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CEO Or Silent Partner – What Kind Of Parents Are You Dealing With?Monday, March 24th, 2014

by Tyler Brandt, National Recruiting Coordinator

When I was recruiting at the collegiate level I always asked my recruits, “How involved do you think your parents want to be in this process?” The answer to that question was always intriguing but never differed much. The general answer was either “They don’t care where I go they just want me to be happy” or “This is really their decision because they’re paying for it”.

Here is what I came to realize, parents are always involved and usually a big part of the decision making process! Then I looked at a decade of research at Tudor Collegiate Strategies and what I thought – was confirmed.

In our research of college prospects a staggering 91.3% said the opinion of their parents was very important. In other words, more than 90% of the athletes you are talking to, regardless of what they tell you, will be getting direction or decision making information from mom or dad. The big question is, what type of recruiting plan do you have for the parents?

When you come across the CEO parent you will feel like your answer is given to you. They will call you, they will ask for information, they will request a follow-up from you, and you will have a very clear path of communication. You will need to connect with these types of parents because they will be very business like in their participation and need to feel comfortable and confident in recommending that their child go to your college. The flip side is that these types of parents are ALWAYS negotiating on behalf of their child with every other college they can find. As long as you can keep honest and open lines of communication, these types of parents don’t often blind side you.

The Silent Partner parent is a little more tricky. They will stay in the shadows watching the process, they will guide but not lead the direction their child is going, and when asked for input they will often defer in the early stages. As the choices start to get narrowed down the Silent Partner parent starts to get more involved, is out of the shadows and standing in the corner. At this point they have formed opinions on coaches, schools and finances. They have an idea of what’s best for their child and want them to feel like they are making the decision themselves, while in reality it is the parent’s choice.

In a recent conversation with a football coach at a DII University we explained that when all things are equal the parents will generally make the choice based on finances. SO – the goal is to make sure that when the prospect and the parents are reviewing and comparing colleges they don’t feel like everything is equal, they have to feel like you are  different and a better fit.

You need to build relationships with the parents that are just as strong and emotionally connected as you do with your recruits. It is critical that you deliberately develop recruiting plans for parents. You need to schedule calls, send emails and probe the parents regarding their wants and needs for their child, because the parents need to be sold on you, your program and the institution just like the athlete!

Irrational Recruiting Decisions Made by Recruits (and College Coaches)Monday, May 14th, 2012

It’s the thing that drives recruiters absolutely crazy when it comes to understanding how teenage athletes make their final decisions.

Most of the time, they make irrational final decisions.

This past year it seems like I’ve seen more examples than ever of that in our ongoing work with college coaches.  Here are some of the constants I see in this generation of recruits when it comes to how they are choosing the school that they would describe as “the right fit” for them:

They are deciding based upon their emotions. That includes both male and female prospects, Coach.  How they feel – and how their parents feel – about you and your program seem to consistently seem outweigh the logic and facts behind your program.

They aren’t taking a long term view of their college experience. Make no mistake, they start thinking about it right after they make their decision (hence all the de-commits and second looks) but as they are making their final decision (the first one, anyway) they are, in large part, considering what feels right at that very moment.  I’ve said it many times before: They choose with their hearts, and justify that decision with their head.

They are conscious of the highs and lows in recruiting. If you skip talking to them for a few weeks, expect them to be looking elsewhere for options.  If you’re consistently talking to them?  You earn big points.  And so it goes…up and down, over the course of recruiting.  And they are remembering who is giving them those highs (and lows) and factoring that in to their final decision.

They are relying on others to help them make their decisions. Primarily their parents, followed closely by their high school and club coaches.  Our research shows that they will often go against what their own gut is telling them and side with these highly influencial outside decision makers.  It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what is happening.

They will often turn to irrelevant statistics to justify their actions. You’ve seen it before:  You hit it off with the prospect, mom and dad love you, she’s a perfect fit for your program, but then at then end she chooses the school that finished two spots ahead of you in the U.S. News rankings for their major.  Will those extra two spots on the list make her happier in the long run?  Of course not.  But right now, it makes her feel like she made a smarter decision.

