Dan Tudor

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Why College Coaches Need to Search Out the “No”Monday, February 22nd, 2016

No doubt about it, the primary focus of a college recruiter is to get the “yes” from one of their prospects.

When you get a yes, it’s one more piece of the puzzle in place: A piece that either keeps the dynasty rolling, or gets you one step closer to building that winner.

It’s all about the “yes”.

But if you want to get the “yes”, you’re going to have to try to get your prospects to say “no” more often.

Sounds counter-intuitive, right?

I mean, why would a coach even want to approach the concept of “no” into their recruits’ vernacular? A lot of college coaches want to stay 100% positive, 100% of the time. It’s all about selling the benefits, getting them to fall in love with your campus, and repeat back all the ways they love you and can’t wait to come play for you.

But in your gut, you know it’s more complicated than that. You know that the game has changed.

This generation of recruits are more savvy than ever when it comes to how to play the recruiting game, and how to use it’s timeline to their advantage. In addition, this generation seems to have very little apprehension when it comes to not exactly telling coaches like you the whole truth. And that means you wait…and lose other recruits while waiting…and, in many cases, eventually lose that recruit you were waiting on who was never telling you the whole truth.

My recommended solution? Search out the “no”.

Throughout the recruiting process, I firmly believe that you should put your prospect in a position of having to tell you ‘no’ more often. Especially towards the end of the process.

Why? Because I’ve seen more recruiting classes ruined, and more coaching careers stall, due to waiting on recruits and never demanding a “no”.

So, assuming I’ve sold you on the general idea of getting your prospects to say “no”, here are some ideas on where I’ve seen it work when we’ve strategically used it as an effective “secret weapon” with our clients over the past several years:

Early in the process, search out the “no”. One of the classic mistakes we’ve seen coaches at all levels make as the put together their initial list of a recruiting class is that they assume all of them a serious possibilities, and that all of them are going to give you a fair hearing when it comes to what you have to offer.

Sadly, that’s not the case: Many would eliminate you quickly, for example, when it comes to where you are located. You’re either too close to home, or too far from home. And there isn’t anything you can do to change their mind on the topic. You, as a recruiter, should make it your goal to uncover that line of thought as soon as possible. So, as an example of how you “search out the no”, ask a recruit who is far away, “Tell me why it feels smart for you to leave home and go away to school out of state?” In my experience, a recruit who can give you solid answers to this question that demonstrates they’ve thought about it and has come up with good reasons it makes sense for them, then I think that is a type of “yes”. Alternatively, if they give a wishy-washy answer and doesn’t lay some specific thinking as to why the idea makes sense to them, then you might treat that as a real red flag…maybe even a type of “no”.

The philosophy of searching out no’s early on in the process really centers around the idea of finding out who is truly interested in (or at least open to) the idea of playing at your college. Our rough science says four out of every ten would never consider you, but also won’t tell you right away (hey, it’s fun when you show them attention, and maybe they can use you to pressure the other school they really want to go to). My goal, on your behalf, is to narrow your list sooner and not waste time with the 40% that you have no shot at.

That’s just one of the ways you can, and should, use the concept of searching out a “no” early in the process.

In the middle of the process, search out the “no”. As you approach the point where you know you have their interest, but aren’t sure where you stand, I recommend setting a fair but firm deadline. (Actually, I’d recommend that at the beginning of the process, but even getting our clients comfortably with that philosophy is sometimes a challenge, so I’m throwing it in here for your consideration).

I’m not talking about a 24 or 48 hour deadline that some coaches use (yes, those kinds of deadlines do work at times, but they are also the most likely to turn into a de-commit or transfer situation down the road). I’m talking about a fair, long term deadline (or “horizon”, as I like to refer to it) that lets your prospect know early or midway through the process when they need to make a decision, and why.

There are entire days we spend with coaching staffs to outline with strategy in a workshop we’ve developed on this idea, but let me try to give you the highly condensed version here: Set a deadline for making a final decision months in advance; use that deadline reference matter-of-factly as a reference point for making a decision throughout the process, along with telling them why they should choose you on a consistent basis by telling an effective story through your recruiting communication; make sure they get to be on campus and spend time with your team; when the deadline date approaches, ask for their decision (more on that step in a moment).

At each step of the process during the middle of the process, you need to be looking for signals that they are either 1) leaning away from you and towards a competitor, or 2) have decided against you, but have not verbalized that to you. As you go through the meat of your recruiting process, make these two red flags the constant thing you try to uncover.

In working with many, many college coaches and their programs over the years, I firmly believe that this is where the recruiting game is won or lost. More coaching careers, in fact, have been ruined with the false belief that they were a prospect’s top choice, only to find out that they were never really in the running with that recruit. Problem was, the recruit didn’t want a coach to criticize of demean their choice, or they didn’t want to hurt the coach’s feelings, and so they don’t say anything. And, well…you know the rest of the story.

