Dan Tudor

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Every Prospect Needs a DeadlineSaturday, September 14th, 2013

 

Curing Your Prospect’s Analysis ParalysisMonday, January 7th, 2013

You’ve heard of “analysis paralysis”, right?

It’s the term we use when someone over-analyzes a question, situation or choice so long that he or she is “paralyzed” with the inability to decide what to do.  As a coach, you’ve had moments of analysis paralysis, right?

So do your prospects.

Especially as the recruiting process enters the final stages.  The fun of being pursued is over, and now it’s decision time.  And making a final choice is tough for many prospects.  Heck, it may happen way before the end of the process…some prospects freeze in the face of the decision of where to take a campus visit, or even which phone call to return.  “Analysis paralysis” is at the root of a lot of the recruiting hurdles college coaches face when it comes to getting their recruits to get to the next step in the recruiting process.

If you want a more detailed, psychological study explaining the reasons behind the very real phenomenon that is analysis paralysis, click here.  But if you’re ready to jump into a strategy that will provide you with a good opportunity to help your prospect (and their parents) overcome paralysis analysis, let’s get started.

First, understand that the fear of moving forward is going to be commonplace for most of your prospects.  While you’ve been through the recruiting process multiple times, your prospect and his or her family are trying to maneuver through unfamiliar territory for the first time.  And the easiest thing to do when they reach that fork in the road in the process (“what campus should I visit?”…”which coach do I like the best?”…”who is giving me the best offer?”) is do nothing.  You should expect it, and plan for it.

Secondly, understand that you – and only you – can take control and help manage the process and lead your prospect out of the morass of inaction, and begin moving towards a decision.

Thirdly, regarding their decision: It could be “no”.  And as I’ve talked about before, hearing that answer earlier rather than later in the recruiting process is always preferred.  One of the things I often mention to coaches while getting the opportunity to train them during one of our On-Campus Workshops is that I take a “real world” approach to the recruiting process, and the philosophies that should guide it.  That includes taking a realistic approach towards understanding exactly where you stand in the eyes of a recruit, and doing so as early as possible.  Getting a “no” early and having months (rather than days) to pivot and adjust your recruiting strategy effectively, based on the scenarios I’ve seen play out recently in our work with our clients.

So, assuming you’re agreeing with my observations so far, let me offer you a few ways we’ve seen work well in moving your recruit out of “analysis paralysis” and back onto the road towards making a decision (hopefully one that is favorable to you and your program):

  • Be direct. If you’ve been your normal sensitive, polite self to this point in the communication process, I’d want to see you change your approach and be more direct.  By “direct”, I mean short and to the point.  There needs to be a noticeable difference in your tone and approach in an effort to subconsciously let them know that they are entering a new phase of the recruiting process, one that will require a new sense of urgency.
  • Present an assumption. In other words, in an effort to get them to say something (anything!), throw out a statement that they will need to either confirm or deny.  This was a strategy we recommended to a D1 lacrosse coach who is our client: The coach had been waiting for a recruit’s answer on a scholarship offer for months, and together we wanted to find out where this recruit stood with regards to our client’s program.  The question had our coach ask was “so, it looks like we’re #3 on your list at this point, right?”  Of course, we were hoping the athlete would tell our coach, “Oh, no Coach…you’re my top choice.”  However, the athlete finally confirmed what we had assumed: Our coach’s program was the #3 choice in the recruit’s mind, but didn’t want to hurt their feelings and tell them that they weren’t going to go there.  Disappointing news?  Absolutely.  But it moved the process forward in a way where our client could then adjust their strategy with their next three recruits that they had waiting in the wings.  None of it would have happened had the coach not presented an assumption, and then let the prospect react to it.
  • Set a fair but firm deadline, and explain why you have to do that. It’s an interesting thing about this generation of recruits: If you are the one asking them for a decision, they tend to look at it as “pressure”.  If you can find another outside reason (your admissions department, your head coach, the athletic administration) that you are being “forced” to move the process along at this point, their reaction is much more accommodating.  All of a sudden, they’ll open up…they’ll reveal what they’re really thinking…and they’ll take the next step in the process.  The key to this is setting a fair but firm deadline, and explaining why you are having to do that.  The deadline should be a few weeks out so that it doesn’t seem like you are “pressuring” them, but once the deadline is in place, you need to keep it.  No answer from your prospect translates into “we’ve got to move in a different direction” from you and your program.  This recommendation is one of the most effective tactics to shake a recruit and their parents from analysis paralysis, especially later in the process.