We could add more to that list, of course.  Or we could end it here and just agree that this generation is a tough one to recruit, and resign ourselves to just rolling the dice and hoping to get lucky every few years with a great recruiting class.

That’s not the smart approach, though.  Yet that’s the attitude of many college coaches: They lament the problem after correctly identifying it, and then don’t do anything to change their prospect’s irrational outlook despite knowing that they are taking that approach.  In other words, I see coaches reacting to their prospects’ irrational behavior during the recruiting process with their own irrational behavior.

Am I suggesting you fight irrational behavior with your own version of irrational behavior?  Yes.  I’m giving you permission to attract this next class or recruits using techniques that will help prompt your recruits to stop in their tracks and snap out of their irrational decision making process.  See if any of these ideas might work for your recruits:

  • Make your case with more passion than the other guy. If your prospects are using emotion to make their decision, we’ve seen plenty of cases where the coach who shows the same kind of passion and emotion connects the best with that athlete.  And the last time I checked, passion isn’t a budget related item that your competitor has more of (unless you let them).
  • Challenge them: Tell them that they are going about all this the completely wrong way.  Once you have their attention, make your case that they need to reconsider how they’re deciding on a program.  Get them to take a second look.  Compel them to continue the conversation with you…but start it off by contending that they are doing it wrong right now.  Get their attention!
  • Ask them, “Is that the smart way to do it?”  Maybe the answer is yes.  Or maybe it isn’t.  Asking that question and actually getting them to think about everything in a new light is one of the most productive challenges you can issue during the recruiting process.
  • Counter their illogical views with logical facts.  Again, the theme here is “do the opposite”.  It worked for George Costanza, it can work for you (if you aren’t a “Seinfeld” fan, that won’t mean much too you).  If they are all about the feelings, and you can’t seem to connect with them, stop them in their tracks with facts that go against their emotions.
  • Always include the parents and coaches.  Clue them in on what you’re talking to the prospect about, and why it’s important that your point of view should be seriously considered.
  • Exude a confidence – even if you’re not feeling like you have any! – that tells them they’d be CRAZY not to choose you.  No explanation needed, Coach.  The only thing I’ll tell you is that your prospect and their family are looking at you closely, and trying to figure out if you really believe what you’re selling.

Don’t fret about a prospect acting irrationally, Coach.  Develop a strategy around it to ensure that they’ll pick you and your program!

We’re beginning our planning sessions with new clients for this next recruiting class.  Want to talk to us about working one-on-one with you and your staff to develop a rock-solid recruiting plan?  Contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com so we can set up a time to discuss how we do it, and why it works.

     

    The Importance of “Passion” vs. “Pressure” in RecruitingMonday, October 10th, 2011

    There’s a big, big difference.

    And quite honestly, most college coaches get it wrong.

    When you’re trying to close a recruit, and get them to commit to your program, one of the worst things to do is to give them the feeling that they are being “pressured”.  Pressure might lead to an initial commitment, but in the long run that athlete is going to be a strong candidate for transferring or talking negatively about the way he or she was recruited.

    In my opinion, after interviewing hundreds of current college prospects on how they made their decision in committing to a program, pressuring an athlete is bad.

    Passion, on the other hand, is good.  Very, very good.

    If you demonstrate passion to your prospect, it’s very likely you’ll achieve the same effects as you would hope to achieve by pressuring them: Excitement about your program, a strong reason for committing to you and your college, and a faster commitment.

    Very few college recruiters, unfortunately, don’t do the passion part very well.

    To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, and to show you what a big difference there is between the two, let me give you a few contrasting examples of “passion” versus “pressure” when recruiting your athlete:

    Passion is when you tell your recruit why you like him, and what value you see him having in your program.  Pressure is when you matter-of-factly tell your recruit who else you’re recruiting at his position, and what he’s going to lose if he doesn’t make a fast decision.

