Dan Tudor

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Recruiting Reminders During My Daughter’s Campus TourMonday, October 10th, 2016

College visit picYour perspective on effective recruiting techniques always reach a new level when you experience it personally, through the eyes of one of your children.

My daughter is a high school junior, and we took her to visit a college for the first time yesterday.

Statistics, research, and all the data we accumulate for college coaches and admissions departments is important, of course. But as we always teach, these decisions are about feelings. And perceptions. Or misconceptions.

And all of those things are defined, on purpose or by accident, by the individuals leading a visit and the tour of campus.

Now, let me just say, the college staff was organized, friendly, knowledgeable, and generally put on a terrific day. Still, it was interesting to listen to other parents and kids going through the visit, as well as the comments from the prospective students on the visit. And there were several good reminders of what anyone showcasing a college should be doing to effectively reach this generation of teenager – and their parents:

Parents are running the show. We have a pretty long article history of outlining our research and advice when it comes to incorporating the parents of your recruit into the process. That was on full display as I walked around campus with other families. Parents were leading discussions, prompting their kids with the right questions to ask, and generally handling all of the tougher topics related to choosing a campus. And, as our focus group testing has shown in the last several years, the kids were fine with that happening; they were looking for their parents to provide direction and help them make decisions about whether or not that particular school would be a good fit for them. So, as we continually ask, how are you incorporating the parents into the recruiting conversation, and giving them a lead role in the decision-making process?

The more crowded the visit, the less effective the emotional connection. Let me say first that large group visits on big recruiting weekends are sometimes unavoidable. One of your recruits in a large group on your campus versus no recruit on your campus? No contest, get the recruit there. However, I was reminded again how hard it is to emotionally connect to a place (or to a coach, or a new group of friends on campus) in a large recruiting visit or tour group. There were parts of the visit that were crowded, difficult to hear the guide, or see everything there was to see. And it didn’t prompt many in-depth, personal questions from those of us attending (most families don’t want to interrupt the flow of the tour with the questions they really want to ask, based on our research). Again, that’s no fault of the organizers, it was just a byproduct of the numbers in attendance. My recommendation? Aim for as many one-on-one visits as possible. They have the highest closing percentage rates, and give your recruits the best overall emotional connections that you need them to experience.

Go deep with your questions. Speaking of parents and your visiting prospects not wanting to answer your questions in big groups during a tour: It’s up to you to take your upper-tier prospects aside at some point during the visit, and ask them questions. Deep, probing questions. It was striking to hear, towards the end of the tour and visit day, how many parents were talking with each other about the questions they had that they needed to investigate further – even though they had college representatives standing ten feet away. Why? It wasn’t the right setting. Had they been taken aside privately and asked questions about their experience, what hurdles they saw as a part of the process, and other decision related issues. Unless you focus on 1) creating a private, one-on-one setting, and 2) asking questions that require deep answers, don’t expect to take most recruiting experiences to the next level. They need you to lead them.

Talk about money as soon as possible. One of the most interesting observations of the day came in the general recruiting fair, where all of the different college departments had tables set up in order to answer questions. The table with the least amount of traffic? The college’s financial services table. Wait, you may ask, “if parents are so gung-ho on talking about money, why wasn’t that the most popular table at the fair?” Simple. Parents want to talk about their specific situations, privately, over an extended period of time. For athletes, they want that to be with their coach as often as possible – at least to kick off the conversation as a transition to speaking with someone else in financial aid (assuming you’re a non-Division I that isn’t offering a full athletic scholarship). The point is, parents are looking for financial definitions sooner, rather than later. Don’t disappoint.

Nothing is universal when it comes to how every single visiting recruit coming to campus is going to react to how your visit actually is produced. But there are some definite general rules we see being effective over and over again in the work that we do with our clients around the country. Use these four proven concepts as a starting point for re-evaluating how you execute your recruiting visits, and what needs to change to accommodate this new generation of prospective families visiting your campus.

