Dan Tudor

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Why Recruiting Rep #10 is ALWAYS the Most ImportantSunday, March 16th, 2014

Rep #10 of any workout is the toughest rep.

Those are my pasty, skinny legs on repetition number ten at the gym this past week.  If my legs were the definition of college recruiting, I’d be out of a job.  I’m in the process of trying to undo years of sitting in front of a computer screen, flying across the country, as well as marginal eating habits.

Especially when you’re not on your game, rep #10 is the most challenging.

Many college coaches find themselves facing rep #10 as they read this today:  Their recruiting list is in shambles…they’re out of ideas on what to say to their prospect next…they don’t know what questions to ask…and, more for than a few, their jobs are on the line because of years of lackluster recruiting results.

Recruiting quality prospects is the most difficult part of your job as a college coach.  Period.  It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s selling your program to teenage recruits and their parents.

And the toughest part of that process is “Rep #10″…what you do at the end of the recruiting process.  That, and that alone, usually determines how strong (i.e., not skinny, not pasty) your results are.  I once heard a great definition of the important of the last few reps of any workout, which said it was a lot like pumping up a bicycle tire: The first twenty pumps don’t make the bike ready to ride, the last three pumps do.  At the end of the process, college coaches need to focus on those final pumps.  Or, rep #10.

With that in mind, let me give you a quick checklist of three tough-to-do, but high impact, “rep #10″ type duties that coaches can focus on at the end of the recruiting process:

Have the parents of your prospects define where you stand in their eyes.  It’s a hard “rep” because many coaches still don’t put a heavy emphasis on developing an ongoing conversation with parents.  If that’ you, put on the heavy weights and pound out this really important recruiting “rep”.  Often, you’ll get different answers – and more honest answers – than you will from your recruit.  And, honesty is really important at this stage of the game…you should want to know exactly where you stand as a recruiter.

Don’t assume that your recruit knows everything they need to know about your campus and your program.  Your prospect has been to campus, you’ve watched them compete in person a few times, you’ve talked with their coach, and you sent them the big, long letter packed full of information right at the beginning of the process.  What more could they want?  Most of the time, plenty.  As they go through the process, our research shows that they absorb very few actual details about your program if you aren’t consistently, creatively telling them a compelling story about why they should commit to you.  So, as you sit back and wonder what in the world you can tell your recruit that they don’t already know, try emphasizing the basics.  And, tie it back to why they should view your essentials as a smart reason to pick your program.  Most coaches won’t follow through with this recommendation, so it’s an easy way to gain some extra recruiting muscle in the later parts of the cycle.

Tell them you want them, and ask them if they want to commit.  Don’t think they need to hear it again?  Wrong.  They do…now more than ever, actually.  Haven’t verbalized those words yet?  Do it now.  I’m listing this as an official Rep #10 task because it’s hard to do, and some coaches find it awkward to do.  That’ why it often goes unsaid, and coaches just “assume” that their recruit know a coach wants them, and that they can commit anytime they want.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  For many other coaches, it’s just too scary: They view it as pressuring their prospect, or sounding too “desperate”.  Slap on the extra weights, and max out with this vital Rep #10 recruiting task.  Ask for the sale, Coach!

A word of warning:

Make sure you aren’t this guy when it comes to recruiting.  He’s got all the big brand clothes on, and he’s actually made it to the gym.  But every day, we see him sitting and texting while he does an off-and-on workout on the bike.  He’s not breaking much of a sweat, and it’s safe to say he’s not going to be at risk of pulling a muscle.

Recruiting at a high level is tough work.  It’s demanding.  It requires consistency, and a high degree of “pain tolerance”…unreturned phone calls, deceitful parents, uninterested teens, less than desirable facilities to show them when they come for their visit…contrary to what you might think, it’s not easy anywhere.  We work with more than a few extremely successful programs in many different sports and a lot of different levels, and I can tell you that when the office doors close, they have the same struggles and concerns that most mediocre teams’ coaches have when they assess their recruiting needs.

