Dan Tudor

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How College Coaches Can Profit From Watching “The Profit”Monday, October 27th, 2014

Most college coaches who have spent time in the private sector would agree that being successful in recruiting is a lot like being successful in business.

If you run your business the right way, profits will follow.  If you run an organized recruiting effort, you’ll get good recruits consistently, year after year.

Many businesses, like many coaching staffs, don’t organize themselves to operate profitably.  The results are dire: They struggle financially, jeopardize their personal relationships because of the stress, and often have to close their doors.  While the end results for a college coach may look a little different, the symptoms are identical: Struggling bottom-line results, increased stress, and losing out on the recruits you really want.

This is where a reality T.V. show might just be the answer you’re looking for – whether you’re a business owner, or a college recruiter.

The show I’m referring to is the CNBC hit, “The Profit”.  It features Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World, as a business success “prophet” who goes into a struggling business, invests his own money (much of the time in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) to take a controlling interest in the operation, and turn it around through a set of principles that he has developed, and uses in his own operation at Camping World.

It’s that set of principles that college coaches can learn from, as well as measure against the way they currently operate their coaching office and recruiting efforts.  On the surface, Lemonis’ principles seem to be very simple: People, Process and Product.  In every business he invests in, those three things have to be present in order to realize success.

And that’s where college coaches can take a page from his winning strategy to turn around their recruiting results.

As I take you through each of the principles laid out by this successful entrepreneur, ask yourself, “Is our coaching staff, and our recruiting approach, generating the kind of recruiting “profits” that are building our program’s brand and separating us from the competition?”

Your People

Do you have the right coaches on staff to be as successful as possible, and are you communicating with them to make sure that they have what they need to get the job done?

Notice this set of principles doesn’t start-off with “stuff”. I didn’t ask how new your stadium is, or what your budget was, or the year you won your last conference title.  Frankly, those types of things become more of a hinderance than a help when it comes to what a coach talks about, or how they tell their story to a recruit.

What’s important is having the right people in place, not only from purely a coaching perspective, but also when it comes to communication ability, sales ability, and other traits that typically make-up successful coaches at the highest levels.  Do you have those people on your staff?  Are you one of them?  And if you aren’t, are you taking steps towards educating yourself and making yourself the best recruiter you can be?

If you don’t have the best people around you, and if you aren’t the most competent recruiter you can be, it’s going to be impossible to succeed over the long haul.  That’s true in business, and it’s true in college athletics.

Your Process

If you looked at the way you’ve laid out your recruiting process, could you say that it reflected these traits?

  • You have an agreed upon plan of attack when it comes to the geography you and your staff will be recruiting, as well as who is best to recruit those areas.
  • When you scout prospects, everyone is using the same measurement metrics that reflect the criteria for a top prospect as outlined by the head coach.
  • Are you giving your recruits a consistent, compelling message that tells the story of your program and answers the question, “why they should want to compete for you?”
  • Are you setting-up fair but firm deadlines that put you in control of the process?
  • Is your staff evaluating how a previous recruiting year went, and what can be done to change and improve the results for the next year?

The process you put in place is critical to your success as a recruiter.  Without a good process, all the talented people in the world won’t matter.

Your Product

In one sense, you might say that this is an area where you, as a college coach, have no control when it comes to the quality of “the product” you can give a recruit.  You can’t control the type of facilities you have, what they look like, the location of your college, whether it’s blazing hot in the Summer or icy cold in the winter…all of that is out of your hands.

But let’s choose to focus on the parts of your product that you do have control over:

  • The coordinated effort with your team to wow a recruit you bring to campus, making them feel like your team wanted them the most, and are the easiest to get to know.
  • How you interact with the parents of your recruit, and what you do with the separate from their son or daughter during that recruiting visit.
  • The tone of your voice on phone calls, and how you personalize a recruiting letter.
  • Using the largest and most influential public relations resource that you have at your fingertips to engage with your recruits, showing them what your program’s personality is all about.

