Dan Tudor

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Two Important Recruiting Lessons From Hanging Christmas LightsMonday, November 26th, 2018

In my family growing up, the weekend after Thanksgiving meant one thing.

After waking-up from your Tryptophan coma, you headed outside to hang Christmas lights. No whining, no excuses: You went full Clark Griswold, with whatever lights you had available.

Fast forward a few decades…

I like the way our house looks after the lights are up, but I really don’t like the work involved in getting them up. Balancing on an insanely tall ladder, untangling the wads of lights we cram into a storage tub for eleven months out of the year…it’s just a grind.

Like recruiting. College coaches like the idea of how a bunch of new, sparkling recruits would look stepping onto their campus in the future. But the grind of everything involved with putting together a great recruiting class is tough. Dragging down a big box of heavy, tangles lights isn’t what I want to do following a great Thanksgiving holiday, just like many coaches don’t relish the idea of doing everything necessary for a consistently good recruiting class.

But if they just made a few simple organizational changes, and maybe a tweak or two when it comes to their attitude as they’re facing their ongoing recruiting tasks, the results can totally change the direction of a program. Like the difference between a house lit up with holiday lights, compared to the one that isn’t.

Don’t worry about making the lights twinkle.

You know that little package of mystery bulbs that always comes with a new set of lights? They’re the Christmas light equivalent of laboring over your next Snapchat creating, or what font looks best on the special New Years postcard you’re getting ready to send to recruits.

Stop, Coach.

I don’t bother making the lights twinkle because it involves ripping your thumb apart trying to wire in the little replacement bulb. And then there’s the replacement fuses (those little silver things in the picture that look like miniature nuclear reactor cores)…I’m supposed to figure out how to open up the electrical plug and use my giant thumbs to change out those little things? Forget it.

Same should go for you, Coach. Unless you have a full compliment of interns, grad assistants, or some kind of super-human Director of Operations, don’t spend too much time on the creative part of your recruiting game. Be original and showcase your personality, absolutely. But that shouldn’t be the defining aspect of your recruiting message. In all my years of conducting focus group surveys for our clients or during our recruiting training workshops, I’ve never heard a kid say, “you know what?…the fact that their postcards looked so much better than all the other colleges who were recruiting me was the deciding factor. That’s why I came here.”

Focus more of your time on message consistency, and writing it in a more conversational tone. That will have far more payoff in the long run (and you also don’t have to worry about not feeling the love for all the hard work on those Snaps or postcard fonts).

If something isn’t working, ditch it.

Experiment with your most effective recruiting messaging. There is something to be said for a “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach – especially if you’re a new coach taking over a new program, and searching for the ‘right’ message. Or the ‘perfect’ message.

Stop, Coach,

It’s the recruiting equivalent to spending time trying to repair the strand that has half the lights not working (like I mine, which I discovered only after I had climbed eight feet up the ladder and risked my life getting them plugged in).

You have too much going on in your coaching life to labor over something that isn’t working. Ditch it. I’m not the homeowner who is going to check every single stupid bulb to try and find the one that’s causing the problem; instead, I’m going to run down to the hardware store to buy a replacement set of bulbs for $10.

Your time is too valuable, Coach, Search for efficiency and predictability in your recruiting efforts, and be very careful not to ignore the core work you need to do as a coach who has their career success largely dependent on how well you convince teenagers to say yes to you, and not one of your competitors. Search for the stuff that works, and actively search for the things that deserve to be trimmed from your weekly recruiting routine.

Me? The lights are up. It looks pretty good, if you ask me. Not perfect, but the imperfections won’t be noticed by the average person walking by…they’ll see the big picture of an above average Christmas light display. The same principal will hold true for you in your recruiting.

What do you need to stop spending time on, or eliminate altogether, when it comes to your program’s recruiting, Coach.

 

The 4 Step Process to a Winning Recruiting MessageMonday, November 12th, 2018

I am excited to announce that Busy Coach is partnering with Tudor Collegiate Strategies to bring “Organize Your Recruiting” seminars to the coaching community. 

My sole purpose for doing these workshops is to be able to be face-to-face and in person with coaches to help reduce their stress and get their recruiting better organized.

Today I wanted to share with you one small piece of what will be covered in these half day seminars. 

After hearing from dozens of coaches I speak with each week about how overwhelming social media can be, especially having to come up with new content that is relevant, I’ve created this information to help simplify social media for coaches. 