    Passion is when you tell them that you’ve decided you want her to play for you, and they officially ask her if she’s ready to commit because you are really excited about her future in your program.  Pressure is when you give her a 48-hour deadline after her campus visit to make her decision, or else you’ll yank the offer and give it to the next girl on your list.

    Passion is when you smile and sit forward in your chair when you’re talking to your prospect.  Pressure is when you lean back, look at your cell phone every two minutes, and seem like you’re ready to walk your prospect over to admissions so they can start their exciting two hour PowerPoint presentation with the assistant to the assistant Director of Financial Aid so you can get back to work.

    Passion is an impromptu visit to the office of a coach of another sport on your campus to introduce you to your recruit on campus so that they see the opportunity is with an athletic department family, and not just their sport.  Pressure is sitting with your prospect cooped-up in your office talking only about your sport.

    Passion is taking a blank sheet of paper, sitting next to your recruit, and explaining to her what you see as the plan for her after she commits, and what the next twelve months look like for her when she joins your program.  Pressure is you talking about how she’ll have to pay her dues and wait her turn if she decides she wants to play for you.  (Note: Yes, that might be an honest assessment of their chances in your program.  But most recruits want to hear about what they need to do to beat out that Senior returning starter…because most of them think they can, and they’d like to see that you’re on board with that dream, too).

    Passion is getting him spend time with the Freshmen and Sophomores on your team and letting them sell him on coming there.  Pressure is putting them with a 23-year old redshirt Senior who they have nothing in common with, and sending the two of them off to lunch together for two hours (true story example there…one of the more awkward observation sessions we did for one of our clients when we were on campus).

    Passion is involving her parents in all aspects of the recruiting message, which is what most kids want according to our research.  Pressure is what she feels back at home when you don’t do that, and she wants to go to your program but doesn’t feel like she can because mom and dad never really got to know you as well as your conference rival that she’s going to settle on.

    Passion is consistently keeping in touch with her, showing him that you are in it for the long haul and don’t take them for granted.  Pressure is what they feel when they try to figure out why you haven’t talked to them lately (they assume you might not be as interested in them as you once were, and begin to look for coaches who they think will be more interested).

    That’s a short list, but an important list.

    The big question now is: What are you going to do with this information, and how will it change the way you recruit this current class of prospects?

    (No pressure).

     

    There is still time to team up with Tudor Collegiate Strategies and let us map out a successful recruiting message and strategy for this year’s class.  We’ll bring a research-based methodology to your program, and help you create the best message possible for your prospects.  It’s working wonders for college coaches around the country, and we can do the same for your program.  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor for a complete overview of what we do, and how we do it.

    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.

    Strategies for Combating the Too-Close-To-Home ObjectionMonday, August 15th, 2011

    In a previous article, we talked about some proven strategies for combating the “too-far-from-home” recruiting objection. 

    You’ve all heard it before…a recruit you really want, and may have even been the one that initiated the first contact, tells you “no” because they’ve decided that you’re too far from home.

    But many coaches also face the opposite side of the coin:

    Recruits that decide you’re the wrong choice for them because you’re too close to home. 

    The biggest hurdle for you behind this objection, according to our research, is the fact that many prospects will have already defined you.  Growing up nearby, they’ve heard people talk about you, made some observations about your campus or your program, and have decided that you’re not “exciting” enough for them as they look forward to the next four years of playing their sport in college.

    We’re finding that more and more of this current generation of student-athlete prospects are up for the adventure of going “away” to school.  So, if you’re a coach that is recruiting a prospect that is starting to tell you that you’re too close to home to be a serious consideration, here are a few proven strategies that we’ve seen work with the coaches we work with around the country:

    1. Focus on mom and dad as soon as possible.  Whenever you hear a prospect talk about your college being too close to home, you need to find out how your prospect’s parents are playing into the equation.  Normally, according to our national research, parents are a primary outside factor in the decision making process of a recruit.  The question here is simple: “Why do you want to see your son/daughter play away from home?”  We see parents tending to encourage your prospect to stay close to home whenver possible.  Find out what their view on the matter is.  If you see that there is a conflict within the family (i.e., prospect wants to go out of the area and the parents are hoping he or she stays close to home) then you need to find out which side is going to win out in the end.
    2. Ask about their friends.  One of the big factors in a decision by a recruit to not go far away to play for a program is their friends back home (that includes boyfriends and girlfriends).  When you find that a recruit is not open to staying close to home, you’ll want to ask if they’ll miss their friends, or why they see themselves being o.k. with leaving them behind.  That doesn’t mean you should use friends or family as a “guilt trip” on your recruit.  Rather, you view it as your responsibility to bring up factors that we see playing a major role in the final decision of your recruits so that they are taking into account all possible factors in determining what schools (yours included) they should be considering.
    3. Get them on campus spending time with your team.  Assuming that a big reason your local recruit is not that interested in your program is the fact that they have been on your campus and grown-up nearby hearing the good, the bad and the ugly about the school and your program, you need to get them to take an up-close-and-personal look at what you have to offer as soon as possible.  And, since they have probably already made up their mind about you and the campus, I recommend that you have them spend as much time with your team as possible.  Not you, coach…your team.  The one big thing we see being able to alter their initial assumptions about you and your college is a strong bond with your team.  As we conduct studies with current college athletes as a part of our On-Campus Workshop training sessions for athletic departments, they tell us that their ideal percentage of time they’d like to spend just hanging out informally with your team is 60% of their total time on campus.  If you can achieve that kind of time with your team, you’ve got a shot of creating a bond that overcomes their initial perception of your program.
    4. Make the case that staying close to home gives them a choice.  Make the phrasing your own, but the basic thinking we’ve seen work goes something like this: “If you stay close to home, you get the best of both worlds: You get to be your own person here on our campus, but still get to see your family and friends whenever you want.  Athletes that go far away to school don’t get to have that choice.  They’re stuck on a campus far away from home.”  It’s a valid concept that you should encourage your recruit to consider.

    In summary, let me go back to a thought that I started the article with:

    This generation of recruit is more open to going away to college and play their sport.  Social media and familiarity with other parts of the country are just two of the reasons we see athletes willing to leave home and compete elsewhere.

    In the long run, you’re going to hear more and more of the “too close to home” objections from your recruits.  You can overcome it using these strategies some of the time, but you’ll also want to expand your recruiting base so that you can take advantage of this growing trend.  There are lots of tools and resources we recommend that make this easier than ever.

    That being said, when you find yourself recruiting a local athlete you really, really want on your team, these proven strategies just might do the trick in getting them to take a serious second look at you and your program.

    Do Parent Emotions Trump Your Prospect’s Emotions?Monday, June 27th, 2011

    Ward and June Cleaver never seemed to show much emotion when they were solving 1950′s TV family problems.  Today, parents wear their emotions on their sleeves a lot more often.

    Most of us, in fact, make emotional buying decisions on a daily basis.  The parents of your recruits, included.

    A cup of coffee that you absolutely “need” to start your day, for example.  Or, name brand jeans.  Even the uniforms you choose for your team’s next season.  Every day, we choose emotion over logic in order to make a decision.

    So how do emotional buying decisions affect your prospects?  The results may surprise you, actually.

    Here’s why: 

    As we gather and analyze our data and focus group research from the past year of being on campuses and talking to athletes, we’re surprised to learn that this generation of student-athletes are picking schools based largely on the quality of the relationships they feel they’ve established with the coach and your athletes (see our other research references for more details on the reasoning behind that). 

    However, we’re seeing an interesting twist when it comes to the ways parents tend to influence their sons and daughters as they come to their final decision:  They get emotional about a college, either in a good way or a bad way.

    That means a couple of things for you as a recruiter preparing to convince a new class or recruits to get interested in your program and your school:

    • We’re hearing consistent stories of parents deciding what school is tops on their list very early in the recruiting process, and they’re picking that school based on two main reasons:  1) The prestige and/or financial benefits offered by the college that is recruiting their son or daughter, and 2) which coach or program they decide is treating them with the most respect (which is why if you’re a TRS client of ours, you see that we design a lot of message content centered around engaging mom and dad with you as a coach).
    • They’ll use logical reasoning to support their emotional decision about their favorite college or program.  In other words, we see that parents are settling on their “favorite” very early on, and then using facts that you (or your competition) presents to support that emotional decision.  And, they have no problem mentioning their feelings and observations to their son or daughter.