What separates a successful recruiter and coach from someone who ultimately fails at this important part of their job as a college coach is effort on rep #10.  Look for ways you can creatively and aggressively maximize your connection with a recruit and his or her family during the crucial final weeks of the recruiting process.

Want a great weekend of creative techniques, late-breaking research, and amazing speakers who reveal their secrets of successful recruiting?  Join us this June at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference!  It’s a one-of-kind gathering of recruiting minds and coaches from around the country.  Don’t miss it, Coach…click here for all the details.

When Your Timeline Doesn’t Match Your Prospect’s TimelineMonday, January 14th, 2013

They are common problems we see unfolding this time of year:

You had set a deadline for your prospect to make a decision by last week, but mom and dad just emailed you to tell you that they really need to visit just one more campus at the end of the month.

You have a verbal commitment from a prospect, and you just got an email saying that they’re having second thoughts and are going to talk to the other coach again before they make their final decision.

You think you have until late Winter to bring one of your prime recruits on campus, but they’ve decided (unbeknownst to you) that they want to make their final choice in the early Fall, and surprise you with an email announcing their decision before you even have the chance to get them to campus.

Any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, Coach?

It all comes down to this reality: Your timeline as a college coach doesn’t match your prospect’s timeline that he or she has set in their mind.

There are two different ways this usually materializes in the recruiting process.  The most common is that you have a timeline that you need your recruit to comply with sooner rather than later, and your prospect is dragging their feet.  However, there is a more treacherous timeline scenario that sneaks-up on coaches, too: Your prospect is going to make their decision earlier than you think, and you never get to fully recruit them because they make their decision much earlier than expected.

For the coach that mishandles either situation, the results can be devastating to a recruiting class.

Here’s are some solid basic strategies we can recommend in approach each unique scenario:

You need your prospect to make a decision, but they aren’t ready and have told you they need “more time”

  • First, understand that a consistent talk-track of messages, starting as early as possible in the process, will put you in the best position to make requests of your recruit for a final decision.  Inconsistent contact, conversely, will make your prospect read your sudden request for a final decision as “pressure”, and may end up being a reason they choose to go with a competitor.
  • As early as possible in the process, ask your recruit what their timeline is for making a final decision.  If you’ve been through our On-Campus Workshop training, I’d recommend using the version of that question that we included in the list of questions we see as essential to ask your prospect.  Establishing the date that your prospect (or their parents) have set in their mind as the timeline for making their final decision is critical to effectively managing the entire recruiting process, and you are the only one who has the power to get agreement with your prospect on what that date is.
  • Whatever date they finally give you, I always recommend – based on my experience of watching the recruiting process unfold hundreds and hundreds of times – to assume that their final decision is actually going to occur 30 days prior to the date that they tell you.  I don’t believe they are being devious when they give you one date and then end up deciding earlier, it just seems to be a very normal occurrence with this generation of recruit.  They feel like making their decision earlier than first thought, and act on that impulse – sometimes with the first available coach that asks them if they’re ready to commit.  Make sure you are that coach.
  • If they are telling you that they still need more time, you have two choices: Give them more time, or set a firm deadline and require a decision:
    • If you want to give them more time, make sure you do so by getting an agreement on when their decision will be made.  Keep in mind that they may be avoiding giving you a firm decision because they’ve already made a decision not in your favor, and they’re just too scared to tell you.  If that’s the case, you’ll see them hesitate in giving you a firm decision date.  That’s your cue for asking them, “It sounds like you have already made your decision…is that right?”  Getting a decision in this example is the priority, even if it’s not in your favor.
    • If you are ready for – and need them to make – a decision, you need to give them a fair but firm deadline.  My recommendation is 10-14 days from now.  Let them know that you don’t want to rush them or pressure them, so you’re giving them another two weeks to think it over.  That being said, ask them if they know what that decision is right now.  And, if they don’t ask them what are the big questions left in their mind that they’re still wrestling with…that’s an opportunity for a conversation between you and your prospect at a crucial time in the process.

