Dan Tudor

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3 Simple Strategies to Defeat “I Want to Think About It”Monday, March 21st, 2016

My guess is if you’re a college coach who has been recruiting for more than a few months in your career, you’ve encountered the six-word phrase from your prospect (or parent) that is the bane of coaches’ existences throughout the country.

“I want to think about it.”

Seems reasonable, right? I mean, this is a huge decision…potentially life altering, certainly important. “Thinking about it”, on the surface, is the smart, reasonable response for a prospect to give you when you ask them if they’re feeling ready to commit, or even if you’re just looking for feedback after telling them about your program during a campus visit or a recruiting phone call.

But it’s not. It’s not reasonable.

Here’s why, Coach:

  • In research we recently completed to help our clients craft a more coherent recruiting strategy down the stretch, we found that about 8 out of 10 recruits spend “little” to “no time” actually thinking about you, your offer, or your campus after they tell you that’s what they need to do.
  • We know from experience, and getting feedback from live student-athlete focus groups during our On-Campus Recruiting Workshops at college athletic departments around the country, that athletes make-up their mind and have defined a college within 10-15 minutes of completing a visit to your campus.
  • Most often, parents are viewing the entire recruiting process as a cross between what they watched in Jerry Maguire (this part, and unfortunately, this part, too), and what they read on recruiting message boards. In other words, they feel like they need to play poker with you so that, in the end, their hand beats yours.

So, unless a game of high stakes, winner-take-all, “are they bluffing or not” gamesmanship sounds like a welcome addition to your already complicated recruiting process, I suggest you eliminate the option of “I want to think about it” from your prospect’s communication lexicon. Here are a few proven strategies that we recommend:

Since we know that most prospects spend little to no time actually “thinking about it”, call them on it. There’s a variety of ways you can do this, but the most fundamental way to respond to this when you hear it is by replying, “Tell me what you’ll be thinking about.”

There are only two possible scenarios that will play out: Either they will a) fumble around and not really be able to define anything for you (because, as we know, most don’t actually think about it), or b) they list out objections, selling points, and insider conversations going on at their home as they try to reach a decision.

The think I love about this reply is it’s simplicity, and the way it quietly calls them on this obvious stall tactic.

Head it off at the pass. Since we know that they’ve pretty much made up their mind and have largely defined you after their campus visit, reach out for their opinion soon after their visit. At the most, two or three days after. At the soonest, about 20 minutes after they leave campus. Seriously…text your prospect, tell them how much you loved having them on campus, and then ask him or her what two or three big things they and their parents talked about after leaving campus. Specifically, what are the road blocks that they all see when it comes to the idea of them competing for you.

If you do this, Coach, you’ll be surprised how much it will eliminate the “I want to think about it” reply. Why? Because you’re getting them to define it for you, they go on record as to what they “think”. And that’s a very good thing for you to do in the long run.

Devote time to finding out what the parents “think”. It is still alarming to me how long it takes some college coaches to develop communication with parents. It’s imperative that you do, Coach. And when you do – hopefully sooner in the process rather than later – you need to find out what they see as the big hurdles to their son or daughter coming to compete for you on your campus. Focus on what mom and dad don’t like, have big questions about, or doubt they could support.

We’re finding that in slightly more than half the cases we help our clients with, the parents are going to impart way more actionable information to you than the recruit will. If you make this part of your recruiting communication strategy, you’ll find that you will insulate yourself against the “I want to think about it” stall.

Final note to all this:

You may have noticed that I’ve used the word “stall” when I talk about your recruit telling you that they want to think about it. The reason? Simple. That’s what it is.

They are stalling for time. They don’t like making a final decision (do any of us?). You want to lead them to a decision, in a professional way, and in a fair way. But in the end, it’s your job to help them reach a final decision.

If you’ve spent time telling them your story, they know your plan for them, and they’ve visited your campus, there shouldn’t be much to think about.

Want more next level strategies from your fellow coaches and recruiting experts? Attend the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. What you don’t know can kill you in the recruiting process…this amazing weekend conference will give you the edge you need. Get all the details here.