Be vigilant in searching out negative signs throughout the middle of the process. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll find a “no” and then be able to move on to the next process on your list before your competition does.

At the end of the process, search out the “no”.  One of the most curious sociological phenomenons I’ve observed this past decade is the abject terror that many coaches feel towards the end of the recruiting process when it obviously becomes time to ask a recruit to tell them yes or no.

To be clear, I understand why they feel that way; that recruit represents months of work invested into getting them to this point in the process, not to mention the hopes of a stronger future for their program. And yet, at some point, dreams of a stronger recruiting class and reality have to intersect.

There has to be an end point. And, in my strong opinion, most recruiting scenarios demand that that the coach be the one to define that end point. That either means you’ll hear your prospect say “yes”, or “no”.

The general rule that we’ve seen work well for coaches is this: If you’ve communicated with your prospect on a consistent basis for a good amount of time, explained why your program should be their choice, have had them to campus, and have either 1) given them their scholarship offer, or when there is no scholarship money b) told them that you want them on your team and are offering them a spot on your roster, then it’s reasonable for you to ask them for their decision. More bluntly, you can demand that they tell you yes, or no.

First the good news: A good number of your recruits, at the end of the process, will tell you “yes”. The truth is, this generation – and their parents – need you to ask them for action that they can react to (i.e., you ask them for their answer, and only then will they tell you their answer). I could give you literally hundreds of examples where this simple process has resulted in a favorable decision for the coach.

Now the bad news: They might tell you “no”. But since it’s towards the end of the their recruiting process, is that necessarily a bad thing? A “no” means that you are approaching this critical point of the process realistically, and accurately.

If you doubt whether or not your prospect is indeed ready to make a decision at the end, and tell you ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ask yourself and your staff, “What more can we show them or tell them to get them to feel ready to give us their answer?” If the only thing you can come up with is “more time for them to think about our offer”, that’s usually a weak justification. More time rarely works in a program’s favor; once in a great while, it does. But not enough times to justify it as your go-to strategy, in my experience.

You’ve set a fair but firm deadline, you’ve told your story, made your offer, and asked for their commitment. If they still can’t tell you “yes”, then what they are really telling you is “no”. Look for that at the end of the process.

The word “no” can be one of your best allies in the battle for recruits. But you have to manage that word, and incorporate it into your recruiting strategy.

That takes guts. But as the saying goes, “No Guts, No Glory”.

Come to the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer to dive in to this philosophy in greater detail, and learn to put together a better overall recruiting strategy for your program. Click here to reserve your seat, Coach!

How to Argue the Correct Way With Your Next RecruitMonday, December 21st, 2015

Because it really seems like an “argument”, doesn’t it?

Where your campus is located is so vastly superior to the two other schools your recruit is looking at, the choice would seem obvious. And so you try to convince them that they should see it your way.

Also, that new U.S. News campus ranking: Your campus just got ranked 49th, while the other school she’s considering came in at a paltry 88th. It’s not even close, so the choice (again) should be obvious.

And the fact that your prospect could start in your program as a Freshman…well, shouldn’t that seal the deal? In your mind it does, right?

Here’s why it’s hard to make that case successfully:

First of all, college coaches we’ve seen attempt it try to do so quickly, at the start of the recruiting process, and condense their argument in one or two long, detail-filled messages. As we’ve talked about before, that’s not the right way to approach this generation of recruit if you want their attention, and gain their trust.

Secondly, you’re essentially bullying them into trying to get them to believe that your point of view is the right one. Your school’s ranking is higher, they could start as a Freshman, and where you’re located is amazing. What’s not to love, right? And so you begin to convince them of how you see the world, and that that your point of view should be their point of view as well.

The problem is, your point of view may not match their point of view.

Marketing author and expert Seth Godin makes the point that “to many people, it feels manipulative or insincere or even morally wrong to momentarily take the other person’s point of view when trying to advance an argument that we already believe in. And that’s one reason why so many people claim to not like engaging in marketing. Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.”

Let’s use the example of your prospect being able to start as a Freshman in your program. You, as an intelligent college coach who has the perspective of a successful playing career under your belt, see this as being a huge selling point to your prospect. Being able to start all four years of school?  Who wouldn’t want that, right?

And yet when we conduct our focus group interviews when beginning work with a new client, or conducting one of our On-Campus Workshops for an athletic department, we find that the majority of athletes you recruit actually are nervous about the idea of starting right away and having the pressure to perform on their shoulders. The ‘safer’ worldview for them? No pressure at the start, get used to the team, and ease into a role where they’ll be able to succeed.  How many times have you seen one of your talented prospects opt not to compete immediately for you, and instead choose a school where they’ll probably have to sit on the bench for a year or two?  For many athletes – even the great ones – that’s the more appealing option.

What I’m saying is that you “convincing” them that your world view is the correct one isn’t going to be easy, especially if you don’t take a patient, consistent approach to the whole thing. They aren’t looking to be convinced, they’re looking to be listened to. It’s true in politics, and it’s true in recruiting.