You don’t want your prospects to decide on a competing program before you get the chance to sufficiently take them through your recruiting process

  • As early in the process as possible, as them what their timeline is for making a final decision.  If this is during their Sophomore or Junior year, ask again every six to twelve months (their answer will change each time, I guarantee it).  If this is during their Senior year, make sure you ask at least every three months (their answer will change each time, I guarantee it).
  • Re-read the first bullet point again.  It’s that important.
  • Tell them when you will be making your final recruiting invitations, telling them at what point (approximately) you will be wrapping-up your recruiting for their class.  The longer of a horizon that is, the better.  When you begin asking for a decision as that timeline draws to a close, you will not be viewed as “pressuring” them for a decision; rather, you will be seen as a coach who has been fair with them, and are just keeping your word as to when you would be done with the process.
  • A good general approach when it comes to that conversation: “Keith, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be wrapping-up our recruiting by the end of this coming October…maybe a little sooner.  So that’s why I want to keep track of where you’re at, what questions you have, and make sure we get you on campus soon so you can have lots of time to figure out if we’re going to be right for you.”
  • When that deadline comes, keep it.  Move on.  Not doing so will define you as someone not serious about what you’ve said in prior conversations, which opens you up to further negotiating and waffling down the line. (“Hey son, that coach caved when it came to the deadline he gave you…maybe we can work him over for some more money, too.  Just let dad handle everything, kiddo.”)

The bottom line for getting your prospect to come inline with your timeline is setting expectations early, and communicating throughout the process.  Done regularly, you’ll find this particular recruiting hurdle can be easily addressed time and time again.

Need more strategies and insights into how to effectively recruit this generation of student-athletes?  Visit our online recruiting store!  We have lots of inexpensive but proven resources that hundreds of coaches have used to become smarter, more successful college recruiters.  CLICK HERE to visit.

Even better, make plans to attend the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer!  It’s a gathering of coaches, recruiters and marketing experts from around the country with one focus: Learn the latest and best recruiting approaches to take into the new year.  CLICK HERE to find out more!

Getting Your Prospect Ready to Be AskedMonday, August 13th, 2012

The headline may have caused you to do a double-take.

What do I mean “getting your prospect ready” to be asked?  Asked for what?

A commitment.  You may not have realized it, but the more you prepare your recruit to be asked or a commitment to your program, the more likely you’re going to get a favorable response.

There is actually a lot of psychological research to back-up the idea.

Coaches focus on preparing their athletes for all of the different phases of the recruiting process, so this concept is really no different than any other strategy we’ve suggested in the past.  However, I don’t think many coaches have thought about getting their prospect ready to say “yes” in the way we’re suggesting here.

The latest research on how best to accomplish the idea successfully was conducted by Polish professor Dariusz Dolinski, as reported in the latest issue of Neuromarketing:

The concept of asking for a small, easy to grant, favor in advance of a bigger request is often called the “foot in the door” technique. Past research has shown that when the initial request is more demanding, if a subject agrees to it then the probability of fufilling the second even more difficult request is higher. Of course, more complex or time consuming initial requests are likely to have a lower initial success rate.

Dolinksi used the “favor on the street” experiment often used in past research of this type. But, instead of a merely simple request, the experimenter asked the unwitting subjects to perform a task that was simple but unusual: to tie his shoe (offering the explanation of an injured back). The unusual tasks, even though simple and quick, had the same lift on on subsequent requests as more complex ones.

So, to persuade a customer to do something, consider starting off with a very simple but unusual request. You could try the same “tie-my-shoe” technique used in the research, but I’ll leave it to your imagination to come up with an approach that fits the individual situation.

If you buy into Dolinksi’s research, make the task as quick and simple as you can, just be sure it’s unusual or even a little startling. Then, some time after your prospect complies,ask for what you really want.

Here’s the take-away for recruiters who want to take this rather creative approach to getting their prospects ready to say “yes”:

  • Since it all revolves around getting your prospect to say yes to something you’re looking for them to do – a phone call, agreeing on a date to visit campus, or even – you don’t need to ask them for a favor in person.  Ask them to do something for you by email, or over the phone.
  • Ask for small favors often.
  • Use it as an indicator that they might be ready to respond to you positively.

