Dan Tudor

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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

 A couple of years ago, I remember a coach we work with telling me, “I can’t wait until this slow economy rebounds.  It’s making recruiting ten times harder than it already is!”

As you probably know, he’s still waiting.

And yes, it does make recruiting a lot harder.  The money issue has become more and more commonplace, putting coaches in the uncomfortable position of adding a “financial advisor” label to their already crowded list of duties.  Sure, you can ignore this new reality.  However, you do so at your own risk; when we do our athlete focus group sessions when we begin work with a client or lead an On-Campus Workshop session, we’re hearing more and more stories of how coaches are failing to talk finances with a family during the recruiting process, and it’s causing recruits to cross those programs off their list.

So, how do you approach your recruits correctly in these challenging economic times?  We have some strategies that we’ve seen work over the past few years, and we think you can use them to help overcome the “money” objection as you talk with this next recruiting class.

  • Ask the parents of your recruit how this crisis is effecting them.  That type of question is one of the “15 Great Questions” we usually recommend to college coaches during our On-Campus Workshops.  You need to understand how this crisis is effecting them, and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.  This is especially true if you are a non-athletic scholarship institution, or a sport that typically only gives partical scholarships.  The important thing here is to engage the family in that conversation.  Some coaches would argue that it’s not their job, and that their admissions department and financial aid counselors should be the people to have that conversation.  Maybe so, but your recruits are looking to you to be their guide.  Do you want to risk not meeting that expectation?
  • Be prepared to talk about money with your prospects.  Get comfortable having that conversation.  It’s going to be on the minds of your prospects more and more, especially if you’re not offering them a full scholarship.  I would strongly advise you to have that talk with the parents, not the parents and your prospect together.  It’s a sensitive topic, and we find that your prospect’s parents will be more open with you if their son or daughter is not there.  The coach who is comfortable having this conversation with parents is going to win more prospect in the long run.
  • Be a guide.  Coaches who take the small extra step of being a guide through this increasingly confusing process at your college will win points with the family they are recruiting.  Your prospects are looking for help, and we don’t think you should rely on admissions or your financial aid office to be the one-stop spot for answers and super sweet “customer service” – an attitude that shows you take ownership of the idea of helping them through this area of the recruiting process.  The bottom line?  Your prospect’s family is looking for help.  Be the one to guide them to a solution.
  • The coach who proves they have the best “bang for the buck”, wins.  Families are still going to place a college education high on their list of things they are willing to invest in.  Unlike a lot of sectors of the market that will go through real struggles over the coming years, college educations – as well as the dream of playing college sports – should remain a high priority in the minds of athletes and parents.  The key to success in the coming months will be making sure you demonstrate to your prospects that you and your program offer the most opportunities for success and the best chance to become a great athlete.  You are going to see families “shopping” more when it comes to choosing a college, especially if you are asking them to pay for part of it.  I hope you are ready to be the master sales professional that I’ve been begging you to become the last few years…you are about to really rely on those communication and persuasion skills we’ve been giving you.
  • How you communicate what you have to offer counts more now than ever.  Especially your letters and emails, Coach.  If you have a family who is struggling financially, or worried about their job, your average recruiting letter is going to have an even harder time getting through to them and getting their attention.  Communicating clearly, systematically and with some originality is crucial.  This all goes towards proving yourself to be a guide and a leader, which is going to be a valued commodity in the eyes of parents.
  • Get to know your school’s financial aid officers, and their process for determining who gets what.  Are you a coach who has kept an arm’s distance relationship with the people from financial aid and the admissions office?  You can’t afford to do that anymore.  Get to know them, what they look for, and how they make their decisions with regards to your incoming prospects.  Coaches who invest the time in these relationships tell me that it has made a tangible difference in the process of getting an athlete they really want.  Personal relationships matter: Invest in those relationships that can make your job as a recruiter easier, and more productive.

Of course, there are going to be many instances when all of the best answers won’t be able to overcome the reality that some families just won’t be able to afford anything other than a full-ride scholarship.  In those instances, remember:  You are responsible only for presenting smart reasons for them to pick your program, and that’s it.  In the end, they have to decide what can work for them.

That being said, make it your goal to make as compelling a case as possible when it comes to why you, your program and your college are the best investment for the prospects’ future.

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.