As Godin observes, “Even when people making an argument know this, they don’t like making an argument that appeals to the other person’s alternative worldview.” Why? It’s harder, it takes more time, and requires a more organized thought pattern. For many coaches, that’s a tough trifecta to overcome.

If you accept this idea to have merit, it may require two key changes in thinking for you and your coaching staff:

  • You will need to commit to developing a long term, consistent approach to telling your story and developing communication that is focused on creating a conversation, rather than relying on the brilliance of your logical argument to sway the minds of your prospect.
  • You will need to ask more questions, and use your recruit’s answers to develop an individual strategy for communicating with that specific recruit.

Let’s go back to the example of the opportunity for a prospect to start for you as a Freshman, rather than sit on the bench for a year or so at another program. Knowing now that she might be tempted to play it safe and choose that other option, you might want to ask her questions that get to the center of her worldview:

“If you play for the other program, you probably wouldn’t be able to play right away. Tell me why you’re thinking this might be o.k. for you?”

“What is it about starting right away for a college program that might seem a little intimidating for you? What worries you or makes you nervous when you picture that in your mind?”

“Walk me through the pros and cons of playing right away for a program.”

Those three sample questions aren’t trying to “sell” a prospect on doing it your way. They are questions designed to find out what your recruit’s view is, so that you can then adapt your argument to fit that view.

(This is also very much the same concept of “collaborating versus negotiating” that we’ve discussed before. It’s always much more effective to come alongside a prospect, instead of sit across a table and negotiate with them over a point of view).

This idea is something that requires a wholesale philosophical change in the way that a recruiting message is structured. That’s why most coaches who read this won’t do it; it’s always going to be more expedient to just sell, sell, sell and let the chips fall where they may.

That’s the challenge for serious college coaches:

Invest the time in creating a smarter, more effective approach, or continuing with an old style of recruiting that requires your recruit to quickly buying what you’re selling.

 

Next Level Questions to Ask Your Prospect AFTER They Visit CampusMonday, October 12th, 2015

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Key Questions to Ask Your Recruit AFTER They Visit CampusMonday, October 5th, 2015

In college recruiting – especially this time of year – there is often a singular focus from coaches who are doing all they can to ask the right questions of their recruits in order to get one thing from them:

Their commitment to visit campus.

That’s the holy grail of college recruiting, no matter what the age of the recruit. And what most coaches end up focusing on are the questions they can ask a recruit that will get them engaged and talking, inching them closer and closer to that campus visit you’re coveting.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.

But it’s only half the story.

As our research clearly shows, getting them to campus – while vitally important in the process – simply moves them into a different phase in the typical recruit’s mind. And yet, the college coaches we have worked with for more than a decade tend to slip into the thinking that “once we’ve had them on campus, we’ve answered all their questions.” What’s more to talk about or ask them, right?

Wrong.

That different phase of your recruit’s mindset is an important thing for you to explore, Coach. In most cases, your recruit is ready to reveal an entirely new set of information and feelings to you following their visit to your campus. If, that is, you ask them.

So, what are some of the core questions we recommend based on the focus group research we’ve compiled with this generation of prospect? I want to outline several key questions that every college coach should ask their recruits once they’ve been on campus for an unofficial or official recruiting visit:

  • “Walk me through what you see happening next for you in this whole process”. In most cases, once your prospect has visited your campus, their internal agenda has changed. What they thought they were going to do, and how they feel, before the visit has probably now changed. Smart recruiters should want that information so that they can adjust their recruiting strategy accordingly.
  • “How did our visit affect the timeline you and your family had for making a final decision?”.  Don’t ask ‘yes/no’ questions, ask ‘how/why’ questions. You want to really understand what they are thinking now that the visit is done, and – like the first question – find out way has changed. If they’re going to make their decision in the next two weeks, compared to the next ten months, you need to know. Don’t allow surprises to define the reasons you lost a recruit you really needed.
  • “What other programs do you see yourself taking seriously at this point?” Don’t assume. Even if they’ve told you who they were looking at prior to the visit, double check after the visit. It may have changed. Often times, we find that it does.
  • “What other college campuses do you still feel like you want to actually visit before you make a final decision?” Just like the previous question, their answers often change after the visit as opposed to prior to the visit. We’re wanting to develop a good overall picture of what their whole process looks like, and who they are seeing as the primary players. It’s a different question than the one that precedes it, so make sure you ask it at some point soon after your prospect’s visit to your campus.
  • “Give me two or three big things that you wish you could change about our campus or our program now that you’ve been here.” The temptation is to let them take a pass when they squirm at answering this question. Don’t give in. Have them define what they would change about your campus now that they’ve seen it in person…EVEN IF it’s not something big. In fact, you can tell them that even if it’s something small in their mind, you still want to know. Small discomforts might be used at the end to justify why they aren’t going to choose you and your program…if you ignore them after the visit, and then don’t work to change their minds through consistent recruiting communication.
  • “What did your parents say they liked about our campus and the whole visit?” The parents, as you know if you’ve followed our recruiting search or had us on your campus to explain the details of a family’s decision making process, are key. You absolutely need to understand what they like – or didn’t like – about the visit. From there, you can formulate a strategy as to how you will want to separately recruit the parents during the stretch run.

