Dan Tudor

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What to Do When Your Long-Distance Recruit Won’t Visit CampusMonday, January 6th, 2014

I’ve been hearing this question a lot…most recently from an assistant soccer coach on the East coast.

“A lot of recruits expect that when they are invited to visit, that it’s automatically an “official visit”, said the coach.  ”Plus, some of the recruits just can’t afford the travel expenses.”

The coach added, “I have had a lot of recruits from the West coast contact me recently.  I watch there video, invite them to visit, and then as soon as I address that it’s an unofficial visit, I typically do not hear back from them – and if I do they say, ‘I’ll try to figure out a way to come and visit’.”

Sound familiar, Coach?

Whether you’re a Division I powerhouse, or a small college just trying to build a decent program through recruiting, getting a high-value prospect to visit campus on their own dime is essential to long term recruiting success.  And while there are no “universal” tricks that work with every single one of your recruits, there are several recommended strategies we’d want you to consider (and a few questions you might need to ask yourself as you make efforts to get recruits to visit campus:

  1. First and foremost, have you given them a reason to come to campus?  Other than you being interested, and having a campus for them to come spend the day at, of course.  Because with this generation of prospects, there had better be more of a reason.  We’re finding that they need to understand their role in the program, why you want them, and more…essentially, they want to be able to justify why they should spend their time and money on your campus instead of one close, less expensive, or that’s offering to pay for travel expenses.
  2. Have you laid the groundwork for the visit?  From the scenarios we’ve tracked involving clients who we are helping to deal with this situation, asking for a visit to soon in the process is something that isn’t recommended.  It seems unnatural to the process: You saw them at a game or found them online, got in touch with them, and ask them to visit in that same first conversation.  In any other life circumstance, that would probably be grounds for contacting the police.  Be patient, let the recruiting relationship build over time, and then ask – usually, after solid phone conversations or lengthy text messaging is normal.
  3. Here are the reasons they’ll seriously consider visiting your campus at their expense:  You’ve outlined a specific plan for them if they were to compete for your program, you’ve made it clear why you like them and what role they’ll play once they join your team, or you’ve laid out a promise that something significant will be happening or will be discussed while they are on campus.  Are you building out a story for your recruit behind each one of those key reasons?  If not, you should.
  4. Ask them, “What else would you need to see answered before you feel like it would be worth it to visit campus?”  Ask it EXACTLY the way we’ve outlined.  Why?  Because 1) there is obviously something they need answered, and they aren’t going to tell you what it is until you ask, and 2) acknowledge that you realize they aren’t seeing the value in visiting campus, and you’re o.k. with that right now.  Develop a list of what you need to talk about with your recruit as you patiently build-out your recruiting message plan for them.
  5. Be creative and don’t wait for them to come to campus.  Bring your campus to them.  Technology is cheap and plentiful. Are you using it?  Here’s a great example of how a Division III coach uses his iPad to conduct long-distance campus visits.  Click here.
  6. Set a fair deadline for taking this needed action.  If the unofficial visit is the necessary next step for you, and you’re not going to feel comfortable without them taking that trip to campus, then you need to set a fair but firm deadline for coming to campus (assuming all of the above rules are being followed).  If they still refuse, it’s time to move on.  There will be some recruits that just can’t – or won’t – take that first step and keep the recruiting process moving forward by committing to an unofficial visit.

If you’re interested in our past articles on the topic of campus visits, click here.

This is a vital part of the recruiting process, but you have the primary responsibility as their potential future coach to guide them through the process logically, patiently and effectively.  Hopefully, these ideas we’ve seen work will help you make that happen with your next long-distance recruit.

Making Sure Your Team Isn’t Licking the Taco ShellsTuesday, September 10th, 2013

A national restaurant power like Taco Bell employs smart, well-educated people to craft a branding message that results in increased business and loyalty to their menu and story.  Literally tens of millions of dollars of carefully crafted advertising is dedicated to telling this story every year, in just the right way and with just the right balance of entertainment and information.

And then a minimum wage employee licks the tacos shells. Or, across the street at Dominos, they’re doing horrible things to your pizza.

All of that marketing expertise, all of the money, and all of the carefully crafted marketing messages…they’re down the drain.  All because of a kid and his friends killing time with a cell phone camera.

In the same way that fast food restaurants try to clamp down on their minimum wage employees so that they don’t ruin the marketing strategy and brand name of the corporations they work for, colleges and coaches tend to try to clamp down on their student-athletes.  Many athletic departments view them as liabilities waiting to happen in the recruiting process (“What if they take that recruit to the frat party?”  ”How do we know what they’re going to be doing for those ten hours overnight?”  ”What if they tell the prospect about what happened at practice the other day?”).

And then there’s the military.  They know that the best way to make peace with a local population and establish roots in a new territory is through the efforts of soldiers – the lowest paid, most junior-ranking members of the military.  Handing out candy, talking to local children, helping to re-build a school…those things are the basis of a theory called Krulak’s Law, named for Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen­eral Charles C. Kru­lak. He talked about it in a 1999 arti­cle titled, The Strate­gic Cor­po­ral:

“In many cases, the indi­vid­ual Marine will be the most con­spic­u­ous sym­bol of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy and will poten­tially influ­ence not only the imme­di­ate tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion, but the oper­a­tional and strate­gic lev­els as well. His actions, there­fore, will directly impact the out­come of the larger oper­a­tion; and he will become, as the title of this arti­cle sug­gests – the Strate­gic Corporal.”

