Dan Tudor

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Why Your Prospects Might Not Care About Your Version of “Better”?Monday, November 24th, 2014

The college coach that can prove their business degree is more highly rated than a competitor’s business degree is often bewildered when their prospect chooses the other school.

The same holds true for the coach who wins their conference championship, only to lose a kid to a program with a new coach and no winning history.  Or, the coach who can boast that her program is closer to home, only to lose the prospect to a school 2,000 miles away.

In each case, the coach can make a very good case that their program.

Here’s the problem:

Their prospect may not care about their version of “better”.

This time of year, college coaches need to be aware of this very important reality with recruiting this generation of teenage prospects.  Whereas you – being a smart college coach – have made career decisions, recruiting decisions, and game decisions based on the best (or “better”) information possible, your recruits aren’t using that same process.  As we’ve chronicled in detail over the years, your prospects make decisions based largely on emotion (and so do their parents).

So, as a coach begins to formulate a recruiting strategy based on simple assumptions on what’s better, they run into the stinging reality that their recruits aren’t operating on the same level.  What I’m saying is that many of your prospects that you’re in the middle of recruiting may not really care about your version of “better”.

Why?  There are some very simple, but vitally important, principles that you need to know if you want to successfully make your case to these athletes:

Your recruit may not know why you are the better choice.  How could that happen???  You sent them two or three very detailed messages, outlining all of the awards and honors your program and your college has won.  Plus, they came for a campus visit.  So how could be there be any confusion on their part?

Quite simply, because your story has been lost in the noisy, marketing-filled world that they live in.  That’s why we preach the need for a consistent, ongoing message starting as early as possible in the recruiting process.  We have case study after case study that proves this is the best methodology when communicating ideas to recruits and their parents.  If you aren’t sending out a message to your recruits every six to nine days that clearly states why they should choose you, there will be a high likelihood that they don’t figure out why you are the better choice. (If you’d like our help in creating that strategic plan, click here)

Your recruit may not believe what you’re telling them.  It’s another hard truth that many college coaches don’t put enough focus on: Your recruit needs more than just words, they need proof.  They need proof that your team, your program, and your school is going to give them exactly what they are looking for in a college.

It isn’t enough to just say that your classes have a great teacher-to-student ratio.  It may be true, but you have to assume that they’ll say “so what?”  Or worse, they may think to themselves, “that’s great, but every college I’m looking at has told me that…they’re just trying to sell me something.”  As a coach, let me ask you this important question: What have you told them that proves you are telling the truth, and puts it into context with where they are at in their decision making process?  Answer that question, Coach.  If you have a good answer, then you’ll be on your way to eliminating this point as a possible reason they would reject your version of “better”.

Your recruit may not believe the risk of switching allegiances to you is worth it.  For the top 1% in your sport, they have the luxury of picking and choosing the prospects that they want, and those prospects will happily accept their offer.  If you aren’t part of that 1%, you need to assume that there are legitimate reasons your prospect will have reasons to not choose you as one of their top choices.  Taking that glass-is-half-empty, worst case scenario approach will help you take the right approach as you communicate with your prospects.

This is probably the primary reason you lose most of your prospects.  They just haven’t come to believe that you and your program should be the logical choice.  Yes, it’s because of their own prejudices, ideas and decisions.  And most of those are illogical, or even downright incorrect.  But that’s what they believe.

Have you made the case to them that it’s worth the “risk” to say no to the program that they’ve dreamed of, and choose you instead?  And if so, how have you done that?  At this time of year, many of your prospects are deciding whether it’s worth the risk to choose you, Coach.  Be vigilant in how you help them do that.

Your recruit may not believe that your “better” is their better.  In fact, as you read the end of this article, I can tell you that in many, many cases that is true for your prospects.  Does it mean you can’t change their mind?  Of course not, but you need to take an aggressive, persistent approach in telling your story to that skeptical recruit and his or her family.  However, you also need to analyze where you are at in your conversation with that prospect, and make the judgement as to whether or not it’s time to move on.  There are times when it’s advisable to stop recruiting a prospect that is never going to belief your better is best.

The bottom line to the points I’m making here?  Adopting this philosophical approach to your recruiting process demands continual action.  Recruit is not a passive activity, and there are no down times.  This is especially true when you’re trying to convince an important recruit that you and your program truly are better than your competition.

Our Total Recruiting Solution program is designed to break through the clutter, and deliver consistent, research-based messages that connect with your prospects.  If you need help down the stretch, and in preparing to effectively recruit your next class, click here.

The Bias Your Prospect Has Against You (and How to Overcome It)Monday, September 29th, 2014

I have worn K-Swiss tennis shoes for thirty straight years.