How to Argue the Correct Way With Your Next RecruitMonday, December 21st, 2015

Because it really seems like an “argument”, doesn’t it?

Where your campus is located is so vastly superior to the two other schools your recruit is looking at, the choice would seem obvious. And so you try to convince them that they should see it your way.

Also, that new U.S. News campus ranking: Your campus just got ranked 49th, while the other school she’s considering came in at a paltry 88th. It’s not even close, so the choice (again) should be obvious.

And the fact that your prospect could start in your program as a Freshman…well, shouldn’t that seal the deal? In your mind it does, right?

Here’s why it’s hard to make that case successfully:

First of all, college coaches we’ve seen attempt it try to do so quickly, at the start of the recruiting process, and condense their argument in one or two long, detail-filled messages. As we’ve talked about before, that’s not the right way to approach this generation of recruit if you want their attention, and gain their trust.

Secondly, you’re essentially bullying them into trying to get them to believe that your point of view is the right one. Your school’s ranking is higher, they could start as a Freshman, and where you’re located is amazing. What’s not to love, right? And so you begin to convince them of how you see the world, and that that your point of view should be their point of view as well.

The problem is, your point of view may not match their point of view.

Marketing author and expert Seth Godin makes the point that “to many people, it feels manipulative or insincere or even morally wrong to momentarily take the other person’s point of view when trying to advance an argument that we already believe in. And that’s one reason why so many people claim to not like engaging in marketing. Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.”

Let’s use the example of your prospect being able to start as a Freshman in your program. You, as an intelligent college coach who has the perspective of a successful playing career under your belt, see this as being a huge selling point to your prospect. Being able to start all four years of school?  Who wouldn’t want that, right?

And yet when we conduct our focus group interviews when beginning work with a new client, or conducting one of our On-Campus Workshops for an athletic department, we find that the majority of athletes you recruit actually are nervous about the idea of starting right away and having the pressure to perform on their shoulders. The ‘safer’ worldview for them? No pressure at the start, get used to the team, and ease into a role where they’ll be able to succeed.  How many times have you seen one of your talented prospects opt not to compete immediately for you, and instead choose a school where they’ll probably have to sit on the bench for a year or two?  For many athletes – even the great ones – that’s the more appealing option.

What I’m saying is that you “convincing” them that your world view is the correct one isn’t going to be easy, especially if you don’t take a patient, consistent approach to the whole thing. They aren’t looking to be convinced, they’re looking to be listened to. It’s true in politics, and it’s true in recruiting.

As Godin observes, “Even when people making an argument know this, they don’t like making an argument that appeals to the other person’s alternative worldview.” Why? It’s harder, it takes more time, and requires a more organized thought pattern. For many coaches, that’s a tough trifecta to overcome.

If you accept this idea to have merit, it may require two key changes in thinking for you and your coaching staff:

  • You will need to commit to developing a long term, consistent approach to telling your story and developing communication that is focused on creating a conversation, rather than relying on the brilliance of your logical argument to sway the minds of your prospect.
  • You will need to ask more questions, and use your recruit’s answers to develop an individual strategy for communicating with that specific recruit.

Let’s go back to the example of the opportunity for a prospect to start for you as a Freshman, rather than sit on the bench for a year or so at another program. Knowing now that she might be tempted to play it safe and choose that other option, you might want to ask her questions that get to the center of her worldview:

“If you play for the other program, you probably wouldn’t be able to play right away. Tell me why you’re thinking this might be o.k. for you?”

“What is it about starting right away for a college program that might seem a little intimidating for you? What worries you or makes you nervous when you picture that in your mind?”

“Walk me through the pros and cons of playing right away for a program.”

Those three sample questions aren’t trying to “sell” a prospect on doing it your way. They are questions designed to find out what your recruit’s view is, so that you can then adapt your argument to fit that view.

(This is also very much the same concept of “collaborating versus negotiating” that we’ve discussed before. It’s always much more effective to come alongside a prospect, instead of sit across a table and negotiate with them over a point of view).

This idea is something that requires a wholesale philosophical change in the way that a recruiting message is structured. That’s why most coaches who read this won’t do it; it’s always going to be more expedient to just sell, sell, sell and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s the challenge for serious college coaches:

Invest the time in creating a smarter, more effective approach, or continuing with an old style of recruiting that requires your recruit to quickly buying what you’re selling.