Which brings us to you, Coach.  How are you using your army of “boots on the ground” – your team – to recruit your next class of athletes?

So much of it depends on the quality and individual personality skill-sets of your team that it is virtually impossible for me to outline a four point one-size-fits-all plan that will work for every coach in every situation.  That said, there are some general principles and key questions I think are important to talk about so that coaches can craft their own approach in how they use their current team to recruit their future team.

The first point I’ll make is that, in my opinion, not using or limiting your current team of student-athletes in the recruiting process is a mistake.  That goes beyond a personal opinion, and really points to the research which clearly points to the interaction with your team being one of the biggest contributors to your “brand” in the eyes of a recruit.  Want to overcome subpar facilities and a town that isn’t all that exciting on a Saturday night?  Get them to fall in love with the guys on your team.  Want to see nine months of intense recruiting efforts go up in smoke in a matter of seconds?  Let them spend time with that jaded, dissatisfied Senior who you just benched (trust me, they have no problem with licking the taco shells in front of one of your recruits).

It’s your job as a college coach to not only put together great game plans for competitive success, but also great game plans to build your team and make them part of this crucial recruiting effort you engage in each and every year.  To do that, I feel one of your primary responsibilities is to understand what’s going on with your team personally, from top to bottom.  Unlike the starting line-up you’ll take into a competitive contest, every team member matters when it comes to your recruiting effort.

One of the key questions each coach needs to address in formulating a strategy for recruiting interactions with their teams is who will make up that primary contact – underclassmen or your upperclassmen?  Without a doubt, we have seen underclassmen make a bigger impact in the process versus their older counterparts.  They are closer in age to your recruits (who seem to get younger and younger every year), which is important.  Your recruits want to know who they will be competing with – in fact, we’ve heard numerous college athletes look back at their own recruiting process and point out how irrelevant meeting and hanging-out with a team’s Juniors and Seniors is.  Why?  It’s pretty basic: They know those older athletes won’t be around when they finally join your team.  Why have them spend time with those older student-athetes?

Another key question for  a coach to answer is how to incorporate time with student-athletes in their recruit’s visit schedule to campus.  From what I’ve seen play out in thousands of recruiting scenarios, more time with your younger athletes is always going to be better than less time.  Even if it means fewer meetings with older men in bow ties in an ivy covered building on the other side of campus?  Especially if it means fewer of those meetings!  Your success rate for recruiting visits will rise proportionally with the amount of time you allow your recruits to just hang out with your current team.

But what about those disaster scenarios you have looping through your mind as a college coach who is leery of handing over so much power to a group of new teenagers who have been on campus a few weeks or a few months?  The biggest piece of advice I can give you as a coach that would make you feel more at ease is to encourage you to meet with your team as soon as possible, standing in front of them with a white board and a dry erase marker, and have them establish what they should do with a recruit, what they shouldn’t do with a recruit, and what they will do to keep each other accountable.  Have them establish their own rules of what gets talked about and what stays private, as well as where they should and should not take a visiting prospect.

Coaches who have gone through this exercise know that it’s extremely effective, and will actually make your team more enthusiastic about hosting visits – especially if you convey the idea that they get a voice in the process.  Let them know you want their two cents at the end of the visit to determine whether or not you should recruit that athlete.  Of course, your vote trumps their opinion.  But I will say that in my experience, your team is usually right on the money when it comes to how that recruit will fit in to your current team culture.  Pay attention to them, Coach…they instinctively know who’s right for your team.

Whatever rules you decide to establish, understand that your team has incredible power to promote – or irreversibly damage – your brand.  As the chief architect of that brand, I suggest you devote time to establishing the right culture and message in conjunction with your team.  If you do, you’ll like the results.

Six Strategies for Making the Most of Personal Recruiting VisitsMonday, August 6th, 2012

Whether it’s on your campus, or in their home, a personal visit is number one on your prospect’s list for determining if your program is the right one for them.  Our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country rates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect will determine what kind of chances you have at signing them to play at your school.

So, once you get in front of them, what’s your strategy?

What do you need to do to prepare for the visit, and make sure that its successful in leading the athlete seriously committing to your school?

Here’s a list of seven things you need to make sure you have as you head to your face-to-face meeting with the prospect you really want to sign for this upcoming class:

1. Print out their personal and athletic information as you develop your strategy. Google your prospect’s name, as well as their parents names.  Look them up on Facebook, and see if they have a Twitter account.  Many coaches, in an effort to get an idea of what the family’s financial situation is, look up house values on zillow.com.  Get all of his or her information in one place – what you’ve printed from the web, the questionnaire that they filled-out, the transcript…everything.  If you use a recruiting web management tool like Front Rush, you can organize all of these documents for each athlete online, as well.  Go in prepared with everything you can find on them.  These are the pages that frame your ideas for how your your program are best for your prospect.  Use this info to create an individual approach for each prospect.

2. Be prepared to find out, and talk to, the real decision makers. Just because you’re talking to the prospect doesn’t mean you are talking to the primary decision maker.  If you are a Division III coach,  I can guarantee you that in most cases, the parents are heavily involved in making the final decision (after all, they are paying for it!).  Are you a Division I coach?  Guess what: The parents are heavily involved in that decision, too.  It might be their dream to have all those travel teams and club practices pay off with a big D1 scholarship.  My point is this: Make sure you get a personal meeting with EVERY decision maker involved.

