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.
In 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?
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.