Dan Tudor

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Telling a Recruit Story About What You’re NotMonday, November 5th, 2018

More college coaches, athletic departments, and admissions departments need to do what the state of Nebraska is doing.

They’re owning who they are (or at least who many of think they are).

It’s their new national ad campaign promoting their state by stating a warning: “Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

I love it. For years, I’ve been begging coaches to tell their recruits who they’re wrong for. In other words, what type of prospect wouldn’t do well on your campus, wouldn’t fit in on your team, and wouldn’t feel completely at home on your campus. It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? I mean, shouldn’t coaches want to do everything they can to only tell recruits the wonderful aspects of campus, and their program?

Actually, I think Nebraska gets it right. In an article from AdWeek reporting on the state’s new campaign, they bring up the fact that “the Nebraska Tourism Commission felt that it was essential to disruptively step out of the shadows of the previous slogan, “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice.” and work its way out of being dead last on the list of states that tourists are interested in considering for their next vacation. “To make people listen, you have to hook them somehow,” John Ricks, Nebraska Tourism executive director told the Omaha World-Herald. “We had to shake people up.”

Many college recruiting campaigns could use the same jolt. Can you imagine? A college program actually poking fun at themselves a little?

Here’s why taking this approach is going to work for Nebraska, and why I feel strongly in taking a creative approach that radically defines your college, and your program for this generation of marketing-savvy teenagers.

They desperately look for differences. The goal of most colleges? To make their campuses attractive to just about everyone. Certainly, different schools have varying focuses and niches, but overall they tend to not want to push away potential applicants. According to our research, not defining your campus (or sports program) causes a lot of frustration for recruits, because they’re busy trying to figuring out which one of their options is better. As you communicate with them, how are you achieving that?

They demand that you get them to pay attention to you. It’s a competitive landscape for their attention. If you sound the same as everyone else, how is that helping you? One of the biggest questions we get from college coaches is, “how can I get these recruits to pay attention to us?” I think a better question would be, “what are you doing, as a coach, to earn the right to have their attention?” Think about it, Coach.

They want proof what you’re telling them is true. The magic of the new Nebraska campaign is that once it gets you to pay attention to what they’re saying, they prove that their good-natured ribbing is actually showcasing a lot of good stuff when it comes to erasing stereotypes, and showcasing what Nebraska has to offer. You can (and should) find ways to try the same thing for your audience.

Don’t be afraid to be different, Coach. Define yourself, tell a creative story, and watch what happens after that.

(But honestly, that proven recruiting strategy probably isn’t for everyone).

The Case for Getting Your Prospect to Talk Negative About YouMonday, January 8th, 2018

From a really young age, we are taught to earn the trust of those around us.

We want them to like us, and say only good things about us to anyone they might meet. We want positive words, positive vibes, and positive results.

Positive, positive, positive.

Here’s why that might not be such a good thing when it comes to your recruits, and the effort to attract them to your program:

If you can’t get them to reveal what they view as negative about you, your program, and the opportunity to come to your campus, they probably aren’t going to tell you the truth about some of the things that they really feel about the idea of coming there.

The reason? According to the research and focus groups we conduct during our campus workshops and work with our clients, today’s prospects talk to us about the hesitancy in telling a coach what they don’t like about the program, or the objections that they are holding quietly against you.

Don’t feel badly, Coach. It’s not just you, it’s virtually every coach they get to know while getting recruited. So, how do you separate yourself in the mind of your prospect so that you don’t endure the same fate awaiting your competitors who aren’t reading this article?

