Dan Tudor

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What Coaches Should Do to Make a Better Recruiting ArgumentMonday, May 16th, 2016

And make no mistake, every time you recruit an athlete, you’re making an argument: 

  • You make an argument as to why they should pay the tuition at your school so that they can play for you.
  • You make an argument that your style of play is better than other options they might be considering.
  • You make an argument that they should make your campus their first visit.
  • You make an argument when you ask them to commit.

Here’s the problem many coaches – and people in the professional world – make: They “argue” with their recruits, and their recruits’ parents, from their coach’s word view.

You have deadlines to meet, applications to turn in, schedules to keep, classes to sign. One of the main teaching points we make in our on-campus recruiting workshops is that many coaches get so wrapped up in the procedure that their school uses to recruit and accept an incoming student-athlete that they forget one important aspect of the recruiting and decision-making process:

Your prospect doesn’t usually care about your process.

Coaches will often times argue from their point of view, rather than empathetically from the prospect’s point of view.

  • So, when you make an argument as to why they should pay the tuition at your school so that they can play for you, it might be a better idea to understand how their family has planned to pay for college (or if they have at all).
  • When you make an argument as to why your style of play is better than their other options, consider associating that style with what they’re playing now on their club team – and if they like it or not.
  • If you want them to come to your campus first, talk to them about what other campuses they’re lining-up visits for – and then create a visit that’s specific to their wants and needs.
  • When you ask them to commit, make sure you explain why you like them, what you see as their plan for them, and let them know that you really want them.

Author and marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Marketing is the empathetic act of telling a story that works, that’s true for the person hearing it, that stands up to scrutiny. But marketing is not about merely sharing what you, the marketer believes. It’s about what we, the listener, believe.”

I couldn’t agree more.

So, here’s a simple three step plan for you to revamp pretty much any argument, recruiting pitch, or conversation with your prospect:

Define what you want to tell them from your point of view. Before you can react with empathy, you need to narrow down exactly what it is that you want to tell your prospect. Be specific.

Reverse sides; how is your prospect going to hear your argument? Think worst case scenario here: What is the least positive way they would hear what you’re telling them?

Re-craft your argument that takes your prospect’s worldview into account. Any argument, recruiting message, or sales pitch you’re hoping to make needs to focus on “what’s in it for them”. Nothing to do with your priorities, deadlines or process…everything to do with their perspective, hopes, dreams and fears.

Why You (and Your Recruits) Give In to the Fear FactorMonday, April 25th, 2016

Marketers know the rule.

So do politicians, drug manufacturers, and companies that sell gold.

We, the buying public, will make a buying decision based on the fear of something bad happening before we’ll decide to do something based on the possibility of a good outcome.

How often? Studies suggest it’s as high as six out of seven times.

We are prone to expect the worst, and plan our actions accordingly. And if we do it as adult consumers when we’re out shopping for an insurance policy, doesn’t it make sense that your prospects would be inclined to make their decisions the same way?

And yet, the majority of coaches feel the need to only focus on the positive. Tell the recruit what they want to hear, how great they’ll be as a part of their team, and how wonderful your college is.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for that. A big place. Heck, when we create messaging plans and recruiting strategies for our clients much of them revolve around the positive reasons a recruit would want to choose their programs, and college. You may do the same thing with your messaging, as well…there’s a place for it, and a compelling story is needed for this generation of recruits in order to feel good about making a decision.

I’m not suggesting you give that up. Not at all.

But if you want to take a more serious, more realistic approach to recruiting, you’d better start planning for your prospect’s “fear factor”.

This generation, more than any recent generation that has been studied, is ‘scared’ of making the wrong decision.

