Dan Tudor

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Tiger Woods’ Comeback & Your Recruiting StorySunday, September 23rd, 2018

On the night Tiger Woods won his first tournament in five long years, following his very public personal setbacks and injuries, I was at the airport.

Every television was tuned to his final few holes, and crowds of people were clogging the aisles, gathered around to watch Tiger finish off his comeback.

Why?

Tiger Woods has won before, no big deal there. I seriously doubt every person watching was an avid follower of the PGA. So why all the interest in Tiger Woods winning (another) golf tournament?

Because of the story.

Because when it comes right down to it, we’re a sucker for great stories. And it seems like all of us are in agreement that Tiger’s comeback is a great story. But what exactly makes his story such an interesting one? Some of the same things that absolutely terrify college coaches when they’re faced with telling those parts of their stories to recruits.

Here are some examples:

The rise. Was there anything more awe-inspiring and exciting than watching Tiger Woods absolutely dominate professional golf in those first few years? We were watching him redefine the game, and add a glitz and glamour to the game that hadn’t been seen before.

Now, granted: For college coaches, the rise is probably the easiest to talk about with their recruits. But what I often see, in the language and approach that a coach who is leading his or her program to new heights, is humility that is almost crippling. The same “work-hard-but-don’t-call-attention-to-myself” approach to life that fueled you to greatness when you were an athlete is, ironically, now handcuffing your efforts to parlay that rise into better recruiting results.

There is a time to clearly state why you are a program that should be a destination for prospects, and why they should want to be there. Confidently, unapologetically, and enthusiastically. Don’t aw-shucks your way through your program’s rise. Talk about it, and let your prospect feel the energy of everything that’s going on in your program. That’s what drew us to Tigers’ rise, and that’s what is going to attract your recruits to your story, as well.

The struggle. Remember when Tiger started to slip a little? By then, aside from die-hard Tiger fans, we were getting a little tired of all the winning. In fact, there were plenty of stories at the time of other golfers (and fans, and the media) who were actually a little excited about him slipping a little and starting to struggle.

When college coaches and their programs struggle, or slip a little bit in their performance, you need to answer the question that we were asking about Tiger when he was struggling: “What’s going on?”

More than nine out of ten coaches I talk to would want to shy away from answering that question for a prospect, hoping that it gets overlooked in their decision making. It doesn’t. The only difference between what’s going on with them compared to Tiger’s is that we had non-stop 24/7 news coverage about his struggles, so it was easy to have the conversation. Your recruits, in case you haven’t noticed, tend not to spill out their every concern and question about you and your program – especially during your struggles.

My recommendation: Identify the struggle, lead with it in your conversations with your recruits, and explain it. As we talk about frequently during our on-campus recruiting workshops, it is your job as their recruiter to tell them how to think about something related to you, your program, or your college. They don’t have SportsCenter to explain it to them and offer in-depth analysis; they’re left with their own thoughts, which frequently don’t give you much slack in trying to come up with a logical reason you’re struggling. Fill that gap for them, Coach.

The fall. Your worst finish in the last ten years. You just took over a program after the last coach was fired. Your athletic department just dropped two sports. Five of your upperclassmen just quit the team, and their opinionated parents are talking to the media about why their sons or daughters decided to jump your sinking ship (spoiler alert: They usually pin the blame on you, Coach).

True, on the scale of public humiliation, it’s not stories of your spouse chasing you down the driveway with a golf club smashing the daylights out of your car before filing for divorce as you’re in the middle of a substance abuse problem…but in your world, it’s still feeling pretty awful.

What do you do? Most coaches get back to putting their head down, and working hard, never addressing the fall. Or, worse, they come up with lame excuses that recruits and their parents see through.

Just like during the struggle, it’s my strong advice that you acknowledge the fall, dissect what went wrong, and then explain your vision for how you see your prospect being a part of the comeback. That’s what they’re looking for, Coach…a reason to say yes. If you don’t give it to them, their own reasons to say no usually speak to loudly for them to take the risk and sign-on to your rebuilding effort.

(A quick note on these last two phases of a great story: First, very few great stories don’t include a struggle and a fall. Unfortunately, years of Hollywood movies have conditioned us to look for those elements in a good story. So, they’re necessary. Don’t bemoan the fact that you’re going through a struggle and/or fall; instead, embrace it! You’re about to be able to tell a great story for your recruits).

The comeback. Why was everyone gathered around airport televisions during Tiger’s final round that I described earlier? It helped complete the story. We all knew the first three parts of the story, but we were missing the end. Ever have to leave a movie unexpectedly 3/4 of the way through it? It feels like you got ripped off…you were sitting through the struggle and fall in order to get to the comeback. We’re a society addicted to comebacks.