Get them to talk negative about you and your program. It might be tough to hear, but it’s essential if you want to dig down to the truth and get them to reveal his or her real feelings. Here’s how:

  • Ask them what the two or three biggest question marks are in their mind, now that they’ve gotten to know you and your program. Hear what I’m saying: Don’t ask them “if” they have any questions about the idea of committing to you, ask them what the questions and objections are about you and your program.
  • When they tell you, and seem to be done, don’t stop. Ask them, “I’m really glad you opened up and told me about those questions you’re still trying to figure out…what else would you add to the list?” Don’t assume that they’re done. They will often add to the list, and you need to know everything they are thinking and feeling.
  • Once you feel they are done, thank them again for sharing that honest feedback. It’s vital that they feel like there are no penalties for being honest with you, because you want them to keep being honest with you moving forward. Keep the door open for future revelations from your prospect.
  • Finally, let them know that you are going to spend time talking to them about their concerns, and that you feel after you are done, you’re going to be the program that they end up putting at the top of their list. You don’t have to use those words exactly, but you do need to convey that thought in it’s entirety.

Understand, this isn’t a fool-proof solution for winning every prospect. In fact, it may reveal that you are going to lose a prospect much earlier than you would have normally. But that’s part of dealing with the truth in recruiting accurately, and in a timely manner.

Getting your prospect to talk negatively about you is actually the way you get them to tell you the truth. If you feel like there are things going on behind the scenes that aren’t getting revealed to you in a recruiting situation, try this four step strategy we have seen work consistently over the years.

Want to hear more on this strategy, plus three other unique approaches to jump-starting your recruiting efforts that seem to be stalled, listen to this special College Recruiting Weekly podcast episode. CLICK HERE.

YouTube Star Dan TDM Owns the Brains of Your Future RecruitsMonday, June 19th, 2017

O.K., Coach, here’s the deal:

I “took one for the team” this past weekend (‘team’ being the Tudor family) and took my 11 year old son to see his favorite celebrity.

Dan TDM.

Come down the rabbit hole with me a minute. If you do, I promise you’re going to come away with lots of good recruiting take-aways.

“TDM” stands for The Diamond Minecart. Dan TDM is a professional gamer. He plays video games for a living, videos himself doing it, and then posts those videos on YouTube.

He has just over 15,000,000 subscribers to his free YouTube channel. Most of them are four to six years away from being the kids you begin recruiting. I got to sit with several hundred with them, and saw their devotion to one of their favorite YouTubers who they were getting a chance to see live and in person.

By “seeing him live and in person”, I mean paying good money to go sit in a seat and watch him play video games on a giant video screen on the stage (Here’s a taste from a different concert location. Did you watch it? I know, I don’t get it either).

My son, and the rest of the kids in the audience, knew all the characters he referenced, all of the subplots, and the insider jokes. I was clueless. At the jokes, and also why my son and his fellow Dan TDMers love his act so much.

That’s where the recruiting lessons come in for you, Coach.

You are on the verge of communicating with a generation of kids, both male and female, who are set to follow those that can entertain them, as well as make them feel part of a special community. Sure, the current prospects you are recruiting want elements of that, but the next wave of recruits will have grown up watching YouTube, and regular people who have turned themselves into international celebrities doing fairly average things in front of a camera.

That’s a big switch if you think about it. You are moving into conversations with kids who are going to demand even more personalized, more consistent, and more entertaining stories from people who are including them in a small community. That’s not going to be an optional thing for you in a few years, Coach, because just as we analyze the current generation’s communication patterns, we’re going to be doing it even more in the coming years. And if you think that Dan TDM fans aren’t being shaped to take in communication in a very specific way, you’re fooling yourself.

The big lesson I am hoping you take away is that in the fight for your recruit’s attention, you’re going to have an increasingly bigger hill to climb.

Your recruits are going to demand an even better, even more creative platform in which you tell those stories (by the way, letters are a more creative platform for this generation of recruits. They are viewed as highly personal forms of communication by your recruits, and a unique platform in their experience.

Dan TDM has the followers he has not because he is an amazing actor (he’s not), or has an especially special skill (he doesn’t). The reason he has as many followers as he does is because he’s genuine, he’s meeting young kids where they’re at (gaming), and he is consistent. He releases videos every few days, right on schedule, and has been doing so for years and years.

If you take the time to study how he’s built his following with the kind of passion that demands moms and dads everywhere take their pre-teens to see him in person, you’re going to have a really good roadmap for how to build an effective story – now and in the years to come.

This is the generation quickly coming just around the corner, Coach. Understand them as best you can before you need to.