I started wearing them as a high school Senior when I was playing tennis, and haven’t looked back.  I usually buy one pair a year, and make the previous year’s pair my beat-up pair of yard work shoes.  They’re comfortable, they’re durable, and I like the way they look.

In other words, the billions of dollars of advertising and branding that Nike, Adidas, and the rest have invested in hasn’t convinced me to switch allegiances.  I have an emotional bias towards K-Swiss tennis shoes, and I don’t see it ending any time soon.

Why is that?  Because despite my increasing risk of becoming a fashion outcast (a label which is applicable beyond just my choice of footwear, admittedly) no other shoe maker has made the emotional case for why I should switch.  And since I already think I know everything there is to know about tennis shoes that are “right” for me, I tune out their advertising message.  I know what I want, it’s a smart decision, and that’s that.  And, whenever I see something that’s positive or favorable about K-Swiss, it further cements my belief that I made the right choice.

Which is where you come in, Coach:

The exact same reason I don’t seriously consider switching tennis shoe brands may be the reason many of your recruits don’t seriously consider you and your program. It’s a principle called confirmation bias, and it’s an increasing area of study for our group here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies as we map out strategies and communication plans for our clients.

Confirmation bias happens when we only pay attention to the data or information that affirms our decision or beliefs. We interpret all new data through the grid of what we’ve already decided. And, one of the most fascinating features of confirmation bias is that it causes us to press our beliefs beyond the level of credibility. Even though evidence may overwhelmingly contradict our position, we hold tenaciously to our preferred belief. In my case, it may be irrational love for K-Swiss tennis shoes.  For you as a coach, it could be affecting your recruit’s ability to look logically at the opportunity you’re offering your recruits:

  • They don’t want to consider you as a Division II program, because they’ve decided that schools in your category aren’t solid academically and would mean “settling” athletically. And every time their club coach tells them that “they can do better than a D2 offer”, it confirms that notion.
  • Your prospect doesn’t want to visit campus because they aren’t used to snow and cold winters, so of course they’d be unhappy playing for you.  And every time they see snow forecasted for your region of the country, it confirms that notion.
  • The parents of your prospect are suspect of the fact that you’re so young, and automatically assume that you will have trouble leading a program in a serious way. And, when the more experienced coach in your conference makes reference to your age or coaching experience in a negative way, it confirms that notion.

Sound familiar? Right now, confirmation bias – and the negative effects it carries – is creating more hurdles for you in the recruiting process.  It’s a powerful psychological aspect of our decision making, albeit illogical.  As a recent New York Times article on the topic outlines, confirmation bias is a “tendency to look for information that supports the way we feel about something.”

So, what are you doing to combat that, Coach?  And, what’s the best way to compete against this line of thinking on the part of your prospects and their increasingly influential parents?

First, understand that your prospect has probably already made up his or her mind.  That might be a good thing for you, or it could be the negative that’s preventing them from replying to your initial emails.  Once you agree that most of your recruits come into a conversation with preconceived biases and ideas, I believe it changes the way you construct a recruiting message.

They aren’t looking for logic right away.  They’re looking for an emotional reason to have a conversation with you.  Why doesn’t a recruit respond to you when you send out a logical, factual outline of what your school offers, the successful history of your program, and the outstanding networking opportunities that your graduates enjoy?  Because they’ve already decided that their original choice is the smartest for them.  Just like I’ve decided that K-Swiss is the perfect brand for me – based on nothing more than the fact that I’ve always worn them and I like the way they look and feel – your prospect is basing his or her initial decision on whether to communicate with you or not on simplistic, illogical reasons.  So don’t try to sell them on the logic behind choosing you right away; instead, create an emotional connection with them.

Focus on what makes them happy.  Why have they decided that another division level, another location, or another coach’s experience is right for them?  What are they assuming that gives them as an end result?  You need to make the emotional case that (using the previous examples for the sake of argument) having a younger coach is better, competing at the Division II level affords you more freedom and balance, and that experiencing a different climate is actually a great thing.  Only after those basic ideas are accepted as possibilities can you then move on to the logical argument that you’re the best option for them.

Last, but not least, be consistent.  This strategy doesn’t take place over one or two emails, or in one long phone conversation. It may take weeks to create that emotional connection.  Consistent, long term communication with your prospect using the rule that we talk about in many of the On-Campus Workshops we’ve conducted is key. That research-based rule, which says that most recruits want a message that tells them “here’s why you should come play for me” sent every six to nine days.  They need the consistency, and they need it talked about in a personalized way…that makes it easy to reply back to you and start a conversation.

Understanding this important psychological component of your prospect’s mental make-up is key in developing a comprehensive, effective recruiting message.  Without it, they are probably going to come up with enough illogical reasons on their own to not talk to you, or seriously look at the alternatives available to them.

