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Are You Giving Them Enough Context?Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

I’m asking because context plays an important role in the student recruitment process. And, too often admissions professionals, namely counselors, don’t give prospective students enough of it when telling their school’s story.

Here’s what I mean:

You start a conversation with a prospect, and you say something like, “We have professors that care and a welcoming community that will quickly feel like home.” You also talk about class sizes and the fact that a high percentage of your recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months or a year of graduating. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

But if you dig deeper, context is missing. Without it, you’re going to sound a lot like every other school that you’re competing against.

When I lead a staff training workshop I explain that prospective students often need the WHY behind what a counselor, coach, faculty, or another staff member is telling them or asking them to do. When you provide the “why,” you educate, motivate, and empower. And when the student feels like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit, they’re more likely to take action.

I would also add that sometimes you will need to tell your prospect what they should think about a certain topic, fact, or something you might show them during their visit to campus. If you don’t supply that context you’re opening the door for someone else to define parts of your school’s story…will it be accurate?

Context also does the following:

  • It gives them a reason to listen to you.
  • It accelerates their understanding of your school and why it might be a good fit for them.
  • If done regularly, it helps to personalize the recruitment process.

So, as you create your story for this next class of students, consider implementing these three strategies that have worked well for our clients:

Start any big conversation with an explanation. For example, “Here’s why I want to talk to you now about financial aid and paying for college…” Doing so sets up a reason that they should listen to what you’re about to say. And when you give them that explanation, make it about them as much as possible.

Or, end a big conversation with definition. After you show your prospect something, or talk to them (or their parents) about a topic that’s important, define it for them by saying something simple like, “Here’s why all of this should matter to you…” Tell them why what you just talked about is important, and how they should define what they just heard you say, or what you’ve just shown them.

Anticipate and address potential negatives from your competitors. If you know that other colleges consistently point out a negative about some aspect of your school (ex. location, size, outdated buildings), warn your prospect ahead of time. Give them context about what they’re likely to hear, and do it in a way that combats and eliminates their intentions. For example, if you know that a direct competitor is likely to mention your school’s outdated buildings and facilities, give your prospect context. Not about the buildings and facilities, but about your competitor’s intentions. You could say something like, “So now that you’ve seen campus, let me warn you about something that might happen. There are some schools out there who are going to tell you that our buildings and facilities won’t allow you to excel here as a student. That’s just not true, and here’s why that should be a huge red flag for you…”

Remember, it’s up to you to define what your prospects should think about something and why that something should be important to them. And in some cases, you’ll also need to explain how that something is different at your school.

Context is one of the hidden secrets of effective recruiting. Do it correctly, and you’ll not only notice an immediate difference in the conversations you have, but it will also allow you to move a student/family through the recruitment process more efficiently.

Have a great day!

P.S. I’ll be speaking at NJACAC in Atlantic City, NJ next Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be there, be sure and say hello.

P.P.S. And next Thursday and Friday I’ll be in Spokane, WA speaking at PNACAC. My session which is titled, “The value of phone calls in student recruitment” will be presented on Thursday at 2:15pm in Room 201.

How Decluttering My Office Increased My Focus and ProductivityMonday, May 14th, 2018

by Mandy Green, Busy Coach

A few years ago at the school I was working at, our new basketball arena just opened up so we had a massive reorganization of offices. 

Being the proactive planner that I am, I made sure to plan in advance and I started the packing process about 3 weeks before I was actually going to be allowed to move because I didn’t want to have to be stressed doing it last minute right before our preseason started.

As I was packing up my old office to get ready to move into my new one, I took the time to go through everything piece by piece, little by little every day.  I had been in that office for almost 7 years so I had accumulated a lot of stuff.  Needless to say, I threw out a lot of things that I didn’t need anymore, or scanned and filed electronically some of the paper files that I had. 

As a result of cleaning up my office for my move, I found that I could think better and focus more than when I was surrounded by clutter.  It was a pleasant surprise to see how liberating it felt to have an open desk and half full desk drawers that are not jammed full of files and old soccer equipment that I didn’t need.

So I did a little research on the affect that clutter has on workplace productivity.     

Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published the results of a study they conducted in the January issue of The Journal of Neuroscience that relates directly to uncluttered and organized living. From their report “Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex”:

When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.

No matter what article or study I read, they all seem to say that when you sit down at the beginning of the day at a clean, neat, and tidy office and desk, your mind will move straight to work; when you sit a messy desk and office, you’ll find it difficult to focus at all.  Every piece of clutter-from desktop documents to stacks of books and magazines-has a negative effect on your productivity.

