Dan Tudor

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July 23rd, 2012

7 Essential Elements for Your Recruiting “Story”

I use the word “story” because at the heart of any good recruiting effort is the need to effectively engage your prospect through your ongoing communication, and get him or her to buy-in to your program’s story.

Storytelling is an art, whether you are by a campfire or in front of a prospect – and as a college coach, you need to be a serious student with a goal of becoming a master storyteller.

A story is not a lie.  It’s not a tale.  It’s a chapter by chapter explanation of who you are, what you want them to do at your school, and why they should want to be a part of it all.  That’s the foundation of a great story.  And as we spend more and more time on campuses and working with college coaching staffs on an up-close and personal basis, we are constantly reminded that good stories told by smart coaches are usually going to be the difference makers between a coach who wins a top recruit, and the coach who finishes second.

  • The letters and emails that you write…that’s part of your story.
  • The phone calls that you make…that’s part of your story.
  • What is said about your school or you online…that’s part of your story.
  • When a prospect comes to visit your campus…that’s a part of your story.

You can’t overlook one area of your overall story or presentation and expect success.  Especially when it comes to the top athletes you really, really want for your program.

So in looking at programs we work with, and see what they did right this past year on a consistent basis, here’s my list of the seven things YOU need in your recruiting presentation if you’re looking for an increased degree of success with your next recruiting class:

  1. Develop a belief in your school and your program. It pains me when I hear a coach tell me privately that he or she doesn’t think their school can compete with others in their conference.  What you absolutely need as a part of your overall recruiting presentation is a heart-felt belief that your school, your program – and you as a coach – are the best option for your recruit.  Assume that you are going to sign the athlete when you first start talking to them.  Today’s prospects want to compete for coaches who are confident (not cocky, confident).  If you don’t display passion about you and your program, don’t expect them to be passionate about the idea of coming to compete for you.
  2. Focus on helping your recruit – and their parents – reach their objectives. Not a focus on selling your school right away.  Not bragging about your program’s conference championship two years ago.  Not showing off your new building.  Instead, help connect the dots and show them how you (and your school, and your program, and maybe even the new building) will help them reach their athletic and academic objectives.  An easy way to make sure you’re doing this is by taking a look at each facet of your recruiting process and explain how whatever you do helps your recruit reach their objective.  “But Dan, what if I don’t know what their objective in college is?”  Ask.  It should be one of the first questions you’re asking as you start your initial phone and email contacts with a new recruiting class.
  3. Tell them you have some ideas on how to help them. Do you know how original you’d be if you would just come to them with tangible ideas for them instead of bullet-pointed athletic department brochures?  Kids will always stay engaged if you give yourself away and get them to connect with you through ideas about them.  Not you, them.  Develop a list of ideas about how you can develop their skills, help them reach their goals, and what your plan for them is on your team if they decide to choose you.
  4. Try to ask one amazing question at the beginning of each new type of contact. One for your first letter, your first email, your first phone call, and when you first meet.  I’m talking about a question that makes them stop and really think about the answer before they give it to you.  Whenever you ask a question they haven’t been presented with before, that’s a sign of a great presentation – and a sure sign that they’ll stay engaged for the rest of your story (for a free list of some of the past articles we’ve developed on the right questions to ask, click here).
  5. Don’t “need” the recruit. Prospects and their parents have become increasingly adept at sniffing out desparation, and it’s not something that they view favorably.  If you find yourself “pressing” for prospects – especially at the end of your recruiting cycle – then you need more prospects.  We have a client who is heading into these upcoming months with nine prospects that are “A” rated recruits.  They only need to sign two this year.  Two years ago, their list was 1/3 the size it is now.  Do like they did and assess your needs and make adjustments in the numbers so that you aren’t begging at the end.  And even if you are a little desperate as you’re reading this article, don’t let your prospect get the feeling that you’re in that position.  Trust me, it’s not a good look on you, Coach.
  6. Ask for the sale. If you’ve taken part in one of our in-depth On-Campus Workshops for your athletic department, you know this is a familiar mantra we preach to college recruiters.  You’re recruiting them for a reason: You want them to play for you.  So, once you know in your heart that they’d be perfect for you – and you’re ready to hear a “yes” from them and follow-up with all the commitments that come along with possibly hearing that answer – ask them to commit.  Even if they say “no, not yet,” they’ll remember you as a coach that is passionate about them and that wants them for their team.  You might even be surprised when you get that immediate “yes!” from a prospect you really want….if you consistently ask.
  7. Be 100% focused 100% of the time. Are you smiling and confident?  Your prospect is watching. Are you and your staff wearing school polo shirts?  Your prospect is watching. Are you prepared for their visit and engaged with them individually, or are you thinking about what went wrong at practice yesterday?  Your prospect is watching. They are judging you as much as they are judging your school and your program.  Every part of your interaction with them matters, Coach.  Pay attention to the details and stay focused, because that non-verbal part of your story is just as important as the words you use in communicating with a prospect.

Now that you have my list, here’s a quick mental homework assignment I’d love for you to invest the next five minutes in doing: What three or four things can you do right away to improve your overall recruiting presentation?  Write down those changes on a card or piece of paper, and put it up on your wall in your office.  Don’t take it down until you’ve followed your own advice and made those changes to your presentation.

Those seven guiding principles can help you form the basis for a really effective recruiting story, which will help you make a big impact on this next recruiting class you’re starting to contact.