Your recruits are, too. They want to be a part of one, but you have to explain why they should want that. And, you have to tell the story of how they fit into your overall plan for accomplishing it. That’s how you get good athletes to say to yes to playing for bad programs: They have bought in to the story. But you absolutely have to start telling it, Coach. With enthusiasm, confidence, and urgency.

We now know the latest chapter in Tiger Woods’ story. What are your recruits waiting to hear from you so they fully understand your story, Coach?

 

I’m Avoiding Telling the Other Car Salesperson I’m Not BuyingMonday, August 27th, 2018

Which means, I’m just like your prospects.

The quick back story:

A few weeks ago, before we sent our daughter off for her freshman year at college, she got in an accident and totaled my wife’s car. She was fine, the car was not (and the Utz Potato Chip truck she rear-ended on a rainy day wasn’t doing to well, either).

So this past week, I’ve been car shopping. We’ve test driven, talked features, listened to sales pitches…you know the drill.

It was down to two brands, both of which were great cars with similar monthly payments. There was something she liked about both cars, as we talked and compared both afterwards, but ultimately decided on Brand #2. That’s when I volunteered to jump into action and go negotiate and take care of the paperwork that they swear is only going to take an hour, and then takes four hours. Got the car, she’s happy, and that should be the end of the story.

But it’s not. In fact, it’s at the same point in the story that thousands upon thousands of college coaches find themselves over and over and over again every recruiting cycle:

I haven’t called the other salesperson to tell him we went with the other car. Just like many recruits don’t call you when they’ve decided to accept an opportunity at a competitive program, I haven’t called the other sales professional who took the time to help us, and was incredibly nice, fair, and provided more information and a better line of discounts than Brand #1.

I haven’t told him. I’m feeling guilty, and yet it comes so naturally for me. Actually, it does for all of us. Avoidance is a common psychological hurdle most people face, in some form. I face it, you face it, and your prospects face it.

But enough about me. I’ve vowed I’ll tell him after I’m done writing this article, I promise. But if I sit back and reason with myself, and explore why I acted in this way, I come up with several points that seem to make sense to me on a very surface, human level…just like it makes sense for your recruits:

  • I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Which is irrational, really. We have far less of a relationship to each other compared to you and the recruit you’ve gone to watch play five separate times, and sent birthday cards to. But somehow, it just seems simpler to not talk to him and let the whole thing drift away. But I’m a fairly nice person, and I know he’s a nice person, and I just don’t feel like giving him bad news. (Who does?)
  • I don’t want to argue with him, or have him get angry with my decision. Sound familiar? That’s a common reason your recruits tell us they are hesitant to be truthful with the coaches who they don’t choose. I don’t think it’s malicious, but it is classic avoidance.
  • My allegiance is now with the other brand. Like recruits, I didn’t invest emotionally (or financially) until the end, not during the process. Just like your recruits. Coaches emotionally invest in the idea of their recruits being in their program earlier rather than later; prospects invest in the idea of competing for their coach much, much later, not earlier. And once they do, they’re in 100% and aren’t that concerned with the previous considerations. Just like Dan, the car buyer.

But enough about your avoidance-loving recruits. Let’s focus on you, as a coach and as a recruiter, who has to deal with all of this for the sake of your job (and your sanity). Here’s what I’d recommend you do when you’re facing a student-athlete who is giving you the run around…or just avoiding giving you the decision they’ve already come to:

  • Establish a timeline at the start of the process. Coach, that fixes so much of the problem. Outline when you see your program’s recruiting process wrapping up, outline for your recruit, and then ask him or her if that matches their timeline for making a decision. Come to an agreement. Leaving it open ended triggers those three actions I outlined above, and causes you stress.
  • Assume they are hiding something. We’ve written research and training articles on ‘assuming’ before, but I want to zero in on a point I usually reserve for strategy sessions with our clients: I want you to assume that your prospects have information that they aren’t revealing to you. If you work on that assumption, and keep that as a primary working theory throughout your interactions with them, I think you’ll find that you’ll be much more inquisitive, and focus on questions that lead to them revealing their true feelings. Try it, Coach.
  • Call them on it. Literally, call them. Or text them, if it’s still early in the process. But ask them, point blank, if they’re still moving forward with the idea of coming to school there and competing for you. Why is that? What do you want to see happen next in the process? What are you still trying to figure out about our campus and our program? What doesn’t seem like a good fit for you so far, as you’ve imagined yourself here? I’m a little surprised (and a little relieved) that the salesperson from Brand #1 hasn’t called me and asked me similar questions at this point. I’d actually be a little relieved if he opened the door and brought it up, frankly. Instead, I guess I have to be the one to do it. (And we see how that’s working out for him so far, right?) Lead the discussion, Coach. Your recruiting class depends on it.

