Dan Tudor

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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

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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

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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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