Dan Tudor

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Getting Recruits to Drink Your Outrageously Expensive Bottled WaterMonday, March 11th, 2013

If you’re  a college recruiter who is regularly trying to overcome the cost of your college with your prospect, I give you the $7.50 bottle of water.

When I checked into my hotel room, there is was…waiting for me (and my wallet).

I am old enough to remember when bottled water was a novelty.  In fact, it was a joke.  “Yeah right”, I remember thinking back in the olden days, “pay for water I could get for free from the faucet?  Good luck with that scam.”

A few decades later, the joke’s on me.  Bottled water is the norm.  So much so that there were actually a few moments when I considered breaking the seal of the hotel bottled water, and adding the $7.50 onto my room bill.

So, how did I get to this point?  How did I almost drink a $7.50 bottle of water when I once considered it highway robbery?

If you can answer that question, then you’re on your way to figuring out the formula for selling the cost of your program, or not being able to offer a full scholarship, to your recruits.

I can barely figure out my own motives for almost drinking a bottle of water that would equal a few gallons of gas in cost, so I’m not about to suggest that there is a blanket one-size-fits-all strategy or set of answers that will work in every situation.  But I think I do have a good understanding of how our human nature works, and after seeing several hundred recruiting scenarios up-close and personal with the cost of a college at the core of a discussion between coaches and the parents and athlete, I have come up with some solid ideas on why I believe you can win this particular conversation with your recruits.

Or, in other words, how to get your recruits (and their parents) to take a sip of your $7.50 bottle of water:

First, accept the fact that some people aren’t going to drink your $7.50 bottle of water. Either they can’t afford it, or they know they can get it cheaper (or for free) somewhere else.  If you aren’t ready to walk away from a prospect because they just aren’t buying the idea of paying a significant sum for your water, that probably means you aren’t seriously recruiting enough good prospects.  If you had an over-abundance of top tier recruits, you wouldn’t care if they weren’t interested in your expensive water.  If that’s not the case with you, it’s time to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re recruiting enough really good athletes.

You can change the paradigm with repeated exposure. Remember the first time you saw a bottle of water for sale in a hotel room?  You probably rolled your eyes like I did.  Fast forward to today.  Now, when you see a bottle of water in a hotel room, not only is it not an oddity, it’s something you probably treat yourself to during your stay.  What happened?  Repeated exposure.  You’ve come to accept it as “acceptable”.  So, how do you use this principle to improve your recruiting argument?  Repeated exposure.  You need to tell your recruits, through repeated messaging on a consistent basis, why it would be smart to invest in your college and your program.  Not enough coaches do that the right way, and it shows in the number of kids (and parents) that choose “cheaper” over the best choice.

We’ve been told what to think. Bottled water is cleaner, more purified, more convenient and better tasting, right?  Sometimes, yes.  Much of the time, no. But we’ve given up thinking on our own when it comes to bottled water.  Water bottlers have told us that it’s better, and why.  My favorite bottled water is Dasani, which is bottled by CocaCola.  That refreshingly clean looking blue bottle with the little water droplets on the bottle made from formed plastic – as well as that pinch of salt they add for flavoring – make it number one for me.  They have told me how to think about in the way it looks, the way it tastes, and the way it’s presented.  So, Coach…how good of a job are you doing with your recruits in telling them how to think about your bottled water in the way you and your program looks, the way it feels, and the way you present it?  Make sure you have an answer to those three questions, Coach.  And make a point of telling them what to think.

Understand that they might have the money, but just aren’t sure they want to spend it on your water. Did I have $7.50 to spend on water? Sure I did.  I ended up paying $12 for a bowl of oatmeal the next morning at the hotel’s over-priced cafe, so the money wasn’t an issue.  It’s just that I didn’t want to pay the $7.50 for water.  See the distinction?  So when you hear a family talk about not being able to afford your school, or how they just can’t compete for you unless you cover more of their scholarship, understand that they are probably making car payments, house payments, and may even take nice vacations a few times a year.  Furthermore, if that bigger brand school offered a walk-on spot for them at the last minute, chances are they’ll be able to somehow make the sacrifice and pony-up the cash for that college experience.  I’ll say it again: More times than you think your prospect has the money, they just don’t want to spend it on you.  (So, what can you tell them consistently and creatively that get them to cost-justify the expense in their mind?)

