Dan Tudor

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The Not-So-Surprising Reason Your Recruits Prefer Text Messages to Phone CallsMonday, November 23rd, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 11.14.58 PMIt’s not that they “can’t” talk, its just that they have plenty of reasons to text instead.

Simple as that.

I find that’s challenging for many college coaches we get to work with closely on two fronts:

  1. There’s a resistance to switch from phone calls to text-based communication from college recruiters. Phone calls are more personal, and usually reveal more to a coach. Texting and direct messaging? It might seem disjointed and incomplete. Most coaches that I talk to just plain prefer a good-old-fashioned phone call over electronic messaging.
  2. Many college coaches don’t understand the “why” behind the recent switch in communication preferences by their prospects.

I can’t help with the first challenge. That’s up to an individual coach and his or her personal preferences in how they communicate with a recruit.

But when it comes to the “why”, there are some key reasons that drive this generation of prospects to prefer electronic communication. They actually mirror some of the communication challenges that companies are discovering with the millennials that they’ve hired (but can’t get to answer their phone calls).

If we take a look at the five primary reasons millennials don’t like talking on the phone that are outlined in the article, we’ll get some good insights into why many of your recruits just aren’t all that excited about the idea of spending time with you on the phone:

It’s distracting to your recruits. Phone calls tend to force them to stop everything, find a place to focus on a conversation, and devote time to you and only you. While you, as a college recruiter, kind of like that aspect of one-on-one phone calls, your recruit – like the millennial generation before them – often finds that a phone call distracts them from whatever they were doing before, while texting and social media direct messaging allows them to communicate with you when it’s convenient for them.

They might see it as presumptuous.  In other words, a phone call presumes that they should drop everything and talk to you. Texting and direct messaging is more collaborative, in their mind, because it allows them to think about the right way to reply to your message, and gives them time in which to do it. (By the way, you can lessen the potential negative impact of this reason if you remember these three rules we’ve told you about before, Coach).

Phone calls tend to get superfluous. Getting to the point in a phone call is sometimes a series of missteps, tangents and can involve a bigger time commitment than it needs to be. As we discuss all the time during our On-Campus Workshops we lead for college athletic department coaching staffs, that’s not how this generation of recruits tend to communicate. They like short bursts of information that are on point. Coaches that don’t get to the point right away in a phone call will risk losing the right to have future phone conversations with their prospect. Text messaging forces you to put your thoughts into words, and do it in a concise, to-the-point manner.

Phone calls can be ineffective in reaching your prospect. Especially if you end up leaving a voicemail. Trying to get this generation of prospect to return a call is challenging, to stay the least! But when you text your prospect, as the study in the article finds, it’s likely that your message will be returned within just three minutes. That kind of quick, engaged interaction has to count for something, right?

Phone calls always take longer than promised. Your prospect knows that all to well, which is why a lot of coach phone calls are immediately sent off to voicemail purgatory. In our previous research study that determined how high school prospects use social media in the recruiting process, they made it clear that one of the reasons they tended to like texting and direct messaging better than phone calls was because it was more time-efficient, and didn’t take up big chances of time trying to talk to a college coach on the phone.

I tell you all this because if you understand the why behind your prospect’s preference for texting and social media messaging over phone calls, it might be easier for you, as a serious college recruiter, to develop a strategy for using this kind of modern technology more regularly as a part of your overall recruiting strategy.

Your prospects are looking for something simple and to the point. That holds true for anything you write them in an email or a letter, and it definitely is true when you figure out what method is best for more personalized, one-on-one communication.

Get to it, Coach.

7 Tips for Making Skype and Google Video Calls to Your ProspectsMonday, August 24th, 2015

Video calls used to be an intriguing option for college coaches to consider when they wanted to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile to impress one of their better recruits.

Today, video calls using technology platforms like Skype, Google and FaceTime are becoming a go-to method for connecting more effectively with most of a college coach’s recruiting list.

