABC as a way of overcoming the fear that’s ingrained in the mind of your prospect, you’re going to struggle.  Instead, address the question of why they’re feeling scared about something – leaving home, visiting campus, or returning your phone call. That’s the secret. 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 be the one to lead that conversation!  It starts by asking them the question that most counselors don’t think to bring up – “What scares you the most about the idea of choosing a college?”
  • Tell them what you think they’re thinking.  Tell your prospective student 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.  Is it confusing and a little sad?  Yes.  Regardless, it’s what we find to be true, so use it to your advantage.

These three approaches are meant to merely be a starting point.

Just remember, fear is driving almost everything that your prospects do during the recruiting process. If you can help calm their fears (which is one of the biggest things your prospects really want you to do), you will win their trust.

Are your early recruiting letters and emails generating a high response rate from this next class of prospects? They need to be if you’re going to deliver on your prospects’ wants and needs. We can help. Call me directly at 612-386-0854 to learn more.

The Other Reality Of Your Coaching ExperienceMonday, August 17th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I’ve found that most coaches expect an experience at either end of this scale:

Those expectations are usually based on strong reasons such as:

  • All my best athletes have graduated/transferred/quit/moved
  • We have the best recruiting-class ever
  • These parents/my boss are out to get me, look how bad they act.
  • The other teams are terrible. We can’t lose.

You’ve probably whispered those or something similar. I have.

You might be correct.

But … what if you’re wrong?

What IF your reality is different than your expectations?

You expect to lose; but you won — are you prepared?

You expect troublesome parents; but they are warm and caring — are you ready?

You expect terrible refs; but, instead, they are the best refs you’ve ever had — what now?

Action You Can (and should) Take

Preparing for the experience you truly believe is possible (“With the right processes in place, this could be a good recruiting year.”) is smart.

Preparing for the exception to the rule, that outside chance, the one-in-a-million outcome, (“Amazing, I can’t believe she just committed to our school!!”) is what makes an exceptional coach.

But you have limited, time, energy, attention.

How do you prepare for the unexpected? Three simple suggestions:

Make the unexpected expected: create an atmosphere of flexibility, and reaction. More importantly, be proactive. Plan ahead.

Delegate (what you can): Remove as much as you can from your plate, so you will have extra brain-width for a time when you’ll need it.

Be ready in the moment: regardless of all the types of experiences you have prepared for, there will still be that unexpected experience lurking. Be in the moment and prepared to move fast, and breathe deeply when you need it most.

The unexpected experience makes coaching special, as long as you are expecting it.

Political Debates and Your Prospect’s VoteMonday, August 10th, 2015

As the 2015 Presidential primary season started heating up, one of the largest – and, to date, most watched – candidate debates took place.  It featured 16 men and women running for the Republican nomination.

And while I don’t want to parse the political messages that each candidate brought to the table, I do want to make this case to you today:

What each candidate was trying to do effectively is the same thing that each college coach is trying to do in winning the “vote” of his or her prospect.

Think about it…in this debate, you had sixteen different messages from sixteen different candidates who were desperate to make an impact with a potential voter, and with a limited time to get that voter’s attention so that he or she might be interested enough to take the next step with them.

Sound familiar, Coach?

There are lessons to be learned by savvy college recruiters from political campaigns. But instead of breaking down a candidate’s message and creating some kind of cheesy “who won and who lost” list based on their performance, I wanted to ask you some important questions.  Questions that you can ask yourself now as you develop your next recruiting campaign for your prospects, and questions to keep in mind the next time you hear political candidates making their pitch as to why they should receive your next vote:

What are you going to say in the first ten seconds you have your recruit’s attention that will make you stand out from the other fifteen coaches you’re competing against?

That’s the foundation of everything else you’ll build a message on. Have you defined it? As a client, we help you craft that message loud and clear. But if you’re crafting it on your own, ask yourself: “What am I telling my prospect that nobody else is?” If the answer is ‘nothing’, then it’s time to re-think your core initial message.

Is it about your message or about the feeling you’re creating?

I can make a case that modern politics is more about the art of the candidate making his or her voting block feel a certain way about them as a potential leader, rather than logically convincing them of the merits of their proposals.

I think I can also make an effective case that the art of recruiting could be defined that way, as well.

When you’re assessing politicians, don’t you want to feel good about the person you’re supporting? Likable candidates usually do pretty well.  So, in the message you’re creating for your recruiting campaign, how are you creating the right feeling about you, your program, your school and what you have to offer?

In a debate (and in recruiting), are you going to be the “attacker”, or the “safe alternative”?

Watch almost any debate and it’s clear that some candidates have a master plan to attack, attack, attack. They want to establish themselves as the lead dog in that political fight right from the start.

Others will make very obvious efforts to establish themselves as the “safe alternative”. They want to be the logical choice that a voter can feel good about once the “attacker” flames out or makes a mistake that puts their candidacy in trouble.

There are merits in both approaches.  The question I have for you is, “Have you defined which strategy you are embracing?” Because not having a pre-defined strategy and a clear plan on how to execute it could leave potential voters looking at you as a wishy-washy, undefined option that lacks passion and excitement.  And, you certainly won’t be talked about much afterwards.

Voters like to break down candidates into “winners” and “losers”. Your prospects, and their parents, are the same way.

If you Google a winners for this particular debate you’ll find no less than 2.3 million results. We like to score campaigns, debates and individual candidates into two tidy little categories that help us keep things organized.

So do your recruits.

They begin to define you, according to our research, within the first 5-7 minutes of contact with you (that includes your letters, email and direct messaging efforts). So, why are they probably classifying you as a “winner” when it comes to your message? What are the potential ways they might define you as a “loser”?  Make sure you know how to answer that question, Coach.

So as you build out a revised recruiting message, Coach, make sure you follow the political lessons offered during election cycles.

Your goal is incredibly similar to a politician’s goal: Tell an engaging story that gets us to believe that “voting” for you and your program is the smart thing to do.


Want an excellent way to learn the finer points of advanced recruiting techniques? Enroll in Tudor University, our online certification and training program for college coaches. Our annual registration passes are an affordable investment in your college coaching career, and will teach you the communication, marketing and sales skills necessary to be a successful recruiter. Click here to learn more.


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