These coaches typically tell me that they just react to social media.  As things come up day to day, and if they remember, they will post something.  They are very reactive, live post-to-post with no intention or purpose.  Usually they are posting just because they feel they have to post just to keep up with everybody else.  Or they don’t want to bother with it so they just delegate to their Sports Info people (which I think is a HUGE mistake). 

Can you relate to this? 

In these calls with coaches, this is who I have seen this process I am about to map out to be the most helpful for:

  • Coaches who struggle to get out-of-state recruits to come and visit campus because the recruit thinks you’re too far from home. 
  • Coaches who struggle to get local recruits come to campus because they in their mind have already defined what you are about based on what they have heard.
  • Coaches looking for a way to stand out from their competitors (I talked to a D3 coach in the MA area last week who has 80 other schools around him that he is competing against.  Yikes!)

This is the general process I will take coaches through at this seminar:

  1. Establish your social media strategy.  Why are you going to be posting? What is the goal for your social media accounts?  In the research gathered working with Dan Tudor, it’s been found that the connection a recruit feels towards your team is the #1 reason a recruit uses to ultimately choose a school.  You can create that connection before they even come to campus by pulling back the curtain and giving them an inside look as to what your team is like through social media.
  2. Decide what platform you will use and the purpose.  For example, I would recommend you focus your content on twitter and/or Instagram directly toward recruits.  Use Facebook to target the parents.   
  3. Create your content 1 month at a time.
    1. Decide on a theme for the month to simplify the process. For example, your team, academics, location, your facilities, etc.
    2. Brainstorm all the areas that you could cover in 1 month talking about the theme you decided on. Also, make a list of all the questions that recruits tend to ask you throughout the recruiting process. 
    3. Look to see what your competitors are doing and borrow their best ideas. 
    4. Get help from your team. Give them the theme, all possible topic areas, and the list of recruit questions that you came up with.  Ask them what you should be talking about, what they love about their experience so far.  It is also helpful to give them some ideas of possible ways they can showcase the them (see below for some ideas). Then put them in charge of coming up with ways to showcase your team, school, or whatever through video, pics, quotes, etc.
    5. If you don’t want to do all of this, delegate it! Assign who will be responsible for collecting the information, posting the information, and storing them all in 1 file that you will have.  Keep in mind that you could have your players take charge of posting pictures and videos. 
  4. Bring up whenever you can in conversation with recruits to check out your social media accounts, so you keep connecting them to what it would be like to be on your team.
  5. At the end of the month, look at your numbers.  How many likes, shares, or comments did you get?  What method of delivery got the best results?  What time of day created the most engagement?  Etc.  Based on those numbers, you can decide what to improve on for the following month.
  6. Repeat the content creation procedure every single month and make all necessary improvements.

Here are some different Social Media Post Ideas to give to your team

  • Promo for a camp
  • Ask your audience to answer a fun question
  • Inspirational words / quote
  • Share what books you’re currently into
  • Share a piece of advice or fun life hack
  • “A day in the life of…”
  • Gather questions from your team or recruits and dedicate a post to your expert answers
  • Expose a new training method, or new service offered at your school
  • Offer audience a free resource you love
  • Take a poll
  • Offer a tip or a DIY. You take for granted all your knowledge and may think everyone knows what you know. But in reality, a simple tip can be very interesting content.
  • Breaking news
  • Behind the scenes photos during a fun event
  • Contest / Giveaway
  • Holiday post (if you’re near one in the schedule)
  • Re-post a fan photo
  • Offer a fun fact or stat
  • “This or That” comparison question, and ask audience for their engagement
  • An “ICYMI” (in case you missed it) post (referring to a preview post)
  • A meme!
  • Share the business of a friend/affiliate (good networking)
  • Brief video tutorial

At the end of the year after you have done this month by month, as you keep tweaking your content and method of delivery (video, picture, quote) for the best results, not only will you have significantly improved your social media engagement, but you now have a years’ worth of social media messages in a file for you to use again the next year. Now you don’t have to recreate the wheel and react to your social media ever again.

Keeping your social media content fresh, and consistent could be a never-ending challenge. Use the process I outlines above to tell the story of your program and it can really help to connect your recruits to your team and it will give them a reason to come and check out your campus.

At the seminars, we will actually go through the process and I will have a lot of examples, templates, and checklists already done for you so you can apply this to your program quickly. 

We will also at these seminars:

  • Map out your recruiting strategy and process from identification to commitment.
  • Figure out what can be improved, eliminated, delegated, and automated with your recruiting process.
  • Create a 52-week social media, email, and phone communication plan.
  • Put the most effective resources and processes in place to increase work efficiency and quality.
  • You will learn how to create conditions in your office environment that will make your success inevitable.
  • 4 things you can do to 10x how productive you are day by day with recruiting.