But that can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the technology available to a coach today makes it so easy and seamless to connect with a prospect quickly and easily through video gives them the ability to add an extra dimension (sight) to the typical recruiting phone call.

On the other hand, many coaches struggle to make an effective call, meaning that they don’t treat it like the live television show that it is. And, you’re the star.  If you appear to be uncomfortable, boring, or unsure of yourself, those traits are only magnified when you’re on a prospect’s computer screen.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my short lived television sports career taught me more than a few iron-clad rules to follow when you’re in front of a camera (most of which I promptly broke, which is why it was a short lived television career. But if you want to know what a younger, fresher Dan Tudor looked like close to 25 years ago, here’s a clip someone unearthed and placed on YouTube).

The point is, the rules for appearing on video haven’t changed.  So if you’re a coach that is determined to make video calls a part of your regular contact with prospects, I’d recommend you follow these seven tips to make sure you’re looking better than your competition:

  1. Pay attention to what you’re wearing.  Go for solid colors, preferably with your college’s name or logo displayed.  Video is a prime venue for branding, and since your prospect is going to get tired of looking at you they’ll search the rest of the screen for hints about who you are and what you’re all about. Stay away from busy patterns, as well as wearing white…it can reflect light rather than absorb it, which can lessen the quality of the video your prospect is seeing on the other end.
  2. Pay attention to your background.  Your office wall behind you is boring. Your cluttered office is boring (and not good branding). A darkened background is boring (and kind of creepy). Opt for something that has good indirect lighting, with depth of 4 to 8 feet if you’re indoors. Me?…I’d try to be outside on campus somewhere with a great background: The student union, your facility, the weight room…somewhere that showcased energy and people in the background. Don’t be boring.  And, very important: Don’t have a window in the background.  It will darken your image, and make it really distracting for your prospect.
  3. Be well lit.  You need some kind of lighting directly facing you. Natural light from a window in front of you is great, but you can even use a desk lamp angled towards you as a good option. This is one of the top mistakes beginning video callers make. Not lighting yourself gives you shadows under your eyes, and poor coloring. Face some kind of light source for your video calls.
  4. Sit up straight.  And, have your computer, camera, tablet or phone at eye level in front of you. One of the weirdest visuals teenage recruits comment on is when a coach is slumped over their computer, staring down at the camera. It doesn’t look professional, Coach.
  5. Look at the camera, not at the screen.  You’ve been on a video call when someone is talking to the screen, right? It’s really disconcerting to the viewer.  As a serious recruiter, you’re not on the call to watch a show; you’re making this call to showcase yourself and your program to your recruit. Focus on how you are looking to them, not what they are doing in their camera. Even when they are talking to you, look at the camera…react to what they are saying…pretend you have a person in front of you and you are trying to maintain eye contact with them.  This is important, Coach. If you’re shifting your eyes down to watch the screen, you’re taking your eyes off of your recruit. And they notice.
  6. Use your hands and show off your personality.  Yes, you should sit up straight and look at the camera.  But you also don’t want to come across as stiff and uninteresting. So, “talk with your hands” a little bit.  Also, make sure you over-eggaerate your facial expressions and your tone of voice. It will sound a little odd to you, but it will come across as normal to your prospect. One of the rules of television that I still use today is to over-eggagerate a little bit. If you don’t, you will most likely appear too dull and non-energetic to your recruit who is watching you. Next time you watch any kind of TV host or newscaster, notice how they over-eggagerate their voice inflections and their facial expressions. There’s a reason for that coach – and it’s the same reason you should do the same thing when talking by video with your recruits.
  7. Have something to say.  That may seem like an obvious recommendation, but I’m making it because once you’re on a video call with a recruit, it’s like the pilot of a new TV show a network is trying out. If the viewer doesn’t like what they’re watching, don’t expect them to tune in for more in the weeks to come. Keep your message on point, ask a lot questions and let them do most of the talking, and end the call a little sooner than you might normally.  Leave them wanting more.