    One other thing we’re finding that we see as pretty interesting:

    You know those recruiting emails that you send to your prospects?  Their parents, the majority of the time, are the ones that are replying to your emails.  About 6 out of 10 times, to be exact.  Kind of scary, huh?  We’ve heard dozens and dozens of accounts from current college athletes who have told us about their parents managing their recruiting conversations and actually communicating back and forth as the recruit.  (Another reason to curse those helicopter parents under your breath, right Coach?)

    Now, before we give you some advice on how to successfully combat the emotions of your prospect’s parents, a little clarification:

    We’re not talking about every parent.  Just a lot…a slight majority.  And, I’m not suggesting that you should assume a parent is strongly influencing your prospect’s decision in this way.  There’s no doubt that we see parents playing a major role in helping their prospect with their final decision, but this is less about that indesputable fact then it is about what drives their motivation to influence their kids.

    With that being said, here are four ways to target your strategy if your goal is to sway the parents over to your side:

    1. Prove that you’re a player.  One thing I can now tell you about the parents of your recruits is that they want their sons and daughters to compete at a place they can feel good talking to their friends about.  So, figure out what you can point to in your program, or on your campus, that is going to give them something that they can feel good about telling other people about.
    2. Start to write your emails with the parent’s eyes in mind.  Just keep that statistic we quoted earlier in the back of your mind, Coach.  What you’ll want to do is write your email to your prospect with the expectation that the parent is going to read it, respond to it, and then talk to your prospect about what you’ve said them. 
    3. Enthusiasm about your prospect counts for a lot!  Parents want to see you pay consistent, serious attention to their kids.  The more passion you show will – over time - cement the idea that you want their son or daughter more than anyone else, in the mind of the parent.  We’ve seen passion cause prospects and their parents to overlook a conference, facilities…even the lack of the prospect’s major at the college!…all because of the passion that a coach showed the prospect.
    4. (See the Tudor Collegiate Strategies fan page for our fourth and final recommendation.  You’ll like it!)

    I know a lot of college coaches view parents as a necessary evil in the recruiting process.  Whether you hold to that belief, or actually enjoy getting to know the parents of your recruit and want to actively make them a part of the whole process, we want you to have a good idea of what drives them.

    And, the research doesn’t lie:  Parents rely on their emotions to make this big decision, just like most of us.

    Want us to be on your campus in the coming months?  We’re setting our visit schedule to campuses around the country, and we’d love to come work with you and your athletic department.  The research we’ll use to uncover some of the secrets to effective recruiting on your campus will change the way you plan your recruiting campaigns (for the better!)  Click here for all the details, or email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to ask him for options and potential workshop dates with your staff.

    Why You Should Recruit Junior College Prospects DifferentlyMonday, April 11th, 2011

    Sometimes, the best way to fill an immediate recruiting need is with a junior college prospect.

    The thing is, J.C. prospects are a completely different animal than your regular, garden variety high school prospect.  Different needs, different motivations, and different objections.

    However, when we work with our clients on putting together a plan to recruit these unique prospects, we find that college coaches tend to want to use the same methodologies and techniques to try and close those junior college prospects and get them to their campus.