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

The Little Known Power Paradox in College RecruitingMonday, January 2nd, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-01-02 at 7.12.40 PMDr. Dacher Keltner is a researcher that studies the science of emotions.

His latest book, The Power Paradox, centers around how individuals acquire power, and how they can influence those around them.

Since one of the primary jobs of a college recruiter is to be viewed as a trusted power by his or her recruits, and help influence their decision to come to their program, his work should interest you. In fact, if you’re a coach looking for an area of a recruit’s decision making process to study and understand more completely as you contact your next class or prospects, this would be a smart area to focus upon.

Here’s a quote of his that I think can have a profound impact on how you approach recruiting your next class:

“People usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others – such as empathy, openness, collaboration, fairness and sharing. But when they start to experience that power, or gain a measure of influence, those qualities usually begin to fade.”

Keltner explained in a separate interview that someone can acquire power and influence by stirring and inspiring others towards something that can be viewed as a big goal. But once that same person begins to feel that power that they acquire, something happens: They become less empathetic, less inspiring, and more inwardly focused on their own goals and desires.

For many college coaches, this is where they begin to hurt themselves in recruiting.

So many times, when we analyze what a new client may be doing incorrectly in their approach to recruiting, I find Keltner’s observations taking hold in two different aspects of a coach’s recruiting process:

  1. A coach shows love and attention towards a recruit, carefully guides the recruit through the process, gets the commitment, and then begins to ignore the newly committed recruit. The result? Recruits notice the difference, second-guess their decision to come to that program. That scenario unfolds quite often.
  2. A coach begins recruiting to a program that is mediocre, carefully studies how to get kids to believe in what is being built, creates a plan to win those recruits, does so, elevates their program, begins to rest on their past successes, and that sloppiness and inattention to detail that they once prided themselves on slowly begins to erode their recruiting effectiveness.

In each case, the process outlined by Keltner plays out: The power and respect comes from treating people the right way, being attentive and focused on their needs, and then once they acquire that power, they begin to ignore the interests of others and turn their attention inwardly towards their own priorities.

You see it in politics, you see it in personal relationships, and you see it in recruiting.

So, if one of the two scenarios I just outlined may have hit a little too close to home, let me give you some advice to follow as we start a new recruiting year (if you want to connect with this generation of recruits, that is):

Don’t stop recruiting. You hear me talk a lot about telling an effective story as a way to get a recruit to connect with you. That shouldn’t end once you get their commitment. For this next class, let me suggest that you continue to tell your story to your committed recruits – basically, continue to “sell” them on why they made a good decision to choose you and your program. Remind them of what you have waiting for them, and what they should be looking forward to once they arrive on campus. You’ve earned their respect and now have a good degree of power to continue to positively influence them. Don’t waste it.

Take a fresh look at your perspective. What has changed since you first took over your program two years ago? Eight months ago? Ten years ago? Many of your competitors have slipped into complacency, and it’s costing them dearly. In what ways are you no longer approaching the task of recruiting with as much energy and passion as you once did?

How are you inspiring? So much of the recruiting equation revolves around distributing facts, and managing the decision-making process. But if it’s true that this generation is one that is seeking out inspiration, how are you giving them that? More importantly, how are you doing it differently than the other college programs they are hearing from? It’s wise to answer those two questions honestly as you prepare to contact your next class.

Power in the recruiting process isn’t about bullying your recruiting into a decision, nor should it be centered around ‘tricking’ your prospect into believing you. We all look for someone to give power to, if you think about it – including your recruits. Re-read the quote for the key aspects of how to do that:

“People usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others – such as empathy, openness, collaboration, fairness and sharing.”

Are you doing that, Coach?


Did you know we work with college coaches on a client basis? When we do, we help them create a customized, research-based approach for their recruiting message. The results are exciting, and it’s usually a lot less expensive than coaches expect. Would you like to talk us about how we can help your program? Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com so we can explain how the process works.



Communicating With Your Recruits After Tragedy StrikesMonday, July 18th, 2016

Turn on your favorite cable channel these days, and you’re likely to hear about a serious crisis or a tragic event.