 

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.

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

Ever watch the CNBC show, Shark Tank?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s brilliant.  Here’s why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Ways to Amp-Up Your Visual Recruiting MessageMonday, July 7th, 2014

When my wife’s cell phone suddenly quit working yesterday, I jumped at the chance to earn a few points and rush to the cell phone store to talk about a replacement and return as the conquering hero.

Back in the olden days, men would be expected to kill a buffalo to feed his family, or ride horseback to the  next state for the opportunity to work in a mine.  Now?  We alpha-males negotiate cell phone upgrades with high school aged cell phone sales reps. That family from Little House on the Prairie would be impressed, I’m sure.

Once I had completed the dangerous journey to the cell phone store and fended-off savage marauders for a pretty decent parking spot, I began my quest for an iPhone for my wife.

ATT1In the midst of negotiating with my sales representative, the inevitable discussion of the terms and the contract came up.  We husbands tend to hold onto our wallets a bit tighter than this phase of any new cell phone contract, so when the rep started to try to talk to me about the terms of the contract, I immediately began to tune him out.  It all sounded too good to be true.

We’d pay less than we are now?

att2

Yeah, right buddy.  We’d get a new phone and more data to use in our smartphone plan?  Please…do I have the word “sucker” written across my forehead?

I was alone in my thoughts and was immediately discounting what he was saying, not even paying attention to the important information he was going over with me (that my wife would have to live with for the next two years of her cell-phone-life.

Then it happened.

He turned the tables on me, and got me to see what he was talking about.  He wrote it out, and showed me what the plan would look like.  And, I believed it.

What he did is what I want every serious recruiter to start doing when they are talking with their prospects and families.  Most likely, it will occur on campus, but if it can somehow happen earlier on a home visit or via Skype or Google video chats, even better.

He started writing down what he was saying verbally.

Why is this such a powerful tool for college coaches to emulate?  Because most people you talk to are visual learners.  We need to be stimulated by the sound of someone’s voice, but also by sight.  Someone wants us to believe them?  Fine, prove it.  Show it to us.  Retail merchants rely on proven visual stimulation research to increase sales, and in a one-to-one selling (like recruiting, or cell phone sales) it is vitally important as well.

So, if you want to begin to use more visual stimulation in your direct communication with recruits, here are some simple but effective steps to make it happen:

  • Always sit alongside your prospect, not across the table from them.  When you’re sitting at your desk, you’re an authority figure that is probably trying to sell them something.  That is likely to put your prospect on the defensive.  Instead, sit next to them.  You want to collaborate with them as a potential future member of your team, not manipulate.  Creating that atmosphere starts with your body position.
  • Write down EVERY big point you’re trying to make.  We all lose track of a conversation easily, and this helps us keep focused on the main points you’re trying to make.  Assume, in every conversation, that they are pulling away from you.  It’s your job to constantly make sure that your recruit is understanding what you’re saying.
  • Ask questions regularly.  Not “yes” and “no” questions, but questions that probe to see what they are agreeing with and what they are disagreeing with.  Keep in mind that most kids, and their parents, find it far easier to talk about what they are concerned about, what they don’t like, and what they are worried about.  Make sure you’re getting that real time feedback from your prospects as you talk with them one-on-one in a conversation like the one I’m describing.
  • Assume they are not happy with part of what you’re telling them.  If you do that, it will automatically become your goal to search out and discover what exactly that is that might be a stumbling block in your effort to bring them to your program.  Never, ever assume that they are happy with what you are telling them.  I think there is great value in taking a defensive attitude in every recruiting battle you engage in.
  • Explain the details.  “The devil is in the details”, and we all know it.  So, when you open up and explain the why behind your plan for a recruit, we’re more likely to understand you and believe you.  Remember my initial hesitation about believing that we would pay less and get more data on our cell phone bill by upgrading the cell phone?  My skepticism vanished once he started writing out the side-by-side comparison of our current plan versus the proposed new plan.  How often do you write out the details of why you want a prospect right in front of them and their parents, Coach?
  • Ditch the brochures.  At best, they are a quick visual distraction that almost never factor into a recruit’s decision as to whether to become a part of a program.  At worst, they become a substitute for a coach who doesn’t want to do the small amount of extra work involved with writing out a plan in front of a recruit.  Your writing, in your own words, is far more effective than anything your college could print for you.  Please, Coach: Don’t rely on your brochures to sell your program.  If you saw how little they impacted your recruit’s final decision, it would depress you (if, that is, you are one of the coaches currently using brochures to sell your program to a prospect).
  • Ask for the sale.  If my cell phone sales representative had said, after doing a great job of walking me through the logic behind his plan for our account, “Do you want to talk this over with your wife and get back to me in a week or so?”, I might have taken him up on his offer.  We all like to delay decisions.  It allows us to defer a potentially wrong decision until “later”.  And, many coaches are happy to oblige because it delays a potential “no” just a little bit longer.  What have I seen work best?  If you want the prospect, and you walk them through why you see them succeeding in your program, complete the process by asking them for their commitment.  Most prospects are disappointed if you don’t ask them to take some kind of significant “next step” in your recruitment of them.  Please ask them if what you are telling them makes sense, and if they are feeling like they would be ready to commit.

