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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.

The Psychology Behind Your Prospect’s Unconscious Decision MakingMonday, June 3rd, 2013

I often find that the primary thinking of many college coaches when it comes to getting prospects interested in their program as they approach this time of year could be described as a simple three-step process:

• Throw everything we can at them as soon as possible.

• They focus on one or two big selling points for our school or program.

• Those big selling points compel the prospect to want to come to our program.

Oh, if it were only that simple…

In reality, we’re finding that today’s teenage recruit takes a much more sophisticated approach to identifying with a school and, ultimately, choosing a program.  While they have trouble explaining the process, our research as a part of our On-Campus Workshops around the country and continuing work with our clients shows that their decision making process mirrors that of grown adults.

The best example of this is found in a recent fascinating study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience.  Researchers have shown that we make buying decisions even when we aren’t paying attention to the products, and that electronic observation of brain activity can predict these decisions. Here are the details from the study:

Imagine you are standing at a street with heavy traffic watching someone on the other side of the road. Do you think your brain is implicitly registering your willingness to buy any of the cars passing by outside your focus of attention? To address this question, we measured brain responses to consumer products (cars) in two experimental groups using functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Participants in the first group (high attention) were instructed to closely attend to the products and to rate their attractiveness. Participants in the second group (low attention) were distracted from products and their attention was directed elsewhere.

After scanning, participants were asked to state their willingness to buy each product. During the acquisition of neural data, participants were not aware that consumer choices regarding these cars would subsequently be required. Multivariate decoding was then applied to assess the choice-related predictive information encoded in the brain during product exposure in both conditions. Distributed activation patterns in the insula and the medial prefrontal cortex were found to reliably encode subsequent choices in both the high and the low attention group.

Importantly, consumer choices could be predicted equally well in the low attention as in the high attention group. This suggests that neural evaluation of products and associated choice-related processing does not necessarily depend on our processing of available items. Overall, the present findings emphasize the potential of implicit, automatic processes in guiding even important and complex decisions.

So, let’s circle this back to recruiting:

If subtle messages do indeed play a key role in your prospects’ view of you and your program as psychology suggests, what are the most effective ways to reinforce your story to your recruits?

Here are three foundational ideas that we think work for practically any coach, at any college level:

• Consistency. No matter what college staff we happen to be working with, the one consistent measure that we find important to today’s prospect is consistency.  Your message to them has to be consistent, both in timing and in content.  From a timing perspective, we find it is critical that your prospect has some kind of contact from you – either through letters, email, phone call, a visit to your blog, seeing you in person – on a weekly basis.  From a content perspective, consistency is important in your message: You need to make sure you are telling a story that takes them through the recruiting process step-by-step, building on your message and leading them to a decision.  If you’re a coach who has had trouble mastering this aspect of your recruiting approach, as many do, make it a priority to build out a plan for accomplishing this before the next recruiting class is ready to make their decisions.

• Keep it short. What we find works the best in terms of message retention is a shorter, more straight-forward message.  Your prospects have told us that most of the recruiting letters and emails that they open and read are way too long, and centered on all the wrong things (mainly, you, your college, your facilities, your facts and statistics, etc.).  Your messages need to be re-worked so that they are shorter and more easily understood by your prospects.  That enables them to pick-up on those little details that will stick in their mind…and stand out from the rest of the crowd.

• Head towards the edge. It’s safe and comfortable to look and sound like everyone else.  For example, your admissions department’s brochures do a great job of looking exactly like every other college in the country in terms of the photography showing the smiling photos, highlighting your school’s impressive statistics, and bragging about the education that they can deliver. The problem with that?  Every single other admissions department presents the same message.  And, that trickles down to the marketing philosophy of most college coaches.  You head towards the middle, and play it safe.  For 1% of you reading this, you can get away with this because of how your program is performing at the moment.  But for the other 99% of you mere mortals, if you want to get the attention of today’s marketing savvy teenager you’d better say things differently than your competitors.  So, when I advise you to “head towards the edge” I mean that you need to come up with a compelling story, told in a different way, and not be afraid to define yourself so precisely that you will let a few of your prospects know instantly that you aren’t for them.  While you’ll lose a handful of recruits that would have said no eventually anyway, you’ll attract three times more who will gravitate towards your philosophy of being unique and different from everyone else that’s recruiting them.  I’ve seen it work numerous times, for coaches willing to take a leap and tweak their approach to their prospects.

The science backs me up on this way of approaching your prospects as you gear-up for this next class of recruits.  And, that same science could just hold the key for you and your program making that recruiting class the best ever.