Join your fellow coaches for a great training experience!  For more information and details, you can e-mail me at mandy@dantudor.com with the subject line “Send me more workshop info!” If you want to register for a workshop, go to The 4 Step Process to a Winning Recruiting Strategy.

Sister Jean Isn’t a Good Luck Charm, She’s a StoryMonday, March 26th, 2018

Sister Jean isn’t a good luck charm.

The nun who prays and cheers at every Loyola University-Chicago men’s basketball game didn’t become the focus of the 2018 NCAA Tournament because of ‘luck’. She doesn’t think so, and I don’t think so.

She became the focus of the tournament because someone told us about her in the form of a story. (And a best-selling bobblehead didn’t hurt, either)

That’s normal, by the way. The media covering any event is always looking for interesting, compelling or inspiring stories associated with the sporting event itself, because they want to make it more than just about the game. It makes for entertaining television. The 2018 tournament has become all about the story that nobody wants to stop talking about: Sister Jean.

The thing is, how this whole story unfolded (and stuck) offers some pertinent lessons for college coaches. For years, we’ve preached that telling your recruit a story is one of the key aspects to getting them to seriously consider you as one of their options. When I make the case that Sister Jean isn’t a good luck charm, that wasn’t a knock against her as a person, and the inspiration she provides her university’s team. I’m pointing out that she has been made a central part of an inspirational story we’ve told ourselves about the team, their amazing run, and the role she plays in the story that has evolved around the team’s play in the NCAA Tournament.

So if I were going to give you a roadmap of how you should tell that story, there’s no more perfect example than the story of Sister Jean.

You have to decide to tell your story. It starts there. The reason most recruiting plans don’t work? Nobody tells your story. Coaches most often revert to a list of statistics, facts and data that they relay to their recruit. Worse yet, most coaches stop telling their story way too early in the process, thinking (mistakenly) that once they actually begin speaking one-on-one with their recruit, they don’t need to continue telling their story. That’s an incorrect assumption that has cost coaches more than they know. Make a decision to tell your program’s story, tell it beginning sooner rather than later, and keep going.

There’s always more to tell. Like I mentioned, Sister Jean now has a popular selling bobblehead. Word is, she’s been a ‘thing’ all around the Loyola-Chicago campus for years. She regularly prays with students, and her pre-game blessing on the team her college is about to play includes her exclusive who-to-watch list for the other team.

My point is this: You can’t just tell one aspect of your program’s story. Just like Sister Jean’s story, your program has a lot of layers to it. In one exercise we regularly take athletic department coaching staffs through during our On-Campus Recruiting Workshop, we have coaches take one of their top objections they face in recruiting, and turn it into part of their positive story. Each campus is different, of course, but most staffs come up with eight or more topics, or answers, to the objection that they were convinced was going to stop them from getting the athletes they want – usually in a matter of two or three minutes. Don’t tell just one story, and don’t think for a second that I’d accept an excuse that ‘our program just doesn’t have that much going on.’ You do.

Look for the emotional connection. Just like Sister Jean at Loyola-Chicago, your program’s ’emotional connection’ might just be something simple that you experience every day on campus. That connection could be right under your nose. When you’re telling your story, ask yourself what the emotional connection is when you are about to write your message to your prospects. I’m not saying you need one every time (Loyola-Chicago does actually play basketball games, and they have to outmatch their opponents, and win the game…that’s factual and practical, not emotional) but it does require you focus on a central theme that ties into your recruit’s emotional motivation for putting you on their list and, ultimately, choosing you.

We look for emotion in today’s culture as a way to assign value to what we want to align ourselves with. Whether its a political cause, what brand of coffee you drink, or whether your favorite team has a 98-year old nun cheering and praying for your team. Emotion draws us towards something. The lack of emotion causes us to lose interest.

That’s bad for television ratings, and it’s bad for recruiting.

Sister Jean isn’t good luck. She’s a great person, with a big heart, and a great story.

Looking for creative ways to weave your unique story into your outgoing message to recruits? Make plans on attending this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. You will be treated to some of the most creative ideas available, and come away with a new sense of mission and purpose when it comes to telling your story the right way to your next class of recruits. Click here to get all the information, and to register!

40 Ways to Craft Better Recruiting Stories for Your ProspectsMonday, August 21st, 2017

Not all will apply to you, but most of them will.