Coach, don’t get sucked into the false assumption that it’s only the size and quality of your facility that sways recruits into choosing one college program over another.  That’s false.  You can counteract any shortcoming when it comes to something like facilities, location or your team’s recent performance by nailing those four important parts of your overall product.

I’m not suggesting that any coaching staff or athletic department can be turned around magically overnight with just a few simple tweaks.  However, these three areas are a good foundational starting point when it comes to figuring out what to focus on when you’re looking to include you program’s recruiting performance.

And the best part? There won’t be any reality T.V. cameras following you around while you do it!

7 Things Leg Defense Taught Me About Being A Successful College RecruiterMonday, October 27th, 2014

by Tyler Brandt, National Recruiting Coordinator

One of the most difficult things to do in wrestling is beat a good leg rider! The history of wrestling has proven that when you’re really good (I mean exceptionally good) at using the legs to score you become a formidable opponent. I think there is a simple explanation for this, even though the real life application is very difficult to execute. One of the reasons good leg riders have so much success is that they …

CONTROL THEIR OPPONENT’S POSITION & KNOW WHERE THEY’RE GOING NEXT!!

What this really means is that the offensive wrestler, or the “leg rider”, not only is in control of their opponents current position, they’re dictating the position they’ll be in next and are prepared to control that position as well. It’s as simple as being 3 moves ahead in a chess game, the person who is playing from behind is always in a tough position to get the win.

The key to successfully defending a leg rider is to take the control away from them. As soon as you control the leg rider’s position and start dictating the action you begin to regain control and can escape or reverse your opponent to start getting the match under your control. These 7 things taught me how to successfully defend the legs and also taught me how to build a Nationally Ranked team at the collegiate level through solid, sound recruiting practices:

How to Defend The Legs:

  1. DON’T LET EM’ IN!!
  2. Control the position you’re currently in so your opponent can’t improve his
  3. Set-up your opponents next move by adjusting your position so he has to adjust his
  4. When he adjusts his position use your technique to attack and regain control
  5. Don’t panic if it doesn’t work – there is always another time and another technique
  6. Don’t Give In – The Period Is Always Almost Over & You Get A Re-Start
  7. Learn from what just happened so you don’t get in that position again

How I Recruited at the College Level Like I Was Defending The Legs:

  • I kept objections from being objections before they became objections
  • I controlled the direction of the conversation so it never went in the wrong direction
  • I asked the right questions at the right time gets the right answers
  • Since I knew the right questions to ask – that meant I also knew how to answer it
  • I never panicked – I was smart enough to hire TCS who always had the right response
  • I never gave in – I kept communicating! The right message at the right time for long enough flat out WORKS!
  • I listened more than I talked – what they just said matters & dictates the direction of the conversation.

A former college assistant coach of mine said “wrestling is like being in construction – there is a tool & a technique for everything to make it easier!” That’s absolutely correct, if you are open minded, willing to look at what others in your field are doing and why they’re successful. Remember, if you had all the answers then you wouldn’t lose a competition. Not having the answers and even losing have their place in the development of you, your program and your athletes.

Please email me at tyler@dantudor.com and we can talk about creating the best recruiting class you’ve ever had!

Airport Restrooms, and What They Teach Coaches About RecruitingMonday, October 20th, 2014

As a frequent flyer, I have visited my share of airport restrooms.

It’s one of the worst parts of flying, to be honest.  Bathrooms don’t smell good, they are usually in need to some cleaning, they’re crowded, and sometimes just plain weird (if we ever meet, ask me about the time I walked into a crowded restroom at LAX and saw a man with his shirt off, washing himself and shaving his back. Wow.) They’re also incredibly “utilitarian” – meaning that you’re there to do one thing, and one thing only.  They serve a basic need, and don’t try to venture very far from that basic need.