While this might be a new technique for college recruiters to get their mind around, it’s a proven strategy in the business world.  Now, with new research that backs-up it’s effectiveness, you should feel comfortable trying it with your next group of recruits (when you’re ready to hear a “yes”, that is).

As you begin to recruit this next class of prospects, utilize the resources at www.dantudor.com.  Our resources – many of them free for college coaches – have helped guide recruiters towards their best classes ever, and make the recruiting process more manageable.  Let us help you be a better recruiter, coach!

Asking for the Commitment Without Really Asking for the CommitmentMonday, November 14th, 2011

So there I was, sitting in one of those annonying small little offices on the floor of a car dealership.

An impromtu weekend test drive at the request of my wife had now turned into a three hour odyssey into the depths of everything that is mind-numbing about the typical car buying experience.  But in the middle of it all, a little nugget of recruiting gold:  A great way to ask for a commitment, without actually asking for the commitment.

Towards the end my battle of wits with the parade of dealership personnel that take their turn at trying to get you to overpay for whatever vehicle you happen to be interested in, the dealership general manager walked in.  Impeccably dressed, and disarmingly reassuring, he uttered a phrase that was absolutely brilliant:  “If I call the finance company and they meet your price, can I tell them you’ll do the deal”?

Without thinking, my immediate response was, “Yes, I’d be ready to do it.”

Without thinking, I had just agreed that I would move forward if they could meet the price that I had insisted upon.  In other words, I had given them the “soft commitment” they were looking for, and now they could move forward with the final close.

(This is where you come in, Coach)

“Soft Commitments” are a staple in nearly every type of sale.  It’s also called a “trial close” and it’s an effective way to guage the interest of your prospect without seeming pushy or pressuring them into a decision.  At the car dealership, he simply asked me a question that would reveal my state of mind.  As a recruiter, you can use the same low-pressure strategy to get your prospect to give you a hint regarding where they stand in their decision making process.

What are some ideas that might be appropriate for you to use as a college coach?  They center around asking your prospect intelligent questions that help reveal what they are thinking:

  • Ask questions that use a third person as the reason you need an answer. At the car dealership, it was a conversation that was about to happen with the finance company.  You can use your head coach, your athletic director…someone who holds a degree of power in the decision making process.  Try to make it a person on campus that your prospect hasn’t had the opportunity to meet yet.
  • Ask questions that use a time of year as the reason for urgency. You can use an application deadline, a national signing day, or some other point in the timeline as the reason you need to get an update on where they stand in the process.
  • Ask a question with a “because” in it. It’s a powerful word…powerful “because” it gives your prospect an added reason to give you an answer.  For example, “I’m wondering if you’ll be ready to commit by the end of the week because we got an unexpected call from a really good prospect, and she wants to visit campus next weekend if we still have a roster spot available.”  In our work with other coaches around the country, we find that “because” is a powerful motivator for today’s generation of recruits.

That’s a fairly short list of potential uses of this strategy, and it would be easy to adapt it to your specific situation.  The point is, the strategy is used successfully in professional selling situations around the world.  Your needs are no different than those in the business world:  You want some insight into what your prospect is thinking as they get deeper into the decision making process.

If that describes you, this proven strategy might just get your next prospect to open up.

Do you get the feeling that your recruiting should be doing better at this point in the year?  Our team of experts can help.  We work with large and small programs around the country, and are helping them produce some of their best recruiting classes ever.  Our systematic, research-based approach works.  Want more information?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and ask for a complete overview on our Total Recruiting Solution program.


Where Should You “Ask for the Sale”?Monday, February 7th, 2011

When I was getting ready to ask my smokin’ hot wife Teresa to marry me 19 years and 10 months ago, it took weeks of planning. 

It was going to happen at the beach.  It was going to happen at the end of the day at sunset.  And I was going to ask her at a peak overlooking the Pacific ocean, the same peak that she told me she would go to as a girl and dream of her life to come.  I had the ring ready to go ahead of time, and had practiced my “will you marry me” speech over and over and over again.  The place I asked her to marry me was important.