I’ve got thirty years worth of old K-Swiss tennis shoes that’ll back me up on that.

We’ve put together more outstanding, inexpensive resources for you to become a more knowledgable, strategic recruiter.  Click here to collect our written resources for your personal coaching library, and click here to find out how to become a continual learner through our Premium Member program.

Three New Ways to Persuade Your Next Class of ProspectsMonday, September 1st, 2014

You’ve scouted your recruit.  You’ve made contact with your recruit.

Now, you want to begin selling your recruit on the idea of coming to play for you and your program.

And that involves persuasion.

Persuasion isn’t the act of “tricking” someone, and it doesn’t mean twisting their arm until they just give-up and relent to your way of thinking.  Persuasion is the art of mixing equal parts logic and passion, and becoming impossible to say no to.  You need the carrot and the stick.

If you meet a successful recruiter, you’ll find that they’ve mastered that art.

So, what makes up a great persuasive argument that you can make with your next class of prospects?  Several research-based ingredients that I’ll bet you’ve never stopped to think about before:

People prefer cockiness.  It’s true, both in real life and in recruiting.  When looking to choose a coach to play for, our research clearly shows that athletes and their parents are desperately looking for a confident leader who can articulate a plan for not only for his or her program, but for their recruit as well.

Some of you reading this might object to the idea of being “cocky”.  I understand.  How about “insanely confident”?  And I’m talking about whether or not your record would back you up on it.  Recruits, in the middle of making this stressful decision, are looking for someone who they feel is confident about where their program is heading.  Stop saying “I think”, or “I believe” when you’re trying to make your case.  Replace it with “We will” and put some emotion behind it.

Want to do a better job of persuading your next class of prospects?  Put together a plan to demonstrate that you’re the logical choice by flashing your cocky side a little bit.

Figure out whether you need to talk faster or slower.    Did you know that it’s better to talk faster if your recruit is likely to disagree with you, or have doubts about your program?  That’s because it gives them less time to formulate their own counter-opinions, and make it more likely that they accept your “insanely confident” conversation points as truth  And, it also makes it less likely that their mind will wander and stop paying attention.

Are you talking to a recruit that is likely to agree with you, or is excited about you and your program?  You guessed it: Slow your rate of speech down.  (Want proof?  Here’s an insane amount of research that backs up the points we’re making here, Coach)

Being persuasive involves giving off the right “feel” to your recruit, and how they take in what you’re saying counts a lot as they evaluate you and your program.

Share the positives and the negatives.  Coaches that talk only about the positives associated with their school and their program are missing the boat.  This generation of kids (and their parents) are looking for coaches that are demonstrating honesty in the recruiting process.  As we’ve said in the past, it’s good to show your cracks to your prospects.

What many coaches miss as they put together a strategy for trying to persuade their recruits is the idea that kids and their parents are coming into the conversation with you only looking for the most exciting, most positive views of your program.  On the contrary: Many prospects are assuming that you are trying to hide something. Don’t lend credence to that notion by not revealing what you need to improve upon, or one or two things that are big improvement goals for you as their potential coach.

Selling involves persuasion, and persuasion is an art form that most coaches don’t put much energy into perfecting.  Before you begin speaking in-depth with your recruits, take these three proven persuasion-boosters and implement them into your conversation with this next class of recruits.

Need help with developing a persuasive story to tell your recruits?  The team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies will help you take a research-based approach to answer that question, and work alongside you and your staff throughout the year to make sure your recruiting class is second to none. Click here to find out how we do it (or email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to talk with him about it)

The Power Of InfluenceThursday, May 15th, 2014

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

For better or for worse, a lot of recruiting is influence. I like to believe it is more the former, which is why I’d like to share some things we have learned about influence (as you can imagine, a lot of technology creation is influence) and how they can be related to the recruiting game. This is a short list, a teaser if you will, but very impactful to say the least.

“It’s Your Choice”
This by far is my favorite. People like to feel empowered and hate to be told what to do. Simply saying “It’s your choice” after giving an option can dramatically increase the probability the person will act in the direction you intend. A basic example would be “You can eat this sandwich or not…it’s your choice” vs “Eat this sandwich”. The former being the optimal way to deliver the option vs the latter, which puts the recipient on the defensive.

Apologize Before Asking
If you apologize for situations outside of your control prior to asking a question, you are more likely to come across as trustworthy. An interesting study was done where an actor asked 65 strangers if he could borrow their phone. Prior to asking, he apologized for the rain (it was raining that day) and 47% of people asked offered up their device…compared to 9% when he didn’t.