A school shooting. A protest turned violent. And, the growing incidents of controversial police actions, as well as violence aimed at those same police.

It’s affecting communities around the country, without rhyme or reason. And if you’re a coach who has had one of these events hit close to home, you know one of the first things that crosses your mind is, “how am I going to explain this to my recruits?”

I know that’s the case because when we have a coach who we work with as a client, and an incident happens near their campus, they ask us for help. Unfortunately, we’ve received too many of those requests in recent months as our nation has watched different tragedies unfold in front of our eyes.

These events tend to put the “importance” of recruiting and college sports in serious perspective, of course. However, life – and your job as a college coach – goes on. With that in mind, as with any interaction with your recruits, what you say and do after incidents like these take place, are important.

And while each incident, and each student-athlete you recruit, are unique, we can recommend some important general protocols for any coach to follow that will help communicate with, and (if necessary) calm, your prospects after bad news breaks near your campus or community:

Understand their perspective. As bad as it seems to you (whatever “it” happens to be), understand that it probably isn’t nearly as bad in the eyes of your prospect. What I mean is that you, as a coach on your campus and in your community, live, eat and breathe what goes on at your school and in your town. Most coaches are hyper-sensitive to any potential negative news, and how it might affect the attitude towards their program in the eyes of their recruits; that’s understandable, and I’m not being critical of it (I’d actually rather a coach error on the side of caution versus assuming that everything is o.k.). What I’m saying is that just because something horrible has transpired nearby doesn’t mean you’ve lost your chance to getting that prospect to say yes. From our research and experience, that just isn’t the case.

Don’t wait for them to reach out to you. You, Coach, should reach out to them. Once the situation is over, if at all possible, take the initiative and start the tough conversation about whatever happened. Explain it from your perspective, provide a definition of how they should be looking at whatever the situation is, reassure them, and ask them to ask you questions about it. I would suggest that there are questions or concerns that they will hold back from telling you, so be politely persistent…let them know it’s o.k. to talk about it.

Your tone is as important as your words. Your non-verbal communication is key here, Coach. The more confident, relaxed, and reassuring you sound on the phone, or in person during a home or campus visit, the better. If you take the attitude that you’re going to try to have an open, honest, heart-to-heart conversation with them, you should be fine. But be conscious of the tone you take.

Leave your politics and personal views at the door. Unless it’s a natural disaster you’re referring to, don’t insert your strong political viewpoints in the conversation (Democrats and Republicans can agree that all natural disasters are a bad thing, right?). We hear about so many instances of a parent having a conversation with a coach, the coach dropping a hint at a political belief or opinion on a matter, and then that parent using that disagreeing viewpoint as a reason for eliminating that program from consideration. Such is the world we live in, Coach. Parents – and even some of your kids – can be easily offended by a voiced viewpoint on a crisis or controversy. Keep it in mind, Coach.

Give details on why your team was safe during the incident. If an athlete is truly interested in your program, they’ll be looking for reassurance from you. They want solid, logical reasons to explain why the incident in question is something that, in the end, shouldn’t be something to worry about. In short, they want to “know how to think” about something that happened that may have affected your program. (If you’re our client, let us know anytime you need us to formulate a strategy and the right wording for conversations with your recruits after a crisis is over).

The research says your written and verbal communication counts. If you talk to them over the phone or in person, follow it up with a written summary of what you said. If your first contact with them is via email, letter or social media, follow that up with a phone call.

Don’t use a tragedy against an opponent. Want to discredit yourself and appear downright sleazy in the eyes of your recruit? Try to use a tragedy or crisis against an opponent in the form of negative recruiting. Not only will it not affect their view of your competitor, our focus group testing tells us quite clearly that it will almost immediately discredit you as a likable, trusted coach.

Your goal after a crisis is to provide context of the situation for your prospect. If you don’t, they’ll quickly invent their own story and definition of what happened.