I was touring a college athletic department that we were conducting a workshop at a few weeks ago and the coach hesitated to show me the weight room.  In fact, he apologized twice before opening the doors…”it’s not as nice as we want it, and they keep promising that we’ll see some improvements here in the next year or two”, he said, explaining later that he was really embarassed to show his visiting recruits the area.  The look of the place that was important to his recruits was important to him.

I bring up these two individual situations to underscore one key thought that I think it is worth thinking about:

Your surroundings matter, especially if there’s an important event associated with those surroundings. 

Since this isn’t a marriage column, I’ll stick with recruiting.  Specifically today, I want to focus on one key part of the recruiting process.  Specifically, where you ask your prospect for “the sale”, or their commitment.

To start with, let me tell you one place that the vast majority of you should strike from your list right now:  Your office.  You know, the place that doubles as your storage shed and locker room.

I’ve seen your office, and it looks a lot like my office.  That’s not a good thing, Coach, especially when we’re talking about asking a prospect to commit to the most important decision in their young lives.  And if you’re thinking, “But Dan, I have a nice conference table and everything”, that doesn’t matter…please don’t conduct important conversations in your office.

With that said, let me give you some guidelines that I’ve seen work at the colleges we’ve worked with, especially over the past two years as we’ve increased our focus on the importance of planning an effective and original campus visit:

  • Again, any place but your office.  Not only is there nothing original in the setting, we see it being a distraction to coaches during that crucial talk with your prospect and his or her family.  Phones are ringing, activity is going on in the offices next to you…its just not a good atmosphere for driving home your message.
  • Consider a big stage.  It depends on your personality, of course, but I’ve seen this work really well when it comes to making your final talk memorable.  If you play in an arena or gym, set up a table and chairs at center court and have your conversation there.  If you play on a field, do the same thing at midfield.  It’s memorable and gets talked about.
  • Casual works, if… it fits your personality.  If you’re a take-charge, dominant personality, picking a setting that is too casual can send the signal that you aren’t serious about your prospect.  The benefit of a casual setting is that it can prompt some great conversation, and lets them know that they can ask questions and talk to you about your offer.
  • Pick a place that isn’t noisy.  It can be busy, just not noisy.  This is a big complaint we hear from parents who are forced to talk with a coach in the middle of a restaurant, or in a loud quad, or even a noisy office is that it’s too easy to not focus on what’s being talked about.  Seems obvious, right?  Just think about it, Coach…how often have your meetings with prospects been interrupted by something distracting?   
  • Ask for the sale in a place that says “we’re big time”.  The great thing about this?  You don’t have to be big time to make it work.  At the point of being asked to commit to your school, we find that your prospects are actively looking for a reason to feel good about you as one of their final choices.  Even if you’re a small college program, pick a place that tells your prospect you see yourself as a program that’s confident, proud and going in the right direction.  So, what place on your campus is your “big time” spot?  That’s something that only you can answer.
  • Talk to your athletic department about establishing a recruiting room.  A safe, effective place to have an important meeting like the one where you ask for your prospect’s commitment is a well decorated conference room.  Preferably, it’s couches or comfortable chairs surrounded by images, trophies, and other proof that you’re part of a first class organization.  It’s one of the best investments an athletic department can make, and will pay dividends for every coach in the department for years to come.

Where you ask your prospect for your commitment might seem like a minor detail.  It’s not.  When we ask parents about their experiences at the end of the recruiting process, the time and effort you put into asking their son or daughter for their commitment – and where you do that - sends important signals to them about how you operate, how you feel about them, and how serious you take their decision. 

So, ask yourself:  What is your current preferred “ask for the commitment” spot?  What does it say about you and your program?

It’s a serious question, Coach.  And if you think you could use a different direction when it comes to your closing technique, the time to change is now (before you host your next top tier prospect and have “the talk” with them!)