Unless you travel through the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Restroom attendantWhen you walk into a restroom at CLT, you’re greeted by a smiling attendant like the one I had the pleasure of meeting on a recent trip visiting clients along the East coast.

The bathrooms at Charlotte International are clean.

When you’re ready to wash your hands, you’re often offered a paper towel by the attendant, as well as a small cup of mouthwash or a breath mint.  The whole time, the attendant is usually politely wishing people safe travel, and asking them about their day.

Their tip boxes are usually full, deservedly so.

So, why in the world am I talking about airport bathrooms with college coaches?

Because it’s important that coaches who want to be serious recruiters understand the important mistakes that get made on a regular basis.  And, because the similarities between your run-of-the-mill airport bathroom, and the challenge you have in separating yourself from your recruiting competition, are many.

  • Most airport bathrooms look the same. So do most campus recruiting visits.
  • Most airport bathrooms make you notice what’s wrong with them instead of what’s right with them.  So do most recruiting messages you send to student-athletes.
  • Most airport bathrooms are dull, making you want to do what you need to do and then get out.  That’s how most prospects treat your recruiting phone calls.
  • Most airport bathrooms are a necessary evil for an airline traveler. So is the closing process through the eyes of a prospect and his or her parents, as a coach is either pressuring them to make a commitment before they’re ready or not adequately outlining what the prospect should do down the stretch.

Now, what you might be expecting at this point is a list of what you should do next.  You might be hoping to see a series of tips that have worked for other coaches, guaranteed to work no matter what campus you’re coaching at or how well your team did last year.

Sorry, that’s not the point of this article.

I want you to ask yourself, or have a conversation with your coaching staff or athletic department, some important questions about how you are executing your recruiting plan:

  • Ask yourself about your campus visits, whether they’re unofficial or official (and by the way, as early as recruiting is getting, your unofficial visit really might be your official visit!). Do you know the worst thing your visit experience can offer a visiting recruit and his or her family?  The exact same thing the last two visits they went on offered. If your current visit looks, sounds and feels like the visit you went on as a college prospect waaaay back when, then that’s a problem.
  • Ask yourself about the recruiting messages that you’re putting into the hands of your recruits.  Specifically, ask the questions that I’ll bet you’ve never ever really sat and thought about: “What are my recruits saying about my message right now?” And after you’re done answering that question, “Did that message prove to him or her that my program should be the obvious choice when it’s all said and done?”  Your answers are important, because just like that airport bathroom, your prospect is hyper aware of what’s wrong with you instead of what’s right with you.
  • Ask yourself how you’re making your recruit desperate to pick up the phone the next time you call.  Because, quite honestly, that’s what recruiting calls are all about: Getting them to pick up the next time you call them! What about your phone calls are so unique, so interesting, and so compelling that your recruits are looking forward to the next time you call?  And if you can’t come up with anything, what are some non-traditional, slightly off-the-wall ideas that you can use to separate yourself from other recruiting phone calls your recruits are getting.  Just like one airport taking the unique step to staffing their busy restrooms with friendly attendants, mouthwash and breath mints, you can find unique ways to approach your recruits creatively – if you’re willing to take a fresh look at the way you do things, and not be afraid to do things that aren’t the traditional way you’ve done them before.
  • Ask yourself how well you guide your prospect (and his or her parents) through the process of making a final decision.  Are you willing to be involved in that conversation, or are you too timid to lead that discussion?  Are you willing to help them through the decision making process, or are you simply going to set a deadline and leave it at that?  Are you comfortable in leading a closing discussion – the ultimate necessary evil in the recruiting process – with your prospects, Coach?

Those four questions, along with your four answers, are some of the cornerstone philosophies that you need to define for yourself if you’re going to become a serious, consistent and successful recruiter.  The easy thing to do is not spend a small part of your day coming up with great answers to those four important questions.  Do the hard thing, Coach…fight hard to not settle for ordinary in a world of recruiting approaches that all look the same.