Our staff works with college athletic departments, as well as admissions staffs, to help them communicate their recruiting message more effectively. We work with hundreds of programs around the nation, and have for the last decade. If you’re a coach or athletic director, contact Dan Tudor at dan@dantudor.com, and if you’re an admissions professional contact Jeremy Tiers at jeremy@dantudor.com.

Hosting Group Recruiting Visit Days the Right WayMonday, October 3rd, 2016

Full disclosure:

The vast majority of the time, I will tell a coach I am against group visit recruiting days.

I’ve seen more go wrong with them than I have seen go right. Honestly, more disaster stories have originated from large campus recruiting visit days than most other parts of the recruiting visits that we’ve analyzed:

  • Recruits go to campus expecting to receive personal attention, and instead come away with a feeling like they’ve just been lost in a crowd in a big group recruiting visit.
  • Recruits go to campus thinking they are coming to a program that wants their individual talents, and leave a big group visit feeling like they are just one of a large number of recruits.
  • Recruits come to campus wanting to be around other top-tier prospects, and instead see a large group of what they would define as mediocre fellow prospects.
  • Recruits come to campus excited about visiting and finding out about your program, but instead get matched with a visiting prospect who is negative about your program and school – and immediately poison the mindset of the recruits you worked so hard to get to come visit your college.

That’s not a complete list, but if any of it sounds remotely familiar to what you’ve seen happen with any of your visits, you get the idea: When you introduce a large group of prospects to each other in a new setting, the potential for disaster is there. Not always…and sometimes, you can get a solid commitment from a student-athlete prospects when you’re staging group visits. But the risk is always present on group recruiting visits.

And that’s why I am generally against recommending group recruiting visit days for your program.

All that being said, there are times when you need to stage large recruiting visits. So, let’s talk about how to make the best of what can often be a challenging situation, Coach. There are a few key components of a group visit that can put the odds of impressing your important recruits in your favor.

Before the group visit, define why you want them there. Them, specifically. Why are you bringing them there, and what should be understand about how they fit into the larger group they’re going to see on campus? Be as specific as possible, and focus on how they should see themselves in a large group setting.

Schedule time for your top kids (and their parents) away from the group. One of the key pieces of advice that upper-tier athletes and their parents give us is how they are looking for one-on-one time with the head coach of the program they are visiting. Make sure you schedule private time with them, and when you talk to them make sure you outline why they are different than the other recruits who are visiting that day. It’s critical that your top recruits understand their place in your recruiting class.

Define the group setting to everyone. If they’re wondering where they stand with you as they look around at everyone else on the visit, tell them that one of the reasons you want them there as a group is to give them a chance to get to know their potential future teammates. You have to define the group visit dynamic to them, and make it positive.

Try to get them alone with some of your Freshmen. As much time as possible. One of the most powerful aspects of the visit for your recruits is getting a good idea as to whether they are wanted by your current team. No matter what else has to be shortened or canceled as a part of the visit, do it. Time alone with your current team is vital if you’re looking to make an impression with recruits.

Define this group visit as the first of two. Tell your recruits, as a group, “All of you are getting a good picture of what it’s like here in a big way, but this should be the first of two visits you’ll plan on taking here. We want you back for a one-on-one visit with us, and I’d love it to be before <date>.” Or, something like that. The point is, make sure they understand that you want them back for a second visit…soon. The goal is to get them back on campus for a more personalized experience.

Those are the essentials, Coach. You’ll notice that each of the five core components are all geared towards them, their feelings, and their motivations. Follow them, and you’ll begin to even the odds for a good experience from your group recruiting visit experience.

Campus visits, and conducting them effectively, are one of the make or break moments in the recruiting process. Want to put over a decade of research and strategic thinking to work for you and your program? Become a client. We help hundreds of coaches all over the country with their messaging, organization, campus visit planning, and more. Click here for a quick rundown of everything we give college recruiters.

