Dan Tudor

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Why Being Their Perfect Fit is Far From Perfect RecruitingMonday, February 26th, 2018

When we think of things that are perfect in our lives, its a pretty short list. 

Even something simple like finding clothes that fit just right can be a challenge, much less finding the “perfect” college to spend four years at as a student-athlete.

To rise to the level of “perfection”, several things usually need to happen:

We need to figure out if it’s even a possibility that it might be “perfect”, we need to take time to make sure all of our questions and fears have been answered, and then we have to be ready to own the “perfection” after we decide that it is, indeed, a perfect fit for us.

But to read some messaging from colleges and coaches, you’d believe that declaring a university was a “perfect fit” for a given student-athlete would be the secret to untold success. The number initial messages that declare that, from both coaches and the admissions departments at the colleges where they work, are actually hurting their chances of initiating a serious conversation with those prospects.


It’s too big of a jump. It doesn’t make sense. By making that claim, a coach or college communicates that they aren’t interested in making their case to their prospects; instead, they are demanding those same prospects rush to the decision that they want them to come to as soon as humanly possible.

And the prospects see right through it, according to our research. That shouldn’t be a surprise:

    • They need to figure out, on their own, the merits of a particular college or athletic program.
    • They need to take their time in determining whether all of their questions and fears have been answered adequately, Rushing that process only makes a coach or college look insincere, or at the best, clueless.
    • Because of those first two factors, they are unlikely to be ready to “own” that perfection. In short, they haven’t decided that it is indeed a perfect fit.

Hopefully that makes sense. In case it does, here are three out of the seven strategies that we typically will use with our college coach clients when we want to denote a connection with a new prospect, without trying to make the case that a particular program is “the perfect fit”:

Tell them one specific thing you want them to know about you. That’s one of the most effective ways to get them curious about what you and your program are all about without trying to make the ridiculous case that you are “the perfect fit”. Detail one special thing about your program or campus, let them know that you can’t wait for them to see it for themselves soon, and then ask them if they feel like it’s something that would be a factor in them choosing a college.

Give them some reasons you might NOT be a good fit. These don’t have to be actual negatives about your program or campus…I’m not suggesting that you throw your program under it’s own bus for not winning too many games during the last two seasons, or point out that prospects would hate your on-campus housing because the rooms are run down. I’m talking about personality traits (“lazy kids who don’t want to work towards a championship aren’t going to be a good fit here”), the size of your campus (“if you’re looking for a campus where people don’t know your name, and it’s not personalized, then this place won’t be a good fit”) or what your team is like (“we’re looking for prospects who want to join a group of guys that love hanging out together off the court as best friends”).

Ask them to give you their top two or three factors in choosing the right program, coach and college. If they reply and are honest and open with you, they’ll give you a beginning roadmap to winning their attention, and they’ll be more likely to listen to the case that you make.

Describing your campus as “the perfect fit” is just one of the verbal miscues we see well-intentioned college coaches making on a regular basis. The fixes are actually pretty easy, and the results can be significant.

The lesson I want you to remember: Be careful choosing the terms you use to describe where you coach!

Advanced uses of language in recruiting is just one of the next-level topics you’ll learn about at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this summer! Register now to save your seat…it’s a fantastic event by coaches, for coaches. And, it’s one of the only places you’ll go to learn how advanced recruiting is really executed by creative coaches from around the country.

Four Sure-Fire Signs Your Recruit Really Is Interested In YouMonday, November 27th, 2017

We’ve always looked for signs of interest.

Growing up, you looked for signs that the special someone you had your eye on at the playground might like you, too. You looked for signs your high school coach was as good as your parents kept telling telling you that you were. You looked for signs that head coach you interviewed with for your first assistant coach position might have liked you the best.

Looking for signs of interest have now extended to your recruiting efforts. And like the three examples I just gave you, most of the time you were trusting your gut feeling in determining the answer. You listen for the tone in your prospect’s voice, you get excited when they return your text message, and you believe them when they tell you that you’re in their top five (spoiler alert: you might be disappointed).

Those little signs of life are indeed reason for hope – in the first half of the recruiting process leading up to a visit to campus. But as you’ve probably noticed, the same communication patterns, over and over again, get a little maddening. You’re looking for new reasons to get excited, and all they keep giving you is, well…more of the same.