Want more great ideas on how to stand out from the crowd? We’ve written several popular recruiting workbooks that have helped coaches all over the country re-define their approach and become more successful recruiters.  Click here to order your copies today, Coach!

Two Critical Money Questions Your Prospects Are AskingMonday, October 13th, 2014

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Creating a Story About Money for Your Recruits (and Their Parents)Monday, October 13th, 2014

I’m writing this article using wifi that I bought from U.S. Airways at 32,000 feet.

For the convenience of Internet access, I forked over $27 for a three and a half hour flight.  If you do the math, that’s insane.  That’s almost what I pay for high speed wifi at my office for an entire month!

Why is that?  What makes the wifi thirty times more valuable on a plane than it does at your office?  What part of our brain justifies that kind of expense?  (I’m guessing it’s the same part of the brain that tells us it’s o.k. to pay $7.50 for a bottle of water in your hotel room).

Are we really just telling ourselves “stories” about money?  And, if we are, are there some secrets that college coaches can steal to make selling walk-on, non-scholarship or partial scholarship opportunities an easier sell with this generation of high school prospects and their parents?

Marketing expert and author Seth Godin has some ideas on where to start if we want to really understand how to think about money, cost, and the value of something like college tuition:

“Money’s pretty new. Before that, we traded. My corn for your milk. The trade enriches both of us, and it’s simple.

Money, of course, makes a whole bunch of other transactions possible. Maybe I don’t need your milk, but I can take your money and use it to buy something I do need, from someone else. Very efficient, but also very abstract.

As we ceased to trade, we moved all of our transactions to the abstract world of money. And the thing about an abstract trade is that it happens over time, not all at once. So I trade you this tuition money today in exchange for degree in four years which might get me a better job in nine years. Not only is there risk involved, but who knows what the value of anything nine years from now is?

Because of the abstraction and time shift, we’re constantly re-evaluating what money is worth. Five dollars to buy a snack box on an airplane is worth something very different than five dollars to buy a cup of coffee after a fancy meal, which is worth something different than five dollars in the grocery store. That’s because we get to pretend that the five dollars in each situation is worth a different amount–because it’s been shifted.”

Are you starting to see how this is applicable to college recruiting?

It’s not just applicable in a theoretical sense, it has immediate real world application if you’re serious about approaching the “money conversation” with your prospects.

So, with that in mind, there are some questions that every virtually every parent and prospect you are recruiting asks, and what each coach needs to answer when it comes to determining the right way to construct a conversation about money with his or her recruits.  Here are the questions (many of them courtesy of Seth) that run through your prospects’ minds on a regular basis (along with some insights on how to formulate your answers):