Video calls aren’t rocket science, but there are some rules to follow for appearing calm, confident and engaging on video. If you don’t follow those rules, you could wind up being called the worst sportscaster ever.

Or, even worse: You could ruin your chances to land the recruit you really need.

3 Things To Be O.K. With Before You Talk to Your Next Class of RecruitsMonday, August 19th, 2013

In the good old days of college recruiting, it was all pretty straight-forward.

You wrote a letter, and they’d read it.

You called them on the phone, and they’d talk to you.

You went on a home visit, two parents and a polite, enthusiastic recruit were there to meet with you. (And the parents let their kid do the talking).  That’s about the same time we Liked Ike, and gasoline was 25-cents a gallon.

Today, things are different.

Parents are acting as agents and public relations representatives, recruits mumble on the phone because they’re busying talking with their thumbs on multiple social media networks, and they’ll only read your letters and emails if you’re telling them the things they want to know the way they want it told to them.

Talking to recruits – something many college coaches are preparing to do with a new class of prospects in the not-too-distant future – has become a new and more complicated adventure.  So today, I wanted to give you some advice on how best to launch your new communication plan with your new class of recruits.  You’ll have to pick and choose which ideas apply best to you, the way you talk, and your approach with your prospects, but I think you’ll find this a good beginning to developing a better roadmap to connecting with this generation of teenager (and maybe even their parents who are acting as their kid’s agent):

  • Be o.k. with asking them which social media platforms they use, and if it’s permissible to communicate with them through those networks.  Our expanding research on this topic indicates one very important “rule” that this generation seems to gravitate around:  There are different rules for different kids.  About half of the recruits we are hearing from indicate that they have absolutely no problems with a coach communicating with them through following them or direct-messaging them on social media.  The other half, on the other hand, have big problems with coaches who want to use social media to follow them or communicate with them.  My advice: Ask your prospect what they’d be o.k. with.  Keep it simple, keep it direct, and let them know the reason you’re asking them is because you want to be a coach who wants to communicate with them the way they want to be communicated with (they’ll appreciate it more than you can imagine).
  • Be o.k. with talking to your prospect’s parents.  As we explain in our On-Campus Workshops we conduct for athletic departments and coaches, one of the big differences between this generation of recruits compared to past generations of recruits is this: Not only do they want their parents to be involved in the recruiting process, they expect their parents to be involved in the recruit process.  While this is a frustrating fact for coaches, it’s a fact nonetheless.  So, my advice is probably what you’d expect: You should be o.k. with talking to your prospect’s parents in place of your prospect.  Not every time, all the time…but most of the time.  They’ll usually accurately speak for their son or daughter, and actually give you more intelligent, useful information.
  • Be o.k. with texting instead of talking.  In an effort to make you hate where this conversation is going even more than you did after reading the first two pieces of advice, I present the pièce de résistance:  Most prospects would probably prefer to “talk” to you via text messaging instead of talking on the phone with you.  I think you shouldn’t make too much of this inconvenient new fact of life; I guess the question I’d ask is, would you rather have a rather one-way six minute conversation on the phone where you do 90% of the talking?  Or, would you want to have an information-rich exchange over an hour by text message?  I know which one will carry the recruiting process forward (and so do you).  If you sense that a prospect is not going to be comfortable talking on the phone, ask them if they’d rather have text message sessions with you.  It’s not a sign that they are deficient or poor communicators, it’s a sign that they’ve grown up using different methods of communication.  Don’t over-think it, Coach.

Those are the three most important beginning communication strategies as you attempt to deepen your connection with this next class of prospects.  Just make sure you’re playing by their rules as much as you, and not necessarily yours.

Our clients and premium members get even more advice and direction on an ongoing basis.  Want to have access to one-on-one expertise as you approach this next recruiting class?  We’re ready to help.  Click on the links for all the details, or email Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com.  

The 10-Minute Recruiting Phone Call RuleMonday, July 22nd, 2013

Check your watch, Coach.  Especially when you make your next recruiting phone call.