So what should you be looking for as you enter what you would define as the final stages of the recruiting process? While recruiting is a combination of art, as well as science (with a little pinch of psychology every now and then), we can really define four clear signs that your prospect will accidentally give you that they are very, very interested in making you their top choice:

  1. The parents reveal what is going on behind the scenes with the process. Specifically, they will share details about who else they are talking to, other last minute visits that they are taking, or anything else related to the process of making the decision as to whether or not your college is right for them. Why is it so important to be hearing from the parents, rather than just hearing the same thing from the recruit themselves? Because we find that in most family recruiting decisions, the parents take an overly-active role at the end of the process with the coaches that they are serious about. (Which is why it’s so important to establish early and consistent contact with the parents of your recruits!)
  2. They ask a lot of questions about money. Or, about details of the scholarship offer you’ve given them. Really, anything that relates to how much they will be paying (or not paying) to attend your college and play for your program. All of this also includes objections or subtle arguments about those topics, too. Why would you want them to ask questions, or argue about, money or your scholarship offer? Because it’s a sign of interest. If they aren’t really taking you seriously, they won’t invest the time and energy into debating you, right? It’s actually the kids and parents who aren’t asking questions or arguing a little about money that you have to be concerned about.
  3. They ask if they can come back to campus one more time. Why? Because they want to make sure they didn’t miss any detail on their original visit(s). It’s an especially strong sign if they ask to see specific things, or talk to specific people, on campus. They probably won’t come right out and tell you that they’re interested, but a return visit late in the game is a really good sign. (Want to dig up more good signs from future prospects? Ask them these questions after they visit).
  4. Their high school or club coach goes out of their way to keep you updated on what the family is thinking. This is actually the weakest of the four signs that I’m giving you, but because so many college recruiters are now dealing with club and high school coaches as a requisite part of the recruiting cycle with an athlete, I wanted to mention it. The skeptical side of me will tell you that most coaches just try to keep all the possible fires burning on as many potential college campuses as possible. They are hoping to keep all the options open for their young athlete. So why should you hold out hope for this sign? Because sometimes, they are doing it in an effort to keep you interested in the athlete, and running interference on behalf of their athlete’s family who he or she knows is going to choose you, but has to wait until they go through the emotional decision making process.

Understand that you don’t necessarily need all – or any – of these to constitute a ‘truly interested prospect’. You may have top level kids that commit without demonstrating any of these at any point in the recruiting process. However, if you’re looking for something more than just a “gut feeling” about the situation down the final stretch, trust these four sure-fire signs that you have an interested prospect on your hands.

Want to learn more about how to guide your prospect through the final stages of the process – including setting and managing a fair but firm deadline? Watch this talk from Dan Tudor at the 2016 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.

Dan Tudor – Deadlines & Closing from Tudor Collegiate Strategies on Vimeo.

The Unending Agony of Being In Your Prospect’s Top FiveMonday, February 27th, 2017

Don’t get me wrong:

Being “in” their top five college choices is better than not being in their top five. At least in theory.

The thing is, we’re finding that being listed in a prospect’s “top five” isn’t what it used to be. In the good ‘ol days, being listed in a recruit’s top five was the result of much deliberation, and a good degree of logical decision making on the part of your prospect and his or her family.

Not anymore.

Now, in many (most?) cases, being listed in your prospect’s top group of college choices is just a small part of the recruiting game they play:

  • You ask them to list their top five colleges when they first fill out your recruiting questionnaire? Yep, you’re on it. Why wouldn’t you be?…they want you to stay interested in them, and that’s one sure way to do it.
  • You’re getting ready to bring kids to campus on visits? Your prospects know what to do: List you in their top five, and get a trip to campus. It can be a lot of fun for them, and keeps you on the line in case some of their other higher ranked choices don’t pan out.
  • You’re asking them to commit, and have offered a scholarship or a roster spot? That’s great coach, and you’re in my top five, but I just need to wait until I make one or two more visits and hear from those other coaches.

Are any of those painful reminders of recruiting past, Coach? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Today’s prospects have learned a valuable lesson from college recruiters: If they continue to show just enough interest in you, you’ll continue to show just enough interest in them. Let’s not blame them for that; however, lets also not give up that negotiating point to them – especially if it’s later in the process, and you’re really needing to make some final decisions soon.

There are ways to take better control of the situation, and truly uncover where you stand with many of your recruits – and, put an end to the unending agony of hearing that you are in your prospect’s top five, when that may not actually be the case.

If they say you’re their number one choice, it might be time to close the deal. Of course, you have to feel the same way. But in the event you do, you need to take action. It is staggering, to me, the number of times a coach will hear a prospect tell him or her that they are number one on their list, which is met with indifference by the coach; the process wears on, and the recruit assumes that your lack of interaction means you don’t want them. When your prospect tells you that you’re number one, that’s a big cue. Take it. Or, risk losing them.