Next Level Questions to Ask Your Prospect AFTER They Visit CampusMonday, October 12th, 2015

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Key Questions to Ask Your Recruit AFTER They Visit CampusMonday, October 5th, 2015

In college recruiting – especially this time of year – there is often a singular focus from coaches who are doing all they can to ask the right questions of their recruits in order to get one thing from them:

Their commitment to visit campus.

That’s the holy grail of college recruiting, no matter what the age of the recruit. And what most coaches end up focusing on are the questions they can ask a recruit that will get them engaged and talking, inching them closer and closer to that campus visit you’re coveting.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

But it’s only half the story.

As our research clearly shows, getting them to campus – while vitally important in the process – simply moves them into a different phase in the typical recruit’s mind. And yet, the college coaches we have worked with for more than a decade tend to slip into the thinking that “once we’ve had them on campus, we’ve answered all their questions.” What’s more to talk about or ask them, right?


That different phase of your recruit’s mindset is an important thing for you to explore, Coach. In most cases, your recruit is ready to reveal an entirely new set of information and feelings to you following their visit to your campus. If, that is, you ask them.

So, what are some of the core questions we recommend based on the focus group research we’ve compiled with this generation of prospect? I want to outline several key questions that every college coach should ask their recruits once they’ve been on campus for an unofficial or official recruiting visit:

  • “Walk me through what you see happening next for you in this whole process”. In most cases, once your prospect has visited your campus, their internal agenda has changed. What they thought they were going to do, and how they feel, before the visit has probably now changed. Smart recruiters should want that information so that they can adjust their recruiting strategy accordingly.
  • “How did our visit affect the timeline you and your family had for making a final decision?”.  Don’t ask ‘yes/no’ questions, ask ‘how/why’ questions. You want to really understand what they are thinking now that the visit is done, and – like the first question – find out way has changed. If they’re going to make their decision in the next two weeks, compared to the next ten months, you need to know. Don’t allow surprises to define the reasons you lost a recruit you really needed.
  • “What other programs do you see yourself taking seriously at this point?” Don’t assume. Even if they’ve told you who they were looking at prior to the visit, double check after the visit. It may have changed. Often times, we find that it does.
  • “What other college campuses do you still feel like you want to actually visit before you make a final decision?” Just like the previous question, their answers often change after the visit as opposed to prior to the visit. We’re wanting to develop a good overall picture of what their whole process looks like, and who they are seeing as the primary players. It’s a different question than the one that precedes it, so make sure you ask it at some point soon after your prospect’s visit to your campus.
  • “Give me two or three big things that you wish you could change about our campus or our program now that you’ve been here.” The temptation is to let them take a pass when they squirm at answering this question. Don’t give in. Have them define what they would change about your campus now that they’ve seen it in person…EVEN IF it’s not something big. In fact, you can tell them that even if it’s something small in their mind, you still want to know. Small discomforts might be used at the end to justify why they aren’t going to choose you and your program…if you ignore them after the visit, and then don’t work to change their minds through consistent recruiting communication.
  • “What did your parents say they liked about our campus and the whole visit?” The parents, as you know if you’ve followed our recruiting search or had us on your campus to explain the details of a family’s decision making process, are key. You absolutely need to understand what they like – or didn’t like – about the visit. From there, you can formulate a strategy as to how you will want to separately recruit the parents during the stretch run.

These six key questions are just the start of effective questioning following the visit. Based on their answers, you can develop more questions that are going to give you insights on what they are thinking – and what you next set of actions need to be.

If you don’t ask the questions, or naively assume that their visit to campus answered all of their questions, you risk wasting all of your hard work up to that point. Continue your job as a recruiter, Coach. It’s important if you want to develop consistent post-visit success.

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3 Vital Campus Visit Questions Coaches Need to AnswerMonday, February 2nd, 2015

The following is an excerpt from our new book, Freaking Awesome Campus Recruiting Visits.  It’s the ultimate guide for college coaches when it comes to developing campus recruiting visits that amaze and delight your prospects who visit your campus, and it’s full of unique ideas and new research that will give you lots of ways to make your campus visits different from your competition.  