“Clutter overloads your senses, just like multitasking overloads your brain.”

For most coaches at this time of year as you are wrapping up the spring, reorganizing your whole office is not in the cards.  I suggest to just commit to doing something small every day.  Start by picking a single drawer.  Clean up and clear out every drawer, closet, cabinet, and trunk that doesn’t give me a sense of calm and peace when you see it.

I have found for me that getting physically and mentally organized has allowed me to focus at a level I would have never believed possible. What I love most about it, is that it has left my energy to go nowhere to go except to what matters.

Start Now
Whether you are responsible for creating your own information management system or if those higher up are in charge, it’s still up to you to take action and make it happen. Here are some steps:

  • Set aside time weekly to manage and organize information. Adhere to that commitment like an appointment and you will stay ahead of the game.
  • Always organize your desk at the end of the day, so at least 80 percent of the desktop is visible. This will make going to work each morning a joy because desk stress and mental overload will decrease while your productivity increases.
  • Eliminate anything on top of your desk that is not used often. Put everything else into drawers, cubicles or containers that are easily accessible. Your efficiency will double and your fatigue will decrease.

What to Ask After You Lose Your Next RecruitMonday, May 14th, 2018

You’re going to lose prospects. All the time.

Read most of our advice, listen to our podcast, do a great job of following a recruit, make friends with his parents, knock it out of the park on his campus visit…you’ll still lose more than you win.

The important thing to do is what most college coaches don’t do:

Ask the prospect you just lost why you just lost them.

Of course, coaches try to do that once in a while. But as many are finding, they most often get a series of wishy-washy, vanilla, ‘saying something without really saying something’ answers from their prospect that doesn’t give them workable information to use in the future with their next recruit.

And that’s the problem. Bad information is actually worse than no information, in this instance. Why? Because we’ve seen coaches make adjustments to their approach based on the false feedback they get from recruits, the same recruits who just want to end the relationship with a coach without getting yelled at, criticized, or made to feel guilty.

How do you know if you’re getting bland, unusable feedback? It sounds a lot like this:

“It just felt better at the other school.”

“My mom just really wanted me to stay closer to home, so I decided to play for the other program.”

“Their facilities were just nicer than anyone else’s I saw.”

There’s not much coaches can do with that information, truthfully. And your recruits know it (which is why they tell that to you). It gets them off the hook painlessly, and lets them move on.

They get closure, you don’t.

What I’d like to suggest is a better, more probing series of questions that will not only get you better, more truthful feedback, but also give you a shot at saving the relationship – and maybe, just maybe, change their mind.

Here are some questions we have seen work with coaches who try them with recruits they end up losing:

    • If you would have ended up choosing us, what would you be telling other coaches the reasons were? “What if” scenarios are a great way to get the truth out of your recruits after it’s all said and done.
    • What was one thing you immediately loved about their campus compared to ours when you visited? Spoiler alert: It’s likely to be something they’ve already told you was not a major factor in their final decision as they were looking at your school and your competitor’s. Turns out, it often time is a major factor.
    • What were two or three things your parents told you about each of your final choices as you were trying to decide? It’s a great question to ask if you’re wondering what was going on behind the scenes. It’ll also give you good ideas for how to connect with parents the next time around, and focus on the topics that are truly important to them.
    • What was the number one thing they liked most about the program you chose? It may be completely different than the answers to the previous question. That’s why it’s a good follow-up question to ask.
    • When did you know in your heart that we probably weren’t going to be your first choice? Play it cool and try not to lash out when they tell you it was several months ago, even though they told you last week that you were ‘still in my Top Five’.
    • Give me the non-sports reason you ended up choosing the other school. Their answer is going to be incredibly valuable, because you can use that answer to figure out what you should be focusing on in your messaging and campus visit with your next round of recruits. It’s never all about their sport; they’re looking at multiple factors, most of the time, when it comes to their final decision.
    • If you ended up changing your mind about the school/program you just chose, whether that was next week or next year, would you see us as a program you’d contact to see if we still had a place for you? This question is your opportunity to express how much you liked getting to know them, and that you still want them. Tell them that’s not going to change. Get a read on whether or not they would feel the same way down the road.

The finishing touch to the conversation? You take a minute of your busy day to pull out a notecard, tell them congratulations on their great decision, and how they’re going to have a great career, and let them know if they ever change their mind, to make you their first phone call.

Your job as a recruiter doesn’t end with their answer. If you get a no, there’s incredibly valuable intel that you can get to make you a more effective recruiter the next time around.

Don’t pass up that opportunity.