The analysis paralysis phenomenon is real.  It happens when we look at real estate, it happens when we consider buying a car (which is why the salesman tries so desperately to get you into that little room inside the dealership…if they don’t, they know you’ll stay “paralyzed” out in the parking lot) and it happens with your recruits and their parents during the recruiting process.

You have some power to change their thinking, Coach.  Don’t waste it!

How to Get Your Prospect to Stop Believing in SantaSaturday, December 22nd, 2012

It’s actually not as harsh as it sounds.

In fact, it’s something that is essential if you’re the coach that is going to direct them most effectively as they maneuver through the often confusing recruiting process.

A little clarification before we get to far into this idea:

What I’m talking about here is a line of separation between believing in Santa, and not believing in Santa.  When our kids are young, believing in Santa is fun.  And they buy into it because their perspective on what is real and what isn’t is a little wishy-washy.  One winter, I earned “Father of the Year” points by sneaking out of our bedroom, scaled a ladder to our roof, and stomped around bellowing “Ho, Ho, Ho!” so that our subsequently terrified kids would believe in Santa (I was even able to make it back to bed before they came in to wake me up telling me that they had just heard Santa).  Getting them to buy-in to Santa was easy.

Fast forward to our adult years.  We know Santa isn’t real (sorry if you’re reading this and you’re a 7-year old kid whose mom or dad who is a college coach…there really is a Santa Claus, I’m just trying to trick your mommy or daddy, o.k.?  Don’t tell them).  Not only do we not believe in Santa, but it’s hard to remember when we did, and why.

There’s a mental chasm that has formed between what we used to believe and what we know as reality now.

And that’s where most coaches begin to make a fatal flaw as it relates to recruiting…

  • Are you wondering why your B-caliber prospect is insulted when you don’t offer him a full scholarship, when you know full well that he isn’t going to get any full ride offers from coaches?  It’s because he (and his parents) believe in Santa, and you don’t.
  • Are you confused when your prospect gets bored with you six months into the recruiting process and no longer replies to your occasional emails or mediocre form letters?  It’s because she (and her parents) believe in Santa, and you don’t.
  • Are you incredulous when your top tier prospect loves you, your campus and your great offer but is calling you to tell you that the other coach just offered $1,000 more at the last minute so he is going to take their offer?  It’s because he (and his parents, plus his club coach) believe in Santa, and you don’t.

When I talk about “believing in Santa”, I’m describing the often unrealistic expectations that your prospects have as they move through recruiting.  So much so, in fact, that they will let those emotions and beliefs rule their decision making process.  They’re “believing in Santa”…something that looks and feels real, but is actually a fantasy.

As a high level college recruiter, one of your core responsibilities is to explain reality to your prospect – and those individuals helping him or her – that it’s time to stop believing in “Santa”.  Your other core responsibility is to tell them how.  Most coaches fail on both counts.  However, the coach that is able to achieve those two objectives during their recruitment of a student-athlete is going to have a rich, successful career as a college coach.

If that’s your goal,  here are a few of the successful ways we’ve helped college coaches lead their prospects back to reality:

  • Influence their parents and/or coaches. That means you’re going to have to come up with a separate recruiting messages aimed specifically for them that will give them logical justification to point the prospect to you and your program.  Sometimes, it’s hard for a prospect to trust and believe in what you say (especially if you are inconsistent in your messaging with them).  They’ll trust and believe those already close to them far more quickly.
  • Explain the “why” behind your talking point. Whether you are trying to justify why they should choose your program that is far away from home, or explaining a partial scholarship offer, going into detail about why that makes sense is essential.  Most coaches skip over that part of the conversation, thinking that today’s prospect might be insulted or confused by a lot of details.  Our research shows the exact opposite to be true.  Going into detail will often be the reason they connect the dots, see your logic, and (possibly) change their view of what the “right” decision is.  If you leave out the details, it’s unlikely that will be the case.  That doesn’t mean you’ll never get prospect to commit; rather, it means that your results will be far more sporadic.
  • Talk about a deadline far in advance. We’ve become fans of fair, long-standing, established deadlines for a prospect to make a decision, primarily because it works.  Telling your prospect when you’ll be needing their decision – and then sticking to that deadline – tends to cut out the sugarplums dancing in their heads, and focuses them on the task at hand: Seriously considering your offer, and making a final decision.  The coach that fails to set a deadline, or mentions a date and then gives-in when a prospect tells him that she needs more time, is more likely to see that recruit take an unrealistic approach towards the decision making process.
  • Tell them that maybe it’s just not the right fit, and that they should pursue other opportunities. In other words, give them a little taste of “loss”.  Let them know that you’re prepared to move on.  Give them the feeling that life will go on – and that your team will actually suit-up next season – even if they aren’t there with you.  Talk about walking away.  When you do, you’ll often see the prospect (and their parents/agents) respond with verbiage that tells you “whoa, wait a minute…we’re still interested!”  It’s an effective verbal technique when used properly, and at the right time in the process.

The most important lesson in all this is for you, Coach:

It’s your responsibility to lead your prospect from fantasy to reality, and to do it with sensitivity.  You shouldn’t be surprised that your prospect holds the world view that they do…many of them have been told that they’re the second coming of (insert name of your sport’s legend here) by their parents and coaches, and they have been slaving away at year-around training and private coaching with the expectation that it would pay-off with a full Division I scholarship within easy driving distance from home.

Your job is to get them to stop believing in Santa, while understanding why they still believe.

Easy?  No.  But if you’re able to perfect this important part of the recruiting process, you’re going to be a solid, successful recruiting who can close the recruits they want down the stretch.

Not a bad Christmas present, right?

Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, coach!  Want to give yourself the recruiting gift that keeps on giving?  Make sure you attend our annual national conference designed for coaches and recruiters, the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference!  Spend an early Summer weekend with fellow coaches from around the country and a line-up of amazing speakers and experts.  CLICK HERE for all the details!

 

When to Give Your Prospect a Recruiting DeadlineMonday, November 5th, 2012

In my previous column, I outlined the compelling reasons why a coach will need to issue a recruit a fair but firm recruiting decision deadline, as well as how to do it (if you missed that in-depth article, click here before you read this one).

But our previous advice begs the question: When is it right to give your recruit a deadline?  At what point in the process should you issue it?  And, what does the research show working best when it comes to how long you should give them to make their decision?

The “when” surrounding the topic of deadlines counts just as much as the “why” and the “how”.

So, based on our years of research and work with a growing list of clients, here are some key points to remember when you are getting ready to issue recruiting deadlines to your prospects:

  • Establish a deadline horizon as early as possible in the process. Many college coaches complain as their own personal deadlines get closer, and they find themselves waiting for their prospect to make a final decision.  Many then proceed to make the mistake of starting to voice their frustration to the prospect, causing the prospect to potentially read the coach’s new found urgency as “pressure” or a change in personality.  This one is easy to avoid, Coach:  Start talking to your prospect as early as possible, as a part of a consistent, compelling recruiting story, about when you’ll be needing them to make a final decision if they feel like they want to compete for your program.
  • As the date gets closer, remind them about the need for a decision. “It looks like we’re going to be finalizing our recruiting class here in the next 60 days or so…are you any closer to making your final decision?”  “Here in about two weeks, I’m pretty confident that we’ll be all wrapped-up with this year’s recruiting.  Can we talk here in the next few days?”  “Like I’ve been saying all along, the end of the month is here and we need to talk about what you want to do in the next couple of days so I know what I should do with the roster spot I have reserved for you.  Can we talk tomorrow or the next day?”  They need constant updates, and the recruits at the heart of our research tell us that regular reminders of when they need to make a decision – while somewhat stressful because it means they need to make a difficult decision – are ten times more preferred than a last minute deadline that forces them into making a choice that ends the process.
  • What’s the right amount of time to give them when you do need to issue a deadline? If you haven’t issued a long horizon deadline as described earlier, anything longer than 10-14 days seems to get a good response.  This is especially true in the cases where you have had a long, ongoing recruiting relationship with them, they have applied and been accepted at your school, or they have visited campus at least once.  At this point, you should ask yourself, “What more do they need to know to decide whether or not we are right for them?”  If you can come-up with a solid answer to that question, then make sure you have that conversation with them as soon as possible (because if you realize that it’s needed information, I’m pretty sure your recruit is thinking that also).
  • O.K., O.K…but when do you really need to set a deadline? The rule of thumb that we follow when advising our clients is actually fairly simple:  When you feel that not receiving an answer from a prospect is putting you in a dire position with another prospect, then it’s time to talk about a deadline for making a final decision.  Not doing so allows the prospect to control the process (a huge no-no, as you know, if you’ve read our two recruiting guides for college coaches), and puts you in the position of waiting for your prospect to take whatever “plan” they have cobbled together in an effort to make a final decision (most of the time illogical, and without the kind of consideration for your program that you are probably praying for).  I believe it is the coach (you) that should control the process, and sometimes that requires that a line in the sand be drawn by the expert (you) who knows what needs to be done next.

In a perfect world, college coaches wouldn’t need to issue deadlines to their recruits.  But of course, we don’t live in that perfect world…so from time to time, it will be necessary for serious recruiters to take control of those situations by telling a prospect when he or she will need to make a decision.

Why, how and when you do it will make all the difference in whether or not this challenging strategy is successful for you and your program.

 

Why Your Prospect Needs a Deadline, and How to Give ItMonday, October 29th, 2012

Many college coaches don’t understand how it could happen.

They’re recruiting a prospect, being a consummate professional in how they treat the athlete.  They answer questions quickly, call on a regular basis to chat, and don’t put any “pressure” on their young recruit when it comes to making a final decision.

“Take your time”, you say, “look at all your options, and let me know if you have any questions.”  How could a prospect resist such low-pressure, friendly professionalism, right?

And then it happens:

They visit another college campus, and the opposing coach gives them a deadline.  They call you and say, “Sorry, Coach, but I had to make a decision within 24 hours or they were going to pull my offer and give it to someone else.  So, I committed to them.”

“But I wanted to let you know that you were my favorite.  I liked talking to you a lot.”

What the????

Welcome to the wonderful world of deadlines.  Increasingly, with this generation of student-athlete recruits, setting the right kind of deadline can determine whether or not you get the prospect you really want.  And, like the scenario we painted at the start of the article, any kind of deadline – even bad deadlines that are unfair for the prospect – sometimes are needed to move a recruit towards making a final decision.

The problem is, of course, that deadlines are an inexact science: What works with one prospect in one situation may not work with your next prospect and their unique situation.  So, with that in mind, the advice that we are going to give you needs to be customized to each recruit’s individual situation and personality.

There are a few key general rules that we can suggest as guiding principles for college coaches to follow as they formulate an answer to the increasingly tricky question of why and how to give a prospect a deadline for making a recruiting decision:

Why give them a deadline?  It prompts action. We pay our taxes by April 15th because of a deadline.  People line-up at 3am on Black Friday to grab huge discounts for the first three hours of the after Thanksgiving sale.  Every week, our staff has to put our newsletter out in time for delivery early Tuesday morning to 49,000 subscribers.  Deadlines prompt action.

Your prospect needs the same kind of prompt, much of the time.  They need a “because” (if you really want to understand the psychology behind this important point, click here for an in-depth article on the topic).  Your deadline can act as that important motivator to take action.