Once you hit the 10-minute mark when you’re talking to a prospect, you’ve crossed a line that’s pretty dangerous in terms of the effectiveness of connecting with your prospect.  That advice comes from interviewing nearly two thousand college student-athletes at college campuses around the nation as a part of our On-Campus Workshop sessions.  And their answers to our questions can give serious recruiters some big ideas on keeping their recruiting phone calls short and sweet.

The basic rule I’m recommending that you follow is simple:

Keep your recruiting phone calls to ten minutes or less.

What we found from conducting our surveys on campus was that most prospects get bored with recruiting calls that go past that mark.  Many mentioned that they will put their phones on speaker so that they can do other things while you are talking.  Or, they’ll just engage you in a polite conversation until it comes to an end.

Their biggest complaints from today’s generation of recruited athletes center around long recruiting calls taking them away from studying, delaying them in texting friends or spending time on social media, and being too “sales” focused…coaches that were more interested in selling their schools early on than getting to know the prospect and asking interesting questions.

So what should you do in the ten minutes that they’re giving you?  Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t talk about your school unless they ask you about it.  For coaches and programs who are one of our Total Recruiting Solution clients, we recommend that they don’t try to “sell” their recruits on anything about their school for at least the first several weeks of recruiting them.
  • Make the phone call about them, not about you (or your school, your program, or you).  Come up with a list of great questions that are original and all about them.  Focus on establishing the relationship with your recruit instead of on selling them right on your program right away.
  • Only talk about you, your school and your program IF…they ask you about it.  If your prospect is curious enough to ask you about you or your program, then you can talk about it and “sell” all you want.  According to our surveys, the time limit goes out the window and you can take all the time you want so long as they are the ones driving the conversation.

Observing the ten minute rule can completely change the way your recruits view you.

Oh, and if you are reading this and worrying that the length of the phone call is going to hurt your chances of signing the recruit, fear not: About nine out of ten prospects confided in us that the length of the phone call made no difference in their overall interest in the school.  However, they did rate regular frequency in phone calls as a sign that a program was serious about them.

The big idea to take away from this research is that there is a definite right way and wrong way to execute successful recruiting phone calls with this generation of recruits.

Try following these simple but proven rules the next time you pick up the phone to talk to your prospect.

4 Winning Voicemail Strategies for College RecruitersMonday, October 22nd, 2012

There’s an epidemic happening around the country this time of year, and we’re hearing about it on a daily basis from college coaches who are concerned that they’re losing a crucial battle in the war for their top recruits: Voicemails.

They are a way of life for college coaches trying to compete for the attention of distracted, overly-contacted prospects who (as most of you know by now) don’t like talking on the phone in the first place.  And, because of this, most coaches are stepping up to the plate with two strikes against them.

So, with that in mind, how are you going to succeed with those odds stacked against you?  Most importantly, how are you and your program going to set your message apart from all of the other messages your prospects are receiving from your competitors?  What are you really saying when you leave a prospect a voicemail?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or, is it the same old, “hey, sorry I missed you, give me a call…”

And what about when they call you? What are they hearing in your message?  Anything worthwhile?  Informative?  Interesting?  Or is the same old, “This is Coach So-and-so, and you’ve reached my voicemail…”  Original and memorable?  Not by today’s teen standards, I’m afraid.

It’s time to take a new approach with your voicemail messages, and make them an effective part of your recruiting strategy.  Here are four ideas on exactly how it can happen the next time you find yourself leaving a voicemail for a recruit:

  1. Ask a question, promise the answer later. Make it a question that would mean something to your recruit.  Make it compelling, and make it interesting.  There are lots of interesting facts and things that would probably be of interest to a recruit.  The key here is to ask a question that they aren’t hearing from every other coach talking to them, and then promise the answer when you get the chance to talk later.  You want to leave them thinking about the answer to the question you just posed, giving them another thing to talk to you about.  Keeping you on their mind after they hang up the phone is the goal here, and the great thing about this strategy is that it works when you’re leaving a message OR when people listen to your voicemail message when they call you (if you are TCS Client, and need help developing a specific question for a specific recruit, contact us).
  2. Make your message short and sweet. Long, drawn-out voicemail messages cause the listener’s mind to wander.  You should keep your incoming and outgoing voicemail messages short – 35 words or less, if possible.  To make sure you stay within that guideline, its not a bad idea to write-out your message the same way you would write out notes for a speech.  When you do that, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how interesting and creative your voicemail messages can become.  Plus, keeping your message short and sweet will ensure that your message is received loud and clear by your prospect and their family (and everyone else that listens to it).
  3. Create curiosity. This is going to be one of the natural byproducts of shortening your voicemail messages, because you won’t overload your prospect with so much information that they lose track of what they’re supposed to do in replying to you.  By “creating curiosity”, I’m recommending that you hold back on telling them everything in your voicemail message.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the less you tell them about why you’re calling them, the more likely it will be that they will call you to ask you for more information.  We’ve recommended that strategy for years, and it works:  Don’t leave all of the information on your voicemail message.
  4. Never leave a message on a Monday or a Friday. Messages left on a Friday afternoon are the least likely to be returned.  Monday’s are most people’s busiest day – for both your prospects and their parents – so only high priority calls are going to get returned (maybe you’re high priority, maybe you’re not).  The ideal times to call your prospects are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Weekends are fine if you’re established in your relationship with your prospect.  Just remember that when you call your prospect will determine how likely it is you will get your prospect live on the phone, as well as the liklihood that you’ll get a returned call in the event you end up leaving that creative voicemail we just described.

Is there more to master when it comes to the art of leaving great voicemail messages?  Of course…being able to communicate effectively is as much art as it is science.  These strategies are a good start, but there’s more – much more – that you can do to become better when it comes to leaving great voicemail messages.

If you’ve hosted one of our On-Campus Workshops on your campus anytime in the last few years, remember the way we described this generation of recruits as “fearful” when approaching the recruiting process.  Look back at the notes from the workshop, as well as your athlete focus group survey, for additional information you can use to develop your overall communication strategy – including effective voicemails.


12 Ways to Evaluate the Recruiting Phone Calls You’re MakingMonday, July 2nd, 2012

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The Facts You Need to Know About Follow-Up Recruiting Phone CallsMonday, April 23rd, 2012

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Why You Should Reach for the Phone to Reach New RecruitsMonday, February 13th, 2012

NOTE:  The timeframe for when you can and can’t contact a prospective student-athlete depends upon your division level, as well as the specific sport you coach.  Please refer to your individual rules and your compliance officer for clarification on allowed phone call and texting communication to prospects.

Thanks to the new NCAA rules, earlier and more frequent contact by phone and text message are the new norm when it comes to contact a new class or recruits.  Getting in touch with your top prospects is getting a whole lot easier.

And with that new class comes the same age old question that has perplexed recruiters for the last two decades:  “How should I first contact my next set of recruits?”

That’s been a question which we have devoted a good amount of study to over the years.  And after crunching the numbers, conducting research studies all over the country during our On-Campus Workshops for college athletic departments, and hearing the feedback from this current class of prospects, the verdict is in:

Your prospects want to be called on the phone when you first start recruiting them.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I  think it’s surprising because most kids find it challenging to talk on  the phone with you when you call them at some point during the  recruiting process.  So why would they want to hear from you by phone as  the first point of contact?  Here are some of the answers we  discovered:

  • They want to know that you’re serious about them. When you call them, that shows them that they are a serious recruit in  your eyes – otherwise, why would you take the time to call them?
  • They want to hear how you found them. Sometimes those introductory letters that you send are a little to  vague: “You’ve been identified as a prospect…”  Or, “You’ve been  recommended as a prospect…”   Both are a little bit cryptic, and this  is one area where you don’t want to be mysterious.  Today’s athlete  wants specifics, starting with how you have found them.
  • A phone call automatically puts you at the front of the line. They’ve heard your voice, which is one better than most coaches who are  only going to send out a letter.  It will be hard to ignore you after  they hear your voice because they’ll be comparing you to the rest of the  coaches that aren’t taking the time to call them.  For this  generation, they want to be able to starting ranking colleges and  figuring out who’s serious about them, and who isn’t.  This is one of  the best ways we’ve found to make sure you are doing just that.