  • How much pain am I in right now?  As I interpret this and apply it to the college recruiting process, I think of the family is convinced a full-ride offer is right around the corner, which makes your partial offer seem almost insulting.  “Why should I pay for something that I feel I should be getting for free?” If that’s the place you find yourself in with some of your recruits, the answer to your prospect’s question, “How much pain am I in right now?” is “Not all that much”.  Fast forwarding to late in the process, when the prospect and parent is more desperate for a viable college option, their story about money might be changing.  Maybe now, they’re willing to look at a partial offer.  If you’re a D1 coach with full scholarships to give, you know your top recruits are asking a version of this question, as well.  Selling an early verbal commitment is tougher than it is a week before it’s time for them to sign their Letter of Intent.  We all start with this question when we’re determining whether or not it’s smart to buy something.  For your prospect, you need to help them answer that question, as best as possible.
  • Do I deserve this?  That question could come from a positive or negative point of view. Most recruits have the mindset that they deserve everything you have to give them.  They might also be asking that question negatively, as if to say “Don’t I deserve something better?” The big point you should take away is the idea that they are constantly trying to assess their place in your world, and more specifically in your program.  How are you showing them that they do deserve what you’re offering, and going into detail about why they should want it, is critically important in the recruiting process when it comes to justifying cost to a recruit and his or her parents.
  • What if the coach is trying to trick me, and am I smarter to hold out for more money later in the process?  That’s a legitimate question. Prospects and their parents are more savvy than ever about the process, and have heard lots of stories about similar recruiting situations and will use that info to construct their strategy in dealing with you and your offer.  We’ve talked in detail in our On-Campus Workshops with athletic departments about the incredible importance of honesty, and how prospects will be actively looking for demonstrated proof of it throughout the process.  As a strategic approach to justifying the “purchase” of your offer to play for your program, ask yourself: “What am I doing to demonstrate that I’m the most honest coach they’re dealing with?”  That’s an important question, Coach.
  • What will my friends think?  I believe, at the core, this question drives much of their earlier recruiting behavior.  “I’m not going to reply to this coach, they’re from a Division III school.”  Or, “I’ve played club ball for the last seven years, and my club coach says I shouldn’t take partial offers seriously.”  Or, “That coach is struggling. Would I look stupid if I committed to them, even though I really liked the guys on the team?”  Or, “Those other parents’ daughters all went to BCS-conference schools.  What are they going to think if we take the offer from this smaller D1?”  Sound familiar?  Just know, Coach, that this is a question going through the heads of all of your prospects and their parents early on in the process.  It’s up to you to tell them why they should want the opportunity to come to your school, to play for you, and to leave with a degree from your school.  Not telling them what you have, but telling them why they should want it.  There’s a big difference, Coach.

Money is not the real obstacle when it comes to convincing a prospect that your offer is a good one.  Defining the value of that offer, and explaining to them why they should want it, is the real secret.

Stop focusing on the dollar amount.  Start focusing on creating a story about the value of your opportunity, and watch how different your conversation is with each of your recruits.

Clients and Premium Members:  Click here for two additional questions that get asked during the buying process as you’re recruiting your prospect.  It’s important detail that we want you to know about, and will help you formulate a complete strategy on the question about telling the right story of your offer, money, and why your prospect should want to take advantage of it.

Want to find our more about becoming a Premium Member?  Click here.

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, September 8th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Before becoming the 1980 US Olympic hockey coach, Herb Brooks was head hockey coach at the University of Minnesota from 1972-79. They were last place in the Conference when he took over and winners of 3 NCAA championships in the seven years.

Brooks was passionate about recruiting. He and his staff worked hard on it and it paid off. Herb identified Neal Broten as a primary recruit as Neal was going into high school. Herb would later say Neal was the best 9th grade hockey player he had ever seen. For three years Herb had his assistant go to northern Minnesota every week to watch Neal play. Three straight years.

It paid off as Neal signed a scholarship with Minnesota. In his freshman year he broke the Gophers’ assist record and scored the winning goal in the 1979 NCAA championship. Herb would later say that Neal was the best player he ever coached at Minnesota.

Neal would later win the inaugural Hobey Baker Award as the best player in the country. After winning he said that it should’ve gone to his brother Aaron, who had a better season. Aaron was also a remarkable player for the Gophers.

Herb created a dynasty at Minnesota and then made the run to the Gold at the 1980 Games by recruiting top talent and recruiting for values. Values like the humility Neal Broten had when he honestly said his brother should have won the player of the year award. Neal was incredibly talented but so well liked by his teammates because he was always looking to set them up for scores and never got the big head.

Neal is the only hockey player ever to win a NCAA title, Olympic gold medal, Hobey Baker Award, and Stanley Cup. Players of talent and character like that are the ones you identify early and recruit hard, because they are the program changers. The Minnesota staff stayed on him hard for three years as Herb was ahead of his time. Even back in the ’70’s he would identify talent early and take dead aim on it.