The athletes that need a deadline tend to fit into, but is certainly not limited to, one of three common scenarios:

  1. Your recruit is at the end of their visit schedule and is considering a number of schools, and can’t seem to make a decision (“I just need some more time to think about it, Coach”)
  2. Your recruit is waiting for their “dream school” to make an offer, and is delaying making a decision to compete for you until they are sure that other offer isn’t going to appear.
  3. Your recruit is leaning towards your program, and seems to be a great fit, but is fearful of making their final decision and officially ending the process (if you have been a part of one of our On-Campus Workshops with your athletic department, think back to the “fear” psychology that we find guiding this generation of recruits…what are you doing to calm those irrational fears, Coach?)

For these types of prospects, setting a fair deadline (more on what exactly constitutes “fair” in a minute), and giving them logical reasons as to why they should heed your deadline, is essential from time to time to earn action from your recruit.

How should you issue a deadline?  Be fair, but firm. We’ve helped our clients create deadlines for just about every situation one could imagine, and in nearly every instance what has benefited a coach is setting a deadline with a long horizon deadline.  In other words, the longer you can give a recruit, the better.  And, make that deadline fair (plenty of time to decide), but firm (on “x” date, we’ll need to have another recruit who is next on our list take your place).

Understand that when I say a “long horizon deadline” or “plenty of time to decide”, I mean that you need to start talking about a general timeline for making a final decision as early as possible in the recruiting process.  For example, if you are recruiting Juniors as you read this article, you should be getting them used to the idea of making their decision by a certain general time of the year – by early next Fall, the end of January, before August 20th.  Something that gives them a firm date long in advance of making a decision.  When you commit to doing that, you will find that your prospects will view it as “fair” and “low pressure” because you’ve given them months, in some cases, to know the date.  Contrast that with a coach who suddenly sets a deadline of a week, 48 hours, or some other shorter timeframe.  That’s when the feeling of “pressure” occurs, and you want to avoid that whenever possible.

Oh, but what about that scenario I painted for you at the beginning of the article?  If recruits don’t want pressure, and generally will say they don’t want to be faced with a deadline that is sooner rather than later, why do coaches who issue such deadlines often see prospects who respond to those deadlines in a positive way?  Great question.  Here’s the answer, and it’s crucial to understand and remember: Because in the absence of other deadline options, such as your reasonable “long horizon” deadline we just discussed, they will often respond to the coach who gives them any kind of plan for how to make this once-in-a-lifetime, difficult decision.  So, if you choose to be the coach that offers a fair, long horizon deadline, the other coach’s pressure tactics will be more often viewed as extreme and unfair by your recruit.  You come out looking like a caring professional, they come across as being unreasonable and high-pressure.

One last note on this item: When you set a deadline, keep it.  Once you break a deadline and give your prospect more time or promises of a better offer to help persuade them to choose you, a coach risks ALL credibility – not only with that recruit, but with any other recruit or coach that has contact with that athlete.  Coaches who don’t have a deep enough recruiting pool that they are contacting find it harder to set firm deadlines, so make sure you are contacting a lot of qualified recruits and developing relationships with them (easier, in our opinion, if you use this resource that lots of college coaches utilize to develop deeper recruiting pools).  If you need to stop recruiting an athlete after a deadline passes, it’s a lot easier to stay strong if you have nine other recruits at their position that you’ve developed relationships with; conversely, if they are your one and only hope at that position, and hearing a “no” would devastate your recruiting class, you will be more apt to wait, fudge on your deadline, and otherwise give that recruit complete control over the recruiting process.

Next week, in part two of this series on setting effective deadlines, I’ll explain when you should set a deadline.  Timing is everything, and deadlines don’t work in every situation, so make sure to read about this crucial next step in the process.

Deadlines, crafted effectively, can be the one little difference maker for a coach who is struggling with getting commitments from their top recruits.  If you’re a coach who doesn’t set deadlines, but sees the value in doing it, we’ve given you a solid set of guiding principles.

If you’re a coach who wants one-on-one help in creating an effective recruiting strategy – whether that involves setting deadlines or getting recruits to return your phone call – become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  We work with programs all over the country, and would love to discuss the option with you, too.  Put the power of research and expert communication to work for you now!  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to set up a time to talk.

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