  1. Decide what your brand is all about. Define it.
  2. List three things you know your recruits don’t care about.
  3. Stop talking about those things. Immediately.
  4. Every year, read two books about marketing, sales, communication or branding. Start later today.
  5. One of those books should be this one. Its an easy read, but it will change the way you recruit.
  6. When you have an extra 17 minutes, watch the author teach you how to get your idea – and recruiting message – to spread.
  7. Tell your story in a variety of ways.
  8. That includes social media, but don’t make the mistake in thinking that’s all kids want or need. Far from it.
  9. Use Facebook if you want to tell your social media story to parents.
  10. Use Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter to tell your social media story to your recruits.
  11. If you aren’t sending old fashioned mail to recruits, your competition is sending it thanks you.
  12. In any story you tell, how you construct it matters.
  13. Listen to our special podcast episode on constructing a smarter, more cohesive, story for your recruits.
  14. Tell them very little about your school and your program when you first reach out to them.
  15. Remember: They don’t care about you (yet), and are usually hoping someone else recruits them eventually.
  16. (Assuming you believe #15, how does that change the tone and focus of your first few messages?)
  17. They’ll believe what the Freshmen on your team tell them way more than what you tell them.
  18. Consistency > Volume.
  19. What would your current team send out to their friends back in high school to get them to come play for you? That might be a worthwhile thing to ask them.
  20. Ask questions in when you tell your story. But make sure their answers aren’t the “right” ones. (Let me explain).
  21. Don’t be afraid to talk about the scholarship you want to give, or the cost of your school, early on with parents.
  22. Outline what’s in it for them if after they verbally commit to you. What would they get to do next with you?
  23. Don’t give up on kids who don’t seem to be engaged with your story. Many are still listening, just not responding yet.
  24. Don’t worry if they don’t seem to “love” you yet as you’re telling them your story.
  25. The campus visit is the most vital aspect of your story. How is it a different feel than your competition’s?
  26. Your story needs to talk about a deadline. Fair, but firm. Don’t be afraid of establishing one.
  27. At this point, are you still remembering to center everything around #1? It matters to your recruits!
  28. Stop making recruiting the last thing you do every day. It should be a priority for you. Schedule time for it.
  29. Look for objections, and happily and enthusiastically address them with your recruit.
  30. As it gets later in the recruiting process, continue to tell your story.
  31. What we said earlier about consistency holds true late in the process: They need you to tell them why to pick you.
  32. Your goal in telling a great recruiting story is to get them to campus. That’s where the decision is made.
  33. The later it gets in the process, the more they need you to ask them about their process for making a decision.
  34. Their decision is the central part of THEIR story. And they need you to play the role of asking them to commit.
  35. As the recruiting process moves forward, the story should get more and more narrow, focused on them specifically.
  36. Most parents will vote to have them stay close to home, or go to the school that costs less. UNLESS you tell them why your school is the better, smarter choice.
  37. Ask for the sale. Ask for the sale. Are you ready to hear them say yes? ASK FOR THE SALE.
  38. If they say “no”, it most likely just means “not yet”. Now ask them “why not?” That moves the story along.
  39. If they verbally commit with a “yes”, after the celebration, tell them it becomes official with you when they announce it publicly on social media. (I’ve heard the arguments against having them do that, but I’ve seen exponentially better results by following that course of action).
  40. Get an answer to this question from your prospect: “What were the three biggest reasons you said yes/no?”

Recruiting, like story telling, is a process. Respect that process, and manage it.

Watch what happens when you do.

 

Is Your Staff Spending too Much Time on “B” and “C” Priorities?Monday, December 19th, 2016

Mandy Green, Busy Coach

Is your program making the progress you want?  

If you were to do a time audit, where you track how much time you are spending on each task during the day, what would the result of your audit tell me?  Hopefully it would say that you are you spending 80% of your time on things that are progressing your team, recruiting, leadership, and relationships in your program forward.  

I have found that coaches often expend their best on “B” and “C” priorities because they seem urgent, and they give “A” priorities what’s left over.  

John Maxwell, in his book Developing The Leaders Around You, gave a good explanation of what “A”, “B”, and “C” priorities are. I changed his descriptions to make them more College Coach specific.    

“A” priorities are ones that move your program, athletic department, or job function forward. They break ground, open doors to new opportunities, or develop new markets.  They prompt growth, within your staff, your team, and in your program as a whole.  

“B” priorities are concerned with maintenance. They are required for things to continue to run smoothly, such as taking care of all of the details, answering recruiting letters or phone calls, and taking care of details.  They are things that cannot be neglected, but they don’t add value to the organization.  