If they say you’re one of their top choices, it’s time to get clarification. Personally, I would often recommend to a client that they take the leap and ask if that means they’re ‘ready to commit’. The benefit to that? If the answer is “yes”, you just won the recruiting battle. If the answer is “no”, then it opens up the next logical step in the conversation: Getting them to explain where you stand with them, and why. And, what needs to happen next, in their mind. That’s valuable information that most coaches never dig deep enough to uncover. Don’t be that coach.

If they say you’re “one of the schools/programs we’re still looking at”, that could be a red flag. As we’ve outlined in past articles, it’s really hard for your prospect to tell you no, which means you need to search it out. Why?  Because it’s hard for them to say no, they tend to drop hints. This is one of the most common. They are probably going to tell you no, and they’re feeling a little guilty about how to break it to you, and so to make you feel better, they say something generic like “you’re one of the schools/programs we’re still looking at.” If you hear that, I’d recommend following-up with something similar to the response in the previous paragraph. The goal is to define exactly where they stand. As the process gets closer to the end, understanding exactly what they’re trying to tell you is one of your primary jobs as a college recruiter.

If they indicate interest verbally in some way, but you aren’t seeing physical evidence of that alleged interest, it’s all about to implode. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, where the recruit re-appears out of nowhere and commits to your program, saving that recruiting class. But I beg you not to worship the exception, rather than the rule. Most of the time, their actions match their verbal assurances. That could take the form of uninitiated contact on their part on a regular basis, communication from the parents, asking to come to campus again, returning an email or text message…something that indicates that you are important enough to keep in touch with, even when they know you’re ready for their final decision.

We aren’t going to go deep into the nuts and bolts of asking for the commitment (click here if you want to look at our library of past articles on that topic). The point of this discussion about this aspect of the recruiting process is stressing the importance of you and your coaching staff correctly assessing exactly where each of your recruits stand. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security when you hear a prospect telling you how you’re still in their top five. Question it, confirm it, and then act on it.

If you don’t, be prepared for the unending agony of lost recruits to continue.

Want more detailed instruction on how to handle delay tactics by your recruits at your college? Bring Dan to campus for a detailed training session designed specifically for your campus. We’ve completely updated what we talk about and how each aspect of the recruiting process should be approached by a college coach. For information about our famous on-campus recruiting workshop, click here or email Dan Tudor at dan@dantudor.com

Why College Coaches Need to Search Out the “No”Monday, February 22nd, 2016

No doubt about it, the primary focus of a college recruiter is to get the “yes” from one of their prospects.

When you get a yes, it’s one more piece of the puzzle in place: A piece that either keeps the dynasty rolling, or gets you one step closer to building that winner.

It’s all about the “yes”.

But if you want to get the “yes”, you’re going to have to try to get your prospects to say “no” more often.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right?

I mean, why would a coach even want to approach the concept of “no” into their recruits’ vernacular? A lot of college coaches want to stay 100% positive, 100% of the time. It’s all about selling the benefits, getting them to fall in love with your campus, and repeat back all the ways they love you and can’t wait to come play for you.

But in your gut, you know it’s more complicated than that. You know that the game has changed.

This generation of recruits are more savvy than ever when it comes to how to play the recruiting game, and how to use it’s timeline to their advantage. In addition, this generation seems to have very little apprehension when it comes to not exactly telling coaches like you the whole truth. And that means you wait…and lose other recruits while waiting…and, in many cases, eventually lose that recruit you were waiting on who was never telling you the whole truth.

My recommended solution? Search out the “no”.

Throughout the recruiting process, I firmly believe that you should put your prospect in a position of having to tell you ‘no’ more often. Especially towards the end of the process.

Why? Because I’ve seen more recruiting classes ruined, and more coaching careers stall, due to waiting on recruits and never demanding a “no”.

So, assuming I’ve sold you on the general idea of getting your prospects to say “no”, here are some ideas on where I’ve seen it work when we’ve strategically used it as an effective “secret weapon” with our clients over the past several years:

Early in the process, search out the “no”. One of the classic mistakes we’ve seen coaches at all levels make as the put together their initial list of a recruiting class is that they assume all of them a serious possibilities, and that all of them are going to give you a fair hearing when it comes to what you have to offer.