Use Social Influence
This is ingrained in product people and should be second nature to you too. People are influenced by their peers, much more than you may think. Have you ever gone to a website and seen case studies, a client list, logos, etc? Even with Front Rush, when we speak with potential customers, we will bring up some of our clients in that potential customer’s conference or clients that the potential customer competes against or will compete against or has worked with, etc. This makes the potential customer feel like they need to invest in our product as well.

Hopefully these can help you get off the ground, but please use your new influential super powers for good and we’ll be happy to share more.

Sean Devlin is the lead technical architect of the popular contact management database, Front Rush.  Yes, they can help you produce branded, graphic-rich email templates to use with your prospects.  But that’s just the tip of the giant Front Rush iceberg!  Visit Front Rush online for a complete rundown of their awesomeness, and find out why they are the #1 choice of college coaches around the country.

 

 

 

How Geno Made Pressure FunMonday, April 14th, 2014

I had the chance to be in the crowd at the 2014 NCAA women’s basketball national championship game, where the UConn Huskies won the title and completed a perfect season.

At the center of the celebration was their longtime coach, Geno Auriemma.  Fans of women’s basketball seem to either love him or hate him (proportionally, I’m guessing, based on how close you live to Storrs, Connecticutt).  However, no matter which side you land on, you have to admire what he has built through recruiting and coaching.

But what I want to focus on has nothing to do with how well his Huskies played against a previously undefeated Notre Dame team.

It’s actually something I heard their talented center, Breanna Stewart talk about in front of their cheering fans as they were being presented with their championship trophy.  She was asked about how Coach Auriemma convinced them that “the pressure of going after perfection was fun.”

“This season we wanted to chase perfection, and we did that,” said Stewart, the 2014 Women’s Final Four MVP.

Added senior center Stefanie Dolson: “Everyone said we had a lot of pressure on our backs but we didn’t. We went in there having fun. We were loose and playing great.”

For me, this was the big story that not enough people are talking about – and not enough coaches are trying to emulate.

Coach Auriemma has put into practice an idea we’ve advocated for several years, based on our research and focus group studies with prospects and current college student-athletes:

Today’s athlete needs (and wants) to know how to think about ideas and facts you may be presenting them.

That doesn’t mean their not smart.  They are.  And, it doesn’t mean that they are ripe to be manipulated or tricked into playing for another coach (well, most of the time anyway).

What it does mean is that they need help defining how to think about an idea that you are trying to present them, whether that’s when you are recruiting them or when you are coaching them.

Let’s rewind to Breanna Stewart’s comments that I listened to at the Final Four.  To paraphrase, she recalled how Coach Auriemma starting talking to the team about how fun they were going to have trying to chase perfection and win a national championship.  And, that the pressure and incredibly hard work that it was going to take to achieve that goal should be…wait for it….”fun”.

In short, he took a concept with a lot of potential negativity tied to it – hard work, sacrifice, pressure – and declared it to be “fun”.  And, as most teenagers and young adults tend to do, his team listened to what he was saying and decided to believe it.

Understand, they had the choice to look at it as a negative. Truthfully, most coaches and student-athletes are going to choose to take that approach.  As humans, we tend to look at the worst possible outcome for a particular situation, not the best.  What happens when you are told something contrary, and buy-in to a coach’s vision and enthusiasm?  You win national championships.

Again, here’s what Coach Auriemma did:

  • Observed a potential negative situation.
  • Crafted a more positive way to think about that potential negative situation.
  • Verbally reinforced the way he wanted the situation to be viewed by his team.
  • Followed through with that idea throughout the season.
  • Resulted in a positive outcome.

Your words and ideas are powerful.  What you tell your recruits, your team, your assistant coach, your head coach, and your athletic director, about how to view a situation is key to making it through that potential negative situation.

What kind of situations or obstacles are needing your defining (or re-defining)?  It might be your team’s record, your facility, your college’s location, the challenge of trying to win a conference title, the challenge of winning your first conference match in two years, the challenge of recruiting your best class ever, or why the new offense you are installing this next season is going to be the key to turning everything around.

Whatever it is, your team is listening to you.  What exactly are you telling them?

How To Handle The NaysayersFriday, March 14th, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday

This post is based on a recent jam session by Jonathan Fields.

When you coach, you WILL attract naysayers:

That’s a stupid idea 

- Your team is too small 

                                                                 – You don’t have enough experience 

                                                                – You can’t win

You know these people. They are trying to bring you down. They have an opinion that you can’t achieve what you’re trying to do, and they let you know all-about-it.

Some naysayers are vocal. Some are quiet. Regardless of the intensity of their voice, they are there. Lurking.

So, are their words worth listening to? That’s something I deal with frequently as a coach, and I bet you do too.

