Dan Tudor

Join The Newsletter and Stay Up To Date!

Text Size Increase Decrease

The Customer ISN’T Always Right (and Neither Are Your Recruits)Monday, October 19th, 2015

It was a revolutionary idea back in 1909.

Harry Selfridge, an American entrepreneur who began Selfridge’s Department Store in London at the turn of the century, coined the phrase – and the philosophy – that “the customer is always right.”  It was meant to reassure retail shoppers at the time that they were going to control the shopping experience and that their complaints would be listened to and treated seriously.  It was a revolutionary idea at the time.

But then, in 1914, a counter-philosophy began taking hold. After years of customers taking advantage of the good natured intent of the rule and abusing the kindness of retailers, it was time to re-think the adage.

“If we adopt the policy of admitting whatever claims the customer makes to be proper, and if we always settle them at face value, we shall be subjected to inevitable losses”, wrote Frank Farrington, author of the 1914 book Successful Salesmanship: Is the Customer Always Right?  “If the customer is made perfectly to understand what it means for him to be right, what right on his part is, then he can be depended on to be right if he is honest, and if he is dishonest, a little effort should result in catching him at it.” In short, the customer isn’t always right in the world of retail business.

This has direct application to your recruiting one hundred years later:

Your recruits, and their parents, are dishonest with you at times and are just plain wrong in the way they deal with you during the recruiting process.

The problem that compounds this?  Most college coaches allow it to happen.

Your job as a college coach, as I emphasize in the recruiting training workshops we have done for college athletic departments for more than a decade, is to control the sales process. Somebody has to do it…either you, or your recruit and his or her parents. Since we work for all of you, I vote for you!

That means that there are going to be several times during the recruiting process that you are going to have to identify your prospects as being wrong about something, and require a change in their thinking.

Here are some of the top ways your recruits are going to be wrong during the recruiting process, and what you should do to re-direct their thinking if you want to successfully manage their recruiting process:

Your recruit will easily give in to common misconceptions about your school or program. This will happen earlier rather than later in the process, and if it isn’t corrected and called-out as “wrong” then you will have let it become fact, and it will rule the rest of your recruiting conversation with that athlete and his or her family. Note the root cause of this problem: You. We can’t blame the athlete, who is using limited information and has never gone through the process before, for trying to come to some initial definitions (positive or negative) about you and your program. That’s to be expected, especially if you haven’t won a national championship lately, aren’t in a great location, cost too much, don’t have a successful program history, can’t brag about your extensive resume…you get the picture.

The person that can be blamed is you, since you and you alone are the voice that can correct those common misconceptions quickly and effectively. Most coaches, however, don’t do that. They give in to definition that their prospect has wrongly created, and begin the recruiting process with two strikes against them.

Don’t do it. Correct their perception of your program, and re-define it for them boldly and in as much detail as possible.  And, do it as early as possible. Once we decide something is true, we don’t like being proven wrong and seldom change our mind. Don’t let that happen with your recruit.

Your recruit will tell you they need more time. More time to look at other schools. More time to think about your offer. More time to come back for another visit. In general, “more time” is the same as telling you “I don’t want to make a final decision.”  Even recruits that we interview for our clients as a part of our ongoing strategic work in developing their recruiting message tell us that much of the time they knew they were going to commit to that program, but just didn’t want to make it official…or they were scared to end the recruiting process…or they felt like if they waited another bigger, ‘better’ program would come calling.

For the majority of your prospects, it’s imperative that you set a fair but firm deadline. It’s wrong for your recruits to think that they can control the process and make you wait. It’s your job as a coach to give them the direction that they need to understand your timeline for making a decision.

(Note: This is not a universal rule, certainly. There are situations where you will strategically want to give your prospect more time, and where waiting puts you in a better position to get that athlete. However, in the majority of cases, college coaches don’t direct their recruits strongly enough, resulting in the recruit and his or her family dictating when they will give you a decision. And as I’m sure you’ll agree, most of the time that isn’t to your benefit).

Your recruit lists objections as to why your school or program isn’t going to be right for them.  Sometimes, they’re right. Much of the time, they’re wrong. (And most of the time, the reason they’re wrong is because you haven’t corrected them about the common misconceptions about your school or program, as we talked about a few paragraphs earlier).

Objections are not bad. They are needed in the recruiting process! Tell me about the last top-tier recruit you had who didn’t have any questions, objections, hesitations, or arguments with you about your school. When was the last time that happened? Almost never.

You need to address each objection, and correct it. When your prospect objects to something you have presented, or in the way that they view your college, it’s because they want to know why they should think differently. Read that again, Coach. When your prospect throws out a reason that they aren’t sure your program is going to be right for them, most of the time they want you to give them a counter-opinion as to why they are wrong. You need to do that, Coach. (Here is a quick video primer on the steps to do that).