We avoid tough conversations. It’s natural. But it can also be cataclysmic if you allow avoidance to dominate your recruiting strategy. Somebody has to lead, Coach, and I think it should be you as you prepare to recruit your next recruiting class.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to do the right thing and email a really nice Subaru salesperson some bad news…

Want more great ideas in a longer, more personalized format? Listen to our podcast, College Recruiting Weekly, available on iTunes, Google Play or stream instantly online on Stitcher. We cover all the big recruiting strategy topics, interview fascinating guests, and talk to college recruiters about what’s working for them. Join our community of coaches!

Your Call to Action Gets Things DoneMonday, August 13th, 2018

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

[This is part four in the series on effective persuasion for sport coaches. Click here for the other articles.]

Here’s a fact—whenever your athlete leaves a meeting, a practice, or a huddle without knowing EXACTLY what to do…you’ve missed a chance at success.

And you may never get that opportunity for success again.

You need to nail the effective persuasion part

Coaches persuade.

Our job is to convince people to take positive action.

Persuasion is our bread & butter and the best coaches are masters of it.

Unfortunately, persuasion does not come easy for many. That’s the bad news.

The good news—with practice you can become very effective at persuasion.

Persuasion, the act of convincing someone to take positive action is a series of steps. Over the past weeks, we’ve been working on the first three steps of effective persuasion, which are:

  1. Step 1. Grab Attention
  2. Step 2. Spark Interest
  3. Step 3. Fascinate

Now it’s time for the final step…

Your call-to-action

This last step is no secret to the marketing world.

They are experts at using a call-to-action:

“So you don’t forget, call before midnight!”

“Operators are standing by, so call now!”

“Stop smelling bad, buy Stink Away today!”

We can learn a lot from from the marketing world. And we should, because coaches are marketers, and an effective call-to-action can make or break you.

What makes an effective call-to-action?

A call-to-action is asking (or telling) someone to take action. Athletes hear them all the time:

You’re primary receiver, so run a post pattern.

The bus leaves early, be here at 6:30 am.

Get your physicals to the trainer by end of the day, tomorrow.

Each of those are simple.

Each are specific.

And each leaves little doubt in the mind of the person what action he should take.

Being specific and keeping it simple are at the core of a good call-to-action.

There are a few other important things you should keep in mind:

A good call-to-action aligns with the person’s values. “I know you want to win this game, so doing this drill now will help you score in tonight’s game.

A sense of urgency improves the odds the person will follow through. “The deadline for your physical form is tomorrow. No form and you cannot be on the team.

An examples of the action helps. “See the exercise Jane just did? You need to do the exact same thing.

Timing of your call-to-action is critical

When do you think is the perfect time to ask someone to take action?

It depends on the person (or team), and the situation.

Usually, after you complete the first three steps of persuasion is the best time to issue a call-to-action. If you ask before then, your chances of success dwindle.

And don’t hesitate.

Strike while the fire of fascination is burning bright.

Wait too long, and the person will have moved on to the next call in in her life (friends, studies, work, social media, etc.)

You will know if your timing was right, if the action happened.

If it didn’t, then next time adjust your timing.

The medium matters

Be mindful of the method of communication you use.

The medium you use matters.

Personally, I find my calls-to-action work best when issued in person.

Yet, there are times when calls come through email (summer letters), or phone calls (distant recruits), or letters (fundraising).

A good rule of thumb—the closer to a personal connection you make when you issue your call, the greater the chance of success.

Also, be selective with your choice of words. Here are three ways of asking for the same action:

  • Do as I say—pick up that barbell now!
  • Lifting weights are critical to your success. Ready to lift?
  • I notice you are not lifting correctly. Would you like to discuss it?

They elicit a very different emotional response in the person. When you issue your call, what exactly do you want the response to be?

Your choice of wording will determine how positive the response is.

Where can you go with this?

Let me ask you,

  • Would you like to be a better coach? Then, click here.
  • Simple, short tips can make your coaching more effective. Please listen to a few.
  • Stuck? Then try this.

Each of those are my calls-to-actions.

Did any of them work on you? Did you click any of the links?

Take a moment and think through why you did click, or why you did not.

Here’s the bottom line of the entire series

Persuasion is the life blood of coaching. Effective persuasion is how you will get those around you to take positive action…the positive action they need to take.