I’d like to discuss a few words about their opinion, and then share a simple tool to help you determine whether their opinion is worthy of your attention.

THE OPINION’S STRENGTH

It’s helpful to know what the opinion of the naysayer is based upon. Is it based on facts? If so, then maybe you should listen. There MIGHT be wisdom in the words.

Based on jealousy? Has the naysayer failed at what you are trying to accomplish? If you were to be successful, does the other person stand to lose something (money, status, press)? In case of a fan, you win, he losses. That fan’s words are probably dripping with jealousy. Ignore jealousy-based naysayer-words. They ARE destructive and not helpful at all.

How about this basis for a naysayer’s voice — fear. I can still hear mom saying, “You’re too uncoordinated to go out for football. You’ll get hurt.” She was speaking from that very strong, very parently-voice of protection. She was really saying, “I’m afraid you’ll get hurt.” (BTW, thank you Mom, you were right.) Fear-based naysayer-words might be worthy of your attention. Maybe, but certainly not always.

WHO IS BEHIND THE OPINION?

The naysayer, who is he or she? A family member, or close friend? A mentor? Someone working in athletics, coaching your same sport? Some bored bozo in a chat room?

It makes a difference who the is  person, in terms of the worthiness of their opinion. President Theodore Roosevelt weighed in on this, when he said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood …

- from Goodreads.com

TUNE IN, TUNE OUT

As promised, here’s my simple tool that helps me quickly figure if I should listen to a naysayer. I award the point in the brackets if the naysayer fits the description. The higher the point total, the stronger I listen to the opinion:

  • [1 point] If the naysayer works in my field
  • [1 point ] If the voice is based on fear
  • [2 points] If the voice is based on facts
  • [1 point] If the voice is from a family member or close friend
  • [minus 1 point] If the voice is based on jealousy

Add up your total. The greater the number, the more I listen. In essence, I have a short list of people whose opinions I listen to, and I tune out the rest. And you?

How do you handle the sayers of “nay?”

Dr. Mike Davenport is a longtime college coach and the man behind the popular website CoachingSportsToday.com.  He is a regular contributor to College Recruiting Weekly.

Reading Their Hand Signals in the Big Game of RecruitingMonday, February 10th, 2014

The headline you can take away from the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was how Seattle’s defense managed to shut-down the Broncos high flying offense, leading to one of the biggest championship routs in the history of the big game.

It wasn’t through brute force.  And it wasn’t from stopping a last-minute drive at the end of the game for a lucky win.

No, the big news was that the Seattle defense was able to crack the code of Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning’s vaunted hand signals – the same secret code that lead Denver to the becoming one of the best offensive powers during the 2013 NFL regular season.  Here’s what Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman said after the game:

“All we did was play situational football,” Sherman said after the game. “We knew what route concepts they liked on different downs, so we jumped all the routes. Then we figured out the hand signals for a few of the route audibles in the first half. Me and my he other guys in the secondary… we’re not just three All-Pro players. We’re three All-Pro minds. Now, if Peyton had thrown in some double moves, if he had gone out of character, we could’ve been exposed.”

So, what does all this have to do with recruiting your next college prospect?  Simple:

I want you to start stealing their hand signals.

They give them all the time, and yet sometimes coaches miss them.  I want to outline a few of the big signals you should be looking for, and de-code them for you so that you can get a better idea of how these recruits (and their parents…and their coaches) try to give you a head-fake in the big game of recruiting:

  • Your prospect doesn’t return your phone call.  They’re either busy, or find you boring and too time consuming.  The solution?  Text them.  It’s been consistently replacing phone calls as the top personalized way to have a conversation with a prospect.  (Not because you like it that way, Coach, but because they like it that way).  They’re silence is signaling that they either want a new way to communicate with you, or they’re ready for something more significant in terms of what you’re talking to them about.
  • Your prospect puts your call on speaker phone.  Finally got them on the phone, and they put you on speaker?  Get out of that call as soon as possible.  They’re bored, and not listening to you with 100% focus.  Give them one or two specific things you want them to do next, and end the call.  Why?  Well, let me ask you a question: Why do you put people on speaker phone?  So you can do other things while kind of paying attention to whoever is on the line.
  • Your prospect just told you they need a little more time to think about your offer.  They’ve decided that you’re clearly not their number one choice and just don’t know how to tell you that, or they have interest in your program but they’re trying to see if something better comes along – whether that’s a better athletic option, or more money.  They’re signaling that it’s time for you to make a strong case for why you should be a serious contender for their services, and that you’d better either set a fair deadline or get them to confirm that they probably aren’t going to be choosing to compete for you or your program.  Either way, it’s time to get them to define why they need a little more time. 
  • Your prospect gives you a verbal commitment.  After you tell them thats great, and that you’re excited about that news, ask them when they’re going to announce it on Twitter.  That’s this generation’s real letter of intent.  Whether you’re a big-time D1 program, a small private college, or someone in between, if they aren’t willing to announce their decision on Twitter they’re signaling that they’re still keeping their options open.  Trust me on this one, Coach.
  • Your prospect calls you and ask you questions without you prompting them to do so.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.
  • Your prospect emails you back after you send them a message.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.
  • Your prospect gives you updates on what they just turned into admissions, or what they just heard from financial aid, or what they just did in the last game that they played.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but chances are you’re dealing with a prospect or two that are signaling what’s really going on behind the scenes.  Your job as a coach is to read what they’re signaling, interpret it, and then act on it.  It’s a crucial part of the job if you’re aiming to be a high-level, successful college recruiter.