“C” priorities are not important things such as checking social media, gossiping with co-workers, or any other task that really adds no value to your program.   

As you are getting ready tonight for going back into the office tomorrow, here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Make sure you know what your top priority activities are.  Make a list of tasks that you feel are program developing tasks.  
  2. From that list you just made, find 3 program growing activities that you could do during the week this week.  It could be something like reading a coaching or sales or leadership book, developing relationships with youth coaches who could help you by recommending better players, watching game video, or whatever you feel it is for your program.  
  3. Block off time as early in the day as possible where you will work on nothing else but those program growing activities.  
  4. At the end of the day tomorrow, reflect on how well you did.  What went well?  Did you stick to your plan or were you easily distracted?  What could you have done better?  

It is almost impossible to build your program into what it could be if you are choosing only to work on “B” and “C” priorities during the day.  You need to know what your growth priorities are, proactively schedule and fit them into your schedule, not allow yourself to get distracted until you have finished, then review and reflect at the end of the day so you can make any necessary improvements.   

If you would like more articles like this sent to your inbox every Sunday, email me at mandy@busy.coach and I will put you on my list.  If you want other articles like this or other productivity products that are made specifically for college coaches, go to www.busy.coach.  

Have a productive week!

Mandy Green

When Logic Fails with Your Recruit – and WhyMonday, October 24th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 10.03.37 PMI’m the most logical guy I know.

Seriously, I seldom make a mistake. I’m always pretty rational, and fairly grounded in reality. Just ask me, and I’ll tell you: I make pretty good decisions, and do it the right way.

Except when it comes to my justification for what shoes to keep wearing. And, it takes me a while to adapt to new technology once in a while, even though I know the reasons behind why I should make the switch.

And then there’s my inexplicable love of Starbucks iced tea. It’s my drink of choice when I’m on the road working with clients, leading a recruiting workshop, or even when I’m back at the office on a normal day. It makes no logical sense for a rational, grounded-in-reality guy like me, to pay $3.85 for a large iced tea.  It’s tea (wholesale cost…what, like $0.01 per serving?) and water. Add the cost of the cup (an added $0.02 per serving) and I walk into Starbucks, stand in line, and plop down my $3.85 every time, knowing that I just made a completely illogical, irrational, totally emotional buying decision.

And so do you.

And so do your recruits.

My point is this: Whatever your recruiting message is, if it’s focused solely on the logical argument that your school and your program are the best choice right out of the gate, you may be making a huge mistake. Not because your prospect doesn’t need that. They do. It’s just that it may not be the right time as you start the recruiting process.

Why? Because like all of us, they are focused on the illogical. I guess what I’m saying is that before deciding that you’re going to lay out a logical course of action for your recruit, you might want to thoughtfully consider whether a logical argument is what is needed.

  • We find that a lot of recruits have an irrational love of the status quo: They don’t want change, they don’t want to leave home, and they don’t want to be faced with making a lot of changes – despite what you can offer them.
  • Many times, your prospect are emotionally connected to the symbol of a particular college name, or a conference, or a division level. It happens a lot. A LOT. And we find that prospects don’t talk about it with you because they know it’s illogical, but it’s hard to break away from those feelings. Really hard. (Hard for mom and dad, too).
  • Along with that comes a kind of community affiliation. The idea that they can be a part of a tribe they’ve always dreamt about is a tough thing to give up. Even if there’s little chance it will happen, or even if it does, it won’t be a situation that benefits the athlete. You’re probably thinking of a past prospect who fit that description right now, aren’t you, Coach? Their decision made no sense.
  • We have discovered through our ongoing research that today’s prospects are driven by fear. How is your recruiting message helping to alleviate that fear?
  • Some prospects’ parents are jealous of the other family’s son or daughter that they played high school or club ball with…the one who got the early D1 verbal offer. And now you want them to take something less than what their friends received? What, you don’t think that they deserve the same thing? (You get the picture).
  • And, the truth is, even though they’re being nice to you, they may not care about you very much. Yet.

So, do you see what I’m talking about when I suggest that your logical approach may not be what is appropriate right away?

Yet, time after time, we see logical adults who are logical coaches approach a very logical process in very logical ways.

And that’s not very logical.

Can I suggest to you that you might need to make a completely illogical argument as to why that recruit belongs at your school playing for you? Breaking out of the status quo is hard, and they’re scared of leaving home. Well, have you ever made a passionate, mostly emotional case as to why going away to school is not only the smart thing to do, but the choice that is going to make them feel good about themselves in the long run? I think you should.