There are some big things they DON’T care about when it comes to your bottled water. The vast majority of the time, they don’t care about how many bottles you sold last year, the quality of the facility that it was bottled in, who else is drinking it, or even how convenient it is for them to access the water.  In the same way, most recruits – according to our ongoing research – won’t make their decision based on your facility, your record, who else is on your team, or how big your campus is.  It’s about how you relate to them as their coach and if you are consistent in the way you communicate why they should choose your program over others, and if they feel like they are a fit in your program based on the plan that you outline for them (or that they outline for themselves).  Are you focusing on the stuff that they don’t care about, or those two big ideas that we know matters most to them?  That’s a serious question, Coach.

Like I said, that’s not an exhaustive list.  And I’m not conceding the idea that once in a while, a prospect is going to say your facility just wasn’t as good as the other program recruiting them (they’re more than likely just using it as an excuse to cover-up another real objection, but that’s another topic for another day). However, these core ideas on “why they aren’t drinking your bottled water” are proving to be reliable indicators for us as we work one-on-one with coaching staffs in their recruiting approaches.

So, if it’s working for us, we’re pretty confident that it will work for you, too.  If, that is, you can formulate answers for those questions we know pop into your prospects’ minds as they consider whether or not to drink your very expensive $7.50 bottle of water.

Want personalized help in creating a proven marketing plan to increase the number of recruits who will want to drink your bottled water?  Let us help. CLICK HERE to see us explain the client option that coaches around the country are using for better recruiting results.

Strategies for Going Up Against Big-Name CompetitorsMonday, July 30th, 2012

In a society that looks to brands like Apple, Starbucks, or Lexus to give us meaning in life, we shouldn’t really be surprised that this generation of prospects are looking for the same feeling in the college that they end up choosing.  To put it simply, big name colleges find it easier to get the attention of a recruit at the start of the recruiting process.

There are a handful of big name colleges that instantly command the attention of a recruit.  If your college isn’t one of those big name schools, this article is for you.

As a college coach and serious recruiter, you probably already know the benefits (or challenges, depending on the college you coach for) of the name of the school on your business card.  And sometimes, it’s hard to get the attention of a recruit that’s sought after by some schools with big names.  So, a coach has two practical choices:  Give up, or compete.

And if you’re someone who wants to compete, we’re going to give you a few key points of emphasis as you develop a strategy for going after those recruits that aren’t excited about you or your college – and most certainly not excited about the name of the school you recruit for.  In fact, there are three primary points that we would recommend coaches need to pay attention to in battling for recruits being tempted by bigger name college programs.

Here’s what the “no-names” need to do, based on the research and recruiting conversations that we’ve been tracking for the past several years:

  1. First and foremost, you’d better be consistent. I realize that for some of you who are clients or have had us on-campus for a workshop, this advice is something you’ve heard before.  But let me underscore the importance of a consistent message when you are competing with a big name rival:  We find in tracking the interest levels of recruits being contacted by a variety of programs – large and small, big-name and no-name – if a smaller, lesser known program is more consistent than their bigger rivals, that program has an excellent chance of competing for, and winning, that recruit.  Consistency proves that you are serious about them in the most tangible way possible, through regular emails and written letters (really, really important in proving that you’re interested in them).  Even if they don’t read your materials right from the start, they’re noticing that you are contacting them regularly.  And over time, that will make a difference in how they view you.
  2. Act like a big dog. This one is tough for a lot of coaches at smaller or lesser-known schools, mainly because it involves a little big of acting.  One of the things that most prospects are looking for from a smaller, lesser-known college program is confidence.  If you as their potential coach aren’t confident on the question of why they should take you as seriously as a big name school they’re looking at, we find that this generation of recruits will sense that weakness and almost immediately relegate you to second tier status.  However, if you jump in and confidently and somewhat aggressively lay out the reasons they should pay attention to you, and develop a plan of action for them to follow as the recruiting process starts, you should be pleasantly surprised at the results.
  3. Explain why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. One of the critical elements that you will need to address as a college recruiter is explaining to your recruit why you, as the smaller, lesser-known college or program, is going to be the smarter choice for them.  That line of reasoning could be based on anything that would make sense to build a case around at your college: The academic reputation at your school, the more personalized coaching they’ll receive from you…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit.  The point is, it needs to be something.  Your prospect, who is considering a bigger name school and has probably already assigned their “story” to that competing program, needs a logical reason about why they should keep you in the game.  Fail to give that to them, and watch how hard it is to get their attention later in the process.