No go out there and play the big game in recruiting the way we all know you can.

Want more innovative approaches that will help you become a dominant recruiter?  You need to be at the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this June.  It’s the greatest weekend on earth for serious recruiters who want to make sure they use the latest techniques and approaches with this next class of recruits.  Get all of the details here.

Anticipation (and How to Use It In Recruiting)Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The night of Christmas Eve, lots of little kids are full of anticipation.

The thought of toys under the tree, some extra sugar in their bellies, and just the overall fun and excitement of what the holidays brings is almost too much for them to handle.  If you doubt me, I’ll let you talk to the 7-year old boy in our house who has spent the last week trying (and failing) to guess what’s under the wrapping paper in those boxes under the tree with his name on them.

What many coaches miss in that scene being repeated in homes around the country is the incredible power of that anticipation, and how it changes the emotions, thinking and general outlook kids who can’t wait for Christmas morning.  More specifically, many coaches miss the lesson that they can take away and apply to their recruiting efforts.

The reason we talk about the importance of creating a “feeling” in the story that you tell your recruits is because they rely on those powerful emotions to make their final decision much of the time.  You and I can agree that this isn’t always the smartest way to choose a college or program, but there’s little doubt that it occurs on a regular basis in the recruiting process – at least according to our research.

So as a serious recruiter looking to connect with a prospect you really want,  shouldn’t you want to create the same energy and excitement around your contact with a recruit, as well as how they view your program emotionally while making their final decision?  If so, building anticipation – and understanding the components of why it’s such a powerful force – should be something that you aim to do in your recruiting message.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Your prospect will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message.  One of the key principles we put to work in creating effective recruiting campaigns for our clients is the idea that messaging should be ongoing, and sequential.  In other words, one message should set up the next message…and so on, and so on, and so on.  Too many messages we see from coaches are all encompassing, one-size-fits-all behemoths that tend to overwhelm and bore their teenage recipient.  Coaches need to start focusing on breaking up their longer messages into shorter, easier to digest stories that build into the next message rather than answer every single question right away.  That’s one of the big keys to anticipation in recruiting.
  • Your prospect will anticipate talking to you if you exceed their expectations.  Too often, a coach will jeopardize an interaction with a recruit by falling-back on the same tired, boring, run-of-the-mill conversation points that recruited athletes tell us they dread: “What movies are you watching”, “What did you download on iTunes this week”, “did anything great happen at school this week”…you get the picture, Coach.  When you earn the privilege of having a one-on-one talk with your recruit, you’d better try to figure out a way to amaze them if you want to keep positive anticipation on your side with them.  Are you asking questions no one else is?  Are you going to reveal an important “next step” you want them to take in the process?  Will you go over their strengths and weaknesses from the last time you watched them play?  Can you update them on any part of the process on your campus regarding their application?  ALL of that builds importance and value in their conversation with you…this time and the next time.  (By the way, you’ll know you have let negative anticipation seep into the relationship when your calls go to voicemail, or they aren’t returning your emails as much as they used to).
  • Your prospect will anticipate coming to campus if they have been given exciting peeks at what awaits them  when they get there.  Have you teased your recruit and given them glimpses of what your team is like, what campus is like, why he or she would want to see the dorms, and what the area is like around your college?  Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that “anticipation” in the minds of your recruits when it comes to the risky, scary idea of committing to a campus visit.  Recruits will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own, or a picture that you have painted for them over a period of time.

One more thing:

Since we’re building-out these concepts using the excitement of presents under the tree during Christmas and the holidays, think about what happens after they open the presents.  There’s an almost immediate “crash”.  The anticipation and excitement is gone, and all that’s left is a pile of toys, the hand-knit underwear their Aunt Edna sent them, and wrapping paper strewn all over the place.  The energy is gone – as is that valuable anticipation.

If you’re a parent, watch what happens Christmas morning after the presents are all opened.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.