Sadly, that’s not the case: Many would eliminate you quickly, for example, when it comes to where you are located. You’re either too close to home, or too far from home. And there isn’t anything you can do to change their mind on the topic. You, as a recruiter, should make it your goal to uncover that line of thought as soon as possible. So, as an example of how you “search out the no”, ask a recruit who is far away, “Tell me why it feels smart for you to leave home and go away to school out of state?” In my experience, a recruit who can give you solid answers to this question that demonstrates they’ve thought about it and has come up with good reasons it makes sense for them, then I think that is a type of “yes”. Alternatively, if they give a wishy-washy answer and doesn’t lay some specific thinking as to why the idea makes sense to them, then you might treat that as a real red flag…maybe even a type of “no”.

The philosophy of searching out no’s early on in the process really centers around the idea of finding out who is truly interested in (or at least open to) the idea of playing at your college. Our rough science says four out of every ten would never consider you, but also won’t tell you right away (hey, it’s fun when you show them attention, and maybe they can use you to pressure the other school they really want to go to). My goal, on your behalf, is to narrow your list sooner and not waste time with the 40% that you have no shot at.

That’s just one of the ways you can, and should, use the concept of searching out a “no” early in the process.

In the middle of the process, search out the “no”. As you approach the point where you know you have their interest, but aren’t sure where you stand, I recommend setting a fair but firm deadline. (Actually, I’d recommend that at the beginning of the process, but even getting our clients comfortably with that philosophy is sometimes a challenge, so I’m throwing it in here for your consideration).

I’m not talking about a 24 or 48 hour deadline that some coaches use (yes, those kinds of deadlines do work at times, but they are also the most likely to turn into a de-commit or transfer situation down the road). I’m talking about a fair, long term deadline (or “horizon”, as I like to refer to it) that lets your prospect know early or midway through the process when they need to make a decision, and why.

There are entire days we spend with coaching staffs to outline with strategy in a workshop we’ve developed on this idea, but let me try to give you the highly condensed version here: Set a deadline for making a final decision months in advance; use that deadline reference matter-of-factly as a reference point for making a decision throughout the process, along with telling them why they should choose you on a consistent basis by telling an effective story through your recruiting communication; make sure they get to be on campus and spend time with your team; when the deadline date approaches, ask for their decision (more on that step in a moment).

At each step of the process during the middle of the process, you need to be looking for signals that they are either 1) leaning away from you and towards a competitor, or 2) have decided against you, but have not verbalized that to you. As you go through the meat of your recruiting process, make these two red flags the constant thing you try to uncover.

In working with many, many college coaches and their programs over the years, I firmly believe that this is where the recruiting game is won or lost. More coaching careers, in fact, have been ruined with the false belief that they were a prospect’s top choice, only to find out that they were never really in the running with that recruit. Problem was, the recruit didn’t want a coach to criticize of demean their choice, or they didn’t want to hurt the coach’s feelings, and so they don’t say anything. And, well…you know the rest of the story.

Be vigilant in searching out negative signs throughout the middle of the process. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll find a “no” and then be able to move on to the next process on your list before your competition does.

At the end of the process, search out the “no”.  One of the most curious sociological phenomenons I’ve observed this past decade is the abject terror that many coaches feel towards the end of the recruiting process when it obviously becomes time to ask a recruit to tell them yes or no.

To be clear, I understand why they feel that way; that recruit represents months of work invested into getting them to this point in the process, not to mention the hopes of a stronger future for their program. And yet, at some point, dreams of a stronger recruiting class and reality have to intersect.

There has to be an end point. And, in my strong opinion, most recruiting scenarios demand that that the coach be the one to define that end point. That either means you’ll hear your prospect say “yes”, or “no”.

The general rule that we’ve seen work well for coaches is this: If you’ve communicated with your prospect on a consistent basis for a good amount of time, explained why your program should be their choice, have had them to campus, and have either 1) given them their scholarship offer, or when there is no scholarship money b) told them that you want them on your team and are offering them a spot on your roster, then it’s reasonable for you to ask them for their decision. More bluntly, you can demand that they tell you yes, or no.

First the good news: A good number of your recruits, at the end of the process, will tell you “yes”. The truth is, this generation – and their parents – need you to ask them for action that they can react to (i.e., you ask them for their answer, and only then will they tell you their answer). I could give you literally hundreds of examples where this simple process has resulted in a favorable decision for the coach.

Now the bad news: They might tell you “no”. But since it’s towards the end of the their recruiting process, is that necessarily a bad thing? A “no” means that you are approaching this critical point of the process realistically, and accurately.