These six key questions are just the start of effective questioning following the visit. Based on their answers, you can develop more questions that are going to give you insights on what they are thinking – and what you next set of actions need to be.

If you don’t ask the questions, or naively assume that their visit to campus answered all of their questions, you risk wasting all of your hard work up to that point. Continue your job as a recruiter, Coach. It’s important if you want to develop consistent post-visit success.

Developing the right skill sets to win consistently in recruiting are easy to attain. We’ve set up a complete course that offers serious recruiters comprehensive training, along with certification that coaches have completed the process. It’s getting great reviews by the coaches who are completing our Tudor University recruiting training. Click here to get the details and invest some time into making yourself a better recruiter.

Confirming Your New Prospect’s Interest: How Do You Know If They’re Serious?Monday, September 7th, 2015

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11 Simple Questions That Will Improve Your CoachingMonday, November 10th, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

I’m going to dare you to do something that used to scare the bejeezits out of me.

It’s tough. Draining.

Yet, like daily exercise, the benefits can be profound.

Here’s what I dare you to do …

Ask Yourself A Simple Question

A simple question can be a powerful tool.

Here’s an example. A certain drug manufacturer, who make aspirin, asked themselves a very simple question years ago,

“Why do we always put a cotton ball in our aspirin bottles?”

They had done so for 100 years. Was it time for a change?

Finally, around 1999 they decided to stop putting cotton in their bottles. Originally the cotton was to protect the aspirin pills in shipping, but with new coating on the pills the cotton was not needed. So, all was good, right?

Not so quick. There was a flashback because many customers had come to associate the cotton ball with quality, and childhood memories. Customers complained many bottles of aspirin still have cotton. I opened one yesterday with a big ol ball of cotton in it.

So a simple question, “Why do we do still do this …” had a profound impact on a mega-company. Imagine what impact a simple question could have on you and your coaching.

Up for a dare?

Here’s How To Do It

At the end of your coaching day, find a minute of solitude.

Steal away from the business of your life and grab the writing tool of your choice.

This will only take a moment, but it has been shown to change a coach’s life (mine).

Here are 11 questions. Take one, just one, and answer it. I suggest you write the question and answer down, so you can review at a later date.

What did I do today that only I can do?

Did I give someone my undivided attention, today?

Did I plant any seeds for success, today?

What good did I do, today?

What harm did I cause, today?

Did I crush any dreams, today?

What lesson did I teach, today?

What person did I help, today?

Is my team better today than it was yesterday?

What have I done for my health, today?

Did I engage in a face-to-face conversation today?

Everyone is busy, what was I busy doing today?

Notice the word today in each question … because, they ARE all about today. How you did, what you did, and why you did it today, as a coach.

Answer one question a day for 11 days (or for as many days as you can). And yes, I know there are 12 questions (stuck a bonus in there). Let me know if you feel or see a change. Just blast me an email, and let’s discuss.

 

14 Questions to Ask Your Recruits Late in the ProcessMonday, March 10th, 2014

“Late in the process” is becoming a moving target, isn’t it, Coach?

For some coaches, at certain division levels, “late in the process” might mean it’s the end of a recruit’s Sophomore year in high school. Or it could mean that it’s the end of October.

“Late in the process” is no longer tied to a traditional calendar. It’s always changing, and it seems to be getting earlier and earlier

Since there is a certain degree of mystery surrounding the later stages of the recruiting process, I wanted to cut to the chase and give college coaches some fresh ideas on topics and questions that we’ve seen work in the difficult quest to get information from high school student-athletes.

They may yield nothing, or they could yield vital information that will tell you how to close them at the end of their decision making process.

All I know is that if I was a college coach who was trying to wrap-up a recruiting class late in the game, here are some of the questions I would make sure I was asking my recruits:

  1. Who are you leaning on to help you make a final decision?  Once they tell you, ask yourself how well you’ve recruited those other individuals.  If the answer is “not that well”, you know what you need to do later tonight.
  2. What are they telling you?  Because if they answer this, you’ll know exactly where you stand with this recruit.
  3. Can you see yourself living here on campus?  If they can’t answer that with some kind of specificity and clarity, it means they haven’t been picturing it in their mind.  Which is a bad sign.
  4. When have you told other coaches that you’ll be letting them know what your final decision is?  For all you passive-aggressive personalities out there, this one is a double-helping: You can find out when they’re probably reaching a decision, and who else they are talking to (if you ask them who those other coaches are).
  5. What’d you like most about the guys/girls on our team?  If they don’t know, or can’t describe something specific about their time together on the visit to campus, that’s a red flag.  Our research shows that how they are treated by your team is the top way they figure out if a program feels right to them.
  6. What are you and your parents talking about at there home when it comes the idea of coming here and playing for me?  As the parent’s opinion of you and your program goes as we enter the final days of their decision making process, so goes your chances of coming to your school.
  7. If you were going to tell me “no” at the end of the process, what do you see being the #1 reason you’d end up doing that?  Get them to play “what if” with you.  Their answers are almost always based in reality.  If they are going to tell you “yes” or “no”, you’ll most likely get a hint of that using theoretical situations.
  8. Since we can’t give you a full athletic scholarship, is it really all just going to come down to who gives you the most money?  This one, of course, is for a program that can’t give a full-ride athletic or academic scholarship.  For some families, the legitimate, 100% forthright answer is “Yes, Coach.”  For most, it’s the fall back decision making tool that they use if they haven’t been consistently and passionately told a story about you and your program that matches their world-view of what college sports should be like.  Either way, you need to know.
  9. What would you have to know about us to get you to feel like we were worth paying for?  That’s a natural follow-up to the previous question, and a great question (and probably a more appropriate question) to ask your recruit’s parents.
  10. Why did we end up being one of the program’s that made your final cut?  It is always a good idea to get them to verbalize why they liked you in the first place as we head into the stretch run.
  11. Where are you going to visit next?  Maybe they’re done visiting campuses, and maybe they aren’t.  If they aren’t, you need to know who else is on their list and when they are visiting that campus.  And, of course, why (it’s probably because they’re still looking for something that they haven’t felt like they found on your campus).
  12. When do you see us being able to talk again about all this?  If they answer with a date that’s sooner (in the next week or two), that’s a good sign.  If they tell you they’re not sure, but they’ll “keep in touch”, that’s a red flag.  It’s not a guarantee that they won’t be picking you, but would you tell your high school prom date that you’ll “keep in touch” before the big night?  Probably not.
  13. What do you want to see us talk about next?  Hopefully, they give you a new topic that is central to their decision making process that they just haven’t brought-up before.  The goal during this time of the year is to keep them talking, and making sure they feel free to communicate new questions or ideas to you.
  14. Are you feeling like you’re ready to commit to us?  If you have been through our two or three day On-Campus Workshop experience, you know how important it is to “ask for the sale”.  At the end of every phone call, or every email, or every text conversation, ask for the sale.  Give them the chance to tell you “yes!”, or even express to you that they aren’t ready yet.  It’s important to keep the process moving forward – and, this is the best question you can ask in order to make them feel wanted.

The job of recruiting top-level student-athletes doesn’t just involve “selling” your program.  Much of it, especially down the stretch, revolves around being the coach that can get them to communicate with you more than they are with your competition.

These questions are aimed at doing just that.

The right approach, using the latest techniques and research, is the cornerstone to successful, long-term recruiting. And now, there is an entire weekend dedicated to making sure coaches take the jump to next-level abilities and techniques: The National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  It’s packed with experts and fellow coaches who will be sharing how they became successful recruiters, and what you can do immediately to improve your recruiting results.  Get all the details here.

3 Ways Your Prospect’s Feedback is Getting Lost in TranslationMonday, October 14th, 2013

When you think about it, your prospects – and their parents – actually do say quite a bit during the recruiting process.

I mean for all of the complaining that we do when it comes to the non-communication coming from the recruits you’re trying to have a conversation with, when you think about it they give you a good deal of feedback.  They’ll tell you what they’re looking for in a college, or what they like in a coach, or what they think about the idea of leaving home.  When you ask a question, they’ll do their best to give you an answer.

And that’s where we find the problem occurring.

Coaches are listening to what they’re hearing from prospects and parents (or, many times, from their coach) and they’ll take that feedback at face value.  In other words, a lot of coaches assume that the recruits they’re talking to are actually giving them accurate, truthful information.

Much of the time, that’s not the case.  I’m not suggesting that your prospects are being deceitful on purpose, by the way.  However, I do think that much of what you’re hearing during certain points in the recruiting process needs to be “translated”…their feedback needs to interpreted differently than you’re hearing it.  Not all the time, but much of the time.

Here are four main topics or phrases that you may be hearing as a college recruiter that need to be “translated” into what they might really be trying to say:

“We’ve still got a few more campuses to visit before we make our final decision.”  

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

“Your campus was nice, but we’ve still got a lot of unanswered questions before we could think seriously about committing to you, and we’re hoping that another coach makes it easy to love them by giving us the information that you didn’t.”

I started with this because I know many of you are in the middle of campus visits, and you’re always anxious to hear how your prospects liked you, your team, and your college.  If they talk about still needing to take campus visits, and they aren’t ready to decide that you are “the one” after visiting your campus, you can be fairly certain that there are objections left unanswered in their mind, or something on the visit didn’t quite mesh with what they were looking for.