To be completely clear, Coach:

The intent here is not to mislead your prospect or “trick” them into believing some kind of alternate reality. Your goal, as their trusted source, is to give them an understand – from your perspective – as to why a tragedy or crisis shouldn’t be the reason they end up saying no to you and your program.

Your communication plan is the most important part of how you recruit your future team. How are you communicating with your prospect class when there isn’t a crisis to explain? It’s going to determine the caliber of recruit you end up bringing to campus. Since 2005, we’ve helped hundreds of coaches and their programs take a systematic, research-based approach to developing the right recruiting messaging. If you’d like to talk about how we can do that for you and your program this year, email Dan Tudor directly 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!

Why Recruiters Need to Look at Their Sliced Bread DifferentlyMonday, January 18th, 2016

As we’ve started this new year, I’m observing an interesting paradox:

I’m honored to get to work one-on-one with a selection of scrappy, never-say-die, highly intelligent coaches who are taking the approach that they can beat anybody – any coach, any program – for some of the top-tier recruits that they really want. These recruiters are telling interesting stories, making strong selling points, and guiding their prospects through the recruiting process in a logical, timeline-centered manner.

I’m also hearing from another group of coaches who have decided to make this year the year that they finally figure out what they could be doing better as the new year starts, and have reached out over the phone to talk. I love doing that, as it gives me a really firm idea about what is front and center in the mind of the coach who realizes that something different needs to be done, but doesn’t yet quite know how to make those changes. They’re struggling.

So, how can two groups of intelligent, experienced college coaches get vastly different results when it comes to the same activity?

It’s all about how the bread is sliced.

Actually, let me rephrase that: It’s about how you tell the story of how you slice your bread.

I’ll point to marketing expert and author Seth Godin who expands on this concept, using the story of the actual inventor of sliced bread, Otto Rohwedder:

“Otto Rohwedder thought he had invented the greatest thing because he invented sliced bread. He thought that if he got a patent on sliced bread, he’d be rich. What Otto forgot was to ask a very important two-word question: Who cares? No one knew about sliced bread. No one cared. It wasn’t until Wonder Bread came around and marketed it that sliced bread took off. It wasn’t the bread that won, it was the packaging and distribution.

Ideas that spread, win. What we’ve been living through is the greatest culture of spreading ideas that there’s ever been. At one level, that’s great because it’s easier to spread your ideas than ever before. At another, it’s harder because we keep raising the bar.”

College coaches who are engaged in serious recruiting are very much in the business of spreading ideas – about you, your program, and why that recruit should compete for you and not for your competition.

Here’s the problem: I am hearing a lot of coaches focus on the fact that they have “sliced bread”, and now how they slice their bread.

One coach I talked to recently, for example, was baffled that their new turf field, a facility that they had worked several years to fundraise for, didn’t seem to make a difference to this most recent class of recruits even though several kids and their parents had been citing that as one of the biggest reasons they would choose a competitor.

It wasn’t unreasonable for this coach to look at that problem and move quickly to solve it:

  1. Our facility needs new turf
  2. The kids I really want seem to say that’s why they’re not coming here
  3. If I get new turf, the best recruits will finally choose me

If you’re a hammer, sometimes all you see are nails, right Coach?

When we dug a little deeper into his situation, he and I realized that all of the upper-tier prospects he was losing were opting to go to programs that were in a better Division I conference…the teams weren’t necessarily performing better, but the conferences could all be considered “better” than the one that he coached in.

In short, I told him I felt strongly – based on over a decade of dissecting these types of scenarios with the coaches we work with as clients – that his recruits were using his facility as the excuse why they weren’t coming to play for him. In reality, I’m guessing that his recruits were telling them their own story about why another conference would be a better decision for them rather than “settling” for a lesser conference (and I’m sure the recruits’ parents weren’t doing anything to change that opinion).

Back to ol’ Otto Rohwedder for a moment: This coach was slicing his bread better, but his recruits weren’t examining the slices, per se. They were buying into the story, or the marketing, of a competitor’s bread.

Godin observes that Otto’s sliced bread invention, which he invented thinking that he would become rich with a patent on the process, really didn’t take off until Wonder Bread marketed and packaged the bread in a way that connected with our parents and grandparents’ concept of what would cause them to buy store bought, sliced bread.