Take any argument you find yourself hearing from a recruit as to why you probably aren’t the right choice, and use that as the basis for making an emotionally charged, obviously passionate case for why they need to look at your program.

If not you, who? If not at the start, when?

When you bought your last car, did you study the facts and statistics first? Or did you picture yourself in the drivers seat, and think about how it was going to feel when your friends we’re impressed with your new ride? Yeah, I thought so.

Don’t feel dumb, that’s how we make buying decision. Have you watched car commercials? Have you ever seen them make a logical case with a lot of text on the screen? No. They’re full of beautiful people, with big smiles, with upbeat music, and fast edits.

It’s an appeal to our emotions. Once you get into the car dealership, and they turn up the heat, it’s all about the payments and interest rate. It’s all about the logic, at that point (but that point is at the end of the process, not the start).

My advice: Find ways, right away, to feed their emotions and make a personal connection rather than a logical case. What you’ll find is that in doing that, you set yourself up for having them listen to your logical case much more intently once you have that illogical, emotional connection.

Eggs, Soap and the Recruiting Myths You Choose to BelieveMonday, September 5th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 8.24.55 PMRemember when eating eggs was going to send you to an early grave? Think again.

And how you’d better be using anti-bacterial soap if you wanted to really, really, really clean your hands? Yeah, not so much.

Those are just two of a long list of things that were once accepted as scientific truth, only to be undone by changing information discovered at a later date.

However, the need to re-think what we’d now define as myths isn’t limited to breakfast foods and clean hands. No, there are plenty of old recruiting myths that are still held as firm truth by many college recruiters around the country. And unlike some of the other things we experience in our daily lives, these tales can really hamper effective recruiting – and, damage the chances for coaches to develop their careers.

Here are a few that I’d recommend you take a second look at, based on our focus group testing with the clients that we serve, and observing recruiting practices that just don’t result in effective results. This isn’t a complete list, but it’s a few that any smart coach should consider changing.

The myth that paper mail isn’t effective as a communication tool. Easily, this is the number one myth that I see coaches clinging to. Partly, I believe, because it gives them permission to eliminate the postage and materials cost from their budgets, and it also saves a lot of time (writing letters, even the printed ones that you used to send to 200 recruits at a time, took a heck of a lot of time, right Coach?)  But it’s exactly because of that second point that they’re so effective now with this generation; so many coaches have abandoned the practice because of their mythical belief that ‘this generation doesn’t read mail’ that the ones that do send it find kids will hold it as tangible proof that a coach is “serious about them.” (One thing I need to clarify: They will respond to well-written, engaging letters. If you are sending them stuff that sounds like traditional, boring, mass-mail messaging, then it doesn’t work).

The myth that small schools can’t get early unofficial visits. Can I talk to you coaches at Division II, Division III and NAIA programs for a moment? One of the things that is killing you right now is that you’re not acting like a D1 program when it comes to asking for visits. More and more prospects not only want to be invited for an unofficial visit, they expect it. And when you don’t extend that offer (usually by early Spring of their Junior year in high school, at the latest) they begin to develop their own campus visit list – and you probably aren’t on it. The myth that kids won’t make unofficial visits to smaller programs doesn’t have a basis in fact. If I’m talking to you right now, re-think your strategy on this one, Coach.

The myth that their high school and club coaches aren’t deeply involved in helping a recruit form an opinion about you. They absolutely are. Actually, I think you know that, right? But here’s the question, Coach: What part of your recruiting plan is actually addressing the type of ongoing, effective contact you have with this influential group? Can you show me – or others on your staff – how you are outlining an effective story to those coaches? I’m not talking about calling them or the times you bump into them at their practices or games…what are you telling them on an ongoing basis that gives them enough information to get them to the point where they think to themselves, “heck, I’d be crazy not to want to send my kids to their program.” Because that’s the standard they demand, especially if you aren’t a program that is going to make them look good when their athlete commits to you.

The myth that you might accidentally pressure them into committing. In other words, “If I ask them what their decision timeline is, or ask them if they feel like they’re ready to commit to your program, I’ll drive them away or force them to commit when they really don’t want to.” Let me ease your fears, Coach: You don’t have that power. You can’t trick a kid into committing to your full ride D1 offer, and you definitely can’t trick a kid into paying $30,000+ to attend your Division III university. Now, if the issue really revolves around your nervousness about putting yourself out there and hearing some truthful feedback from your prospect after you ask it, or if you just haven’t been trained to complete this vital part of the sales process, that’s another story. The good news is that with training, you can overcome that fear and begin to direct recruits through the different stages of the decision-making process (especially at the end, when it counts).