So,  have I convinced you take the time to make a phone call first with this  new group of prospects you’re getting ready to recruit?  Good.  Here’s a model for what should be included in the call (and a few things that shouldn’t):

  • Do include a short greeting and your phone number.  Your name, your college and your contact number.
  • Tell them that you want them to know that they are officially being recruited by your program.  You can play around with the wording a  little, but make sure they understand that you are serious about them  and that your phone call warrants their attention.
  • Tell them the  next two things that they should be looking for from you and your  program.  A letter and then an email, two quick emails with questions  they need to answer…whatever.  Give them an agenda of whats coming up  in the near future.
  • DO NOT ask them for information.  That’s not the purpose of the phone call.
  • DO NOT sell your school, unless they answer this next question:
  • Ask  them: “Before I hang up, do you have any questions about me, my  program, or the college?”  If they say no (which they likely will,  because their heart will be pumping a little too hard to focus on  questions they might have), tell them that you can’t wait for the next  time you can talk to them and end the call.  Leave them wanting more.  If they do have questions, take the time to answer them and sell your college where appropriate.

That’s  the simple formula that we’ve seen work over and over again.  The calls should last no more than a minute or two, they should have a purpose,  and you need to sound both confident and excited.

The results should be significant:  You will see greater engagement sooner from all of  your prospects, and you will clarify exactly where they stand with them as soon as possible (which is what they all want).

If you’re a coach who see’s an increased emphasis on recruiting phone calls as a way to differentiate yourself from your competition, keep this strategy in mind for your new group of recruits.

Want more information on creatively attracting recruits to your program instead of your competition’s?  Here are two ideas we’ll recommend:

– Order our two popular recruiting guides for college coaches, outlining the key foundational strategies that many coaches now rely on to win the best recruits available.  Click here for the details.

Reserve your seat at this Summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  It’s a weekend of networking with other coaches, listening to some of the best recruiting minds in the country, and formulating a great plan for the next season’s recruiting battles.  Click here for the details.

Creative Topics to Get Your Prospects TalkingMonday, January 16th, 2012

So there I was, facing an audience of college students on the campus of one of our clients.  I was part of a panel that had been invited to talk about careers in the sports world, and it was a great opportunity to be reminded about how to talk to this generation of student-athlete.

After the panel gave their individual speeches, we broke-up into different parts of the hall we were gathered in so these college-age kids could come and ask individual questions.

What followed was a lesson in talking to individuals who haven’t grown-up withly some of the same communication skills that you and I did.  And finding that “sweet spot” in connecting with a prospect you’re recruiting could make all the difference in whether or not they serious consider you and your program.

Here are my six observations from my interactions, and lessons for you as a college recruiter needing to “connect” with these kids in order to put together your next great recruiting class:

  • They don’t want to start the conversation. Several of the students hovered around me like shy puppy dogs, to the point where I actually had to make eye contact and ask them a question to get the conversation started.  As a recruiter, you should expect to have to do the same thing.  One of the key pieces of data that we’ve uncovered from the athlete research focus groups as a part of our On-Campus Workshops is that most of today’s teenage recruits don’t know what they are supposed to ask you, or how they are supposed to ask it.  The result?  Without your help, they may never take the lead and talk to you about you and your program.
  • Ask them about themselves. What I find works the best is when you ask a very specific question about one segment of their lives.  Your initial questions can’t be too broad…they need to be easy enough for them to answer to get them comfortable talking to you.  And, we find the best kind of questions initially should not be about declaring who their top school is, or anything that pressures them to give you early information about what they’re thinking.  Instead, ask questions about their approach to the process, what kind of place they’d see as the perfect fit, and other questions that focus on them.
  • Try to make them laugh (or at least smile). If you can use humor to break the ice, great…do it.  But even if you don’t feel like you’re a natural born comedian, at least smile.  Smile big, and right at them.  If you can get them to smile back, you’re on your way to connecting with them.
  • Get their opinion about specific issues. In a recruiting situation, if you ask them, “So, what did you think of our campus when you visited?” you’re going to get a wishy-washy, vague answer.  For most kids of this generation, that is too big of a question…one that they may not have had time to form an opinion about.  However, if you ask them, “So, when you were inside the dorm room, did it seem like a place where you could see yourself enjoying?”  That’s a much better question because it gives your prospect a chance to zero in on a specific opinion.  In my conversations with the students I had just talked to, I quickly found that the smaller, more “specific” questions, got the best and most detailed responses.
  • Don’t linger when it seem like the conversation should end. There were several times when I had more advice to give them, but could tell from their body language that it was time to end the conversation.  So I did.  For the kids in this generation, when they are done talking they are not shy about wanting to call it quits.  You know how you sometimes drag out a recruiting phone call to half and hour or more, and you are doing all the talking?  My advice is to stop.  You’ve lost your prospect’s interest in that call, and it’s time to stop talking.
  • Follow-up quickly. After the event, I went back to my hotel room and emailed those attendees that gave me their email address.  I told them that I enjoyed their conversations, appreciated their interest in what they had to say, and told them to get back to me with any questions they had.  Lo and behold, they found their voices!  I was bombarded with contact from them, which was a good reminder about another aspect of this generation that you should keep in mind: They want to know that you are interested in hearing from them.  The best way to do that is to immediately reach out after you talk to them, and open the door for more communication.

On the surface, these are all pretty simple lessons.  However, what I find is that coaches develop a communication system with their prospects that is far more complicated than it needs to be.

When you reach the point of one-on-one communications, keep these simple rules handy.  They work, and will let you enjoy much more productive conversations with your prospects.

Communicating with this generation of prospects is the theme for this year’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference, a one-of-a-kind gathering of coaches and athletic directors with one goal: Make every attendee a DOMINANT recruiter!  Want to be a part of it?  Find out all the details – and inside information on a great early registration discount – by clicking here.

Five Phone Call Strategies Working for Smart College RecruitersMonday, January 9th, 2012

In this age of prospects friending you on Facebook, or following you on Twitter, it’s good to know that most of what you’re going to be doing to solidify the relationships you’ve nurtured up to this point will be done over the phone.

The interesting irony of that fact, of course, is that it’s also one of the most difficult parts of the recruiting process for many college recruiters.

It’s a timely topic as we start the new year:  We’re at that point of year when coaches all over the country are starting to hear about decisions from their prospects (or wishing they were hearing from them, in many cases!).  For the majority of coaches reading this today, the jury is still out in terms of what next year’s recruiting class looks like.

So, what’s a nervous coach to do?  I know what you want to do.  You want to pick up the phone and make another follow-up call to that prospect who’s taking just a little too long to call you back with a decision.

Since many coaches seem to be facing the challenge of making effective follow-up phone calls, I wanted to give you several tips for making great follow-up calls to your recruits.  See how many of these proven strategies you are already doing as a part of your regular recruiting communication plan, and what  you may want to consider adding to make it more effective.

Get a Commitment from Your Prospect for the Follow-up
Perhaps the single biggest mistake I watch coaches make is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow-up call at the end of their previous visit. Vague commitments from prospects (“call me sometime next week if you want”) or recruiters (“I’ll send the paperwork you need and follow-up in a couple of days or so”) result in missed calls, voice mail messages and ultimately a longer recruiting cycle. All you need to do is ask for an exact follow-up date and time. Try something like this, Coach:

“John, I’m going to be sending you and your parents that overview of our program that we’ve been talking about.  You’ll have it by the end of the week, so how about I call back next Wednesday night around 7:30. How does that sound?”  Trust me on this one…ask “how does that sound?” instead of something like “what do you think?”