Charlie can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com(574) 807 2279 or at his site stokethefirewithin.com

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

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

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

And that involves persuasion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Letter Of Intent Is Great – Do Recruits Have The Right Type Of Commitment?Monday, July 28th, 2014

by Tyler Brandt, National Recruiting Coordinator

In our world of instant media we have grown accustomed to seeing pictures of athletes sitting at tables signing their Letter of Intent and seeing the big proud smiles on kids’ and parents’ faces. Then we click over to the college website and see an article on the new athlete that just “committed”to their college and their program. The question I always asked and answered before I signed any athlete was:

Did They Have The Right TYPE of Commitment to my College and Program to Sign Them!

The three types of commitment that you are looking for are:

1)    Affective

2)    Continuance

3)    Normative

Affective commitment means they have an affection for what you do. This is an important part of finding the right fit because it speaks to style and philosophy. When we look at the athletes and coaches struggling at one school or on a specific team, they have had success somewhere else. The struggle invariably can be tracked back to a poor match in coaching style and philosophy. You need to know if the athlete is connected and committed to your program’s philosophy and style which ultimately is an extension of you.

Continuance commitment means they will not quit because they fear what they would lose if they stopped. These athletes have a clear understanding of their internal connection to their sport and refuse to stop or quit because of the loss they would feel. This eliminates many of the time consuming and emotionally draining conversations with athletes that want to quit because they THOUGHT they wanted to be there and could hack it.

Normative commitment means they stay committed because they have an obligation to fulfill. Regardless of the reason, to the athlete, they have created and wish to fulfill the obligation they have with the sport. It could be to the program for the opportunity or the college for the scholarship or their parents to get the degree. The “what” doesn’t matter, the fact that they will stay committed does.

Understanding these three types of commitments as a coach is critical to ensuring that you will bring the right athletes to your program and that they will have persistence and complete their degree. You will find three things improve immediately as you create and qualify the three types of commitment in your athletes:

1)    Retention Rates

2)    Graduation Rates

3)    Talent pool on your team

A Bonus 4th improvement will be your recruiting program will improve. You will not have to recruit large classes because of the large number of athletes that stay all four years. As they stay in your program they learn your system and improve, creating a more talented team and athletes that have to earn spots.

If you are not currently creating the connection in your recruiting program to these three types of commitment, you are making your job harder and missing out on the RIGHT athletes for your program.

Earning the Trust of Your RecruitMonday, May 26th, 2014

Most of us don’t like interacting with people we don’t feel like we can trust.

The reason we don’t trust the telemarketer that calls us is because we don’t know her, and it doesn’t feel right that a complete stranger should be calling us at home to sell us something.

The reason we don’t click on 999 out of 1,000 pop-up advertisements on the Internet is because we remember the time we were burned before when we accidentally downloaded a virus on our computer.

The reason we don’t like to go shopping for new cars is because we know we’re going to feel pressured by a salesman who gives us the feeling that he’s being less than truthful about the promises he’s making to us.

And that gut reaction we all have to each of those three scenarios has big implications for college coaches.

If this is the time of year you might find yourself reassessing how you interact with your recruits, and figuring out how effective it is (or isn’t), it’s important to understand that the same factors you use to judge the trustworthiness of telemarketers, pop-up ads, or car salesmen, are being used by your teenage prospects – and their parents – to judge your trustworthiness.  And, like you, they’re figuring out whether or not to have a serious interaction with you based on whether they feel like they can trust you or not.

This is important to understand, Coach: The decision to interact happens before your recruit actually listens to what you have to say. How you construct your letters, what you say in your emails, and how you interact with them on social media will determine whether or not you get to communicate with that recruit.

And you might be surprised at how many different types of interactions factor into whether or not your recruit chooses to trust you enough to communicate with you.  Here are a few of the most important:

Your direct interaction between you and your recruit: Did the recruit see how you coached at a camp they attended? How did you act when they watched practice during that unofficial visit?  The way your recruit feels about that momentary experience will alter their interaction with you, either positively or negatively. If you’re reaching out and communicating with them for the first time, you can bet that the way your message is worded is going to determine whether or not they feel you’re worth the interaction.