Looking for more great approaches in recruiting?  We’ve collected our best ideas and strategies and produced two recruiting workbooks for advanced college recruiters.  Your competitors have made them part of their coaching library…shouldn’t you?  

Building Anticipation Instead of Anxiety When You’re RecruitingMonday, April 1st, 2013

Think about it:

If we can define anxiety as “experiencing failure in advance of it happening”, then the opposite definition must be true also, right?

I’m talking about anticipation.  When you’re anticipating something, it’s usually because you just can’t wait for it to happen.  Buying your first new home, moving in, re-decorating and having your first family gathering there all involves anticipation.  You’re excited about seeing those things come to fruition.

On the other hand, for families that are experiencing financial difficulties and are in risk of losing their home to foreclosure, they are experiencing anxiety. Lots of anxiety.  Why?  Because they are experiencing that failure in advance of it happening.

So, how does this all apply to recruiting?  More than you probably think it does, actually.

When you recruit with anticipation, you will highlight the highs. Chances are, you will automatically focus on the things that will excite your prospects and push you and your staff even harder in your pursuit of that next level recruit.  And, you’ll probably put a lot of time and attention into how you do that.

If you recruit with anxiety, on the other hand, chances are you will hesitate.  You’ll second guess yourself.  You’ll talk yourself out of that recruit that (on paper, anyway) you don’t seem to have a chance at landing.  If things are really desperate, you’ll be insuring yourself and your program against disaster and most of all, building deniability into everything that you’re doing on the recruiting front. When you work under the cloud of anxiety – whether it’s in recruiting or the general operation of your coaching staff – the best strategy is to probably play it safe, because if (when?) it fails, you’ll be blameless (or so you think).

Not only is it more upbeat to work with anticipation, it’s often a more self-fulfilling point of view, too.  Especially when it comes to recruiting, Coach.

And by the way, your prospects notice when you recruit with anticipation compared to recruiting with an attitude of anxiety.  True, sometimes introducing a small amount of anxiety at the right times is a smart strategy during certain stages of the recruiting process, building ongoing positive anticipation in your consistent recruiting message should be a priority for any savvy college recruiter.

Here are three easy concepts I feel you should make sure are a part of your recruiting strategy moving forward:

  1. Look at the tone of your messaging. There are two different tones that we see being used all the time which are not usually effective, according to our research:  First, when you are too “sanitized” in the way you sell your program, you’re going to fall short of building anticipation.  By “sanitized” I mean rattling-off statistics about your college, listing facts about your campus, outlining the recent history of your program…all of that is too detached, and too unemotional to make a connection with most prospects.  Secondly, you don’t want a constant tone of pressure, negativity or anxiety.  You don’t want to present a tone of pressure on an ongoing basis, for all the reasons we’ve just outlined.  So as you review your recruiting materials, define how it builds anticipation (and if it doesn’t, work on changing it).
  2. Ask yourself, “What can I get them to anticipate next?” If you’re a client of ours, you know how important it is to have the flow of the recruiting process move as quickly and as efficiently as possible toward securing a campus visit.  In that scenario, we would want to have the prospect anticipate the campus visit?  If possible, we’d want to focus on selling the idea of meeting the guys on the team…or sitting down face to face with the biology professor if the recruit was a strong pre-med candidate…or the opportunity to hear what kind of scholarship offer you’ll be outlining for she and her parents.  It could be anything that is the logical next step in the process.  The key question is, “what are you getting them to anticipate next?”
  3. Define what they should anticipate. Don’t wait for prospects and their parents to assign value to the next phase in the recruiting process, do it for them.  That’s not manipulative, by the way…it’s intelligent.  You know how important it is to get to campus for that early unofficial visit, but does the athlete?  Do her parents?  Does his coach?  Smart coaches will focus on defining the importance on building anticipation for the next phase of the recruiting cycle.  So, are you defining exactly what your prospect should anticipate next from you?

Setting the tone, outlining the tone, and defining the tone.  Those three aspects of your recruiting message can result in exciting positive changes for your recruiting efforts moving forward!

There’s a live event coming up this Summer that will help you gain cutting edge recruiting skills from a gathering of the best experts, authors, coaches and communication gurus: The National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  Make sure your staff is represented at this one-of-a-kind event!  CLICK HERE for the details.

 

5 Things Your Prospect’s Silence Could Be SignalingMonday, January 28th, 2013

Sure, it may be a virtue, but patience is still tough to come by if you’re a college coach who isn’t getting the kind of response he or she expects from their prospect.

Especially this time of year.