Back to your call…if this is not a good time, recommend another time. If that doesn’t work, get them to establish a set future time and date. Creating a deadline is a simple but extremely powerful tactic that gets a prospect’s attention. Use it.

Build “Call Equity” and Be Remembered
After every first call to a prospect, send a thank-you card. Handwrite a message that simply says, “John, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I look forward to catching-up with you further on the 16th! Keep up the good work.” No more, no less.

In today’s fast paced world, a short, handwritten card tells your prospect (and his or her parents) that you took the time and the effort to do something a little differently than most other coaches. We’ve seen this register in your recruit’s mind and creates a degree of “equity” in you. When we suggest this as a strategy for our coaches who are clients, we notice that it differentiates them immediately and is remembered for a long time afterwards. And, it gives your teenage prospect a reason to be there when you make your follow-up call.  If you want the details behind this line of thinking, you should read “Inside the Mind of Your High School Prospect”, our special report that goes inside the mind of your college prospect…it’s fascinating, and will tell you all about what your prospects think about handwritten notes and letters.

If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an email with the same note. Just be aware that an email does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note.

Email a Reminder and an Agenda
The day before your follow-up phone call, email your prospect to remind him or her of your appointment and something else that you can attach that might interest them like an article about your or your program. In the subject line, enter the words: “You and I talking on March 19th – and something extra for you.” Note that the subject line acts as a reminder but it is vague enough that the prospect will probably open it. There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed since you last talked.

Your email should confirm the date and time of the appointment and then briefly list your agenda:

“John, the call should only take about 10 or 15 minutes. We’ll review what we talked about last time and I’ll answer any questions. And then we’ll determine what you see as the next steps, if any.”

Notice how the words echo those used when the follow-up was initially set. In particular, notice the trigger phrase “. . .the next steps, if any.” The “if any” helps reduce some of the stress or concern your prospects or their parents might have. Often they skip the follow-up call because they are worried that they’ll be pressured to make a commitment. This is natural. If prospects sense an easy, informal, “no pressure” type of phone call, they are more likely to show up and be on time for that call.

Add Value in a P.S.
Notice the reference to an article in your email’s subject line. At the end of your email, add a P.S. that says, “John, before our call, I wanted to show this to you…check it out.”

As I referenced earlier, the article may be about your your team, a big win, an interesting story about a recruiting issue of interest, or something completely non-sports related that might show a little bit of your fun side. This creates tremendous value even if your recruit does not open it. Why? Because you took the time to do something extra. This helps you be remembered and gives the prospect yet another reason to take your follow-up call.

Of course, this means you have to do some homework, Coach. Keep an eye out on the web for articles of interest and value relative to your sport or the topic of recruiting. You might even keep a file of these articles because they can be used over and over again with future recruits.

(By the way, if you want some extra research on why a P.S. works so well, click here)

Call On Time!
Don’t start your relationship on the wrong foot. Call on time. Never, ever be late with your follow-up call. Not even by a minute. The promptness and respect you show on a follow-up call reflects on you, your program and your college.

By the way, you know who notices late calls the most?  The parents.  And you don’t want to get your relationship with them off on the wrong foot, do you?

Here’s the bottom line, Coach: New information gets attention and keeps your prospects engaged.  Old information, or no information at all, results in a non-productive phone call every single time.

Got prospects to follow-up with now that we’ve started the new year?  Try some new tactics and use some of these tips to get a better response.

If you need more tips on how to successfully recruit this generation of recruits, you really need to attend our upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  It’s a three day, one-of-a-kind recruiting weekend dedicated to making you the dominant recruiter in your conference .  Click here to learn more.

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