Your job, as a serious recruiter, is to ask them questions that can get them to reveal how they really feel after a visit.  And, if they don’t seem ready to get serious about taking the next step, it’s your job to find out what they didn’t seem to find when they visited campus, or what new questions the visit raised in their mind.

Far too often, college coaches that we advise give their prospects the benefit of the doubt waaaaay far too many times, assuming that the family is engaged in a logical, reasoned evaluation of their visit and just wants to compare apples to…even more apples.  Most of the time, that’s not the case.  It’s far simpler than that.  They just didn’t find all of what they were looking for when they were face to face with you and your program.

“I’ve never really thought about going away to school that far away from home.”

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

“At this point, there’s no way on God’s green earth that I would go to school that far away from home.”

If you’re recruiting out-of-area prospects (and you should) understand that the number one reason you will end up losing that prospect to another college is due to the distance from home.  Many recruits are very open to going away from home, but a large percentage either haven’t considered it as an option because of their parents, or have decided that it’s not an option even with their parent’s support.

Not wanting to go away to college is fine, of course.  It’s not for everyone, and I don’t suggest that any coach should fault a prospect for not being interested in your opportunity.  However, I do want them to tell you the truth and reveal – as early in the process as possible – whether or not going out of area for college is a possibility.

How should you do that?  First, focus on the parents.  Our research shows pretty conclusively that how a recruit feels about going out of the area for college is a direct reflection on how the parents feel about it.  And if the parents aren’t on board with the idea, it’s not likely you will be successful recruiting that prospect.  Ask the parents of your out-of-area prospect how they feel about the idea, and if they see it as a possibility.

With your prospect, you need to ask them why specifically they feel they would want to truly go away to college.  What makes that exciting to them?    Why do they feel that would be best for their athletic and academic career?  What have their parents said about the idea, and are they o.k. with not seeing you compete on a regular basis?  If your prospect has trouble answering those questions, or it sounds like they really haven’t thought the whole thing through, it means you have more work to do.  It’s not a lost cause by any means, but don’t assume that it’s a slam dunk, either.

“We’re still thinking about everything, and really haven’t made a decision yet, but don’t worry…we really like you and your staff and you’re one of the schools we’re seriously considering.”

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

“We’re not coming to your program unless these three other possibilities fall apart, but you’re a really nice coach so we don’t want to hurt your feelings by having to tell you ‘no’ directly.”

As you move through the process, you may hear something like this given to you as feedback by your recruit.  What I want to tell you is that they aren’t telling their top school this…just you.  And that’s a problem.

The later the recruiting process goes, the more you need to assume that your prospect is not being truthful with you.  I hate to be so negative, but it’s for your own good…more coaches are suckered in to that feedback from their recruits and end up getting jilted at the end when they say yes to your conference rival (the one that’s closer to home, of course) than get word that after careful and measured consideration, you are the program that they’re choosing.

If you hear this kind of feedback as the recruiting year gets later and later into the calendar, you need to start asking your recruits – and their parents – some serious questions: What is it that you’re thinking about?  What are the one or two big questions that you still have in your mind when it comes to my program our the college?  Look for things that they’re unsure about, or need more details on…or, get them to admit that your program is a long shot, and determine that it’s probably going to be a “no” (because in our experience in tracking lots of recruiting conversations for our clients, you’ll get the same answer three months from now as you did when you press for an answer today).

Those three scenarios aren’t an exhaustive list, of course, but it’s a good representation as to what we hear prospects telling coaches, when they mean something completely different.

We just want to make sure you’re looking at your recruiting list – and every prospect on it – with complete accuracy and honestly.  To do that, you need to intelligently interpret their “recruit-speak” into real world feedback that you can use to make important decisions for your program.

Preventing Prospects From Giving You the “Right” AnswerSunday, June 16th, 2013

The danger for coaches in asking their prospects questions lies completely in the answers they receive back.

Very often, those answers guide the coach down the wrong path as they look to recruit student-athletes (and their parents) by formulating what are, on the surface, perfectly reasonable questions.

“What are your academic goals are in college?”

“What do you think makes up a good college athletic experience?”

“Why do you want to compete at this next level?”

Why are these, and questions like them, so dangerous for a serious recruiter?  Simple:

Your prospect will likely give you the right answer – with the same mindset that they use when bubbling-in an answer on a multiple choice test.

By “right”, I mean the correct answer.  The answer that they think a smart student-athlete would give.  The answer that isn’t going to make waves, will let them go on to the next question, and continue on until they pass your test.  That is, by the way, what most of your student-athletes view your questions as…it’s a test, something that they have to get through so they can keep moving on through the process.

And so, when you ask questions incorrectly, you’ll risk getting standard answers such as “My academic goals in college are to be the best I can be while competing in sports…”  Or, “I think a good athletic experience in college would consist of a proper balance of academics and athletics…”  Or, “I want to compete at the next level because I want to challenge myself and make myself the best I can be…”

The answers sound wonderful, but are they genuine?  Have you gained any real knowledge by getting those answers?

