Dan Tudor

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How Should You Convince Your Prospect to Choose You?Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

In the quest to inform their prospects, many coaches paralyze them.

And they have help. When the typical high school student-athlete begins to explore college options, takes the SAT or ACT, or is identified by a college coach and the recruiting process begins, that teenager – and his or her parents – are bombarded by information. Letters, emails, brochures…from athletics, as well as admissions. Not to deep into the process, that student-athlete achieves information-overload status.

Now, the result of all of that attention at the start of the process kind be kind of exhilarating. After all, this is why they’ve worked as hard as they have in their sport or in the classroom, right? And it’s always fun to be “wanted” by a new college or coach. The attention is great when the possibilities seem endless.

But like I said, that’s during the first part of the process. As it gets deeper into the process, our research shows that an athlete is apt to stop reading what a coach or college is sending. Is it because they get tired of reading, or have some kind of aversion to it? That’s a myth that a lot of college coaches buy in to – and it’s false. This generation of prospects actually reads more than previous generations…all the texting and social media attention, as well as easier ways to access books through technology, prompts them to want to read as a primary way of taking in new information.

The problem is the information seldom leads them anywhere. It states facts, it cites statistics, but it seldom compels. The emails, letters and conversations you’re having with recruits never leads them down the path towards a specific conclusion that they’re looking for, and are accustomed to finding in movies, books and social media content.

In other words, Coach, telling your recruiting story needs an ending. But unlike the movie or book ending that they might be used to experiencing, this one is going to affect them personally.

So, if you find yourself trying to convince an athlete to pick your program over someone else’s program towards the end of the recruiting process, I want you to do just that:

Convince them to pick your program over someone else’s program.

Of all the methodologies and strategies we’ve seen tried in our one-on-one work with clients around the country, here are the best ways to do that:

It’s incredibly important for you to tell them what to think about you and your program. You need to offer a clear, simple definition of who you are and what you’re all about as a coach. They need to understand what makes you different than the other programs they may be considering.

Explain why you’re better. I can’t emphasize enough how vital this part of the overall strategy is down the stretch. After they’ve collected all of the information from you and your admissions department, and they slip in to ‘analysis paralysis‘, they need you to explain why you’re better. Not just a ‘good choice’, but the better choice. That’s not to say I would advise you to engage in negative recruiting; it does mean you need to make your case as to why he or she should choose you, and why you are better than their other options (if you choose to skip this step, your competitor will often be glad to fill that void you’ve left).

Tell them you want them. Sounds simple, and you probably think they already know you want them, but as the process nears the end they need to be reminded.

Tell them you’re ready to hear them say yes. They need you to open the door frequently, of course, but at the end of the process it becomes critical. Why? Because even when they feel like you’re program is the right choice, and they are ready to tell you ‘yes’, it’s incredible hard for most of them to take the initiative to get in touch with you and voice it themselves. Telling them “I’m ready” makes it easier for them to reply with their intentions.

Repeat everything you’re telling recruits to their parents. Ignoring the parents, and not involving them deeply in the conversation as the process draws to a close, will result in a loss the majority of the time. They don’t have to be on the same call, email, or text exchange that you have with a recruit, but they do need to be brought up to speed as to what you’re discussing with them.

The thing many coaches tend to want to do at the end of the process is to back away, and not put any pressure on their recruit. From their perspective, we find that he or she reads that as declining interest in them as a potential member of your roster.

Is that the signal you want to send?

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

Your Prospect and Their Discovery FatigueMonday, February 6th, 2017

We have only so much attention span.

I know I do, anyway. I think I’m a fairly curious person who likes to learn new things.

I remember when I started to download music onto my first iPod: It was magical. I was cramming my device full of just about any music I could find. 700+ songs within two weeks.

(Nobody needs that much music in a 14 day period, but I did it anyway…Abracadabara? I don’t know why the Steve Miller Band felt they needed to record it, but apparently I felt the need to download it).

But now I’ve slowed down. For me, I’ve reached my energy peak for taking in even more new music, at least at that rate. And I know I’m not alone: Studies suggest that our interest in new music, new media, and new information is limited. We plateau. We get tired.

We suffer from a type of discovery fatigue.

And more important than understanding my musical download tendencies is understanding a common problem in the way your recruit takes-in your recruiting messaging. They have been conditioned to receive information in a certain way, and in certain amounts. How you give them information is almost as important as the information you give them.