What they’ve heard about you:  If your recruit heard good things about you from people he or she knows, the entire relationship changes. You automatically get the benefit of the doubt.  So, it begs the question: What are you doing to make sure that your current team, former recruits, and the parents of all of those student-athletes, are saying good things about you to your future prospects?  (It’s an important question, because we find that they are almost always talking about you.  The only thing you can control is what they’re saying).

What your website, social media and email templates look like:  When they look at those properties, what is the brand image that comes to their mind?  If you’re a smaller school, do you look like the bigger brand programs?  If you’re one of the bigger programs, how are you separating yourself from your other big-name competitors?  Serious question, Coach.

Your tone of voice:  This has everything to do how your message (your letter, your email, your phone call) sounds.  When you’re writing your message, does it sound like you would if you were talking face to face with your prospect?  Or, does it sound so formal that your recruit is going to know it’s the typical, mass mail, non-personal message that they’re used to?  Also, are you patient and not rushing your recruit?  Are you pushing too early?  Urgency rarely leads to increased trust from your recruit.  Make sure you are messaging your recruit the right way.

Whether you sound scarce, or plentiful: Ever wonder why we recommend a fair but firm deadline in most circumstances?  Because it works.  If you’re the coach that gives a recruit all the time in the world, and lets them know that they can make the decision any time they want, expect to come across as a program that will take anyone at anytime.  For most coaches, that doesn’t work.  You need to find some kind of “scarcity” to talk about with your recruits.  Scarcity leads to action.

The size of the commitment you’re asking for: If you’re asking me to reply to your email early in the recruiting process, there’s a good chance that’s going to happen.  On the contrary, coaches who want long conversations on the phone right away struggle to get a recruit to respond.  Coaches who jump into an early conversation about a campus visit might be going too fast, too soon.  Be mindful of what you’re asking them to do, and how early in the recruiting process you’re asking for it.

Your offer:  What’s in it for your recruit to listen to what you’re asking them to commit to?  It’s a simple but serious question.

Their fear:  As we talk about extensively in our On-Campus Workshop that we conduct for college athletic departments, your recruit’s fear is present throughout the recruiting experience.  What are you doing to answer that fear?  How are you doing that early on, as well as late in the process?

What they see about you online:  What they read when they Google you, and how well you post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, matter.  It matters a lot, Coach.  Your online presence is one of the most immediate impressions that gets formed by your recruit.  And in most cases, it helps to determine how much interaction they wish to have with you.

How aligned with them you are:  How are you proving that you are just like they are, and understand where they’re coming from?  More importantly, how are you communicating that?

Your honesty:  This generation of recruits and their parents are actively searching for coaches who prove they are honest.  It’s vital that you demonstrate that honesty, and showcase it to them through your messaging.  You need to repeatedly demonstrate that you are the coach they can trust.  The coaches who are trusted get the best athletes at the end of the day.

How consistent you are in your recruiting efforts: How long have you been showing up? That’s an important question in the mind of your prospect.  When we work with clients, and take their team through a series of focus group questions to determine how best to help formulate their recruiting strategy, one of the most common themes that stands out as being vitally important to recruits is how consistent a coach is in the way they communicate.  If you are the coach who sends a couple of messages at the start, and then is hit-and-miss during the rest of the recruiting process, you’re probably going to get labeled as inconsistent.  And as our research shows, that’s going to hurt you as your prospect reaches their final decision.

Since you’re going to be judged by this generation of recruits, doesn’t it make sense to make sure you’re taking an intelligent, thorough approach when it comes to sending out a message that prompts interaction?

That’s how trust with your recruit is built.  Start now, Coach.

Need help determining the best way to earn trust and create interactions with your recruits?  We successfully work with clients day in and day out throughout the recruiting year in helping them create winning recruiting strategies.  You’ve just read some of the factors we make sure are working in our clients’ favor.  Are you ready to let us help you, too?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to start a conversation about how we would do that for you and your program.