Making These Changes Next Recruiting CycleTuesday, May 8th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

In my Inbox among a bunch of “can you help me” emails and workshop contest entries last week was a note from a Senior Admissions Counselor. I led a workshop for the university he worked at a couple of years ago…he’s since moved on to another school.

Emails like his are the reason I put so much time and energy into this weekly newsletter. Hearing from admission professionals who have successfully executed strategies I recommended means the world to me.

This article I wrote about three words to avoid, and this article about questions to ask undecided students really helped this counselor “explode in terms of contacts and deposits.” In fact, his numbers and yield rates this year are the strongest in his office.

I’m sharing this story with you because it’s further proof that making small changes to the way you communicate with prospective students can net you a big ROI…and a lot less stress in the weeks leading up to May 1.

So, as you begin to shift your attention this spring/summer to the next class of prospective students, here are ten additional ideas (small changes) that I encourage you to consider implementing, either individually or throughout your entire admissions office.

  1. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Instead of sending random pieces from the Director of Admissions, the admissions counselor, a current student, faculty, etc., establish a point person right now so that prospective students know who they can turn to for help and advice during their college search. That person, whom I recommend is the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family. That doesn’t mean you can’t send additional ad hoc pieces from other people on campus. When you do that, though, have the established “go-to person” set it up first. Our data continues to show that schools who take this approach and stay consistent, yield more students.
  2. Use keywords/phrases in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much this generation of students wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Say things like, “I appreciate you,” “You’re important to us,” or “I believe in you.” Phrases like those contain powerful words that your prospects will respond to. Word choice also matters, and I would encourage you to use more verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive. Verbs give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of answering the “why.” Lastly, make it a priority to ask them about their biggest fear(s) and how they “feel” about certain things. Doing so will yield important information, build trust, and encourage open discussion.
  3. Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospects, most of whom are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you. As one student said in a survey we conducted, “Be more friendly and use English that everybody speaks every day.”
  4. Establish a timeline with each student/family early on. As I explain when I lead a staff training workshop, establishing a timeline that your prospect or their parents have set in their mind for making that final decision is critical for you to effectively manage the entire recruiting process (and all those names that a counselor has in their territory). It also gives your prospects a checklist to follow from the beginning, which will alleviate some of the stress they’re feeling during the early stages of their college search.
  5. Keep your notes up to date in the CRM. Straightforward and simple. Make it a priority, especially during fall travel season. It will benefit you and everyone else in your office.
  6. Start a conversation about paying for college/financial aid long before you send out your award letter/package. That means now for your soon-to-be seniors. And remember, that initial conversation should be with the parent(s) and/or the parent(s) and their child together…not with just the student.
  7. Explain how your school is different and why your school is better early on. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this point is. If you don’t do it early on, you can expect most students to slip in to “analysis paralysis.” So, instead of just saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care. And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then provide context that allows your prospect to connect the dots and understand why that kind of atmosphere is important and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.
  8. Phone calls are important and valuable. Get used to making a lot of them. This is something I’ve been hammering home over the past year. Despite how digital and social this current generation of students has become, phone calls still need to be a core piece of your recruiting communications plan. They’re not going away anytime soon, and the majority of high school juniors who are on your radar right now value them when they’re done correctly (i.e. the way students want). If you still don’t believe me and need more proof, click this link and read some or all of these articles about phone calls that I’ve written. And as a leader, if you’re not evaluating the phone calls that are made by counselors, student workers, etc., I would strongly urge you to start doing so.
  9. Explain the WHY more often. Not enough attention is given to context and why it’s beneficial for the other person. Throughout the college search process colleges ask students and parents to take action on a multitude of things. They want to understand the WHY or the “because.” Why should they visit your campus? Why should they apply right now? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the FAFSA now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should the student answer the phone when you call? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is and how it will benefit them or make their life easier.
  10. Repeat just about everything you’re telling prospective students to their parents. Ignoring the parents and not involving them deeply in the conversation from the beginning will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with their son or daughter, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them. Always make it clear to the parents just how much you value their input and assistance.

If you want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these ideas, you don’t have to bring me to your campus for us to do that. All you have to do is reply back to this email and start a conversation with me. I’m here to listen and help if you’re willing to take the time to reach out and ask for it.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Go Home, Coach!Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

by Mandy Green, Busy Coach

I work with a lot of coaches on managing their time better in the office.   When I am on campus working with a coach, it is fun to see their eyes light up as we set recruiting, team, administrative, and personal goals and then come up with a plan on how accomplishing these goals to make it reality.  Never fails, we always hit a snag when I mention the “D” word. 

That word that seems to hang up a lot of coaches is delegation. 