If you want expert help in determining how, when and where to close the deal with your prospect, consider becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  We can put together an affordable plan that meets your budget, and effectively addresses your program’s unique needs.  If you want more information or have questions about how it would work with your program, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and just type “tell me how to become a client” in the subject line.  We’ll get back to you with more information and a plan for you to review.  You can also click here to see a complete overview of our client program for college coaches.

Using Signing Day to Create Buzz with Your RecruitsMonday, January 31st, 2011

Wait, you mean you can “use” all the publicity and buzz around the upcoming Signing Day to create some positive buzz with your recruits?

Even if you aren’t a big-time program?


The signing date – one of six signing periods in the NCAA – gives you a unique window of opportunity to tie-in all of the publicity and news coverage with you and your program at your school.  And, you can do it even if you aren’t a sport in the upcoming signing period frenzy.

Here’s what our research has uncovered:

Prospects in nearly every sport, at every level, now associate playing for a college with an official “signing day” event.  That official act is desired, because it cements the reality of the situation into their minds.  Any kind of ceremony associated with any decision makes it all seem more “official”, and it also meets our expectations of what we’ve imagined that decision to look and feel like.  Why don’t newlyweds simply fill out the necessary paperwork, find a government official to verify that both individuals are agreeing to be married, and skip all the ceremony?  You know the reason.

In truth, a very small percentage of future college athletes will sign a Letter of Intent tomorrow.  But for all the others on the outside looking in, it’s a big part of their hopes and dreams – and expectations - for what the day should look like.  And whether you know it or not, it’s a great opportunity for you to stand out to all the Juniors you’re recruiting for next year.

Here’s how to get those prospects excited about you, your program and the idea of making a commitment:

  • Send out a short, personalized message to your prospects about committing to your program. We suggest something referring to all the news about college signings that they’ll be seeing over the coming days, and the fact that you are thinking of them today as you look ahead to next year’s class for your program.  (Note: If you are one of our clients, and you want ideas on how to fit this in to your current recruiting campaign or need us to produce a message, email or call me directly).
  • Send it soon. Within the next week or so.  The timing of this type of message is critical, because media coverage of the February signing date is by far the most publicized of all the signing dates throughout the year.  This is the week to take advantage of all that buzz, and send some of it back your way.
  • Send it no matter what division level or sport. One mistake a lot of your competitors will make this week is assuming that this signing period “isn’t for them”.  They’re wrong (but lets not tell them, o.k.?)  If you’re a Division III coach, you can use all this publicity to get your prospects thinking about you.  Remember, you’re looking to send a quick message to them associating this current event with your interest in them as a prospect.  Even if your division doesn’t use the NLI, you can still use the idea of committing to your program – the act of making that big, final decision – in this message.  And you should.
  • Tell them what to do next. It’s important that your message doesn’t just talk about how much you want them to sign with your program down the road, and then leave them without anything to do in response to that.  Ask them to act on your message:  Reply back and tell you if they’re interested in scheduling their campus visit, find out if they know anyone who is signing a NLI this week, ask if they have any questions about how committing works at your college…anything that gets them to respond back to you and open the door for communication between them and you.

I’ve found this to be an effective tool in creating some good short-term focus on you and your program, using something that they’ll be hearing about all week long if they’re tuned in to the national media.  Both letters and email work well, although email is especially effective because it allows them to reply back immediately and start that conversation that I mentioned as one of the goals of this communication.

They key is to make the message personal to your prospect, and relate it to making a commitment to your program.  If it’s done properly, you’ll find that you’ll really get the attention of your prospects and get them thinking about signing with you when next year rolls around.

We’ll be discussing more original approaches and creative strategies at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer.  Click here for all the details…it’s a one-of-a-kind annual conference for coaches who are serious about becoming recruiting pros.

Want to see all of the speakers and content from previous national conferences?  Click here to order our complete 3-DVD and workbook sets that coaches are using to build their recruiting resume.  It’s over 13 hours of instruction from a collection of the nation’s best and brightest when it comes to recruiting, marketing, communication and relating to teenage prospects.