Like all good tools, effective persuasion won’t do you any good if it lingers in the bottom of your toolbox.

Take it out, practice with it, and use it.

The better you are at effective persuasion, the better coach you will be!

When Your Prospects Say, “I Knew It!”Monday, April 23rd, 2018

We all do that.

News comes along that either confirms our worst fears, or validates our deeply held beliefs.

And, we are actively looking for that news: With our favorite political candidate, the coach of our favorite NFL team we want to see fired, or the next coaching job we are chomping at the bit to apply for. We are always evaluating news, and seeking see how it confirms our natural personal biases.

What I’m saying is, we all want to be able to say, “I knew it!”

Your prospects are the same way. At the start, in the middle, and towards the end of the recruiting process, we’re looking for evidence that we were right in our initial assumptions. Nobody likes to be proven wrong: I don’t, you don’t, your prospects don’t, and your prospect’s parents REALLY don’t.

How does all of this affect you and your recruiting results? Through one simple concept:

The story you tell your recruit will either reenforce your prospect’s trust, or amplify their skepticism. You, as the coach and chief marketing executive of your program, are ultimately responsible for what that story is.

Want to know what our research shows as what the top three enforcers of each possibility? Here you go, Coach:

  • How you showcase your negatives. It could be your locker room, your field, your recent history, or where you’re located. Whatever your program’s recruiting hurdle appears to be, how you define it – and even showcase it – to your prospects is going to go a long way towards either confirming their negative assumptions, or amplify their feelings that there might be another way of looking at your traditional negative. If you don’t make your case, who will? If you don’t re-define the way they look at your negative, who will? Lead with your negatives. That’ll give you the chance to define it for your prospect, and it will earn more trust with your prospect. Our research shows that this is highly effective, and something your prospects look for as a sign they can trust you.
  • How early you offer. This one is interesting, and kind of complex to take apart. As your prospects decide whether or not you should be one of the programs you visit, they’re looking for evidence you’re serious about them. As we discuss all the time in our famous on-campus recruiting workshops, parents and athletes use two primary criteria when they are telling themselves, “I knew it!” when it comes to if they should visit (or skip) a certain program: They’ll look whether the head coach is in contact with them, and they’ll look for an offer – either athletically, through other funding on campus, or even a roster spot. They need a reason to come to visit, and we find that the earlier that happens, the more ‘obligated’ they feel towards making you one of your visits.
  • How (and when) you ask them to commit. The greatest evidence you’re serious about a prospect? Asking them if they’re ready to commit. There’s a right way, and a wrong way, to do it. But the bottom line is this: When you do it, there are all sorts of good signals it triggers that tells an athlete, “I knew it!” in a good way. It’s proof you want them, and even if they aren’t quite ready to answer ‘yes’ to that question you ask, it verifies that there is good reason to be serious about you. Oh, and by the way: If you don’t do it, it also sends an “I knew it” signal…just not the kind of signal you want.

We are all constantly looking for evidence that our gut feelings are true. Take this approach if you want to send the right signals that move the recruiting process onto the next phase.

Looking for more unique strategies to up your recruiting game? be a part of this Summer’s upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference! It’s a one-of-a-kind event designed around the needs of coaches looking to become next-level college recruiters. Click here for all the information.

Why Being Their Perfect Fit is Far From Perfect RecruitingMonday, February 26th, 2018

When we think of things that are perfect in our lives, its a pretty short list. 

Even something simple like finding clothes that fit just right can be a challenge, much less finding the “perfect” college to spend four years at as a student-athlete.

To rise to the level of “perfection”, several things usually need to happen:

We need to figure out if it’s even a possibility that it might be “perfect”, we need to take time to make sure all of our questions and fears have been answered, and then we have to be ready to own the “perfection” after we decide that it is, indeed, a perfect fit for us.

But to read some messaging from colleges and coaches, you’d believe that declaring a university was a “perfect fit” for a given student-athlete would be the secret to untold success. The number initial messages that declare that, from both coaches and the admissions departments at the colleges where they work, are actually hurting their chances of initiating a serious conversation with those prospects.

Why?

It’s too big of a jump. It doesn’t make sense. By making that claim, a coach or college communicates that they aren’t interested in making their case to their prospects; instead, they are demanding those same prospects rush to the decision that they want them to come to as soon as humanly possible.