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 poit 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

Coaching harard!Facing a prospect objection isn’t just inconvenient and frustrating.  For a college coach, it may also be a job hazard that can trip-up the best laid recruiting plans.

Why?

Because if your prospect’s objections aren’t being overcome throughout the recruiting process, they are probably not going to sign with you and your program.

It’s nothing personal, Coach.  But the way they’re wired makes it almost impossible for them to commit to something that they aren’t sold on, and they certainly aren’t going to come compete for you if they have downright negative vibes about you, your team or your program.

Since coaches are preparing to deal with the objections in a new recruiting class, I wanted to give everyone three core principles to take into a recruiting situation with them when it comes to facing, and overcoming, their initial objections.  Here they are:

PRINCIPLE #1:  You should want to hear objections from your prospects, especially the ones you really want.

Whenever I talk about that when I work with coaches in an athletic department during one of our On-Campus Workshops, I often get puzzled looks.  “I want people to object to something about our campus or our program???”  Yes, Coach, you do.

An objection usually indicates that they are actively listening, processing the information that they are seeing themselves or hearing from you, which is the first step in them reaching a decision on whether or not to come to your school.

Think about it: When was the last time that you signed a prospect that didn’t have questions, concerns or firm objections to something you talked to them about:  Your dorms, their role on the team, the amount of (or lack of) a scholarship offer…most coaches face objections all the time.
When you hear an objection, it’s a classic “buying signal”.  It means you are one step closer to getting them to see it your way.

So, your attitude should be one of “alright, now we’re getting somewhere!” as opposed to “oh brother, here we go again”. Think about it, Coach:  How often have you signed an athlete that had zero questions and objections while you were recruiting them?  Not many, I’d bet.  Like I wrote in our two recruiting guides for college coaches, if they aren’t serious about you, they won’t take the time or emotional investment to object to what you’re telling them.

This is a huge, life-changing decision that you’re asking them to make.  Don’t be surprised if you hear them (or their parents) bemoan the details along the way as they come to grips with the realities of recruiting as opposed to their unrealistic expectations of their “perfect” college program.

PRINCIPLE #2:  When you hear an objection, your initial reaction and re-direction is key to keeping them listening to you.

If your prospect takes the time – and the “risk” – in verbalizing something that they see as not fitting in with their view of college sports or college life, you’ve got a serious prospect on your hands.

The next step is the second principle of overcoming objections that I’d want any of my clients to take, and that is to make their prospects, or their prospects’ parents, feel comfortable voicing more objections.  Through your reaction, body language and words, let them know that it’s o.k. not to love everything about what they’re seeing or hearing from you and your college.

This is crucial because you want to open up the lines of communication further, and keep them open throughout the process.  What we find when we are researching this subject at universities across the country is that today’s teenagers aren’t comfortable communicating with outsiders they don’t know, and are apt to internalizing things that don’t match their view of what their “perfect” college should be like.  To help open those fragile lines of communication, make every effort to treat objections as “normal”:

• “Oh, we get that all the time.  That’s an easy one to answer…”
• “One of the players that came here in our last recruiting class felt the same way about the on-campus housing.  But now that she’s here, what she’s discovered is…”
• “Hey, that’s a really good observation.  Before I talk to you about it, are there any other big worries about us on your list?…”

You want and need a steady line of communication flowing to you throughout the process.  Treating it like you are comfortable with talking about it, and letting them know that you don’t think less of them for bringing up what they might view as a sensitive topic, is going to go a long way towards making (and keeping) a connection between you two.

PRINCIPLE #3:  MIX LOGIC, EMOTION AND INFORMATION AS YOU RE-DIRECT THEIR OBJECTION INTO A SELLING POINT.

Unfortunately, this is the hardest principle to master for most college recruiters.  However, once you recognize it and react to it, actually answering their objection and giving your prospect a new frame of reference in how to view that objection is absolutely key in the process.