3 Things You Can Do – But Shouldn’t Do – as a College RecruiterMonday, February 24th, 2014

College coaches have an increasing amount of freedom to recruit earlier, more creatively and more aggressively than every before.

But just because there are an increasing number of things a coach can do, it doesn’t mean that they should do them.

And therein lies the problem:

So many coaches we encounter as we first start work with them on a close, one-on-one basis sometimes show a lack of discretion when it comes to what they send to a recruit.  The problem with that is how this generation of recruits take-in information.  With social media, for example, our latest research (click here for the free download) shows that there are a variety of ways they want to interact with coaches, but it depends on the individual social media site.  If a coach carelessly uses one rule and applies them to different social media platforms, they risk alienating their recruit.  I’ve seen it happen, and you’ve seen it happen.

Since we’re entering the time of year when coaches don’t want to make a mistake, I wanted to outline three things we recommend coaches avoid doing, even though they have complete freedom to do them:

Be careful with social media.  Since I just used that as an example of a common mistake area for college coaches, let me give you an example of an error that can be made with this continually evolving medium.  The NCAA allowed coaches to use the social media tool, SnapChat.  Somehow, the governing body that sets the recruiting boundaries for college coaches felt it was appropriate to let coaches send messages that quickly are erased forever to recruits, who can do the same in their replies to coaches (what could go wrong with that scenario?)  Is it popular with high school and college-age kids?  Yes.  Does that mean an adult who is not their friend should use ShapChat to communicate with them?  No.  No.  A thousand times no.  Per the social media research we referenced earlier, the vast majority of today’s teens don’t want their social media world invaded by coaches – especially at the very start of the process.  Please don’t make the mistake of believing that just because your teenage prospects are ShapChatting, Facebooking, and Tweeting on a minute-by-minute basis that they want you to be included in that small, tight-knit group of peers that make up their social media audience.

Don’t shrink away as they get closer to their decision.  College coaches tend to assume that because a prospect has been to campus, and because they’ve received a short series of letters or emails, or because you’ve already talked to them on the phone, a prospect and their parents don’t need to hear from you down the stretch.  I think this is actually due to a coach feeling nervous about what their decision will be, and the tendency of a coach in that position is to shrink away and hope they don’t jinx a positive final decision.  Most of the time, that’s an incorrect tactic: Your prospect needs you to talk to them, ask them how they are making their final decision, and collaborate with them on the steps they’ll take as they make a final decision.  The other reason that makes it a smart move for a coach?  You’ll find out earlier if a recruit is going to tell you “no”.  That’s an important piece of information that any savvy recruiter should want to know.

Watch out for their coach’s influence.  More and more often, a high school or club coach is guiding decisions throughout the process.  The problem?  Many college coaches are making the choice to ignore their recruit’s coach, feeling like they don’t need to recruit them as they recruit the prospect.  Coaches who have that outlook are incorrect: Coaches are more influential than ever, and for 98% of the coaches who aren’t a part of a legendary program that just won it’s third straight national championship, justification for why you and your program are best is absolutely needed.  And, it needs to be done throughout the process.  True, you can choose to ignore this vital group of influencers, but you do so at your own risk (especially as it gets later in the process).

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but they are three areas of choice that a coach has that will affect their chances of signing upper-tier prospects.  But not over-stepping their boundaries in the world of social media, not becoming silent in the final stages of a prospect’s decision, and not ignoring your recruit’s coach, are all ways you can immediately improve the odds of bringing in those difference-maker recruits in this next class.

The question is: Will you choose to not do something you have the freedom to do?

Attending this June’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference is a must for any serious college coach who wants a more expanded list of what’s working, and what’s not, when it comes to cutting-edge techniques that make a difference in their recruiting results.  It’s a can’t-miss event!  Click here for all the details!

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