Dan Tudor

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August 31st, 2012

Are You Understanding What Your Prospects Are Thinking?

Let me start with telling you something you probably (hopefully) already know:

Your prospects think differently than you do. I point this out because a surprising number of coaches that I talk to don’t realize it, and it’s killing their chances at being effective recruiters.

As a college coach, you get really concerned with your facility, your field, your court, and other “stuff” as you build-out your recruiting story for your prospects.  It needs to be bigger, better, and more modern to get the best athletes, right?  And, you need more money, too.  Otherwise, you can’t get the best recruits to come to your campus.

Wrong. In the majority of cases, that kind of thinking is flat-out wrong.

I can tell you that with 100% certainty because we’ve had the chance to personally interview hundreds and hundreds of your student-athletes over the years.  They’ve told us how they make their final decision, and what matters most to them.  And in the end, if you look at the data, it’s obvious that your prospects have different priorities than you do.  They value things differently than you do.  They think differently than you do.

Here are some of the most common examples:

  • They think how you treat them and communicate with them is more important than what your weight room looks like. Personal relationships rank higher than the stuff you have on your campus, time after time.
  • They think the way your team treats them during their campus visit will tell them if your campus makes them feel wanted. If your team doesn’t make them feel welcome, the prospect will almost NEVER sign with your school.  You can take that to the bank, Coach.
  • They think their parents are very important to the decision making process. This generation have given their parents the power to act as manager and agent.  If you aren’t recruiting the parents at the same time you recruit the athlete, you are making it harder on yourself than you may realize.
  • They think that you talk too much during your phone calls. Nothing personal, Coach, but if you’re doing most of the talking during a half-hour phone call with a prospect, you aren’t doing anything to help you in signing that prospect.  More time talking does not equal more interest from the prospect.
  • They think your letters and emails that promote your school are too bland, and too much about you. Most coaches start selling their school and their program (and themselves) way too soon in the process, without establishing a relationship first.
  • They think it’s great when you talk to them consistently. Don’t spill everything out at once.  Use a slow drip method to communicate.  A little bit at a time, time after time after time.  And like I just mentioned, make it more about getting to know them rather than selling yourself right away.
  • They think its GREAT when you write them personal, hand-written letters and post cards.
    They’ll read every word of a hand-written note you send to them.  They understand that hand-written notes take more of your time, which they think means you put a higher value on them than other recruits.
  • They think you give them too much to do during a campus visit. Cut out some of the meetings with department heads (if you were 17, would you really want to meet a department head?).  Cut out the non-stop meetings that rush them from place to place.  They think it would be great if you would slow down the pace of the visit and let them spend more time getting to know you and your team in a relaxed setting.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Sure.  But I’ll guarantee you that more of the majority of the prospects you are recruiting, this is what they are thinking.

So now that you know what they’re thinking, let me throw out the big question: How does it change the way you will communicate with them and recruit them?

Here are some quick tips:

  • Simplify your communication with them.  Be more direct and to the point.  That’s what they want.
  • Along with simplifying your communication, develop a plan to communicate consistently and effectively.
  • Make it personal and focused on them.  Make it less about you and your school, especially as you begin to communicate with them.
  • Overhaul your campus visit.  Make it shorter and more relaxed.  Give them more time with your team, less time with Professor Schnizlehoeffer in the English department or the grumpy lady in admissions with the 45-minute PowerPoint presentation.

Now’s the time to start matching your communication with what your prospects are thinking, Coach.  Once you do, recruiting is going to get a lot easier.