So, here’s what I want you to do after you’ve addressed the first two principles that I talked about:

• Use logic to answer their question or objection by telling them how they should think about a particular issue.  What I am suggesting is that they may throw out an objection that is not based in fact at all; rather, it is a picture that they’ve painted over time in their own mind.  Understand that in most cases, when an objection is raised, they are listening to whether you confirm their current line of thinking, or if you correct them with a new line of reasoning. Logical, fact-based information is needed to replace their own misconceptions about a particular issue.
• Use emotion to begin to re-direct their objection.  You see, many of the athletes we interview based their objections on emotion: How they feel about the other athletes during their visit…the feel of a college campus on a tour…determining whether you would be a “good fit” for them as their future coach. To answer them, use emotion to your advantage: Talk about the way you’d see them fitting in to the team’s personality if they can get past a certain objection…show them what game day will feel like in order to prove that your program is just as good as a competitor.  There are lots of ways to answer an prospect’s emotionally-based objection by using emotion yourself.
• Use information to re-direct their objection.  Do you know when the best time to have an informational conversation about one of your big objections is?  Before they bring it up…especially if it’s an objection that is “the big one” that almost every recruit asks about or would notice during a visit.  Here’s an example: We began work with a coach who became a new TRS client four or five months ago.  One of their big objections was the condition of their on-campus housing.  It was 30 years old, and looked it.  The coaching staff we are working with avoided showing the housing to prospects altogether – big mistake, because kids must see where they’re going to live.  Our answer, with the help of the athlete focus group we assembled for two hours during our initial visit, was to take the focus away from the structure and center the attention on the incredible social atmosphere that existed in the dorms…one of the big plusses of their campus experience, according to the athletes at that school.  So, we talked about it right out of the gate when we put together their first series of messages…we didn’t hide from it, we used information to tell them how they should think about their housing, and what to look for when they saw it on a campus visit.  Most importantly, we did this before it became an objection in the mind of the recruit…make sure you define the objection for them at the start, instead of having to try and change their mind later.  That’s a key factor in successfully re-directing an objection, and turning it into a selling point in college recruiting.

This area of recruiting is where the rubber meets the road, in most cases.  Nearly all of the time, your recruits are going to have questions or objections that will pop into their mind during the process. It’s not a matter of “if” that happens, but when (and how often).

Your job is to hunt down those objections each step of the way, and re-direct them using these three principles that we’ve put to work ourselves in our daily work with our clients.  Apply your own unique situation and challenges to this step-by-step approach for answering objections, and watch how it changes the outcome of your recruiting.

Want more techniques and in-depth ideas on overcoming objections?  It’s going to be one of the main focus areas at this Summer’s big gathering of advanced college recruiters, the  National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in June.

It’s our biggest and best conference yet, and it’s a great way for you to prepare for a new year of winning the most important game you’ll play – recruiting!

The Power of Walking AwayMonday, September 24th, 2007

As you start to get down to the business of signing your top prospects this year, we want to remind you that coaches like you are not just involved in "recruiting".  You’re involved in negotiations. 

Parents, and even your prospect, are getting pretty good at maintaining their poker faces and seeing which school offers the best package.  So what should you as a coach do?  Maintain the power of walking away.

Here’s an excerpt from our new book, "What They Didn’t Teach You About Recruiting", dealing with the incredible power you have to control the sales and recruiting process from start to finish:

"Walking away.  That’s tough for a lot of coaches, and in some instances it isn’t recommended.  But if we’re talking about an athlete that is abusing his or her relationship with you and your staff – taking too much of your time, demanding too much, parents are making unrealistic requests…you know who I’m talking about, coach – then its your right to walk away, and that’s a very powerful negotiating tool.  It’s the same basic concept that many coaches use in offering a scholarship to a prospect, but giving them a deadline for accepting the offer.  Basically, you’re telling them that you will “walk away” if they don’t commit.
 
If your prospect knows that you will move on to another recruit without hesitation, you’ll maintain your control of the process and your position as the power player in the negotiating process.  And can I tell you something else?  You’ll actually build respect in the process…your prospect could end up liking the fact that you’re taking a strong position.  People are drawn to strength, and it will often command more respect than groveling and pleading the athlete to stay interested.

The big key to making these work?  Practice.  Over and over and over again.  Why?  It makes a difference come "game time" when the prospects are real, the objections are tough, and successful negotiations can make the difference between players wanting you to add them to your roster, or you looking in the want ads for a new job."

It’s a powerful technique that a few college coaches have mastered.  I’ve seen it in action, and it works because it gives coaches the ability to maintain control of the process from start to finish.  That’s important, because losing control of the recruiting process is one of the biggest reasons coaches wind-up sitting by the phone wondering why the recruit they were positive was going to sign with them hasn’t called them in three weeks.

Maintain your power, coach.  You can help do that by maintaining the power of walking away from a prospect.

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