3. Come up with at least five non-sport questions to ask your prospect. Be curious, and show them that you’re really interested in digging in to what makes them tick beyond athletics.  For example, you might ask “What kind of schedule do you have to keep focused on to earn a 4.2 grade point average?”  Or, “How in the world did you have time to volunteer at a hospital and also play three sports?”  Be amazed in front of them, and make it all about them. This will give you an opportunity to create meaningful dialog with the prospect and – more importantly – connect with them in an area beyond just sports.

4. Have two ideas that the prospect will benefit from. Something that they’ll get that’s meaningful for them by signing with your program.  Most coaches ignore this aspect of their recruiting conversations with prospects, and don’t bring enough ideas to their recruits. If you bring an idea to your on-campus meeting or visit to their home, it shows you’ve prepared, and it shows you have genuine interest in helping them with big picture ideas.

5. Bring your laptop or iPad, and make sure it has Internet capability. This gives you the ability to access any information you need in seconds.  Sounds basic, I know, but a laptop computer should be part of your aresenal for any home visit.  “But my school doesn’t provide me with a free laptop or tablet.”  Then plan on purchasing your own.  This is your coaching and recruiting career, and it’s your responsibility to give yourself the tools you need to be successful.  If you don’t have one already, get a laptop, iPad or other type of tablet and start using it to help you be a dominant recruiter.

6. Have written or video testimonials to support EVERY claim you make about your program. Keep those testimonials handy on your laptop or tablet. This will enable you to show and PROVE, not just show and tell. Video testimonials are easier than ever: You don’t need expensive equipment, and you don’t have to be a technology expert to put together a great personalized view of your program through they eyes and words of your current team.  Having other people back-up your claims in their own words.  It’s powerful, Coach.

Can I wrap-up this list by telling you what your overall goal should be for a personal visit with your prospect?  Here it is, Coach:  Show them the value in your program, not the sales pitch as a college recruiter. Be prepared to show the recruit how they gain and succeed from committing to your school.

Looking for more resources as a serious college recruiter?  We’ve got a number of resources that have proven to be helpful tools for coaches.  Visit our online resource center here.

 

Creating a GREAT Recruiting Environment for Your ProspectsMonday, October 24th, 2011

Let’s break that title down:

  • Creating. Somebody has to do it, and it’s probably going to be you, Coach.  It’s a  verb.  It denotes action.  And it’s a challenge to do.
  • Great. Would you say you are great when it comes to recruiting, the visit, your rapport with parents and athletes?  Why not?
  • Recruiting. That’s sales, Coach.  You’re a sales professional, like it or not.  Recruiting is selling.
  • Environment. That’s what I want to focus on today…the environment you can develop  for great recruiting interactions with this next recruiting class you’re  going after.

What have we found are the best ways to build  that great environment that will put you in the best possible position  to land the recruits you really want?

Here’s a basic list that every coach should make sure is happening at their program:

Make friends with your prospects (and their parents). I  think this is the basis for every good relationship, including your  recruiting relationship with your prospects and their parents.  What’s  the best way to establish a friendship?  Spend time on everything that’s  not about your program, your college, or their sport.  That’s the  simple three step rule to live by.  Focus on creating rapport.  Find  common ground.  By communicating conversationally, the atmosphere is  relaxed and communication is more open. The conversation is natural, not salesy.

Entertain them and feed them. Do you find that when you’re eating with someone, that the conversation  strays from recruiting and scholarships? The more personal the prospect  and their parents are willing to be with you in a relaxed setting, the  more likely you are to gain the “sale”. Can I make another suggestion?   When you have recruits to your office on campus, think about having some  snacks on hand.  Fruit, cheese cubes, crackers, something to  drink…not messy, hard to eat stuff.  Just enough to make sure they’re  comfortable.  Food relaxes people.

Engage them.  Talk about their present circumstance, their key motivators, and the  core issues that are driving their current situation. Don’t probe,  engage…ask…listen. By engaging, you will be able to elicit full  answers, and exchange meaningful iinformation. Study-up on  their situation before the on-campus meeting started, so that you don’t  have to ask stupid questions. And because they already know you, and  feel good about you, I am able to get truthful answers and ascertain key  facts about their recruiting situation. We’ve also found that because  this meeting is taking place in your meeting room, rather than theirs,  they feel more open about sharing information.

Provide some kind of real, tangible value.  This is going to be defined differently by each coach that’s reading  this.  And, that’s O.K…there’s no right or wrong definition of  “value”.  Basically, look for something that gives to your prospect and  their family before you ask them for something (like their commitment).   Maybe it’s a one-on-one meeting with the Athletic Director or President  of the school.  Maybe it’s a list of workouts you’d suggest they do as  they finish up their high school career (whether they sign with you or  not).  In your next staff meeting, be the one that asks, “What can we  give our visiting prospects that gives them something of value?”

Help them be a better athlete. Give  them insights on how to train better.  How to train your way.  Even  coach them up a little while they’re there.  Better yet, have your  current athletes talk to them about what they’ve learned under you and  how they’ve taken their game to the next level.  By the way, this might  be the area where you can give them value.

Don’t settle for an “O.K.” visit.  Aim for GREAT! As we talk about in “Selling for Coaches”,  our advanced recruiting guide for college coaches, you need to look at  every possible area of your visit ad your interaction with them.  Why?   Because they are watching your every move, and making judgement calls  along the way as to whether or not to buy what you’re selling.  They’re  looking at you, your current team, your dorms, how many boring meeting  they are forced to sit through in the admissions office…everything. When we are invited to a school to conduct one of our effective On-Campus Workshops for an athletic department,  a big area of focus when we research the strengths and weaknesses of  their recruiting experience is what happens during a prospect visit and  why.  Start dissecting your campus visit now, before this next class  arrives and finds it just “O.K.”