So, how do you ensure that your recruiting messaging isn’t wearing out your prospect, and causing you more harm than good? Here are four things you want to measure immediately, based on our latest focus group research with high school athletes in the process making a decision:

  • You can’t overwhelm them with information early on. They aren’t ready for most of what you feel you need to tell them about your school and your program. Especially not at first. One of the surest ways to alienate most recruits today is to give them a long list of statistics, facts, figures and random talking points. That’s not what generates a response, which is what most coaches want after an initial communication. In fact, we’ve found that coaches who do this almost instantly see their recruits tune them out for future conversations. If you aren’t getting a good response rate from your initial communication, check the amount of information you’re piling on.
  • Your recruits are busy. How are you making the process easier for them? Along with a general fatigue, there’s another important element to how you may be making them feel: If they’re busy, and every one of your recruits is, it diminishes their desire to want more information. Making the process easy, and the conversation easy, could be the way you shine the focus on you and your program. How do you start with this? Easy: Ask yourself right now, “How do I make the recruiting process easy for my prospect?”
  • A project without any end is exhausting. “How much more am I going to need to do?” That’s one of the key questions most of your recruits ask themselves as they move through the recruiting cycle. When they don’t know how much is left to do, or when it all needs to end, it’s mentally exhausting. What to do? Give your recruits timeline markers: What do they need to do next? When will you begin making final decisions? Can you tell them when you’ll be wrapping up your recruiting? All of those add context to your recruiting conversations, which is critical.
  • Remember those facts you were holding off on? Your prospects are ready at the end. As you enter the last one-third of the recruiting process, your prospects need logical points to reference to help justify the decision they’re hopefully about to make towards your program. You need to give them a slow, consistent flow of information throughout the recruiting process, absolutely…but many coaches tend to stop relaying facts and reasons to commit as they get towards the end of the process. Actually, that’s when recruits and their parents are needing your information the most – even if you think they already know all about the topics that are relevant to your school. Don’t be that coach. Keep giving them solid information that answers the big questions of, “Why should I commit to you and your school, Coach?”

Discovery fatigue is real, and it can drastically affect how your recruits absorb information from you and other coaches. Evaluate those four areas, and make the changes you need to. If you do, you’ll like your results.

These are just a few of the advanced principles we teach at our new campus recruiting workshop for college athletic departments. Click here to find out what we do, or email us at dan@dantudor.com to get a personalized idea of what we can do for your department and coaches. We’ve conducted training on campuses across the country, so bring us to your school so we can train you, too!

 

Hillary, Trump, and What Smart Recruiters Should Learn From Presidential ElectionsMonday, November 7th, 2016

Although this post is technically about politics, I’m not going to get political.

Even though all of our attitudes towards politics, and the candidates we’re voting for, and the party we align with, is central to what you need to learn today.

Here’s what I’m getting at…

Think about who you’re voting for in this election. Take a second and list the reasons, be they logical or emotional,  why you are voting for who you’re voting for. And think about the party you align yourself with – or, why you’ve chosen to remain independent.

Now, let me ask you a serious question: What would it take for someone to change your mind? I mean completely flip your way of thinking, and vote for the other side. (That’s right, the side you think is completely insane).

How hard would it be to do that? Is there any chance of that happening?

Yeah, I thought so.

Here’s the thing: That’s the same perspective your recruit will develop if you give them the chance.

In other words, once their mind is made up about who you are, what your program stands for, and how they feel about your campus, it’s going to be tough to change their mind.

  • If your competitor suggests that you might be fired after this next season, or that you don’t take a personal interest in your players, before you get the chance to define yourself to your prospect first, it’s going to be tough to change his or her mind.
  • If your competitor convinces your mutual recruit that you aren’t serious about winning, and that the department doesn’t invest as much in your program as their athletic department does, it’s going to be tough to change his or her mind.
  • If your competitor spends time showing a prospect around their mediocre locker room, and you choose to avoid showing your prospect your own mediocre locker room, expect that competing coach to question aloud why you’re hiding something – and expect that it’s going to be tough after that to change his or her mind.

So obviously, it would make sense to 1) establish what is “true” before your competitor does, and then 2) continue to emphasize that so that any alternative message never gets a chance to overtake what you’ve established as true.

Sound subversive? Not really, actually. What we’ve learned in over the last decade of working with our clients around college sports is that your recruits are desperately searching for a story to believe in. They need to buy into an idea of what makes one college better than the other, just like we need to believe that we are voting for the candidate that is going to match-up the closest to our beliefs. If you aren’t actively “campaigning” with a specific story for your recruits, you leave open the possibility that your competitor will take advantage of that with a competing message.

This simple idea explains the majority of recruiting decisions that are made around the country, in every sport, every single year. And yet it also remains one of the most ignored facets of successful, consistent recruiting. Developing an ongoing message that achieves the goal of establishing a foundation for communication that sets the standard for what’s true, and what isn’t, should be one of the primary focuses for any organized recruiting coordinator and coach.