The point I’m making is that you need to anticipate that, Coach.  That means after they visit campus, for example, you need to anticipate that they will need a clear picture of what the next step in your process is in order to maintain their focus and excitement about the idea of competing for you. My personal observation is that coaches tend to take an optimistic view of their recruit, picturing that with each step they take in the recruiting process he or she becomes more and more excited, and naturally wants to talk more about competing for you.  In the majority of cases, I find that the opposite is true: The anticipated is now the familiar, and they’ll search out a new source of anticipation and excitement in the form of another program (remember that recruit who got spotted late by a competitor and rushed through the process to commit with them?…That’s a prime example of a kid continuing to look for anticipation and excitement in the form of another program).

Your job, Coach, is to put a focus on managing the experience and continuing to build that anticipation in your recruits’ mind.  In trying to show them why you are the smart choice, it is also your job to get them to “stop believing in Santa”, to a large extent.  If you can master that art, you’ll solve a key riddle when it comes to how to ride that wave of anticipation in the recruiting process.

After the holidays comes New Years, and with New Years comes resolutions!  If you are focused on developing a more research-based, strategic approach to the recruiting process, talk to Dan Tudor and his team.  To get an overview of how the process works, and what they do when they work with a coaching staff as clients, click here.  Or, contact Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com

A Flight Delay, a Frustrated Recruit, and Some Great Advice for CoachesMonday, July 29th, 2013

Yesterday was the unofficial start to my 2013-2014 travel season, as I headed East for a workshop with a college athletic department and their coaches.

It got off to a bumpy start, thanks to an inconvenient flight delay (are there any “convenient” flight delays?)

Weather issues at the Denver airport had me waiting for my flight, along with hundreds of my fellow travelers.  Crammed together.  Tightly, with no place to sit.  It was delightful.

But in the midst of the chaos, an opportunity: I overheard a 6′ 7″-ish high school age athlete talking about having come from playing in some basketball tournaments in Las Vegas, and now was traveling home.

Me, with nothing to do while waiting for a delayed flight, and an unsuspecting high school Senior-to-be likely going through the recruiting process just a few steps away?  It was too good to pass up.

I introduced myself and struck up a conversation about playing travel ball, coaches who were recruiting him, and the process he was experiencing from his point of view.  He was the typical college prospect: Dreaming of a D1 offer, hearing from D2 and D3 schools, as well as a few NAIA programs, and not really knowing what to do next in the process.

In the 15 minutes I talked with him, he opened-up about some of his frustrations, and some of his observations about coaches.  While I’m not suggesting he speaks for every athlete around the country, I think it’s worth listening to some of his key points about what he’s gone through so far…there are lessons here for any coach, at any level, in any sport.

Here’s what your “typical recruit” wants from you as they’re being recruited:

  • He wanted to know what to do next, but coaches weren’t telling him.  He has made unofficial visits to campuses, gets the typical recruiting mail, and has coaches calling and texting regularly.  This prospect’s complaint?  Nobody is outlining the process, or telling him what is coming next.  Now, in fairness to college coaches reading this, that might be because they are still evaluating him and trying to figure out where he stands on their recruiting board.  However, I’ve heard this complaint from very highly recruited prospects, as well: Lots of generalized “contact” from coaches, very little direction.  The lesson?  Be the coach that outlines a plan, and keeps prospects updated on what is coming next (and especially, what you want them to do next).
  • He was waiting for a coach to sell him on their program.  Years after we began this campaign to make sure coaches understood how to sell themselves, and why it is so vital to do so, we still have work to do.  None of the thirty or so coaches he was hearing from had sat him down and sold him on why their program was best.  “Don’t get me wrong”, said the player, “they send me a lot of stuff.  But it’s all really general, and it doesn’t spell out why I should come play for them.”  The lesson?  Once you have established a conversation and have developed your relationship with a prospect, they are waiting for you to sell them on why they should play for you.  They want to be told what to do next, and they want to be told why you should be the coach they commit to.  They want bold and passionate, not meet and vanilla.
  • He was getting tired of texts and messages that were boring.  “Coaches text me or call all the time, and it’s just like ‘hey, how’s it going’, or ‘whatta ya got planned this weekend?”, he said.  “It gets old really quick.”  When I asked him what coaches should do, he told me that he and his other friends who are being recruited are wanting coaches to ask better questions that actually mean something to them.  They want to talk via text and social media messaging about things that will help them figure out what to do next, and who really wants them.  The lesson?  This generation of recruits doesn’t just want a coach who “checks in” with them and wastes their time.  That doesn’t win points with them.  Have something to say, and show them that you are reaching out to them for a reason.
  • He is watching who keeps their word, and who doesn’t.  We have made this very real observation about the kids you are recruiting today: They are actively looking for honesty, and honest coaches.  I asked him what makes he and his teammates cross a program off their list, and his answer was pretty direct.  “If a coach lies to us, we’re usually done with him”, he said.  “I have coaches ask me when I’ll be playing next, and promising that they’re going to be in the stands watching.  And when I look and don’t see them, it tells me that they were just b.s.ing me.”  That’s just one way we hear this generation of recruits expressing their frustration about recruiters who don’t keep their word.  It usually doesn’t come down to your facility, how many acres your campus is on, or how many years you’ve been coaching.  It usually centers who the prospect likes the most, and trusts the most.  The lesson?  Understand that your recruits are listening to what you tell them, and they’re keeping track.