One more thing I’ll add to the to-do list we’re putting together: Start early.  As early as possible.  Smaller, lesser-known colleges should make a point of targeting prospects as early as possible for two reasons.  First, recruiting at higher levels is happening earlier and earlier, so you don’t want to be late to the game.  And second, you’ll get the chance to define yourself before some of your larger competitors begin the process.  In both instances, we’ve seen that approach work for the coach clients that we serve.

Being a coach at a smaller, lesser-known “name” school isn’t an automatic loss.  Far from it.  These three principles, executed with passion and creativity, can bring great prospects to your roster.  We’ve seen it happen over and over, and have watched these strategies work for the coaches that have implemented them.

If you are finding yourself going head-to-head with some bigger name schools, this game plan can help.

Want to bring our team of experts alongside you and your program to help you achieve the recruiting results that you need this year?  Email Dan personally at dan@dantudor.com and ask him to explain the Total Recruiting Solution plan, and how it can work for your program.  It might be the difference maker as you prepare to win this next class of recruits!

The Secret to Finding Out What Their Objections REALLY AreMonday, September 26th, 2011

Overcoming a prospect’s objections is a tough challenge, even if you happen to know what those objections are.  Most coaches struggle with identifying the real reasons one of their recruits tells them no…and it’s one of the most frustrating parts of their jobs.

But I got a phone call from a coach who became a client a few weeks ago with a bit of a twist to the traditional objection question:

“What do you do,” he asked, “when you know there’s something a prospect isn’t telling you, but it’s obviously something that’s going to keep him from choosing your school?”  Call it a gut feeling, or something else, but sometimes a coach just “knows” when something isn’t right with one of their prospects.

It’s actually a great question…and that’s a tough one to overcome, no doubt.  So to provide you with a map to guide you through the complicated maze of figuring out how to address your prospects’ real objections, here are a few proven strategies you might want to try the next time you have a recruit come right out and tell you that they’re “not interested”, or give you that gut feeling that they’re holding something back from you and not telling you about an objection they’re thinking about:

  • First, ask them what they mean by “not interested”. Does it mean that they aren’t interested in playing college sports? Not interested in the offer you have for them? Not interested in going to college in your part of the country? Asking probing questions is the key to getting to the heart of their lack of interest.  You’ve got to get them to be specific, so that you can give them an answer that helps redirect their interest back towards your program.
  • If you think they might be holding back an objection from you, you’ll need to do even more probing. Try asking your prospect to give you three reasons a prospect would have a problem with you or your program.  By taking them out of the equation (you’re asking about another prospect, not them or their views) it might free them up to give you answers that will, in fact, be their feelings toward your program.
  • Next, try to get them to them to clarify the general answer they gave you. “Do you mean you already know what our offer is going to be?” Or, “Have you already read about our program’s success but have decided that it doesn’t matter to you?” Or maybe, “How did you become familiar with the part of the country that our school is located in?”

The point in asking these types of questions? Get your prospect to clearly clarify what they mean by their objection, and how they came to feel that way.

Next, you’ll want to focus on trying to solve the problem and overcoming that objection. That is the goal of any conversation when an objection arises, and what we spend a lot of time on in our recruiting guides for college coaches. A problem-solving discussion might start something like, “I understand…so, if a full-ride offer was on the table, you’d take a serious look at us?” Or, “I see. So, if I could show you how well you’d fit into our championship caliber program, you would keep an open mind and consider us?” Or, “If we were able to show you how valuable a degree from our school is out there in the real world, would you give us another look?”

Again, my strong recommendation to you is to be a problem solver. Your prospect may not be raising an objection as much as he or she is reaching out to have their problems solved. Most of your competition still tries to hard sell a prospect by throwing out a lot of sales-oriented bullet points and trashing their competition (that would be you, Coach).

Approach things from a different perspective, and stand out from your competition: Deal with objections with the frame of mind that you are a problem solver, and your prospect is someone in need of help solving that problem.

Whether they come right out and state an objection to you, or they hold back and make you dig for it, overcoming objections is THE biggest challenge you face as college recruiter.  If you learn how to effectively deal with objections, you’ll build a long, successful career for yourself at the college level.

We’ve written two advanced recruiting workbooks for college recruiters.  Have you read them?  If they aren’t in your library, they need to be.  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.

Why Showing Your Cracks is a Great Recruiting StrategyMonday, April 4th, 2011

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Getting Past Your Prospect’s NoSunday, January 10th, 2010

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