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

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

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