    So, what are some of the key differences in these two groups?  And, how do you use those differences to your advantage against your competition who is looking to sign the same J.C. recruits?  Here are three big things we think every coach should know:

    1. Unlike their high school counterparts, junior college prospects don’t rely on their parents’ opinion as they make their decision.  After two years playing their sport at a junior college, we find that these prospects are largely independent in their decision making as they are recruited.  In the sample testing we’ve done, 84% of junior college prospects tell us that their parent’s opinion of a particular program that is recruiting them ranks as either not very important or not important at all as they make their final decision.  Why?  They tell us that they feel like they are in charge of their educational and athletic careers now, where as in high school they looked to their parents for advice and direction.  What this means for you is that you won’t need to spend the same amount of time recruiting their parents as we recommend for a high school prospect.
    2. Unlike their high school counterparts, location and division level matters less to junior  college recruits…a LOT less.  Junior College prospects have a much deeper appreciation for the continuation of their athletic career compared to a high school athlete you are recruiting.  Because of that, they are much more open to consider any and all opportunities presented to them: 71% say that they’d be open to any opportunity at any division level, and 81% say that they’d be willing to continue their career outside of their home state.  Those are big differences compared to the typical high school athlete, and what we think it means for coaches is that they can radically expand their recruiting sphere to include areas that they might otherwise ignore due to distance.  With Junior College prospects, they are open to almost any opportunity if they view it as a good fit for their goals.
    3. Unlike their high school counterparts, junior college prospects are going to be really, really hard to get in touch with.  It’s harder for them to receive mail, coupled with the fact that it’s often hard for you to get their mailing address as they attend junior college.  A lot of J.C. prospects are difficult to reach by phone, forcing a college coach to go through their prospect’s junior college coach to pass information back and forth during the recruiting process.  Is all this sounding familiar?  For the vast majority of college coaches, the answer is undoubtedly “yes”.  What should you do?  We find that our clients find the best success when they establish set times to communicate with Junior College prospects, and develop standing appointments to talk - same day of the week, same time, a set day to exchange emails…some kind of regular, set communication.  Even that isn’t a perfect, fool-proof approach; however, it gives you a fighting chance to establish some important back-and-forth communication with those prospects.

    Junior college athletes don’t usually make-up a big portion of a coaches’ roster.  However, when there is a need for an immediate impact-athlete for your team, sometimes a Junior College athlete is a perfect fit. 

    Just remember that you need to approach them differently than your high school prospects.  They are very, very different.

    New recruiting data and research findings are going to be unveiled exclusively at the 2011 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville, Tennessee this June 3-5.  Plan on being there to get the latest training from recruiting experts from around the country.  Click here for all the details!  

    Where Should You “Ask for the Sale”?Monday, February 7th, 2011

    When I was getting ready to ask my smokin’ hot wife Teresa to marry me 19 years and 10 months ago, it took weeks of planning. 

    It was going to happen at the beach.  It was going to happen at the end of the day at sunset.  And I was going to ask her at a peak overlooking the Pacific ocean, the same peak that she told me she would go to as a girl and dream of her life to come.  I had the ring ready to go ahead of time, and had practiced my “will you marry me” speech over and over and over again.  The place I asked her to marry me was important.

    I was touring a college athletic department that we were conducting a workshop at a few weeks ago and the coach hesitated to show me the weight room.  In fact, he apologized twice before opening the doors…”it’s not as nice as we want it, and they keep promising that we’ll see some improvements here in the next year or two”, he said, explaining later that he was really embarassed to show his visiting recruits the area.  The look of the place that was important to his recruits was important to him.

    I bring up these two individual situations to underscore one key thought that I think it is worth thinking about:

    Your surroundings matter, especially if there’s an important event associated with those surroundings. 

    Since this isn’t a marriage column, I’ll stick with recruiting.  Specifically today, I want to focus on one key part of the recruiting process.  Specifically, where you ask your prospect for “the sale”, or their commitment.

    To start with, let me tell you one place that the vast majority of you should strike from your list right now:  Your office.  You know, the place that doubles as your storage shed and locker room.

    I’ve seen your office, and it looks a lot like my office.  That’s not a good thing, Coach, especially when we’re talking about asking a prospect to commit to the most important decision in their young lives.  And if you’re thinking, “But Dan, I have a nice conference table and everything”, that doesn’t matter…please don’t conduct important conversations in your office.