You can pre-order your copy of Dan Tudor’s newest book here, and save $10 before February 28, 2015 for an early-March delivery.

Have you given them a reason to come to campus?  Other than you being interested in them, 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 for them to commit to the visit.

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.

The truth I want college coaches to understand is that today’s prospect is looking for justification as to why they should make you one of their precious visits.  Most of your recruits won’t decide to come visit your campus just because you’ve invited them.

Have you laid the groundwork for the visit?  From the scenarios we’ve tracked involving clients 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, a stranger contacting you out of the blue and asking you to do that would probably be grounds for contacting the police.  Be patient, let the recruiting relationship build over time, and then ask – usually, after solid repeated phone conversations and consistent messaging through letters, emails and direct messaging.

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.

How do you define a “story” when you are recruiting your prospect?  It’s an ongoing conversation centering around answering the question of “why should they commit to you, your program and your college”?  Most coaches don’t follow-through with that kind of ongoing story, and it leaves them open to random and inconsistent recruiting results.  Plus, it will make it much, much harder to secure a campus visit from the recruits you really want.

So, for you and your program, there are three central questions that you need to answer as you begin to redevelop your campus recruiting visit:

  1. Have you clearly and consistently stated why your recruit should visit campus?
  2. Have you taken the steps that this generation of recruits has clearly signaled is vitally important to them before they will likely feel ready to visit your school?
  3. What specific plan have you outlined for them prior to asking them to visit campus?

If you’re finding it hard to get consistent campus visits from your top prospects, not developing well thought-out answers to these three important questions could be the reason why.

Order your copy of “Freaking Awesome Campus Recruiting Visits” here.

Balancing Parents and Prospects During Their Visit to CampusMonday, August 11th, 2014

One of the trickiest balancing acts college coaches are asked to perform on a regular basis is effectively meeting the needs of prospects on their visit to campus, along with their parents.

Unfortunately, it’s an act that many coaches never learn how to master.

For years, when we’ve heard coaches describe their campus visit strategies to us during our On-Campus Workshops and consultations, there has been one primary question that gets asked by college recruiters: What’s the right mix of time and attention that a coaching staff should devote to both prospects and their parents?

While there’s no universal “perfect mix” we could recommend – because, of course, every prospect and parent is unique – there are two important rules that any coach can use to build better campus visit experiences for their best prospects that they really, really want to impress:

  1. Separate the prospect and their parents.  Not too soon into the campus visit, find a way to separate the prospect from their parents.  The reason is simple: Each party will usually have a much more memorable visit, and coaches will get more information from both the recruit and the parents.  Useable, actionable information that will help increase a coach’s chances of winning that recruit they really, really want.
  2. Send parents on the traditional admissions tour, and send the recruit off with some of your team.  This is where I could unload mountains of data from all of our focus group surveys we’ve done with clients over the years, helping them design winning recruiting visits for their prospects.  That data, largely comprised of feedback from current college athletes reflecting back on what they liked and didn’t like about their visits to college campuses, tells us something that I’ll boil down to this main point:  When you separate the recruits and the parents while they are visiting your campus, they are both free to speak their mind.  Parents can ask questions that they might not normally ask around their son or daughter.  Recruits can relax and be themselves around their peers, instead of awkwardly deferring to those over-eager parents who gladly jump in to answer the question that you just tried to direct to their son or daughter.  The long admissions tour?  The parents will be much more receptive than their kids – who, by the way, would love the chance to just hang out and play xBox with your players as a way to determine whether your campus feels best to them.

Yes, there are many potential twists and turns any smart college coach could implement into those two basic rules.  The possibilities are almost endless, depending upon the needs and personality of the recruit coming to their campus.

However, these two rules are big keys to a good foundation from which to build a solid recruiting visit.

Want more specific strategies for great campus recruiting visits?  There are several books we’ve written on that topic – and others – that every coach should have in their office library.  Click here to order these two popular recruiting resources today!

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

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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!

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