Ask for the sale after you’ve created an environment for them to buy.  Once all the pieces are in place, don’t let your prospect leave campus  without being asked for their commitment (assuming you still want them  sign after the things you learn about them on the visit).  Not asking is  one of the worse mistakes a coach can make.  It’s safe to say that  there will be no other time during the recruiting process that they will  be more inclined to say “yes” than at the end of an engaging,  energetic, original visit with your team on your campus.

Your  focus should be singular: Build a relationship before you ask them to  “buy” your program.  Each one of these steps that I’ve outlined are  components for building a relationship, not sales techniques.  Don’t put  the selling them on your school ahead of connecting with them on a  personal level.

Questions about this concept?  Or, do you have other things you’d like to ask Dan and his staff?  Email him at dan@dantudor.com and get a personal reply.  We’re here to help, Coach!

Why “Relaxed” Prospects Are WAY Better Than “Excited” ProspectsMonday, August 22nd, 2011

You know how you want to create an exciting campus recruiting visit, with wall-to-wall fun and non-stop heart-pumping activities for your guest prospect?

Well, what if I told you there was emerging science that showed it’s actually the calm and relaxed recruit that is more likely to buy what you’re selling at your program?

It’s true.

Researchers at Columbia University did extensive marketing studies that found relaxed subjects in their experiments assigned more value (and volunteered to pay much more) for the same products that “excited” subjects were less willing to pay more for.  Overall, the relaxed subjects assigned higher monetary values to the items than the control group. The researchers determined that this effect was an inflation of the value by the relaxed subjects rather than a deflation by the less-relaxed subjects.

That’s, for example, why high end car dealerships have big, comfortable leather chairs and soft music playing.  And, it’s why those same dealerships get you to focus on the feeling you’ll have driving that new car, instead of closing the sale with gas mileage statistics and other features.  They know that a more relaxed customer is going to be more likely to buy than an excited customer.

This matches the overwhelming comments we hear from current college athletes we interview during focus group sessions as a part of our On-Campus Workshops:  They much preferred just “hanging out” with members of a prospective team instead of the highly scheduled itineraries that most prospects are subjected to by some college coaches (if that word “subjected” sounded a little too much like a prisoner being forced to do things outlawed by international accords, good…that’s what I was going for).

Not that excitement doesn’t have a place in the recruiting process, of course.  Much of the time, you need to get them excited about what you have to offer before you can reassure them in a relaxing manner as they get nervous in the later stages of the recruiting process.  However, there’s a time to focus on relaxation and reassurance, and a campus visit - something many of you are going to be hosting in large numbers over the next few months – is the perfect place to give your important recruits that feeling that will compel them to choose you over your competition.

So, what should you be aiming for in a more “relaxed” and calming interaction with your next recruit?  Here are some ideas that we’ve seen work in the past:

  1. Make the planning of their visit to campus more collaborative.  In other words, rather than dictating their campus visit from start to finish before they get to campus, let them be a part of the planning process.  Ask them what they’d like to do, and what they wouldn’t.  Let them feel like they’ve helped design the visit, which should result in them feeling a little more relaxed coming to your campus for the first time.
  2. Have one or two of your team write a short, non-sales note to them prior to the visit.  I’d recommend an actual hand-written note versus an email or Facebook message.  The more personal, the better.  Let them know that there are friends waiting for them that are looking forward to the visit.  That little gesture can go a long way in relaxing your recruit.
  3. Start the visit slowly, but with something “big” to think about.  This is one of the biggest mistakes we see otherwise savvy recruiters make:  They don’t paint a big picture for their visiting recruit to consider while they are on campus.  An exact offer, what their plan for them is if they come to compete for that program…something “big”.  Why is that part of relaxing the prospect?  Your prospects, we find, are looking for more detailed specifics of why you want them, and what their role would be, if they do indeed choose your program.  Giving that to them right at the start could enable them to take a deep breath, get their big question out of the way, and let them spend the rest of the visit figuring out if you’re the right fit for them or not.  And the more relaxed you make it for them, the better that ”right fit” feeling will come across.
  4. Carve out LOTS of casual time with your team.  There’s a growing body of research that we’re putting together that demonstrates one of the most powerful weapons you have as a recruiter is one that you actually choose to bypass as a part of a recruit’s visit:  Casual, relaxed “hang out” time with your team.  Specifically, I’m talking about time that is non-structured, where your recruit and a few of the younger members of your team can just sit and talk.  No coaches, no parents, no structure.  Trust me, it works.
  5. Set a reasonable deadline for a decision.  What, am I crazy???  A deadline as a part of “relaxing” a prospect?  Yes.  As you are ending that nice, relaxed campus visit, I’d let them know that you’ve loved having them on campus and (if they are someone you’re ready to hear a ”yes” from) ask them if they’d like to commit.  Most of the time, they’ll want to delay that decision.  Let them know that it’s not a problem, and then give them a general date that they can take to think about your opportunity that you’ve just presented them.  Ideally, two to three weeks unless they’ve already outlined future campus visits that would take them past that point (but you can make it longer, if needed).  This tactic achieves two important things:  One, it reassures them that you want them and that you’re offering them an opening for making that commitment.  Secondly, you appear to be reasonable with the amout of time you’re giving them to consider your offer; most of the feedback we get from prospects after the fact is that a timeline like that seems “fair”.  What I like about it is that it puts you in control of the process and gives them some reasonable guidelines for making a decision.