What I’m telling you, Coach, is this: If you’re having issues with getting the recruits you really want, I doubt it’s because you are slicing your bread incorrectly. It’s probably because you are failing to tell a compelling story, with a mix of logic and passion, done over an extended period of time.

Back to that first group of coaches I told you about at the start of the article: How else could a rag tag group of yet-to-be-winners who are coaching in ordinary conferences and inheriting mediocre records starting to win over better programs? And in two cases, where their lower division teams beat a program in a higher division level? It’s the story.

If I’ve described you, or your recruiting results, here are three next steps to take if you’re interested in changing the flow of your recruiting conversations with prospects:

  1. Identify the potentially negative aspects of your program’s story. Facility? Cost of attendance? Your record? List everything possible that a recruit might give you as a reason for saying no to you, whether that objection ends up being real or invented. Be honest with yourself and come face-to-face with whatever negatives might be used against you.
  2. Write out the phrasing you usually come up with to defend against possible negative perceptions about those aspects. If one of your recruits, or their parents, list it as a negative, how do you explain it to them? And even if they don’t bring it up, how are you bringing it up in the recruiting conversation with your prospect? Write out the verbiage that you would normally use in those situations, especially if it involves listing an excuse or reason you aren’t successful in those areas.
  3. Re-package your sliced bread. Tell a different story about the same negative aspects that you can’t control. Your facility isn’t as good as you’d like it to be? Don’t talk about that; talk about how the recruit is going to get better on that field or court, and that choosing a college based on the facility is the wrong way to choose where you get an education. Is your college the most expensive your recruit typically looks at? Explain to them the cost difference between you and College B is worth it in the long run, and why. Whatever the story, say it confidently, and repeat it over a long period of time.

I realize that in an article like this it’s easy to over-simplify a solution to a complex problem, and I have little doubt that I’m guilty of that here. That being said, this three step procedure is exactly what we do when designing a strategic approach to recruiting a higher caliber of recruit that a client is probably seeking. And, we’ve seen it work way more often than it doesn’t.

Your circumstances are unlikely to change much at your campus, Coach. Your only real option is to change the story that you’re telling your recruits, and do it sooner rather than later.

Again, it’s not the fact that you slice your bread. It’s how you package it and tell the story to your consumers.

Just ask Otto Rohwedder.

If you want to take this concept to the next level, you need to have your Athletic Director bring us to campus to do in-depth research with your current student-athletes on why they chose your campus, and then teach you and your fellow coaches to tell your story in a more strategic, compelling way. For more than a decade, we’ve helped college athletic departments around the country with this personalized, information-packed session. Click here for all the details.

The Little Things That Go A Long WayMonday, January 18th, 2016

by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies

Recently I was asked by a few coaches to give them my top 10 coaching management books.  Number one on my list was a book called “Winning” by Clive Woodward.  

I had the privilege to be a part of an amazing lecture about team management around 10 years ago.  In this lecture, the speaker told us about the book Winning! The book is about the process coach Clive Woodward went through in turning a struggling England National Rugby team into an International Rugby powerhouse.

In an effort to take his team from good to great, Woodward set out to create a unique and incredibly special experience for the players coming into his program.  His ultimate aim was to make the environment so good that once the players had experienced it, they never wanted to be left out of it. 

Woodward created this experience and environment by focusing on the little things he called Critical Non-Essentials (CNE’s).  CNE’s are all of the little things or details that make your program what it is.  Not just any kind of detail, but the development of things that would and could set your program apart from everybody else.   

These CNE’s that he focused on included: the locker room (seating, equipment, lockers, extras, decorations, laundry); dress code (home games, away games); sports information (web, game, media guides, TV, radio, other); practice (before, warm-up, training, cool-down); equipment (practice gear, game gear, logo’s, colors, misc); game day environment; medical/rehab/recovery; nutrition; fitness/strength and conditioning.

So, how does this apply to recruiting?