Early winter is one of the roughest times of year to maintain, or continue, good communication with recruits you have been in contact with.  I could be describing some of your Seniors who have an offer, but haven’t come to their final decisions yet.  Or, I might be talking about your underclass prospects, who are done with the initial excitement of first hearing from you and are now feeling ill-equipped to continue the conversation with so much time left to go before they are close to reaching a final decision.

In either scenario, or a cavalcade of others that you and your fellow college coaches could easily add to that list, the immediate reaction is a combination of frustration and urgency.  And when a college recruiter is frustrated and feeling pressured when engaged in ongoing communication with their recruits, bad things often follow.

Those are the coaches who set unfair deadlines late in the game…stop communicating all-together…ask end-of-the-process questions way too soon in an effort to get a decision (or the hint of one).

All of these actions could be devastating, not only in your efforts to continue effective communication with your prospects, but also in your efforts to eventually win over that prospect as their final choice.

But rather than give you a list of things you should be asking or doing with your recruits at this point in the process (check our blog archives for lots of information on that topic), I wanted to take you inside your prospect’s head and give you an idea of what they might be thinking or feeling.  There’s a reason for the silence, and it’s important that you understand some of those motivations that will lead them to stop communication with you.  That understanding will give you the roadmap you’ll need to continue – or reignite – effective communication with your recruit.

Are are five of the most common factors behind your prospect’s silence:

  1. They aren’t interested any longer, and they just don’t want to tell you. This is one of the most common reasons for non-communication, which you probably already know as a college recruiter.  Why don’t they just tell you that they’ve lost interest?  Our research tells the story: They are afraid you’ll get mad at them, first and foremost.  Secondly, they don’t want you to criticize their lack of interest.  That fear manifests itself through silence.  By being silent, they hope you just sort of fade away so that they don’t have to have that uncomfortable conversation with you.  If you don’t confront it and address it, you might find yourself months down the road still hoping for a revival in good communication with your recruit.  (If you’re a Premium Member or TRS Client, look for video instruction from Dan Tudor in this Thursday’s Client Insider email on how to effectively reignite conversation with your recruits when this is the issue at play)
  2. They don’t know if you’re serious about them, so they aren’t sure they want to invest time into you. How could they get the impression that you aren’t serious about them, when you clearly are?  The most common answer we hear when we conduct focus groups on the topic is simple: Inconsistency in the story that is told, primarily through letters and emails.  Coaches who send a few things at the start of the recruiting process, and then slowly trail off into inconsistent messaging, almost guarantee this result.  How can you expect your recruits to have a reason to keep communicating with you when you haven’t done the same with them?
  3. They’re interested, but don’t know what to do or say next. This usually results from coaches who make their conversations and messages all about giving information about their school and program, sprinkled in with “how-you-doing?” phone calls that don’t progress the conversation to the next step.  And that’s what they’re looking for: “The next step”.  They might like you, they might like your school…but what are you talking about that actually focuses on the topic of what the next step in the process is?  Is it talking with the prospect’s parents?  A visit to campus?  There has to be a logical next step that you guide them towards.  If you are noticing increasing silence, it could be because they’re stuck and don’t know what to do or say next.  Lead the way, Coach.
  4. They don’t like talking on the phone. Seriously, Coach…it could be as simple as that.  If you’ve moved through the communication process and are at the point where you think talking on the phone is the most personal, most effective method of communication, make sure your prospect feels the same way.  Most recruits don’t like speaking on the phone, but just won’t tell you (again, because they don’t want to offend you).  Better make sure you’re on the same page with them, and if you find that phone calls just aren’t working then revert back to email or text communication in an effort to get some kind of conversation going again.
  5. They’re busy and overwhelmed. When we look at our research data, the two most common reasons recruited high school student-athletes give as reasons for not being prompt in returning a coach’s call is that they’re busy with high school life, as well as being overwhelmed with the number of different coaches they have to talk to.  There is a real inability to devote time to all of those coaches, as well know what to talk about with all of them.  I’m not suggesting that you utter a few magical words to fix this situation – nor am I suggesting there are any.  However, I want you to know that your prospect might be very interested in what you’re offering them. They just might be a little overwhelmed at this point and feel like they don’t know what to say next (or if they’ll have time to say it).

Silence from your recruits later in the recruiting process is a common problem, and I would advise you to expect it from the vast majority of your recruits. What results from that silence on their part is the crucial aspect of all this.  That part is up to you, Coach.  Make sure you know why they’re being silent, and then effectively address those concerns.

Cutting edge research and techniques are just a few of the reasons to be at this June’s annual recruiters weekend, the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  You need to be there, Coach…it’s going to be an incredible weekend of learning and networking from some of the best recruiting experts in the country!

Click here for all the information on this popular event for college coaches from around the country.

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