There is power in sitting next to someone and visually outlining your plan for them, and writing down why it’s smart for them to be a part of what you’re building in your program.  There’s power in giving your prospect those notes you’ve written out for them, and letting them take it home with them (unlike your college’s lame brochure, your hand-written plan for them will be read over and over, and won’t be discarded after a few days).

My wife has her new iPhone as I write this article, and I have my new amazingly lower cell phone bill.  All because my sales representative told his story in a very engaging, logical manner.  I want to make sure you adjust your recruiting presentation moving forward, Coach.  If you do, I can assure you that you’re going to like the results!

As we enter into a new recruiting year, we’re committed to helping any coach who wants a more research-based, systematic approach to recruiting.  If you would like to find out more about how we work with other programs on a client basis, click here.

The Question to Ask If Your Recruit Is Waiting for MoneyMonday, March 18th, 2013

The Spring is an odd time of year for coaches who aren’t able to offer full athletic scholarships to their prospects (which includes the vast majority of college coaches around the country).

You have the interest of your recruit, they’ve applied to your school, they know you want them.  And so now, you wait.

You’re waiting for either one of two things:  Either your prospects are finishing-up their Senior seasons and are quietly hoping for other amazing offers from schools who have somehow missed them up to this point, or they are submitting their FAFSA information and are now waiting to get the “official” word from financial aid across campus as to what their “final number” is.

And the wait can be excruciating.

You have decisions to make, but of course you understand and appreciate why it’s a tough decision to make at this point in the early Spring without all of the “official” financial aid information in place.

The result?  Most coaches in this situation choose to wait – albeit somewhat impatiently – for the process to run it’s course and eventually get their answer right before the start of Summer.  That’s stressful for the coach, and doesn’t do much to solidify your recruiting class as early as possible.

I’m not claiming that the following advice will be the cure for everything that ails you when it comes to this tricky scenario, but there is a question I’d recommend asking that might just give you the answers you’re looking for (even if financial aid isn’t done crunching numbers yet).

Here’s what to ask:

“If the final number comes in around what we’re estimating it will, do you see yourself making us your number one choice?”

Simple and direct, this is one of the questions that we’re seeing work well to get a prospect to open-up and divulge what they are thinking, and which way they and their family is leaning as they make their final decision.

You can also ask effective variations of this question:

  • “If you don’t end up getting a scholarship offer from that other program, do you see yourself making us your number one choice?”
  • “If you visit that other campus next week and don’t feel like you fit in, do you see yourself making us your number one choice?”

There are a couple of key components in this type of question that are important to understand.  First, understand that this is what would be referred to as a “soft close” in the business world…you aren’t asking them for a decision, but you are asking them a question that indicates where they are leaning.  That can be valuable information if you’re trying to determine your incoming recruiting class.  Secondly, make sure you ask them if they “see” themselves making you their top choice.  If you’ve hosted us on your campus for one of our two or three day workshops, you already know about the important psychological reasons for not asking “what do you think”, so using that terminology I just outlined is a must if you want to achieve maximum effectiveness.