What do you do to set yourself apart in the eyes of your recruits if your main competitors have the same quality of players, the same resources, and the same standard of coaching?  To be even better and set yourself apart from your rivals you have to do everything in your power to improve the Critical Non-Essentials of your program.

In my usual weekly readings, I learned that Pete Carroll, when he was the coach of the USC football program, sat down with his staff and captains at the end of every season and analyzed EVERY aspect of the program, from their practice tee-shirts to their game day routines.  They would sit down and he would ask “How can we make this better?”  He did all of this in an effort to create the most productive and special experience for his players.  His players knew that Coach Carroll was willing to go the extra mile for them and it not only showed in how hard they played for him, but in the quality of recruits he kept signing year after year.  

With all of the other things that need to get done in a day, I find with most coaches these little details are what get put on the back burner and never fixed.  The time spent doing this will not only create a more loyal team, it can and will be something you can use as a selling point that will separate you from the rest of the pack.  

Here is what I recommend: buy the book if you have a chance because there are a lot of really great ideas about team management in there.  Just a warning, it is a pretty long book and is mostly about Rugby (a sport I don’t think I will ever understand).  It will be well worth your time to read through it though.  

Next, take the time to examine every aspect of the players’ experience within your program (critical non essentials) and discuss it thoroughly with your team.  Don’t just do this exercise with your coaching staff!  

This is a great exercise to get your team involved with.  Empower your team to give you feedback on how they would like things to be.  You have the ultimate veto power, but let them come up with ideas on what could make each aspect of what they experience within the program everyday a little better.  

If you want more from the players, you first have to give them good reasons why they would want to put in the extra effort.  You do that by making the critical non essentials better.  If you make your program attractive, prestigious and exclusive enough, not only will the players give everything they have within them and more, it could be something that sets your program apart from the rest in the eyes of your recruits.  

The soccer team I was coaching before I read the book was 9-6-3 that fall season.  I was then introduced to Clive Woodward’s ways that next winter.  I applied every piece of information I read in that book in the off-season with the team and went from 9-6-3 to 17-3-1 the next season.  It took A LOT of time and effort to implement these ideas, but the results we got were amazing.   Not only was the team excited and committed to the direction the program was headed, and with the experience they were having, the recruits we brought in during that time were pretty impressed as well.  I signed my top 6 recruits that fall!   

Take the time to do this coach with your staff and team.  It will take some work and patience, but you will reap the benefits from this simple exercise for years to come.  

Mandy Green has been a College Soccer Coach for more than 17 years and is the founder of Coaching Productivity Strategies, where she helps coaches develop and discipline their time management. Mandy teaches practical and immediately usable ideas, methods, strategies, and techniques that will help you achieve more, work less, and win more daily work and recruiting battles. When you learn and apply these powerful, practical techniques, you will dramatically improve the quality of your life in every area. To get more awesome collegiate-specific productivity expertise, go to www.mandygreencps.com and opt-in! 

The Customer ISN’T Always Right (and Neither Are Your Recruits)Monday, October 19th, 2015

It was a revolutionary idea back in 1909.

Harry Selfridge, an American entrepreneur who began Selfridge’s Department Store in London at the turn of the century, coined the phrase – and the philosophy – that “the customer is always right.”  It was meant to reassure retail shoppers at the time that they were going to control the shopping experience and that their complaints would be listened to and treated seriously.  It was a revolutionary idea at the time.

But then, in 1914, a counter-philosophy began taking hold. After years of customers taking advantage of the good natured intent of the rule and abusing the kindness of retailers, it was time to re-think the adage.

“If we adopt the policy of admitting whatever claims the customer makes to be proper, and if we always settle them at face value, we shall be subjected to inevitable losses”, wrote Frank Farrington, author of the 1914 book Successful Salesmanship: Is the Customer Always Right?  “If the customer is made perfectly to understand what it means for him to be right, what right on his part is, then he can be depended on to be right if he is honest, and if he is dishonest, a little effort should result in catching him at it.” In short, the customer isn’t always right in the world of retail business.