With any procedure you employ in recruiting, you need to ask yourself why you do it the way you do it. And, evaluate if the way you’re doing it is working as well as you want (need?) it to.

Myths, fables and bedtime stories were a fun departure from reality when we were kids. As adults who are now college coaches, they are potential career-killing practices that need to be stopped immediately.

Helping Your Prospects Wake-Up From Their Summer DoldrumsTuesday, August 9th, 2016

Think it’s hard for you to get back into the swing of things heading into a new school year, Coach?

It can be even harder for your prospects.

They’ve been working out or playing in tournaments, and they’re burned out. They’ve been on vacation, and they don’t want to face the reality of going back to school. And even if they are coming back to that reality, the last thing they want to start doing is begin making hard decisions about college and their future. It’s much easier to put all of that off, not think about about it, and see if they can drag out the lazy, care-free days of Summer.

That means it’s your job, as a college coach and as a recruiter, to get them to re-focus on the recruiting process. And preferably, get them to to place the bulk of that focus on you.

So as we begin the time of the year when coaches and their college programs rev-up for another year, I wanted to pass along several key engagement strategies we’ve seen work coming out of the Summer and into a new Fall season:

You MUST talk about something new. For recruits that you’ve been talking to for any amount of time, now is the time to introduce something new into the conversation. Our studies are showing that while continuing to tell a consistent, compelling broader story to your recruits, your personal conversations with prospects should offer something different heading out of Summer. Now is the time when your recruits are looking for new reasons to continue to talk to you one-on-one.

They’re looking for that “next step”. Coming out of Summer, teenage athletes tell us that they often feel a little stuck. They want to look smart in continuing to talk with you, and they want to know what to do next as you continue to recruit them, but they aren’t sure what’s right. That’s why many of you experience what feels like disinterest from your prospects this time of year; the thing is, it’s not that they’re not interested…they just don’t know what should happen next. Never forget that you’ve been through this process before, but they haven’t. Be a guide.

It might be time to set a deadline. Or, at least a timeline that clearly establishes your expectations as to when a decision needs to be made. This is the easiest time of the year to do that, in the sense that it’s a natural calendar break (end of Summer, beginning of Fall and their new school year) which contributes to an overall feeling that new timelines make sense. In other words, when you start a conversation about deadlines or timelines that you want your prospects to pay attention to, doing it during this time period makes sense and ‘feels’ right to your recruits.

Outline your process for them. As an extension of the deadline and timeline conversation, take them inside your decision making process: Detail for them what you’ll be doing in evaluating them and other recruits this Fall, describe the type of prospect that you’re no longer recruiting (and why you stopped recruiting them), and make clear when you see yourself being done with recruiting. Prospects are craving this kind of behind-the-scenes information that help them understand they “why” behind some of your requests during the process.

Give the parents of your recruits a clear to-do list. One of the best ways to determine if your prospect is serious about you heading out of Summer is to find out if their parents are equally serious about you and your program. And the best way to do that is to give those parents a to-do list, and see if they respond. Some ideas: Tell them to help their son or daughter get their application submitted by a certain date, get back to you on a weekend that works for a visit to your campus, establish a regular time for you and they to talk to one another during the Fall, or ask them to email you a list of their questions about you, your college, or the process so that you can help them with answers.

Establish one clear selling point. One of the most difficult hurdles that your prospects face this time of year, as they talk to you and listen to your message (and the messages of your competitors), is trying to figure out how to define you. They need, and want, a one-line definition of you and your program that defines your main selling point. Once that’s established, you can certainly weave that into your program’s ongoing story to your recruits. Without it, you risk sounding like too many of your competitors: Too vanilla, no definition. Heading into this time of year, that can be the beginning of the end.

That last point needs to be emphasized. As recruits head out of Summer and into the Fall, there will come a point (soon) where they will want to start to whittle their choices down to make this whole process more manageable. Unless you give them smart reasons to define you and your program the right way, you allow them to make-up their own definition of you and your program. Do you really want to give that power over to them heading into this Fall?

This is an important time of year in the recruiting process, Coach. Make sure you establish yourself as a player heading into the Fall, and do it with a strategy in mind. If you do it correctly, you’ll be the coach that re-focuses your prospects heading out of the Summer.

Need help in defining your story for recruits? That’s what we do every week, every month and every year for our roster of clients. We do it using the latest research and communication techniques, and it works. If you want to take a different approach to your recruiting this year, contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and ask him to explain how the process works, and why it is so effective.