Do you get the idea, Coach? It’s your job to set the standards, manage the timeline, and correct false assumptions. In short, you need to tell your recruit – your “customer” – when he or she (or the parents, or their coach) is wrong.

If you don’t, nobody will. And if nobody does, the inmates will continue to run the asylum.

Learn more of these kinds of advanced recruiting philosophies and techniques by enrolling in Tudor University, our online training and certification class for college recruiters. It’s an effective way to gain the edge on your recruiting competition! Click here to get started.

The Recruiting Magic of the Left SharkMonday, February 9th, 2015





You won’t remember Super Bowl XLIX for the touchdown-saving interception by the New England Patriots to beat the Seattle Seahawks.

Hopefully, after this article, you’ll remember it for what you’re about to learn from the a dancing shark.  Specifically, the shark on the of left side of the TV screen dancing next to singer Katy Perry during the halftime show, no known famously as “Left Shark”.

Left Shark failed miserably at dancing. And the world reacted.

But something interesting happened after all the laughing stopped.  People felt a connection to Left Shark.  They accepted Left Shark.  Heck, they even embraced the failures and floundering of Left Shark.  So much so, that Left Shark is now slated to be a top-selling Halloween costume, has people getting Left Shark tattooed on themselves…in fact, you can even take a love life test based on whether you identify with Left Shark or Right Shark.  No doubt about it, Left Shark is riding high.

So here’s the question for college coaches:

Why is everybody talking about Left Shark – who showcased mistake after mistake in front of a worldwide television audience – and nobody is complimenting the perfect routine pulled-off by Right Shark?

Because our society roots for the underdog, if the underdog gives us a good reason for it.  When people are honest about their limitations, and show us their imperfections, we respect the honesty.  We respect their transparency.  And, as a result, we gravitate towards them.  Tiger Woods, once an unbeatable pro who had a knack for rubbing people the wrong way, is now a lovable underdog who people are rooting for because they are feeling a little sorry for him.

Which brings us to you, Coach:

Some of you reading this, you’re dealing with your own Left Shark when it comes to your school, your facilities or your program.

  • Your locker room was last updated during the Jimmy Carter administration.
  • There’s nothing to around campus except shop at Walmart (and that’s a 45 minutes drive away)
  • U.S. News ranked your college in lower 10% of every critical category they measure.
  • Your last conference championship happened just before they last updated your locker room.

You may have your own specific underdog, lovable loser story to tell.  Most coaches can point to something that they would view as a big negative that they consistently have to deal with when it comes to their recruits.

If that’s the case, you have two choices: You can run and hide, or hope that your prospect somehow misses the fact that you aren’t close to a perfect program.  Or, you can own it.  And, you can define it for them.

Here’s a quick example:

“Your locker room is subpar”.  First, understand, that according to our research this is not a consistent reason that your recruits would say no to you.  But with that being said, I hear the locker room complaint from coaches often, so I wanted to use it as an example. To turn around this potential objection into an embraceable concept for your recruit, you might try something like this as you’re showing your prospects your locker room:

“You’re going to see other locker rooms at other colleges that might be newer than ours.  But that’s not the way to make a smart college decision…it shouldn’t come down to what a locker room looks like.  In my experience as a college coach, this team I have here right now is one of the closest-knit I’ve ever had.  And I think that’s a LOT more important than how new a locker room is, don’t you?”

Address your Left Shark weakness, own it, justify it, and get your prospect’s agreement.

The truth is, your recruit needs to understand why they should overlook a perceived weakness with you, your program, or your college.  But don’t stop there, Coach.  Give them something to love about a seemingly negative weakness…give them a chance to embrace it.  Show confidence in the way you explain it to them, so that they see you aren’t worried about it.

Your college is in a small town with not much to do?  Left Shark it: Agree with them (own it!) and then explain why your team likes their college experience, and doesn’t see anything about the school as a negative.

Your program has a fairly mediocre history of success?  Left Shark it: Agree with them (own it!), and tell them what you’ve tried in the past, what hasn’t worked, and what your plan for the future is now – especially how your recruit figures into that plan.

Too many college coaches shy away from confidently and quickly addressing a perceived weakness.  What we find is that your recruits know you aren’t perfect, and they’re ready for you to explain those parts of your program to them.

Be the coach that gives a recruit a reason to root for the underdog, and embrace the Left Shark in you.

Need help developing strategies to communicate your weaknesses, as well as your strengths, then consider becoming a client.  Dan Tudor and his team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies work with teams from around the country to perfect a strategic, systematic communication approach with their athletes.  Click here for details.


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 and programs, 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

The information you are trying to access is reserved for our Clients and Premium Members. Please log in.

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

The information you are trying to access is reserved for our Clients and Premium Members. Please log in.

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

The information you are trying to access is reserved for our Clients and Premium Members. Please log in.

  • Not a member? Click here to signup.