Relaxed prospects are in a better position to make a life-changing decision like this more quickly, and with more confidence.

So, as you begin hosting a new group of recruits on campus, ask yourself (and your team) this important question:  “How can we re-tool our campus visit and make it a more relaxing, less hectic experience for all of our upcoming recruits?”

We’re working with our growing list of clients to help them create better (more relaxed) campus visits right now.  And, we’re identifying and creating more effective recruiting message content that is resulting in more high-level recruits showing interest in their programs. 

Want us to help you?  Schedule a time to talk one-on-one with Dan Tudor by emailing him at dan@dantudor.com.  It’s more affordable than you may think, and the results are turning heads on campuses across the country.  See if it’s the right fit for you, Coach!

Strategies for Combating the Too-Close-To-Home ObjectionMonday, August 15th, 2011

In a previous article, we talked about some proven strategies for combating the “too-far-from-home” recruiting objection. 

You’ve all heard it before…a recruit you really want, and may have even been the one that initiated the first contact, tells you “no” because they’ve decided that you’re too far from home.

But many coaches also face the opposite side of the coin:

Recruits that decide you’re the wrong choice for them because you’re too close to home. 

The biggest hurdle for you behind this objection, according to our research, is the fact that many prospects will have already defined you.  Growing up nearby, they’ve heard people talk about you, made some observations about your campus or your program, and have decided that you’re not “exciting” enough for them as they look forward to the next four years of playing their sport in college.

We’re finding that more and more of this current generation of student-athlete prospects are up for the adventure of going “away” to school.  So, if you’re a coach that is recruiting a prospect that is starting to tell you that you’re too close to home to be a serious consideration, here are a few proven strategies that we’ve seen work with the coaches we work with around the country:

  1. Focus on mom and dad as soon as possible.  Whenever you hear a prospect talk about your college being too close to home, you need to find out how your prospect’s parents are playing into the equation.  Normally, according to our national research, parents are a primary outside factor in the decision making process of a recruit.  The question here is simple: “Why do you want to see your son/daughter play away from home?”  We see parents tending to encourage your prospect to stay close to home whenver possible.  Find out what their view on the matter is.  If you see that there is a conflict within the family (i.e., prospect wants to go out of the area and the parents are hoping he or she stays close to home) then you need to find out which side is going to win out in the end.
  2. Ask about their friends.  One of the big factors in a decision by a recruit to not go far away to play for a program is their friends back home (that includes boyfriends and girlfriends).  When you find that a recruit is not open to staying close to home, you’ll want to ask if they’ll miss their friends, or why they see themselves being o.k. with leaving them behind.  That doesn’t mean you should use friends or family as a “guilt trip” on your recruit.  Rather, you view it as your responsibility to bring up factors that we see playing a major role in the final decision of your recruits so that they are taking into account all possible factors in determining what schools (yours included) they should be considering.
  3. Get them on campus spending time with your team.  Assuming that a big reason your local recruit is not that interested in your program is the fact that they have been on your campus and grown-up nearby hearing the good, the bad and the ugly about the school and your program, you need to get them to take an up-close-and-personal look at what you have to offer as soon as possible.  And, since they have probably already made up their mind about you and the campus, I recommend that you have them spend as much time with your team as possible.  Not you, coach…your team.  The one big thing we see being able to alter their initial assumptions about you and your college is a strong bond with your team.  As we conduct studies with current college athletes as a part of our On-Campus Workshop training sessions for athletic departments, they tell us that their ideal percentage of time they’d like to spend just hanging out informally with your team is 60% of their total time on campus.  If you can achieve that kind of time with your team, you’ve got a shot of creating a bond that overcomes their initial perception of your program.
  4. Make the case that staying close to home gives them a choice.  Make the phrasing your own, but the basic thinking we’ve seen work goes something like this: “If you stay close to home, you get the best of both worlds: You get to be your own person here on our campus, but still get to see your family and friends whenever you want.  Athletes that go far away to school don’t get to have that choice.  They’re stuck on a campus far away from home.”  It’s a valid concept that you should encourage your recruit to consider.

In summary, let me go back to a thought that I started the article with:

This generation of recruit is more open to going away to college and play their sport.  Social media and familiarity with other parts of the country are just two of the reasons we see athletes willing to leave home and compete elsewhere.

In the long run, you’re going to hear more and more of the “too close to home” objections from your recruits.  You can overcome it using these strategies some of the time, but you’ll also want to expand your recruiting base so that you can take advantage of this growing trend.  There are lots of tools and resources we recommend that make this easier than ever.

That being said, when you find yourself recruiting a local athlete you really, really want on your team, these proven strategies just might do the trick in getting them to take a serious second look at you and your program.

Strategies for Combating the Too-Far-From-Home ObjectionSunday, August 7th, 2011

It struck me a few days ago how often the “distance from home” objection so completely controls whether or not your recruit takes your interest seriously or not, and ends up packing up the family car and coming to your campus for four years.

That epiphany probably shouldn’t have made such an impact on me, but some previous conversations this past week with our clients – who are working with us to map out the start of this next recruiting season – seemed to be coming face-t0-face with the hard, cold reality that they weren’t exactly sure how high to place their really good out-of-area recruits on their developing recruiting boards.

For a lot of coaches – maybe you, too – the distance from home question can end recruiting before it even begins.