In a Presidential election, we’re a nation that’s split down the middle, with the winner hoping to garner just enough of the vote to eek out a win. In recruiting, it’s a landslide: The coach who establishes the truth first through an effective story will usually win handily.

Want more free instruction on how to become a more consistent, effective recruiter? Subscribe to our podcast that goes in-depth with college coaches and guest experts.

For even more training, consider enrolling in Tudor University, our online training class that offers coaches certification in recruiting. It’s like a Master’s degree for your college recruiting career.

Or, take your recruiting strategy and messaging to the next level by letting us work one-on-one with you as a client. We’ll design a message plan and communication strategy that will increase responses, and get better players on campus sooner. Click here for more information, or contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com.

What May Be Delaying Your Prospect’s DecisionMonday, October 17th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 10.56.26 PMMore often than coaches realize, the thing that is grinding your prospect’s decision process down to a snail’s pace isn’t a “thing” at all.

It’s probably a person.

At an increasing rate, the individual recruiting scenarios we track and help manage for our clients that end up grinding to a halt late in the process are the result of a coach – club, high school, or private coach – advising their athlete (your recruit) to wait. Either for a potential “better” offer, or because the coach isn’t convinced that you are “the right fit” for their prospect.

If you don’t take control of that situation from the start, it’s likely that you’ll be plagued by the problem throughout the process.

And most coaches don’t.

You’ll know that you are in the middle of that kind of developing situation when one of these warning signs appears as you are in the middle your recruiting relationship:

  • You’ve had regular contact with your prospect, and it abruptly stops. Or, your normal mode of contact back and forth (by phone, text, etc.) becomes something less personal and less interactive (email, messages sent through the coach).
  • The parents of your recruit suddenly become the surrogate for communicating with you, mentioning that their son’s/daughter’s coach wants them to “slow the process down” or “take a look at all of our options”.
  • The coach, once someone who would keep you updated on the process and what was going on with the family, suddenly becomes vague about what is happening behind the scenes.

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but they are some of the telltale signs.

What prompts a coach to suddenly become involved in the recruiting process, sometimes in a negative way? Usually, it comes back to a realization by the coach that their rising young athlete is developing into an athlete that may warrant expanded attention from a variety of colleges. Sometimes, the coach has the best interest of the player at heart; they want them to have the maximum number of opportunities to take this next step in their sports career. Much of the time, your recruit’s coach sees an opportunity to bring added publicity and recognition to his or her program by having the highest level school(s) possible show interest and go through the recruiting process with their rising star. In other words, they see that there is something in it for them if they can parlay that recruit’s experience into a rising reputation for their club or high school program.

I’m not going to fault a club or high school coach for looking out for their own interests. That being said, I definitely don’t think you – as that athlete’s potential college coach – should refrain from looking out for your program’s best interests, nor do I think that you should give-up control of the decision making process to that other coach’s timeline.

The simple solution is, of course, to maintain regular contact with the family and coach as best as possible as the prospect goes through their more expanded search process.

The more complex – and more effective – long term solution to the issue comes back to a familiar theme: Recruiting the coach of your recruit through consistent messaging. The good news is that it doesn’t require quite the intensity as we would normally recommend in your communication with high school prospects: Our research and focus group studies with club and high school coaches shows that a recruiting message every 21-28 days is more than sufficient for the vast majority of coaches. And, unlike your recruits, coaches are really looking for one key thing: To be treated like a peer as you update them on the recruiting process with their athlete.

In other words, you need to justify why your program is a smart choice, while building up your personal connection with that coach through keeping them updated on what you are talking about with their athlete. Sell your program, and bring that coach into your inner circle when it comes to the recruiting process. Simple as that. And yet, even after reading this, the majority of college coaches won’t do much to improve the way they approach club and high school coaches they are in contact with. Even though it’s the only way we’ve discovered to bring a self-centered coach into your inner circle.

The number one complaint we hear club and high school coaches make about you, a college coach, is that when they have an athlete who is talented, college recruiters swoop in and want to be friends, and want their help in the process, only to disappear or go around them to get the athlete’s interest. It’s important that you remedy that feeling, Coach. If you don’t, and assuming your recruits’ reliance on their current coaches for advice and direction continues to deepen, you can expect the recruiting process to stumble in the years to come because of what club and high school coaches are doing to your efforts behind the scenes.

Want more insider advice and training when it comes to how to intelligently recruit your next class of prospects? Join other coaches around the country who are going through our Tudor University program. It’s online learning on your terms, and it gives you a clear foundation for recruiting excellence. It’s a small investment in your career, Coach. Click here for all the details.

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