“If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” This seems to be the favorite saying of a lot of the coaches that I am working with. To me, it says a great deal about their willingness to delegate. These coaches work non-stop morning to night, and still do (although they are getting better), because they somehow can’t embrace the notion that it’s possible to get things done any other way.

Beneath the many excuses for not delegating lays the reason why many of us coaches avoid delegating things:  True delegation means giving up a little of what we would like to hold onto (some measure of control) while keeping what we might prefer to give up (accountability).

Delegation is an area of personal and professional management that many coaches struggle with. The difficulty stems from our need to control outcomes and a strongly rooted belief that we know how to do things best.

It’s often a scary prospect even to think about letting someone else take over a task or duty we’ve been doing for a while:

What if they don’t do it correctly?
What if the outcome is not up to my standards?
What if they don’t do it the way I’ve been doing it?
What if I become less essential to my program?
What if, (gasp), they do it better than me?

Think about it coach. By nature we love to keep control. We also fear the repercussions when our support staff fails to complete something correctly or in a timely manner. The failure might reflect badly on us so we take the path of least resistance. Rather than working on improving our delegation skills to the other coaches we work with, sometimes we simply keep hold of more tasks. That way we can make sure things are done completely the way we want them done. Being overworked somehow seems less risky than having things done that might not meet our exact requirements.

Delegation means taking true responsibility and inevitably means giving up some control. If that sounds a bit scary, how can you overcome your mindset and become a better delegator? Here are some tips:

Realize that you just can’t do it all. Everyone has limits. If you fail to acknowledge yours, you will burn out. Maybe not tomorrow and maybe not even next year, but the stress and pressure of trying to do it all will get you eventually.

Start small. Delegation is a skill and learning it needs patience, persistence, and practice. Start by giving away small, uncomplicated tasks. As your confidence grows so will your willingness to delegate more.

Realize that “Your Way” is not always the “Only Way.” A big part of letting go is the fear that the task will not be done “right.” Consider that there are other ways to achieve the same result.

Work on giving others the tools to do what you do. Delegation will only work if you help your support staff succeed. So make sure he or she has the right resources and then keep communicating, participating and supporting your staff. Remember, delegation means NOT abdicating your responsibility, so you need to make sure you have done everything you can to influence a successful outcome.

Appreciate others’ accomplishments. You might be bored with organizing on-campus visits, but if one of your coaches has never done it, the challenge can be exciting, invigorating, and motivating. The successful outcome is not just a well-organized visit. It’s the opportunity for someone else to shine and get recognized for their achievements.

Seize the opportunity to work on more stimulating projects. The less time you spend on lower level tasks, the more time you have to concentrate on your main objectives. (You know the ones, the really important issues that keep getting shoved to the bottom of the pile because you’re so overloaded…)

Use the leverage. Delegation can put the right people on the right tasks. And the better allocated your coaches and staff are, the greater the productivity, effectiveness and the opportunity for organizational growth.

Delegation, when done well, benefits everyone. You have more time to concentrate on the main responsibilities of your position. Your support staff will have more opportunities to expand and enrich their jobs. An added bonus is the fact that because delegation relieves your own time pressures, the job gets done better in the long run.

So, cast off your preconceptions about delegation! You were doing a good job before: You can do even better when you delegate more. With a fresh perspective and little courage to “let go”, you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve!

To have Mandy Green help you and your program one-on-one, contact her at mandy@dantudor.com. She is the national expert on coaching organization, and has helped hundreds of college coaches become more efficient, better organized leaders of their program.

Making Early Recruiting Work for You and Your ProgramTuesday, May 1st, 2018

Little by little, over the years, college coaches at all levels have been learning how to incorporate earlier recruiting into their everyday approach.

Not necessarily because they wanted to, but because they had to.

But now, whether you want to face it or not, learning early recruiting strategies are a must. New NCAA legislation continues to redefine what early recruiting means. Those same rules also set up new opportunities for your program to take advantage of, as well as new potential hazards to avoid. Whether your a Division I head coach, or you’re a part of a smaller college program, these emerging rules are going to alter the way you approach recruiting.

