Dan Tudor

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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

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

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The Power of Walking AwayMonday, September 24th, 2007

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