Are you noticing, Coach, that you’ll finish a 30-minute phone call with a prospect that is filled with lots of questions and reasonably good answers, and feel like you really didn’t learn anything new about your prospect or move the process forward in any tangible way?

If the answer is yes, you’re starting to understand what I mean by getting the “right” answer.

You don’t want the right answer, Coach…you should be aiming for the insightful answers.  The answers that they stumble through, and have to start over and explain.  The answers they have to think about in order to verbalize to you.  Remember those times you really connected with a prospect, and felt like you got really good insights into what kind of a person they’d be if they were on your team?  I’ll bet that their answers were conversational and a little disjointed as they tried to verbalize it to you.  THAT is the type of answer you should be looking for every single time.

So, how do you create the best environment for bypassing their “right” answers, and get inside their head to get to the good stuff that they’re holding back?  Here are some key suggestions I’d recommend:

  • Eliminate “yes” and “no” questions.  Quite a few of you have read our recruiting guides that outline some of the basics of how to ask effective questions, but for the rest of you I want to set this as a good foundation: Never, ever, ask questions that set-up a “yes” or “no” response from your recruit.  As adults, we’ll be asked a question that could garner a yes or no response, and have the mental sophistication to expand on that answer and give our reasons for answering the way we did.  Most teenagers, on the other hand, will keep their responses as short as possible in an effort to not say anything embarrassing or too revealing (according to our research and focus groups, this is especially true at the beginning of the recruiting process).  This problem has an easy fix: Don’t ask yes-no questions.
  • Focus on the process.  By focusing your questions on the recruiting process itself, and how they will be figuring out how they’ll be making their decision, you’ll stand an excellent chance of getting truthful, insightful answers.  It’s determining the process that actually can lead to developing a strategy for how to recruit that particular prospect based on his or her particular needs.  For example, if you discover that they plan on making their decision within the next three months because they don’t want to drag out the recruiting process, you know that your recruiting approach needs to be completely different than if you had the next year and half to tell your story and recruiting them over an extended period of time.  That’s the benefit of focusing your questions on the process…they are the questions they feel best equipped to answer honestly.
  • Develop one or two follow-up questions that demand honesty.  Once you ask a question, be ready with one or two questions that force your recruit to answer more in depth.  They won’t want to initially, which is why you’ll need to press them with some tough follow-up questions.  For example, if they gave you the answer we used as an example earlier, “I think a good athletic experience in college would consist of a proper balance of academics and athletics”, two logical follow-up questions might be, “That’s interesting…so how would you describe a situation that was out of balance for a college athlete?”  And then, “So what are you going to be looking for when you visit campuses that might tip you off to a bad situation that would be out of balance?”  When they answer, you may get an idea of what kind of work ethic they’ll be bringing to your program, as well as how you can construct a campus visit that would address some of the specific items on their mental checklist.  Notice, however, that you only get that really good information in the follow-up questions.  If you don’t ask them, they aren’t likely to tell you.
  • Include the parents (especially early on).  It amazes me that some coaches still have reluctance to ask parents questions early on in the process.  If you are a coach that is holding on to the idea that you are recruiting the athlete and not his or her parents, you are swimming against the tide that is this generation and their reliance on mom and dad as trusted advisors through the recruiting process.  This generation of student-athlete wants and expects their parents to be involved in the conversation, and many times they’d prefer if mom and dad answered some of the initial questions you have.  I strongly suggest a healthy mix of questions for the parents as well as the prospect, and take the time to ask parents what they are expecting from you as a coach over the coming months.  Set yourself apart as a coach who wants them involved, and as someone who is putting value into developing a relationship with them.

Here’s what to do next: Reformulate your questions to include the ideas we’ve listed above, and start asking them to this next class of prospects.  What I predict you will discover are better, more in-depth, and more honest answers that give you the tools you need to create more individualized recruiting approaches for each prospect.

This generation of student-athlete and their parents differ greatly from those that you may have previously recruited.  Failure to adjust the way you communicate with them will likely make convincing them to come to your college a failed effort, as well.

Want a more personalized assessment of what you and your athletic department need to do to address objections and answer questions for this next class of recruits?  Dan and his team of experts is ready to help: Ask us about becoming a client or hosting an On-Campus Workshop by emailing him directly at dan@dantudor.com.

When Your Timeline Doesn’t Match Your Prospect’s TimelineMonday, January 14th, 2013

They are common problems we see unfolding this time of year:

You had set a deadline for your prospect to make a decision by last week, but mom and dad just emailed you to tell you that they really need to visit just one more campus at the end of the month.

You have a verbal commitment from a prospect, and you just got an email saying that they’re having second thoughts and are going to talk to the other coach again before they make their final decision.

You think you have until late Winter to bring one of your prime recruits on campus, but they’ve decided (unbeknownst to you) that they want to make their final choice in the early Fall, and surprise you with an email announcing their decision before you even have the chance to get them to campus.