This has direct application to your recruiting one hundred years later:

Your recruits, and their parents, are dishonest with you at times and are just plain wrong in the way they deal with you during the recruiting process.

The problem that compounds this?  Most college coaches allow it to happen.

Your job as a college coach, as I emphasize in the recruiting training workshops we have done for college athletic departments for more than a decade, is to control the sales process. Somebody has to do it…either you, or your recruit and his or her parents. Since we work for all of you, I vote for you!

That means that there are going to be several times during the recruiting process that you are going to have to identify your prospects as being wrong about something, and require a change in their thinking.

Here are some of the top ways your recruits are going to be wrong during the recruiting process, and what you should do to re-direct their thinking if you want to successfully manage their recruiting process:

Your recruit will easily give in to common misconceptions about your school or program. This will happen earlier rather than later in the process, and if it isn’t corrected and called-out as “wrong” then you will have let it become fact, and it will rule the rest of your recruiting conversation with that athlete and his or her family. Note the root cause of this problem: You. We can’t blame the athlete, who is using limited information and has never gone through the process before, for trying to come to some initial definitions (positive or negative) about you and your program. That’s to be expected, especially if you haven’t won a national championship lately, aren’t in a great location, cost too much, don’t have a successful program history, can’t brag about your extensive resume…you get the picture.

The person that can be blamed is you, since you and you alone are the voice that can correct those common misconceptions quickly and effectively. Most coaches, however, don’t do that. They give in to definition that their prospect has wrongly created, and begin the recruiting process with two strikes against them.

Don’t do it. Correct their perception of your program, and re-define it for them boldly and in as much detail as possible.  And, do it as early as possible. Once we decide something is true, we don’t like being proven wrong and seldom change our mind. Don’t let that happen with your recruit.

Your recruit will tell you they need more time. More time to look at other schools. More time to think about your offer. More time to come back for another visit. In general, “more time” is the same as telling you “I don’t want to make a final decision.”  Even recruits that we interview for our clients as a part of our ongoing strategic work in developing their recruiting message tell us that much of the time they knew they were going to commit to that program, but just didn’t want to make it official…or they were scared to end the recruiting process…or they felt like if they waited another bigger, ‘better’ program would come calling.

For the majority of your prospects, it’s imperative that you set a fair but firm deadline. It’s wrong for your recruits to think that they can control the process and make you wait. It’s your job as a coach to give them the direction that they need to understand your timeline for making a decision.

(Note: This is not a universal rule, certainly. There are situations where you will strategically want to give your prospect more time, and where waiting puts you in a better position to get that athlete. However, in the majority of cases, college coaches don’t direct their recruits strongly enough, resulting in the recruit and his or her family dictating when they will give you a decision. And as I’m sure you’ll agree, most of the time that isn’t to your benefit).

Your recruit lists objections as to why your school or program isn’t going to be right for them.  Sometimes, they’re right. Much of the time, they’re wrong. (And most of the time, the reason they’re wrong is because you haven’t corrected them about the common misconceptions about your school or program, as we talked about a few paragraphs earlier).

Objections are not bad. They are needed in the recruiting process! Tell me about the last top-tier recruit you had who didn’t have any questions, objections, hesitations, or arguments with you about your school. When was the last time that happened? Almost never.

You need to address each objection, and correct it. When your prospect objects to something you have presented, or in the way that they view your college, it’s because they want to know why they should think differently. Read that again, Coach. When your prospect throws out a reason that they aren’t sure your program is going to be right for them, most of the time they want you to give them a counter-opinion as to why they are wrong. You need to do that, Coach. (Here is a quick video primer on the steps to do that).

Do you get the idea, Coach? It’s your job to set the standards, manage the timeline, and correct false assumptions. In short, you need to tell your recruit – your “customer” – when he or she (or the parents, or their coach) is wrong.

If you don’t, nobody will. And if nobody does, the inmates will continue to run the asylum.

Learn more of these kinds of advanced recruiting philosophies and techniques by enrolling in Tudor University, our online training and certification class for college recruiters. It’s an effective way to gain the edge on your recruiting competition! Click here to get started.

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