And the prospects see right through it, according to our research. That shouldn’t be a surprise:

    • They need to figure out, on their own, the merits of a particular college or athletic program.
    • They need to take their time in determining whether all of their questions and fears have been answered adequately, Rushing that process only makes a coach or college look insincere, or at the best, clueless.
    • Because of those first two factors, they are unlikely to be ready to “own” that perfection. In short, they haven’t decided that it is indeed a perfect fit.

Hopefully that makes sense. In case it does, here are three out of the seven strategies that we typically will use with our college coach clients when we want to denote a connection with a new prospect, without trying to make the case that a particular program is “the perfect fit”:

Tell them one specific thing you want them to know about you. That’s one of the most effective ways to get them curious about what you and your program are all about without trying to make the ridiculous case that you are “the perfect fit”. Detail one special thing about your program or campus, let them know that you can’t wait for them to see it for themselves soon, and then ask them if they feel like it’s something that would be a factor in them choosing a college.

Give them some reasons you might NOT be a good fit. These don’t have to be actual negatives about your program or campus…I’m not suggesting that you throw your program under it’s own bus for not winning too many games during the last two seasons, or point out that prospects would hate your on-campus housing because the rooms are run down. I’m talking about personality traits (“lazy kids who don’t want to work towards a championship aren’t going to be a good fit here”), the size of your campus (“if you’re looking for a campus where people don’t know your name, and it’s not personalized, then this place won’t be a good fit”) or what your team is like (“we’re looking for prospects who want to join a group of guys that love hanging out together off the court as best friends”).

Ask them to give you their top two or three factors in choosing the right program, coach and college. If they reply and are honest and open with you, they’ll give you a beginning roadmap to winning their attention, and they’ll be more likely to listen to the case that you make.

Describing your campus as “the perfect fit” is just one of the verbal miscues we see well-intentioned college coaches making on a regular basis. The fixes are actually pretty easy, and the results can be significant.

The lesson I want you to remember: Be careful choosing the terms you use to describe where you coach!

Advanced uses of language in recruiting is just one of the next-level topics you’ll learn about at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this summer! Register now to save your seat…it’s a fantastic event by coaches, for coaches. And, it’s one of the only places you’ll go to learn how advanced recruiting is really executed by creative coaches from around the country.

40 Ways to Craft Better Recruiting Stories for Your ProspectsMonday, August 21st, 2017

Not all will apply to you, but most of them will.

  1. Decide what your brand is all about. Define it.
  2. List three things you know your recruits don’t care about.
  3. Stop talking about those things. Immediately.
  4. Every year, read two books about marketing, sales, communication or branding. Start later today.
  5. One of those books should be this one. Its an easy read, but it will change the way you recruit.
  6. When you have an extra 17 minutes, watch the author teach you how to get your idea – and recruiting message – to spread.
  7. Tell your story in a variety of ways.
  8. That includes social media, but don’t make the mistake in thinking that’s all kids want or need. Far from it.
  9. Use Facebook if you want to tell your social media story to parents.
  10. Use Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter to tell your social media story to your recruits.
  11. If you aren’t sending old fashioned mail to recruits, your competition is sending it thanks you.
  12. In any story you tell, how you construct it matters.
  13. Listen to our special podcast episode on constructing a smarter, more cohesive, story for your recruits.
  14. Tell them very little about your school and your program when you first reach out to them.
  15. Remember: They don’t care about you (yet), and are usually hoping someone else recruits them eventually.
  16. (Assuming you believe #15, how does that change the tone and focus of your first few messages?)
  17. They’ll believe what the Freshmen on your team tell them way more than what you tell them.
  18. Consistency > Volume.
  19. What would your current team send out to their friends back in high school to get them to come play for you? That might be a worthwhile thing to ask them.
  20. Ask questions in when you tell your story. But make sure their answers aren’t the “right” ones. (Let me explain).
  21. Don’t be afraid to talk about the scholarship you want to give, or the cost of your school, early on with parents.
  22. Outline what’s in it for them if after they verbally commit to you. What would they get to do next with you?
  23. Don’t give up on kids who don’t seem to be engaged with your story. Many are still listening, just not responding yet.
  24. Don’t worry if they don’t seem to “love” you yet as you’re telling them your story.
  25. The campus visit is the most vital aspect of your story. How is it a different feel than your competition’s?
  26. Your story needs to talk about a deadline. Fair, but firm. Don’t be afraid of establishing one.
  27. At this point, are you still remembering to center everything around #1? It matters to your recruits!
  28. Stop making recruiting the last thing you do every day. It should be a priority for you. Schedule time for it.
  29. Look for objections, and happily and enthusiastically address them with your recruit.
  30. As it gets later in the recruiting process, continue to tell your story.
  31. What we said earlier about consistency holds true late in the process: They need you to tell them why to pick you.
  32. Your goal in telling a great recruiting story is to get them to campus. That’s where the decision is made.
  33. The later it gets in the process, the more they need you to ask them about their process for making a decision.
  34. Their decision is the central part of THEIR story. And they need you to play the role of asking them to commit.
  35. As the recruiting process moves forward, the story should get more and more narrow, focused on them specifically.
  36. Most parents will vote to have them stay close to home, or go to the school that costs less. UNLESS you tell them why your school is the better, smarter choice.
  37. Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale. Are you ready to hear them say yes? ASK FOR THE SALE.
  38. If they say “no”, it most likely just means “not yet”. Now ask them “why not?” That moves the story along.
  39. If they verbally commit with a “yes”, after the celebration, tell them it becomes official with you when they announce it publicly on social media. (I’ve heard the arguments against having them do that, but I’ve seen exponentially better results by following that course of action).
  40. Get an answer to this question from your prospect: “What were the three biggest reasons you said yes/no?”

