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.