How the New Rules Will Redefine Your Recruiting

Quite simply, the emerging early recruiting rules change everything. Most traditional recruiting models will be undergoing radical shifts that has the potential to alter the course of programs around the country. Some of the primary ways I see that happening include:

  • Drastically shortening the time some coaches will have to recruit a prospective student-athlete. September 1st of an athlete’s Junior year in high school is going to be when the starter’s gun sounds, and the mad dash for the best athletes begin. In short, there’s a likelihood that the process that casually started with unofficial visits and parent-lead research and contact with programs and their coaches is now becoming more formalized, with stricter timelines as to how and when that contact can happen.
  • Bigger brand programs will probably have an advantage in this new recruiting landscape. Why? Because if no contact is happening until September 1st of the athlete’s Junior year, more programs will be fighting for the attention of that prospect at the same time. In the majority of cases, athletes will be more geared to look for, and respond to, contact from their “dream” schools, which usually include BCS programs or elite academic institutions at the Division I level.
  • Coaches will probably see their counterparts offering a prospect their scholarship package right away as an incentive to talk to them first (or at all), which means many coaches will feel compelled to match that offer – in some cases, sooner than they would like because they will not have been able to personally get to know the prospect and his or her parents during the unofficial recruiting visit process prior to their Junior year in high school.
  • Speaking of unofficial visits: They’ll continue to happen, but with far less frequency than before. If I can’t visit the coach and team of a sports program our family is interested in, I’m going to wait to see who is going to offer official visits on September 1st of my Junior year. If you aren’t offering me an official visit during my Junior year, will I assume you aren’t as interested in me as a coach compared to other programs who have invited me to campus? I think it’s likely, understanding the psyche and emotions of a student-athlete and parents the way we do.
  • The official visits you do get: There’s no longer room for error. Because we’ll be seeing a condensed time frame unfold quickly, and pressure from other competing coaches to make decisions sooner in the new process versus later, your campus visit has to be freaking awesome. Your ability to create a unique, athlete-lead experience is going to be the separator in more and more recruiting scenarios going forward.
  • Learning how to effectively recruit an athlete after he or she verbally commits will also become a priority. If the previous points hold true, and the process becomes more truncated, athletes are going to be more apt to second-guess their initial decision. Coaches will need to continue to recruiting those athletes that verbally committed to their programs, or risk losing them to programs that continue to reach out and contact them through the process.

New Hurdles – and Opportunities – for Division II, Division III and NAIA Programs

You aren’t a Division I school. You can’t offer full athletic scholarships, or you don’t offer athletic scholarships at all. Or, you’re a NAIA program that has never had to follow NCAA guidelines for contacting prospects. All of these situations can develop into significant hurdles, or significant opportunities, depending on how you and your program develop a strategy for them.

  • Division II programs, who may have had a chance to gain the attention of an athlete earlier in the unofficial visit process simply by showing a good prospect attention before their Division I counterparts decided to, may now find themselves waiting for their prospects to assess the Division I attention they expect to get as the new process gets started. If your approach to a new recruit copies a traditional message, I think it will be hard to get them to pay attention to you right away. Not in all cases, of course, but in many.
  • Division II programs will also have the chance to talk to prospects two months before a student-athlete will be able to hear from a Division I coach. What will you be talking about with them? How will it have the potential to keep you in the game once they do hear from a Division I coach? How are you going to stand out and be memorable when they compare you to your competition?
  • Division III and NAIA programs will have the opportunity to do the most the earliest with prospects. Coaches can contact prospects before their Junior year, which will give them a unique opportunity to define themselves sooner to their prospect, and over a longer period of time, compared to their Division I and II counterparts. For coaches that choose to take advantage of that additional time, it means developing a longer recruiting story.

What Doesn’t Change with the New Early Recruiting Rules

The athletes, and parents, who want to secure the best opportunity as early as possible. No legislation is going to quell the feelings of competitive, goal-driven prospects and the mom’s and dad’s who are whispering in their ear along the way in the process. The club, travel and private coaches who have influence over who an athlete considers will remain.

For you as a college coach, the central question in this emerging early recruiting reality becomes this:

How will you take the feelings of your prospects and parents into account? What will your approach be to match their wants with your process? Or, are you going to hope their drive and desire changes to match a new set of rules that have been adopted?

The new recruiting rules require you, more than ever before, to sit down with your staff, develop a timeline for making decisions on athletes sooner in the process, and be prepared to act quickly and decisively with the recruiting you really want.

In many ways, the newly adopted early recruiting rules have the potential to systemize a chaotic process and help coaches find recruiting sanity with a back-loaded timeline. What will make it work successfully for each coach is how (or if) that coach formats their strategy differently to account for the unique opportunities – and potential pitfalls – in this way of recruiting student-athletes.

Need help developing that strategy, and building an effective story that matches the new timeline for how early recruiting will take place? We work with programs and coaches around the country to develop that approach. If you’re interested in learning more about how we could work one-on-one with you, read about how to become a client, or email Dan Tudor at dan@dantudor.com.

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