Recruiting, like story telling, is a process. Respect that process, and manage it.

Watch what happens when you do.

 

Two Times More Persuasion Power With These Four WordsMonday, July 24th, 2017

Interesting words and phrases that equal better results fascinate me.

Years ago, we published our well known article about the power of “because”, and coaches who have incorporated it into their recruiting language have seen big increases in their ability to get recruits to give them an answer to their key questions. It’s part of the science that we love to see being incorporated into recruiting plans.

Well, there’s another study that we’ll be starting to use in the plans we design for coaching staffs. And it centers around four words that can double a user’s success rate with their prospects.

It involves using the phrase “But you are free to choose”, or “BYAF” for short.

Here’s an important section from the Neuroscience Marketing blog on the strategy:

This technique has been studied extensively. Christopher Carpenter of Western Illinois University conducted a meta study of worldwide research on BYAF and came up with 42 studies that involved 22,000 participants. BYAF was found to double the success rate in this huge data set.

The exact language doesn’t seem to be important. Pointing out that the person isn’t obligated to do as you ask seems equally effective. The key is to give the person the security of knowing they are free to choose.

Why isn’t this used more often? I think BYAF may seem counter-intuitive to sales people. A typical sales effort often focuses on showing how the customer’s other choices are less desirable or won’t work at all. To wrap up a lengthy persuasive discussion with a reminder that the customer is free to choose seems, at first glance, like a recipe for failure. To some salespeople, it may seem to indicated a lack of confidence in their solution.

The way to use BYAF without seeming wishy-washy is to express your confident opinion while still pointing out that the customer is free to choose.

One important rule to follow is to not use it in a direct “sales” situation. I’ll translate that in saying that when you are asking for a final decision from your prospect, using the BYAF method wouldn’t be something you would want to do, according to the research. In that stressful moment of needing to make a decision, hearing you say something to the effect of “look, we want you, but we need your decision before you leave campus. If you aren’t ready to make that decision, you can walk away and we’ll move on. You are free to choose”, would come across as rude, and gimmicky. It screams “hard sell”.

However, in the process of making small decisions along the way, the BYAF strategy works wonderfully. For example, we are starting to see it work when giving the prospect a choice of visiting campus, for example: “We’d love to have you come on our big visit weekend with a lot of other recruits, or you can schedule a time when it would be just you and your parents here on campus. You are free to choose.”

As the article observes, using exactly those four words is vitally important.

There are plenty of situations you can try to use this proven phrasing. Just a few of the more successful areas include:

  • Talking to prospects about visiting campus
  • Applying to your school before the deadline
  • Discussing the cost of coming to your school with parents
  • Spending time with the team while a recruit visits campus

Using science and psychology as a part of your recruiting language is important, Coach. Look for ways to incorporate proven strategies like this as you begin your next recruiting campaign.

For more than a decade, we have teamed with coaches around the country who want to take a more research-based, scientific approach to their recruiting strategies. The process we take them through works. If you’d like to find out how we would specifically work for you and your program, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com

 

Should Coaches Recruit Prospects Who Don’t Love Them?Monday, February 13th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-02-13 at 11.15.32 PMAt some point during the recruiting process, coaches will try to figure out their recruit.

How interested are they? What’s their big key to picking a college?

And, the inevitable question: “Does he or she love our program and our school?”

Because as a coach, do you really want to recruit a player who isn’t in love with you and your college? After all, you should want to get kids on your roster who know they want to be there, right?

Fair question.

The answer? Not necessarily.