The difficult part of all this is the prospect, and their parents.  Once in a while, you’ll get an honest family who tells you right from the start that they don’t want to compete that far away from home, and politely suggests that you don’t need to put any energy into trying to convince them otherwise. 

It works otherwise, too: There are some prospects who won’t want to compete for you because you’re too close to home.  They want something different in a college, and since they’ve already defined you over the past few years, it’s going to be a long-shot to convince them that you deserve to be a serious consideration.

As a college recruiter, the problem with these all-too-familiar scenarios is simple:

Your prospects will rarely offer-up their true feelings and tell you how they feel.

Today, I want to make the case that determining those feelings right away is probably one of the hurdles I’ve seen really good recruiters clear, leading to consistently good recruiting classes.  They know when to pursue the out-of-area recruits, and when to cut bait and run.  And they don’t waste a lot of time making that determination.

Taking a cue from these recruiting pros, and mixing it with what I’ve seen work over the years, here are five proven ways to figure-out whether you should invest your time and resources in that tantilizingly good prospect in an area code far, far away:

  1. As soon as possible, ask the prospect why they want to look at out-of-area colleges.  If they don’t give you an answer that centers around a specific reason that they can verbalize, that should be a red flag as a college recruiter.  Answers like “oh I don’t know, I just want to see what’s out there” or “my parents want me to keep an open mind and listen to everyone that’s interested in me” don’t necessarily mean you should throw in the towel, but it should cause you to really dig deep and find out some additional thinking behind those statements.  If, on the other hand, you hear your out-of-area prospect say something like “I really want to look at a college in your part of the country because I’m looking for warmer weather, and plus my best friend is going there and she loves it”, then that’s a great indicator that there’s a substanitive reason behind their desire to talk to you.  Ask the question, coach.
  2. Ask the parents why they would want to see their son/daughter go “away” to college.  You need to phrase it exactly like I worded it, coach:  “So, why do you want to see your son/daughter go away to college?”  If you hear a response like, “well, I don’t really want them to go away…I just think it’s smart to keep all their options open”, approach with caution!  Our research shows that when push comes to shove, mom or dad (or both) is going to play the emotion card and push for them to stay close to home.  Again, a response like that doesn’t mean you give up; however, it does mean that you really need to have the parents define why they see you – as an out-of-area program – being a smart consideration for their son or daughter.  Asking this question will help you get an answer that tells you how to move forward.
  3. Ask sooner rather than later.  Want to totally bog-down your recruiting efforts with out-of-area recruits?  Wait until later in the process before asking them and their parents those questions.  Asking them at the start will tell you exactly what you need to do next in determining whether you keep pursuing that recruit, or walk away before you begin to invest your valuable time and resources.  “Wait an minute,” you say.  “Did you just say that maybe I should keep pursuing that recruit who is giving me those red flag warning statements you just listed???”  Yes…
  4. Keep recruiting them, but do it efficiently.  Wishy-washy out-of-area recruits may change their mind as the recruiting process moves forward:  Some of their other local top choices may not come through with an offer, they may like what you have to say about your college and your program as time goes on…in short, teenagers and their parents change their minds.  While I’m advising that you approach with caution, I still think a consistent message sent efficiently (group letters and email) is smart to do.  Too many coaches give up too soon and just stop messaging those kids at the first sign of trouble.  Don’t be one of those coaches.  Continue to consistently, efficiently sell them on you and your program.
  5. The good prospects that reach out to you should be your priorities.  Note that I said “good” prospects, not all prospects.  When you have a solid recruit who can compete for you at your level, and they have taken the time to personally send you something in the mail or fill out your online recruiting questionnaire, that shows a high degree of interest in you no matter where they live.  These prospects have invested their time in you; if they’re good, do the same.  Show special interest.  (Note:  We find that another outstanding source of verified out-of-area prospects is NCSA Athletic Recruiting.  Those athletes can indicate what areas of the country they are open to considering, removing a lot of the work associated with determining whether or not to add them to your recruiting list.  The number of college coaches we see using this free resource is really spiking this time of year, so you might want to take a look at their searchable database).

One final note on out-of-area prospects:

When we conduct our detailed athlete surveys as a part of our On-Campus Workshops when we are asked to teach at college athletic departments, we’re finding a real rise in the willingness to go far away from home from a significant number of top prospects.  The reasons vary greatly, from perceived academic opportunities in particular parts of the country to a desire to experience a different climate.  The point is, they’re willing to listen.

Your job?  Ask smart questions on the topic, be consistent and persistent, and look for signs that your prospect is more open than most to looking seriously at out-of-area scholarship and playing opportunities.

If we haven’t been to your campus yet, make this year the year you get us there!  We’ve worked with high level Division I athletic departments, as well as small, private college coaching staffs, with one goal in mind:  Finding the right story to tell for those coaches, and training them to be the most effective recruiters possible.  For all the details on reserving a date for your athletic department, click here.

Warning: Beware of Summer Prospect Visits to CampusMonday, May 9th, 2011

I’m an optimist by nature…a “glass-is-half-full” kind of guy.

So when I was asked recently by a coach we are working with for my opinion on having a top recruit visit their campus during the Summer, my inclination was to put a positive spin on the possibilities.  At least the coach is getting the prospect on campus, right?  At least the family is going to get a look at the buildings…walk around the quad…see the dorms.  All that’s better than nothing, right?

Just barely.

The stark reality is that on-campus visits during the Summer, when there are less students and less energy on your campus, are not factoring significantly in a decision by the prospect, according to our research.  It’s not going to turn out as badly as it did for the Griswold family during their Summer vacation, but it could get close when it comes to the end recruiting results.