If you doubt whether or not your prospect is indeed ready to make a decision at the end, and tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ask yourself and your staff, “What more can we show them or tell them to get them to feel ready to give us their answer?” If the only thing you can come up with is “more time for them to think about our offer”, that’s usually a weak justification. More time rarely works in a program’s favor; once in a great while, it does. But not enough times to justify it as your go-to strategy, in my experience.

You’ve set a fair but firm deadline, you’ve told your story, made your offer, and asked for their commitment. If they still can’t tell you “yes”, then what they are really telling you is “no”. Look for that at the end of the process.

The word “no” can be one of your best allies in the battle for recruits. But you have to manage that word, and incorporate it into your recruiting strategy.

That takes guts. But as the saying goes, “No Guts, No Glory”.

Come to the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer to dive in to this philosophy in greater detail, and learn to put together a better overall recruiting strategy for your program. Click here to reserve your seat, Coach!

How To Be the Best Recruiter in the Shark TankMonday, June 22nd, 2015

Ever watch the CNBC show, Shark Tank?

It’s one of my favorite television shows, along with The Profit.  And just like the important recruiting lesson we gleaned from The Profit in a previous column, there’s a fantastic example of how to lead a prospect through the recruiting decision making process from the panel on Shark Tank.

As you watch it, don’t look at this business pitch from the Sharks for a piece of Bobbi’s “FunBites” business.  Picture it as a fairly typical recruiting situation, especially late in the process.

And as you do, copy the strategy that Lori Greiner employs against her competition.  Here’s the breakdown of the clip:

:00 Bobbi is nearing the end of the pitch, and she has offers on the table.

:21 Bobbi gets a smile and nod from billionaire Mark Cuban, who is counting on her letting him come in at the end and make her an offer that she won’t be able to refuse.

:42 Lori comes in with her offer. Whether it’s better than the other offers or not isn’t important. Note her confidence, and clarity. She feels her offer is the best, and she wants Bobbi to understand that.

:50 The noise starts. The other Sharks who have made offers all start talking at the same time, and you can see the confusion and pressure starting to mount for Bobbi as she realizes she’s going to have to make a decision. Confidently, Lori offers her rebuttal with a smile.

1:00 More noise, more pressure. How is she supposed to make a final decision with all of that noise and incoming information from all of the people that want a piece of her deal?

And then, Lori does what I would advise every college to do. If you want to try copying her word for word the next time you want a recruit to make a final decision in your favor, that might not be an unwise thing to do:

At the 1:12 mark, Lori makes her move:

“I’d like you to take my offer now, because I feel like you know whether or not you’d like to partner with me.  So if you want to partner with me, I’d like you to say yes right now.”

It’s brilliant.  Here’s why:

  • She sets a fair, but very firm, deadline. The inventor has multiple offers, she’s heard all the pitches, and is now obviously struggling to make a final decision (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She uses the important word “because” to initiate action. If she didn’t, the recruit would probably seek out just one more good option, delaying the difficult final decision as long as possible (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She focuses on feelings, not facts. Her prospect has all the facts she needs to make a decision. But most of us make our decisions based on the way we feel about something (sound familiar, Coach?)
  • She comes back to the deadline again. If she doesn’t, there’s no imperative for her prospect to make a final decision. There’s always one more offer to consider, and it’s intoxicating to be wanted by just one more good option (sound familiar, Coach?)

And, it works. She gets the deal at the 1:30 mark in the video.

Although, if you watched it until the end, you’ll notice that even after Bobbi “verbally commits” to Lori, the other Sharks keep recruiting her.

How does she keep the commitment?  By smiling confidently, restating her position, and then doing something at the very end that more coaches need to put a focus on as it becomes more and more challenging as recruiting commitments get earlier and earlier: Lori tells Bobbi, “I know you’re a person of integrity” as the commitment sticks.

There are lots of ways to close a recruit, and lots of ways to construct the right language to elicit the feelings from your prospect. A multi-millionaire that has built and empire selling products on QVC just gave you another great option as you prepare to talk to your next high caliber recruits.

Have you been trained in advanced recruiting and communication methods? We now offer that resource for college coaches around the country, and will even certify the training to demonstrate your proficiency to your athletic director, head coach, or future employer. It’s called Tudor University, and you can get all the details about this fantastic training option here.

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.

Successful recruiting is all about strategy, and the right timing.  If you want to team with a group of professional researchers and recruiting experts to help you communicate with prospects more effectively, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com. We’d love to talk to you about the specifics of your program.

Plus, make plans to attend the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer!  It’s a massive gathering of coaches, recruiters and college 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, and reserve your seat soon!

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

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

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

An impromptu 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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