Let me explain…

In our most recent focus group research conducted as a part of our ongoing work for our clients, 58% of this most recent incoming Freshmen class made some kind of mention of not fully committing emotionally to their final choice until after they had made their decision official with that program.

Why? The most common explanation had to do with matters of the heart: This generation of prospect is very guarded when it comes to an emotional commitment. In other words, they are apprehensive about fully committing emotionally to a program that they don’t know they’ll be playing for after high school.

That goes against the question I posed from coaches at the start of the article: “Does he or she love our program and our school?” Probably not, in their mind. They might really like you, but if you’re looking for proof of that emotional buy-in, you might be disappointed.

Let me take it one step further:

You know that recruit who told you that there are three or four schools ahead of you on their list, but that they still want to keep you as an option in case those others don’t work out. Now, whether or not you want to wait it out is your choice, in that situation. What I will say, after reviewing the research and understanding how this generation of athlete thinks as they move through the recruiting process, is that I think you can actively continue to pursue that recruit and not worry as to whether or not they’ll be committed to your program and “all in” for you as their coach.

Basically, the majority of recruits tell us they really ‘fall in love’ with a program after they commit, not before.

If you agree that this is true a good amount of the time, I believe it should prompt some key changes to your approach:

  • Showing them that you are o.k. with the idea of them not being 100% sold on you is important, as it gives them permission to not feel pressured into having to “love” you right away.
  • The longer you can take to communicate with them and tell them your complete story, the higher the likelihood that they will eventually fall in love with you. Conversely, the less time you spend giving them clear reasons as to why you and your program are better than their other options, the higher the likelihood that there won’t be any kind of emotional draw towards you.
  • If they don’t “love” you right away, it’s your job to find out why: What are the things standing in their way? What more do you have to tell them in order to get them to take a different look at you?

Don’t make the mistake of demanding their full allegiance as a pre-requisite for your continued attention. More coaches have lost more good recruits that way than they know, and I don’t want you and your program to be the next to add their name to that list.

Looking for in-depth discussions on how to be a more creative, effective recruiter? Listen to our podcast, College Recruiting Weekly. Subscribe on iTunes, Google or Stitcher. Or, click here to listen online now and see our complete library of past shows.

The Little Known Power Paradox in College RecruitingMonday, January 2nd, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-01-02 at 7.12.40 PMDr. Dacher Keltner is a researcher that studies the science of emotions.

His latest book, The Power Paradox, centers around how individuals acquire power, and how they can influence those around them.

Since one of the primary jobs of a college recruiter is to be viewed as a trusted power by his or her recruits, and help influence their decision to come to their program, his work should interest you. In fact, if you’re a coach looking for an area of a recruit’s decision making process to study and understand more completely as you contact your next class or prospects, this would be a smart area to focus upon.

Here’s a quote of his that I think can have a profound impact on how you approach recruiting your next class:

“People usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others – such as empathy, openness, collaboration, fairness and sharing. But when they start to experience that power, or gain a measure of influence, those qualities usually begin to fade.”

Keltner explained in a separate interview that someone can acquire power and influence by stirring and inspiring others towards something that can be viewed as a big goal. But once that same person begins to feel that power that they acquire, something happens: They become less empathetic, less inspiring, and more inwardly focused on their own goals and desires.

For many college coaches, this is where they begin to hurt themselves in recruiting.

So many times, when we analyze what a new client may be doing incorrectly in their approach to recruiting, I find Keltner’s observations taking hold in two different aspects of a coach’s recruiting process:

  1. A coach shows love and attention towards a recruit, carefully guides the recruit through the process, gets the commitment, and then begins to ignore the newly committed recruit. The result? Recruits notice the difference, second-guess their decision to come to that program. That scenario unfolds quite often.
  2. A coach begins recruiting to a program that is mediocre, carefully studies how to get kids to believe in what is being built, creates a plan to win those recruits, does so, elevates their program, begins to rest on their past successes, and that sloppiness and inattention to detail that they once prided themselves on slowly begins to erode their recruiting effectiveness.

In each case, the process outlined by Keltner plays out: The power and respect comes from treating people the right way, being attentive and focused on their needs, and then once they acquire that power, they begin to ignore the interests of others and turn their attention inwardly towards their own priorities.

You see it in politics, you see it in personal relationships, and you see it in recruiting.