We finally boarded our flight, I wished him luck this next year, and watched him cram his giant frame into the coach window seat on the United flight that was supposed to have arrived at our destination two hours earlier.  The conversation I had with this recruit served as a good reminder that there is a little bit of a science to the recruiting part of your job, as well as a healthy dose of psychology and communication skill.

Half the battle is knowing what to say as you enter this crucial recruiting period.  Hopefully, my flight delay – and the conversation that followed – can give you some additional direction as you prepare to communicate with this next class or prospects.

3 Main Emotions That Drive Your Recruit’s Final DecisionTuesday, July 16th, 2013

Creating the right feelings in the mind – and heart – of your prospect.

Is it an important factor in the recruiting process?

You bet it is.

Our national study of how recruits make their final decision reveals one solid fact that every college coach should be aware of when it comes to what’s important in developing a recruiting strategy:

Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about you and your program.

That’s the feelings you create while you recruit them, how effective your letters, emails, social media posts and phone calls are at creating the right feelings, as well as the feelings they get when they experience you and your team during a campus visit.

Psychologists have identified three main emotions that center around your prospect’s inner drive and their motivation for making their final decision.  Here they are, as well as detail for any serious recruiter who wants to approach their prospects more intelligently this coming year:

Approach

When “approach motivation” kicks in, your prospect wants to experience or discover more of something. Approach motivation involves positive desire, and the perceived value of what you move toward always increases.

Approach motivation makes recruiting athletes easier if a quality offer exists, whether it be a full ride D1 offer or the chance to attend a prestigious private college. But it can also be used to sell desirable outcomes, ranging from a politician’s campaign for change, to get rich quick and get skinny now products that promise a desired result.

Avoid

You want to focus on “avoid motivation” when your prospect wants to get away from something. Avoid motivation deems something unworthy of attention, and an inconvenience or annoyance that should be ignored or eliminated.

In the real world, people want to avoid paying too much on their electric bill more than any desire for features of the juice coming through the wires, unless you’re using alternative energy sources, in which case many will do business with you to avoid adverse environmental impact. Most charities play on avoidance emotions to lessen the impact of poverty, disease, and natural disasters. Rather than taking a beauty approach, Clearasil plays on motivations to avoid the stigma of acne.

In recruiting, you may help your prospect avoid a bad homelife situation.  Or, you may help them avoid a lesser competitor and their sub-par facilities.  Using this approach relies on your ability as a recruiter to understand if this approach will work with them, and if they have a fear you can help alleviate.

Attack

With “attack motivation”, people want to devalue, insult, criticize, or destroy something. When someone is emotionally motivated to eliminate something (rather than simply avoid it), attack motivation is the way to go.

No, I am not advocating “negative recruiting”…this has nothing to do with that topic.  Think about ad campaigns for weed killer and bug spray (Raid kills bugs dead!). Likewise, we’ve seen more than our share of large-scale campaigns designed to eradicate various complicated problems by waging war against them – the war on crime, drugs, terror, etc.

A good example of “attack motivation” would be signing early to avoid the stress and unknowns of waiting until the last minute to make a decision.  Or, it might be used to prompt and athlete who is dragging their feet at making a final decision by letting them know that your other top prospect is wanting to come to campus and you’ll need to go ahead and offer them the scholarship if they aren’t interested.

Those three motivating factors – approach, avoid, attack – need to be an essential part of your recruiting message.  That’s one of the central approaches we use in helping our clients through our unique Total Recruiting Solution program, and it can be for you as well.

Just remember, these feelings and motivations are present in every single recruiting situation.  The key for good recruiters is to figure out which motivation your prospect is most likely to respond to, and then build your recruiting message around it.

Need help determining the right approach to take with your next prospect?  Dan and the staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies works daily to make sure our clients are in the best position possible to tell a great recruiting story, and make better connections with the prospects you really need to get to the next level.  Click here to get a quick summary of what the program does, and why it’s working for so many coaches around the country.

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