Any of these scenarios sound familiar to you, Coach?

It all comes down to this reality: Your timeline as a college coach doesn’t match your prospect’s timeline that he or she has set in their mind.

There are two different ways this usually materializes in the recruiting process.  The most common is that you have a timeline that you need your recruit to comply with sooner rather than later, and your prospect is dragging their feet.  However, there is a more treacherous timeline scenario that sneaks-up on coaches, too: Your prospect is going to make their decision earlier than you think, and you never get to fully recruit them because they make their decision much earlier than expected.

For the coach that mishandles either situation, the results can be devastating to a recruiting class.

Here’s are some solid basic strategies we can recommend in approach each unique scenario:

You need your prospect to make a decision, but they aren’t ready and have told you they need “more time”

  • First, understand that a consistent talk-track of messages, starting as early as possible in the process, will put you in the best position to make requests of your recruit for a final decision.  Inconsistent contact, conversely, will make your prospect read your sudden request for a final decision as “pressure”, and may end up being a reason they choose to go with a competitor.
  • As early as possible in the process, ask your recruit what their timeline is for making a final decision.  If you’ve been through our On-Campus Workshop training, I’d recommend using the version of that question that we included in the list of questions we see as essential to ask your prospect.  Establishing the date that your prospect (or their parents) have set in their mind as the timeline for making their final decision is critical to effectively managing the entire recruiting process, and you are the only one who has the power to get agreement with your prospect on what that date is.
  • Whatever date they finally give you, I always recommend – based on my experience of watching the recruiting process unfold hundreds and hundreds of times – to assume that their final decision is actually going to occur 30 days prior to the date that they tell you.  I don’t believe they are being devious when they give you one date and then end up deciding earlier, it just seems to be a very normal occurrence with this generation of recruit.  They feel like making their decision earlier than first thought, and act on that impulse – sometimes with the first available coach that asks them if they’re ready to commit.  Make sure you are that coach.
  • If they are telling you that they still need more time, you have two choices: Give them more time, or set a firm deadline and require a decision:
    • If you want to give them more time, make sure you do so by getting an agreement on when their decision will be made.  Keep in mind that they may be avoiding giving you a firm decision because they’ve already made a decision not in your favor, and they’re just too scared to tell you.  If that’s the case, you’ll see them hesitate in giving you a firm decision date.  That’s your cue for asking them, “It sounds like you have already made your decision…is that right?”  Getting a decision in this example is the priority, even if it’s not in your favor.
    • If you are ready for – and need them to make – a decision, you need to give them a fair but firm deadline.  My recommendation is 10-14 days from now.  Let them know that you don’t want to rush them or pressure them, so you’re giving them another two weeks to think it over.  That being said, ask them if they know what that decision is right now.  And, if they don’t ask them what are the big questions left in their mind that they’re still wrestling with…that’s an opportunity for a conversation between you and your prospect at a crucial time in the process.

You don’t want your prospects to decide on a competing program before you get the chance to sufficiently take them through your recruiting process

  • As early in the process as possible, as them what their timeline is for making a final decision.  If this is during their Sophomore or Junior year, ask again every six to twelve months (their answer will change each time, I guarantee it).  If this is during their Senior year, make sure you ask at least every three months (their answer will change each time, I guarantee it).
  • Re-read the first bullet point again.  It’s that important.
  • Tell them when you will be making your final recruiting invitations, telling them at what point (approximately) you will be wrapping-up your recruiting for their class.  The longer of a horizon that is, the better.  When you begin asking for a decision as that timeline draws to a close, you will not be viewed as “pressuring” them for a decision; rather, you will be seen as a coach who has been fair with them, and are just keeping your word as to when you would be done with the process.
  • A good general approach when it comes to that conversation: “Keith, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be wrapping-up our recruiting by the end of this coming October…maybe a little sooner.  So that’s why I want to keep track of where you’re at, what questions you have, and make sure we get you on campus soon so you can have lots of time to figure out if we’re going to be right for you.”
  • When that deadline comes, keep it.  Move on.  Not doing so will define you as someone not serious about what you’ve said in prior conversations, which opens you up to further negotiating and waffling down the line. (“Hey son, that coach caved when it came to the deadline he gave you…maybe we can work him over for some more money, too.  Just let dad handle everything, kiddo.”)

The bottom line for getting your prospect to come inline with your timeline is setting expectations early, and communicating throughout the process.  Done regularly, you’ll find this particular recruiting hurdle can be easily addressed time and time again.

Successful recruiting is all about strategy, and the right timing.  If you want to team with a group of professional researchers and recruiting experts to help you communicate with prospects more effectively, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com. We’d love to talk to you about the specifics of your program.

Plus, make plans to attend the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer!  It’s a massive gathering of coaches, recruiters and college marketing experts from around the country with one focus: Learn the latest and best recruiting approaches to take into the new year.  CLICK HERE to find out more, and reserve your seat soon!

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