So, if one of the two scenarios I just outlined may have hit a little too close to home, let me give you some advice to follow as we start a new recruiting year (if you want to connect with this generation of recruits, that is):

Don’t stop recruiting. You hear me talk a lot about telling an effective story as a way to get a recruit to connect with you. That shouldn’t end once you get their commitment. For this next class, let me suggest that you continue to tell your story to your committed recruits – basically, continue to “sell” them on why they made a good decision to choose you and your program. Remind them of what you have waiting for them, and what they should be looking forward to once they arrive on campus. You’ve earned their respect and now have a good degree of power to continue to positively influence them. Don’t waste it.

Take a fresh look at your perspective. What has changed since you first took over your program two years ago? Eight months ago? Ten years ago? Many of your competitors have slipped into complacency, and it’s costing them dearly. In what ways are you no longer approaching the task of recruiting with as much energy and passion as you once did?

How are you inspiring? So much of the recruiting equation revolves around distributing facts, and managing the decision-making process. But if it’s true that this generation is one that is seeking out inspiration, how are you giving them that? More importantly, how are you doing it differently than the other college programs they are hearing from? It’s wise to answer those two questions honestly as you prepare to contact your next class.

Power in the recruiting process isn’t about bullying your recruiting into a decision, nor should it be centered around ‘tricking’ your prospect into believing you. We all look for someone to give power to, if you think about it – including your recruits. Re-read the quote for the key aspects of how to do that:

“People usually gain power through traits and actions that advance the interests of others – such as empathy, openness, collaboration, fairness and sharing.”

Are you doing that, Coach?

 

Did you know we work with college coaches on a client basis? When we do, we help them create a customized, research-based approach for their recruiting message. The results are exciting, and it’s usually a lot less expensive than coaches expect. Would you like to talk us about how we can help your program? Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com so we can explain how the process works.

 

 

Hillary, Trump, and What Smart Recruiters Should Learn From Presidential ElectionsMonday, November 7th, 2016

Although this post is technically about politics, I’m not going to get political.

Even though all of our attitudes towards politics, and the candidates we’re voting for, and the party we align with, is central to what you need to learn today.

Here’s what I’m getting at…

Think about who you’re voting for in this election. Take a second and list the reasons, be they logical or emotional,  why you are voting for who you’re voting for. And think about the party you align yourself with – or, why you’ve chosen to remain independent.

Now, let me ask you a serious question: What would it take for someone to change your mind? I mean completely flip your way of thinking, and vote for the other side. (That’s right, the side you think is completely insane).

How hard would it be to do that? Is there any chance of that happening?

Yeah, I thought so.

Here’s the thing: That’s the same perspective your recruit will develop if you give them the chance.

In other words, once their mind is made up about who you are, what your program stands for, and how they feel about your campus, it’s going to be tough to change their mind.

  • If your competitor suggests that you might be fired after this next season, or that you don’t take a personal interest in your players, before you get the chance to define yourself to your prospect first, it’s going to be tough to change his or her mind.
  • If your competitor convinces your mutual recruit that you aren’t serious about winning, and that the department doesn’t invest as much in your program as their athletic department does, it’s going to be tough to change his or her mind.
  • If your competitor spends time showing a prospect around their mediocre locker room, and you choose to avoid showing your prospect your own mediocre locker room, expect that competing coach to question aloud why you’re hiding something – and expect that it’s going to be tough after that to change his or her mind.

So obviously, it would make sense to 1) establish what is “true” before your competitor does, and then 2) continue to emphasize that so that any alternative message never gets a chance to overtake what you’ve established as true.

Sound subversive? Not really, actually. What we’ve learned in over the last decade of working with our clients around college sports is that your recruits are desperately searching for a story to believe in. They need to buy into an idea of what makes one college better than the other, just like we need to believe that we are voting for the candidate that is going to match-up the closest to our beliefs. If you aren’t actively “campaigning” with a specific story for your recruits, you leave open the possibility that your competitor will take advantage of that with a competing message.

This simple idea explains the majority of recruiting decisions that are made around the country, in every sport, every single year. And yet it also remains one of the most ignored facets of successful, consistent recruiting. Developing an ongoing message that achieves the goal of establishing a foundation for communication that sets the standard for what’s true, and what isn’t, should be one of the primary focuses for any organized recruiting coordinator and coach.

In a Presidential election, we’re a nation that’s split down the middle, with the winner hoping to garner just enough of the vote to eek out a win. In recruiting, it’s a landslide: The coach who establishes the truth first through an effective story will usually win handily.

Want more free instruction on how to become a more consistent, effective recruiter? Subscribe to our podcast that goes in-depth with college coaches and guest experts.

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Or, take your recruiting strategy and messaging to the next level by letting us work one-on-one with you as a client. We’ll design a message plan and communication strategy that will increase responses, and get better players on campus sooner. Click here for more information, or contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com.

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