So, what specifically do you need to be aware of when you’re taking a prospect through the decision-making process? It’s not an exhaustive list, but here are five things we’ve seen trending around the country when it comes to things that your prospects are fearful of as you do your best to choose you and your program:

  1. They get a little scared when you tell them that they’re going to be the new go-to player on the team. I know that isn’t the case with every recruit, but even many your top kids are feeling the pressure when you talk about how great they are and over-hype what their experience could be like. Tread carefully here, Coach. I’ve personally heard dozens of stories from recruits who point to the idea of being the center of attention on a team as the main reason they ended up declining the offer from that coach. We find that most athletes hesitate at the idea of owning the spotlight right when they step on campus, so be aware of that “fearful fact” with many of the prospects you’re talking to, Coach.
  2. They get a little scared of returning your email or direct message. It’s one of the most overlooked aspects of a recruiting conversation. Coaches email and return messages all day long, and it requires no great effort or thought. Your prospects, on the other hand, hesitate at returning your message. It’s intimidating. That’s why the structure, tone and direction in your message is critically important – IF you want to get a reply.
  3. They get a little scared of workouts during a recruiting trip. That doesn’t happen on every recruiting trip, of course. And it’s irrelevant in some sports that don’t make a workout with the team a regular part of a recruiting visit on campus. However, if it does apply to you, just remember that a workout with the team, or playing pick-up, or any kind of athletic competition, can cause a lot of anxiety for your prospect. It’s the age difference…many times, those situations pair a young prospect with older, more experienced athletes. Your prospects won’t usually say anything to you about them being uncomfortable in that situation, but they report it back to us as one of their least favorite parts of a campus visit.
  4. They get a little scared to give you honest feedback. That workout that they didn’t really like, and made them a little uncomfortable and a little intimidated? They won’t say a thing about it to you. Why? Because this generation of recruit doesn’t want to risk offending you, or having you confront them. In general, they are “pleasers”. So as you take them through the recruiting process, here’s my advice: Assume that they aren’t telling you everything (mostly because they rarely do). One of your primary jobs as a recruiter is to extract actionable information from your prospect on how he or she is making their decision, and what aspects of your campus and program they either like or don’t like.
  5. They get a little scared when they don’t know what to do at the end. If you haven’t explained why you like them, how they fit into your specific plans once they arrive on campus, and haven’t been asked to commit to your program, it causes paralysis. They don’t know what to do next. (If you’re dealing with recruits who aren’t moving in the right direction, I would bet that it’s something related to one or more of those three key end-of-recruiting landmarks that your prospects are looking to.

Your job as a recruiter is to make sure you are exactly sure, throughout the process, that their questions are getting answered and their fears are being calmed. If you don’t, expect the process to drag on longer than you want it to…or even end with a less than desirable outcome.

Learning the finer points of advanced recruiting is easy. Attend the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference! It’s a weekend full of learning, and incredible networking with fellow coaches from all over the country. Click here to reserve your seat to this investment in your coaching career!

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!

Create a System to Write Recruiting Messages FasterMonday, February 8th, 2016


by Mandy Green, Coaching Productivity Strategies

As College coaches, we write a lot.  We write to juniors and seniors we are recruiting or have already committed, we write to parents, or we are writing to youth coaches who have players we want. 
 
If you just sit down and try to come up with a brilliant message that will get opened, read, and returned, you may find yourself wasting a lot of time staring at a blank screen as you try to figure out what to write. 
 
Also, if you don’t have a lot of experience writing recruiting messages or are not a very good writer, it can feel incredibly time-consuming.  But more importantly, if you don’t have a strategy or workflow, I have found it takes even longer. So what I want to do today is to share what I learned from Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.”
 
Michal Hyatt uses a 10 step process to write his blog posts quicker. I highly encourage you to try when you have to send out your next batch of recruiting emails. I know that it will help to speed up the recruiting writing process.

  1. Start writing the night before.  Come up with what you want to write about and then rough out the details. The idea is to just get the process started and then let it simmer in the background of your thinking as it sits in your subconscious  I’ve found that helps me so much. If I just sit down and try to write, I sometimes end up just being stumped, looking at a blank screen not knowing what to write about.
  2. Use your downtime to think. I want you to think about when you get your best ideas. Usually our best ideas happen when we’re relaxed. That’s why a lot of good ideas come to you in the shower and other places. By starting your recruiting message the night before, in your downtime until you actually write the email, you can purposefully be thinking about the next set of messages that you could send out.
  3. When it is time to actually write your recruiting messages, go offline. Put yourself in a distraction-free environment where your phone and email notifications are turned off.The thing that kills writing recruiting emails and turns a 30-minute process into a 7-hour process is when you’re allowing yourself to be bombarded by social media and other kinds of interruptions.
  4. Turn on some music to get into a creative mindset.  What kind of music will get you focused and creative?
  5. Give yourself a time limit and then set a timer. I have found this helps a lot to create more urgency and helps to keep me focused on the work at hand.
  6. Use a template. Writing recruiting emails can go a lot faster when you have a premade writing template that you are following.  By following a certain skeletal structure I’m not having to create that from scratch every time or having to guess what the flow of the email I am creating is going to be. For great ideas on what should go into your template, go to www.dantudor.com.
  7. Write without editing. Coaches can get stuck and it really slows them down if they’re editing as they go. Try to just write without interruption as fast as you can and just try to get it all out.
  8. Then go back and edit.
    1. Look to eliminate redundancy
    2. Try to eliminate complex sentences and make them simpler and more straightforward.
    3. Ask yourself if there is an easier or simpler way to say that or a simpler word to use?
  9. Add the pictures or links. We try to put in a lot of links to get recruits to keep going back to our website.  Or sometimes we use a lot of pictures to paint a picture of what it would be like to attend our school.
  10. Send to a colleague to preview. There are things they might pick up that you wouldn’t pick up otherwise.