That should be significant to you if you’re a coach who looks at Summer as a convenient “down time” to take time and have a recruit visit campus.  Here’s why:

A summer visit is missing a key ingredient to their final decision: Your athletes! Also known as their future teammates…their friends…the big reason they determine whether or not a particular school feels right to them.  Yep, all of it is missing.  That’s a big piece of the puzzle, and it’s difficult to duplicate during the Summer.

A summer visit is missing the normal energy of your campus during the school year. You know the great random moments that end up being the really memorable moments during your recruit’s visit?  Those are probably going to be missing during a summer vacation visit.  Even if you have some of your team working out and actually staying on campus, it can’t duplicate the normal school year feel that you can show your prospects.

However, in addition to being an optimist, I’m also a realist.  Sometimes, the best time for a family to schedule a visit is during the Summer.  They drop by while they’re at a tournament nearby, or they schedule you as one of four other colleges they’re going to visit on a family trip…sometimes, a visit by a prospect to your campus over the Summer is unavoidable.

Don’t misunderstand me: I think it’s wise to have them on campus during the normal school year.  However, if it’s unavoidable, here’s how to make lemonade out of Summer recruiting visit lemons:

  • Focus on your one-on-one time with them.  Much of the time, a prospect visit during the regular school year is packed with other items on their visit agenda (a separate problem that you need to address, actually…but we’ll save that for another day).  So, make this day a lot of good one-on-one time with your prospect, and make it personal about them: Ask them the right questions, talk about how they fit into your plans, and what you see as the next step for them as you consider them for your future roster.  This is an opportunity to make that connection with you as their future coach.  Use it.
  • Schedule shorter visits. One thing we’re finding, when there’s no way around a Summer recruiting visit, is that coaches who schedule shorter visits with their prospects.  You don’t want to create a vacuum with the missing elements of the traditional campus visit.  So, shorten it.  Make it two or three good hours with you, a quick campus tour that includes the dorms (a must…don’t fail to show them where they’re going to live!) and time in your athletic facilities.  In fact, try to have a good deal of your conversation outside of your office at your athletic facility.  You’ll want to create as many unique, positive visuals as possible since they won’t be getting some of the normal images and experiences that they would be seeing during the school year.
  • Use it to set up the NEXT campus visit. In other words, use a Summer prospect visit to justify their return trip once school gets back in session.  If you accept this piece of advice, it could really alter your entire approach to the visit.  How would your conversation and approach to their short time with you during their Summer campus change if you were totally focused on setting up the next visit?  Radically, I imagine.  I’d make the case to you that your next visit should focus on setting up a time when they can come back, experience the energy, and – most importantly – spend lots and lots of time with your team, which will be easier to do since you’ve spent the bulk of this visit talking to them one-on-one about your plans for them once they commit.

Again, I don’t recommend Summer visits when it’s avoidable.  Your chances of signing a recruit that visits over the Summer is significantly less than a visit during the normal school year.

However, if it’s the only way to get a chance to visit with a prospect you really want, it’s better than nothing.  And, you can increase your odds of having it turn out favorable by following a few simple rules built on our research from campuses around the country.

Summer recruiting visits are advisable, but becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies should be a definite “to do” on your schedule.  It’s the perfect time to put a proven, systematic approach to work for your next recruiting class.  Want to see how it would work for you?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com.

5 Ways to Use Your Recruiting SensesTuesday, October 26th, 2010

The coach I was visiting appeared to be slightly insane.  At first glance, anyway.

She was walking as we were discussing what she told visiting prospects in her new locker room.  As she walked, she held up what looked like a perfume bottle and gave one little squirt every two or three steps. 

After seeing her continue this ritual into the hallway, I had to ask her why she was doing what she was doing.

Her answer was borderline brilliant: She was using scent to add to the overall “experience” that their recruits would encounter later that morning.

Think it’s a minor detail that is recruiting overkill?  Maybe you should think again…

Most recruiters focus on written messages and phone calls to get their message across and create a “feeling” that their program is going to be the right fit.  That means that two primary senses, sight and sound, are used to make that connection.

However, studies show that most “buyers” going through a decision making process (your recruit and his or her family) use other senses to make decisions, as well.  Dan Hill, a marketing researcher and author, has some surprising data that shows we use multiple senses at one time to judge whether or not we feel connected and comfortable with a product or service (or college program):

  • One study showed a 40% improvement in one’s mood when exposed to pleasant fragrances during a buying experience.
  • Shoe buyers, for example, spent $10 more on purchases in areas that had a pleasant scent.
  • Touch (handshakes, putting your hand on a prospect’s arm or shoulder, etc.) matters.  We all respond to touch, even in a professional setting like a recruiting visit.  For example, massaged babies gained 50% more weight than babies who were not massaged.
  • One of the highest positive responses that a prospect can experience is taste.  For all of us, that experience is remembered and valued the longest (so make sure that prospect dinner is extraordinary!)

One of the most important aspects of the study outlined by Hill should make a big impact with creative college coaches and recruiters: Marketers who added smell, taste and touch to a product advertising or display experience had three to four times more positive experiences than those that relied only on sight and sound.