    With that said, let me give you some guidelines that I’ve seen work at the colleges we’ve worked with, especially over the past two years as we’ve increased our focus on the importance of planning an effective and original campus visit:

    • Again, any place but your office.  Not only is there nothing original in the setting, we see it being a distraction to coaches during that crucial talk with your prospect and his or her family.  Phones are ringing, activity is going on in the offices next to you…its just not a good atmosphere for driving home your message.
    • Consider a big stage.  It depends on your personality, of course, but I’ve seen this work really well when it comes to making your final talk memorable.  If you play in an arena or gym, set up a table and chairs at center court and have your conversation there.  If you play on a field, do the same thing at midfield.  It’s memorable and gets talked about.
    • Casual works, if… it fits your personality.  If you’re a take-charge, dominant personality, picking a setting that is too casual can send the signal that you aren’t serious about your prospect.  The benefit of a casual setting is that it can prompt some great conversation, and lets them know that they can ask questions and talk to you about your offer.
    • Pick a place that isn’t noisy.  It can be busy, just not noisy.  This is a big complaint we hear from parents who are forced to talk with a coach in the middle of a restaurant, or in a loud quad, or even a noisy office is that it’s too easy to not focus on what’s being talked about.  Seems obvious, right?  Just think about it, Coach…how often have your meetings with prospects been interrupted by something distracting?   
    • Ask for the sale in a place that says “we’re big time”.  The great thing about this?  You don’t have to be big time to make it work.  At the point of being asked to commit to your school, we find that your prospects are actively looking for a reason to feel good about you as one of their final choices.  Even if you’re a small college program, pick a place that tells your prospect you see yourself as a program that’s confident, proud and going in the right direction.  So, what place on your campus is your “big time” spot?  That’s something that only you can answer.
    • Talk to your athletic department about establishing a recruiting room.  A safe, effective place to have an important meeting like the one where you ask for your prospect’s commitment is a well decorated conference room.  Preferably, it’s couches or comfortable chairs surrounded by images, trophies, and other proof that you’re part of a first class organization.  It’s one of the best investments an athletic department can make, and will pay dividends for every coach in the department for years to come.

    Where you ask your prospect for your commitment might seem like a minor detail.  It’s not.  When we ask parents about their experiences at the end of the recruiting process, the time and effort you put into asking their son or daughter for their commitment – and where you do that - sends important signals to them about how you operate, how you feel about them, and how serious you take their decision. 

    So, ask yourself:  What is your current preferred “ask for the commitment” spot?  What does it say about you and your program?

    It’s a serious question, Coach.  And if you think you could use a different direction when it comes to your closing technique, the time to change is now (before you host your next top tier prospect and have “the talk” with them!)

    If you want expert help in determining how, when and where to close the deal with your prospect, consider becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  We can put together an affordable plan that meets your budget, and effectively addresses your program’s unique needs.  If you want more information or have questions about how it would work with your program, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and just type “tell me how to become a client” in the subject line.  We’ll get back to you with more information and a plan for you to review.  You can also click here to see a complete overview of our client program for college coaches.

    The Latest News on Parents (And What They REALLY Want)Monday, November 30th, 2009

    Parents of recruitsParents are increasingly becoming a major force in college recruiting.

    It’s true at the biggest of the big-time Division I programs, and it’s true in the small private school tucked away in a small town in middle-America.

    Because parents play such a pivitol role in the process, I wanted to pass along some of the latest information we’ve gathered from our research and focus groups at college campuses around the country.  Here’s what we’re finding:

    • Kids want their parents involved in the process.  More and more, we hear examples of athletes who tell us point blank that they want their parents involved in the recruiting process, and that they look for college coaches who engage their parents when they have the opportunity to talk to them.  Do you do that?
    • Parents are split when it comes to how you’re doing at engaging them during the recruiting process.  54% of the parents of actively recruited athletes we surveyed nationally said that they felt coaches did a good job of including them in the recruiting process.  That’s the good news.  The bad news?  46% are feeling like there could be more done to include them as a part of the process.  So, Coach, here’s what you should do: Take half of your recruiting list, chop it in half, and that’s how many parents are feeling like you’re not doing that great a job at making them feel like they’re important to you.  The scary part should be that you probably don’t know which of your parents are on what side of the line. 
    • Parents want straight talk about why you, your program and your school are different than everyone else.  Too often, coaches try to level the playing field and make their program just like the other one down the street.  The brochures look the same, the websites look the same, and the message is largely the same.  What’s missing?  How you are different from your competition.  Really different.  The coaches who can communicate those real differences to parents will earn their trust, and when you have prospects who look to their parents’ views of a program 91% of the time as an important determiner in their final decision, that’s a big "win" for you in the recruiting game.