They Decide With Their Heart, Justify With Their HeadMonday, June 13th, 2016

I’m talking about your recruits, Coach.

In over a decade of research, focus groups, and personal recruiting stories, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Your prospects aren’t making logical decisions; they’re making illogical, emotional decisions, and then justifying that decision with just enough facts to justify their choice.

Understanding this simple fact will make recruiting a whole lot easier.

And yet, college coaches make it more complicated:

  • The messages coaches sometimes send their teenage recruits goes heavy on the facts and logic, and less on the relational aspect of the decision making process.
  • Coaches focus on the process of recruiting, rather than the emotional connections, that a teenager is looking for from a coach.
  • The parents are looking for a coach to lead them through the process, and yet most coaches don’t make a connection with the parents of their recruits. Not doing so is one of the prime ways families decide who to visit, and who to cross off their list.

Fixing this is simple, and reformulating your core approach before it’s time to recruit your next class of prospect. But first, you need to define a few things:

What is the big thing that you and your program can offer as something for a recruit to fall in love with? You need something to give a recruit to become emotionally attached to: Your team, your plan for them, what their role on your team will be, joining the fight to win back-to-back championships, or signing-on to help rebuild the program, for a few examples. You need to connect with the heart of your recruit. What are you leading with?

What is the big objection you see as something you’re going to have to overcome? My suggestion is to address it right away as part of what they should love about you. We worked with a football coach several years ago who used to apologize for, and avoid, their old outdated locker room. Then, we came up with research on why his players loved the place, and how they viewed it with a lot of positive emotion. Now, that coach makes his old locker room a center-piece of the story they tell a recruit.

(If you choose to use this approach, defining both the attractions – and the negatives – of your program is essential. It’s one of the most least defined aspects of most coaches’ programs, and it ends up hurting them terribly.)

So, what aspects of their decision making revolve around their “hearts”?…What aspects of their decision to come to a program usually center around the emotional part of the equation? Here’s a Top 5 checklist of what we’ve found to be the most impactful:

  • Their emotional connection to your team.
  • Their trust in you as their potential future coach.
  • The comments and feelings they get around your campus when they visit.
  • How you treat their parents during the recruiting process.
  • What they hear others (your team, other coaches, students not related to athletics) say about you during their campus visit.

On the other side of the coin, when it comes to the logical side of their decision, here’s what our research shows them relying upon:

  • By far, the most important thing for most student-athletes is your plan for them once (if) they come to compete for you.
  • In a close second, the scholarship or financial package you and your school are offering.
  • The plan for them on your team that you outline for them.
  • How well your college lines-up with their pre-defined vision of what college is supposed to be like (things like location, size, type of area, etc). Note: You might observe that this category is really more of a ‘feeling’, but we’ve observed that the majority of your prospects – and their parents –  see this as something that’s logical.
  • What your college can give them academically, specifically centered around their major (and proving that you’re better than their alternatives).

Now the important part (the thing that most coaches miss):

You have to do both.

You see, with this generation of recruits, we find that they will first “fall in love” with a team, a coach and a school. There’s an emotional connection that needs to happen first in their hearts. Once that happens, however, we find that there’s a definitive point where they lurch back in the other direction…almost realizing that it’s not smart to make a final decision based solely on how they feel about things. They will then search for the logical reasons why they should trust their heart; they’ll look to justify their emotional connection with a coach/team/school by coming up with solid, logical reasons why it’s a smart choice, validating why their emotional reasoning. They decide with their heart, and then justify with their head.

Most coaches do one, but not the other. They assume that by being more logical, and providing more “stuff” than other colleges, they’ll get the prospect. Or, others will assume that by stealing their recruits’ hearts and creating only an emotional appeal, they will win the competition for their talents.

The truth is, if the goal is consistent, high-impact recruiting, both categories have to be addressed. The more consistently you do it, and the earlier in the recruiting process that you start, the better chance you have of establishing yourself as one of the top choices in the mind of your recruit.

Start here: Define each of those points within both categories for your program, and then prove to yourself that you are showing your prospects how you address each point. For any program, that should be a priority within the overall task of creating your program’s story.

They decide with their heart, and then justify with their head. That’s the case with virtually all of your prospects, so make it a priority for you and your program.

These are the same kind of advanced skills that we teach coaches who go through our popular Tudor University online recruiting training and certification. If you’re a client, the course is free. If you aren’t, click here to start the training process today.

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!

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