The coach I just mentioned added a very specific scent to her environment to make sure that her prospects’ senses were firing on all cylinders.  You’re welcome to steal that idea and use it yourself.  Here are five more ways I think you can focus on some of your prospect’s senses to enhance their experience with you on your campus:

  1. Kids love to eat.  Make sure the food is really, really good.  Taste is one of those senses that we remember the most.  It adds to an experience, and helps us associate the experience with something memorable like a great meal.  It works in the opposite way, too: Remember a horrible meal at a restaurant or someone’s home?  Let me ask you…do you remember anything else about that experience? The conversation, who was there…anything?  If you’re like most people, all you remember is the really bad food you tried to choke down.  Your prospect’s visit can be largely defined by the food they eat on their trip to your campus.
  2. Scent matters.  I don’t need to go into too much detail on this point, do I?  If you smell good, it gets noticed.  If you smell bad, it really gets noticed.  Enough said.
  3. The right kind of touch can create a connection.  A professional handshake is a nice start, but I don’t find it to be enough to create a really memorable connection with today’s prospects.  Some simple ideas to take it further?  One of my favorites is to lightly touch the back part of your prospect’s shoulder if you are walking and talking with them…not constantly, but every so often to make a point or to gently guide them where the two of you are going.  If you’re comfortable with the idea, you can also have your athletes welcome them with a polite (but heartfelt) hug when they first meet.  Our research shows that one of the most vital things you need to prove to your prospect is that they are wanted and accepted by you and your team.  This goes a long way towards doing that.
  4. Smile a lot.  Your prospect will read your face as they try to quickly figure out if they like being around you or not.  Be upbeat and show energy and a positive spirit through your facial expression.  Studies consistently show that when we meet someone new, we refer to their face as we try and figure out if we like them, if they are telling us the truth, and if they can be trusted.  We can even sense whether someone is smiling or not when we’re talking to them over the phone.  What is your face telling them?
  5. Paper is important.  I say this because emailing prospects is becoming the exclusive way many coaches will recruit them these days.  That’s fine, especially if you use cutting edge email programs that gets your recruit’s attention and brands you effectively.  However, you need to send them at least a few letters written on paper.  Why?  Paper seems more “real” to the prospects we talk to.  It’s “official”.  It’s something they can hold, it has your signature on it, and it tends to verify the idea that you’re important.  Make sure you include some good old fashioned letters on a regular basis to reinforce the idea that you are serious about them, and to let them touch and feel something tangible from your program.

Are these minor details?  Sure they are. 

But I find that most prospects make their decisions using little details and observations during their visits on campus and their conversations with coaches on the phone.  Sight, sounds, smell, taste, touch…all of those senses are ways we as humans use to process information.  “The devil is in the details”, as the saying goes; I see a recruit’s final decision being found there, too.

Want more easy to use resources and tools to use in your recruiting efforts?  Visit our recruiter’s store at dantudor.com.  Many coaches are using our instruction to change the results of their recruiting efforts.  Are you?

One Super-Easy Way to Improve Your Campus VisitMonday, May 17th, 2010

I’m going to make it very, very easy for you today.

A big focus for many coaches that we meet with, or who we get to serve as clients, are curious about how to improve their on-campus visits with recruits.  Among all of the complicated, in-depth strategies that we might suggest, there is one which any coach can put into practice immediately.

No dent in your budget, no extra time involved on your part.  It’s easy.

Here it is:

Stop having your visiting prospects meet with professors and sit in on a class.

Let me explain why this is one of the best things you can do as a college coach interested in securing a visiting prospect, and also two reasons why you might be hesitant to actually follow through with erasing it from your campus visit schedule.

First, why is it such a good idea?  Simple: Your athletes tell us.  Quite regularly, in fact.

Bored in classJust about every week, we’re on campuses leading workshops for coaches and athletic departments.  As a part of our review and research for those projects, we conduct detailed focus groups and surveys with current college student-athletes.  When we do, one thing we ask them to tell us are what factors were most important - and least important – in helping them choose a college program.  Without fail, nearly 100% of the time, student-athletes tell us that sitting in on a class and meeting with a professor or dean is the least effective, least important aspect of their visit to a college campus.

“A big waste of time”.  “I was bored the entire time, and it was way too long”.  “I would have rather just hung-out with the team”.  All of these are actual comments from your recruits.

So is it smart to make that a significant part of your campus visit?  No.

That being said, let me give you two reasons why you will probably not make any changes to this part of your campus visit, even though most of your prospects would be much happier with their visit to campus if you did:

  1. Campus culture. Your friends in admissions, and the deans who are a current integral part of your campus visit routine, might protest your decision to change this part of your campus visit.  Everyone has a role to play during a campus visit, and you’ll be reluctant to eliminate their role in the process.
  2. “But we’re a college.  Shouldn’t they experience a class?” Let me answer by telling you what many of your athletes have told us: “It’s a college…we get it…they have classrooms.”  In other words, it doesn’t matter.  Now, let me clarify: If you have a prospect who asks to meet with a dean or sit in on a class, that’s a different matter altogether.  However, for the vast majority of athlete prospects visiting your campus for a short period of time, they would rather spend time interacting with your team.  Still, chances are you won’t be able to get around the whole ”college…classroom…professor…must make them see it” line of thinking.

So there you have it.  One easy solution to better campus visits, along with two major hurdles standing in your way.

The ball is in your court now, Coach.  Are you ready to start revamping your campus visit by starting with this one very easy and inexpensive fix that’s based on national research and advice from the very people you are trying to attract to your program?

We have more campus visit strategies ready to talk about at this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in June.  You should be there, Coach!

The discounted early registration price expires soon.  Register today!

And by the way, if you can’t make it but still want all the information from the conference, order our DVD and notes…it’s the next best thing to being there.

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