    During our On-Campus Workshops, the thing we try to stress to coaches and athletic directors in attendance is the importance of having a plan to "recruit the parents".  Even with just a basic understanding of what drives parents and their influence over their athletes, you can begin to create an effective game plan for recruiting them (and their son or daugther) to your program.

    By the way, another huge key in being successful with the parents of your recruits is understanding the seven things they want out of interactions with you as a coach.  Its been one of our most popular articles over the years, and I want to recommend it again to you as a good reminder of what else you need to do to effective recruit the parents.  Click here for the article.

    Need help developing your plan for parents?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@sellingforcoaches.com and ask for an outline of what the team at SFC does to help coaches around the country with their plan-of-attack. 

    Four Ways to Recruit the ParentsMonday, August 27th, 2007

    Kevin is the recruiting coordinator at a D1 program in the Southeast, and he’s excited about this coming recruiting season.

    He’s a SFC Premium Member, and he’s used us as a resource in helping him develop a real recruiting plan for the 2007-2008 season.  He’s focused on getting the right message to the right prospects in the right way.

    But wait!  I had to stop Kevin in his tracks late last week on the phone when I realized that he was putting together his plan without any special focus on the parents of his athletes.  Why does he need a special plan for parents?  Glad you asked…

    In a soon to be released special report, we surveyed 250 of the top college football prospects in the country for 2007-2008.  We asked them, in detail, about their recruiting experiences: What they like, what they read, and how they decide where to play ball.  It was a fascinating study, with loads of insightful findings for college coaches (SFC Premium Members will get it first at no charge, and it will be available to everyone else in a week or so…are you a Premium Member yet?).

    One of the biggest surprises: How much weight football prospects place on the opinion of their parents.  91.3% of the prospects we surveyed said that the opinion of their parent(s) was either a "very important" or "important" outside factor that influenced their decision.  That’s 9 out of 10 of your prospects that are looking to their parents to help them make their final decision!

    So, my question for you is this, coach: How much emphasis do you put on recruiting your prospect’sParents! parents?  According to our findings that we outlined above, its important that you create a separate and distinct plan to recruit the parents of your prospect at the same time you recruit your prospect.

    Here are some ways that you can make sure you don’t overlook one of the most important people in the recruiting process…the parents of your prospect!

    • Create a separate recruiting plan that focuses solely on parents.  If you’re a Premium Member, you’ll get the framework for a plan for approaching your prospect’s parents.  Create separate communication with them, and make it regular.
    • Use e-mail to talk regularly with parents.  Studies show that parents now rely on e-mail more than kids.  They check it more frequently, and reply more quickly.  Make it a point to get the e-mail address of your prospect’s parents, and communicate regularly with them.
    • Put together an informative packet just for parents.  Include some of the things that don’t get read right now by your prospects.  Many parents will act as an advocate for you and your program once you show them that their opinion and value in the recruiting process is of the highest importance to you.
    • Make at least one phone call to them to make sure they are getting their questions answered.  Take some time to find out what concerns they have, what insights they can give you about their son or daughter, and how you can make the process go as smoothly as possible for them.  This is a huge way to set yourself apart from your competition who is focused completely on the athlete, and is largely ignoring the parents.

    Rocket science?  No.  Important?  Absolutely.  But it takes discipline to change how you recruit so that you put a renewed emphasis on getting the parents on your side.

    If you take the time to create a trusted relationship with the parents, you’ll win the athlete much of the time.  Parents have huge influences over their children (even the rebellious tenage sports-playing ones!) and you need to take advantage of their influence in the recruiting process. 

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