One more thing: Don’t make the mistake of feeling awkward about asking this question, or other procedural question as they go through the decision making process.  Most recruits we survey say they want some kind of help and leading towards the end of this long and winding recruiting road, so opening up the conversation about how and why they are making the decision can be a difference-maker for you down the stretch.

For years, coaches have relied on two foundational recruiting guides to help formulate intelligent, cutting-edge recruiting strategies.  Want to find out more about making these two guides part of your coaching library?…CLICK HERE

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!

 

The Right Way to Talk About Money with Your Prospects (and Their Parents)Sunday, September 18th, 2011

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How to (Successfully) Play the Waiting GameMonday, February 21st, 2011

There’s almost an art to it, isn’t there?

They’ve taken their visit.  You’ve made your offer.

They’ve turned in their application.  You’re crossing your fingers.

And now you wait.

And wait, and wait.

How is there an “art” to it all?  Because if you don’t successfully play the “waiting game”, all your hard work goes down the drain.  The time period that many of you find yourself in right now as you read this is the critical phase in the recruiting process.  The sobering detail of that statement is that most coaches manage the waiting game very, very poorly.

Now the good news:  Today, I want to give you three, easy-to-implement ideas on how to effectively manage this crucial time period in the recruiting process.  If you’re one of our TRS clients, we can expand on this list, but use this as a starting point:

  1. Please – and I’m begging you here, Coach – keep giving them the reasons they should compete for you.  One big problem we see in athletic departments is the tendency for coaches to stop “selling” their schools, their programs, and themselves.  They (not you, but the other coach down the hall) go to their corner, and basically tell their recruits that they’ll not bother them anymore until they’re ready to make their decision.  Some coaches describe this as not wanting to pressure their recruits.  On the flip side, your prospects are craving direction.  They want good reasons to finally choose you.  Make sure you give it to them.
  2. Make sure you are talking to the parents.  Why?  As most of you know, our national study on how prospects make their final decision tells us that parents are one of the key outside influences in a prospect’s final decision.  So it should make sense that you should be communicating with mom and dad during that awkward silent time that happens during the waiting game.  We find that a conversation with the parents can really be insightful, mainly because they will often divulge crucial information about what’s going on behind the scenes.  Don’t forget to include them in good, in-depth communication during this part of the process.
  3. Don’t be afraid to set a (reasonable) deadline.  By “reasonable” I mean ten days…two weeks…a month…something that doesn’t demand an immediate decision.  So, what’s the point in a longer deadline?  Because it’s something that gives you some power, coach.  Too many of you give it away to the parents, and then complain when they use that power you’ve given them to make you wait and worry.  As we talk about in our On-Campus Workshops that we lead for athletic departments, someone has to control the sales process (which is what this is).  And as the lead sales professional, it’s your responsibility to lead that discussion by setting the guidelines for what’s allowed and what isn’t.  A reasonable deadline during this decision making process will give you a yes or a no that will enable you to move forward, and maybe – just maybe – give your prospect a reason to talk to you first and accept your offer.

The common theme in giving these three recommendations is to maintain control of the recruiting process. Think about it: How often have you been waiting for a decision, or the next step, in the recruiting process with a student-athlete and felt like you didn’t know what was going on? No successful program that I’ve encountered has been built on coaches waiting in the dark for a recruit to meander through their mysterious decision-making process. As a coach, your job is to let your prospect make their decision, but give them the guidelines with which to do that.

Should you use these three guidelines?  If what you’re doing now involves you feeling like you aren’t in control of the process, or if your prospect that you have penciled in as your new starting point guard hasn’t returned your phone calls in about six weeks, or if you’ve stopped sending emails and letters selling you and your program they way you did right after you put them on your recruiting list, then I think it might be a smart move.

These strategies work, Coach.  All it takes to be successful is a willingness to try something new, and the willingness to take control of these final days of the recruiting process.

 

3 Core Principles for Overcoming Prospect ObjectionsSunday, April 4th, 2010

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