Now, these 10 steps may work great for you.  If not, hopefully at least I have you thinking about how you could tweak this to find a formula or process that would work for you.  I think the important thing is that if you can define a process for yourself, no matter what that is, and then spend the next several weeks optimizing that so you know exactly what the steps are, it’ll be much faster for you to get in the groove and be productive with writing.
 
My hope in giving you this process as well is that it will take a little bit of the stress out of writing recruiting letters for you, because it can be very stressful. And when we get stressed about it, we actually end up procrastinating or putting it off, and then those consistent recruiting messages we are supposed to be sending never happen.
 
So no matter what kind of writer you are, come up with a system. It doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from the system from time to time. I do. But at least you have a track to get you started and a way to get your recruiting messages out that works for you 90% of the time.

Hope you have a productive rest of the week! 

Mandy Green

P.S. – I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you do to make time for recruiting? Email me at mandy@mandygreencps.com. If you want more tips about how to save time with recruiting, go to my website at www.mandygreencps.com.  

P.P.S.  If you have found this article helpful, please share it with your staff or other work colleagues!  Studying time and energy management over these last 4 years and applying it to my coaching and recruiting has been a game changer for me.  I am committed to helping coaches get more important work done in less time so more time can be spent with family and friends.  Thanks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s the challenge for serious college coaches:

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

 

The Customer ISN’T Always Right (and Neither Are Your Recruits)Monday, October 19th, 2015

It was a revolutionary idea back in 1909.

Harry Selfridge, an American entrepreneur who began Selfridge’s Department Store in London at the turn of the century, coined the phrase – and the philosophy – that “the customer is always right.”  It was meant to reassure retail shoppers at the time that they were going to control the shopping experience and that their complaints would be listened to and treated seriously.  It was a revolutionary idea at the time.

But then, in 1914, a counter-philosophy began taking hold. After years of customers taking advantage of the good natured intent of the rule and abusing the kindness of retailers, it was time to re-think the adage.

“If we adopt the policy of admitting whatever claims the customer makes to be proper, and if we always settle them at face value, we shall be subjected to inevitable losses”, wrote Frank Farrington, author of the 1914 book Successful Salesmanship: Is the Customer Always Right?  “If the customer is made perfectly to understand what it means for him to be right, what right on his part is, then he can be depended on to be right if he is honest, and if he is dishonest, a little effort should result in catching him at it.” In short, the customer isn’t always right in the world of retail business.

This has direct application to your recruiting one hundred years later:

Your recruits, and their parents, are dishonest with you at times and are just plain wrong in the way they deal with you during the recruiting process.

The problem that compounds this?  Most college coaches allow it to happen.

Your job as a college coach, as I emphasize in the recruiting training workshops we have done for college athletic departments for more than a decade, is to control the sales process. Somebody has to do it…either you, or your recruit and his or her parents. Since we work for all of you, I vote for you!

That means that there are going to be several times during the recruiting process that you are going to have to identify your prospects as being wrong about something, and require a change in their thinking.

Here are some of the top ways your recruits are going to be wrong during the recruiting process, and what you should do to re-direct their thinking if you want to successfully manage their recruiting process:

Your recruit will easily give in to common misconceptions about your school or program. This will happen earlier rather than later in the process, and if it isn’t corrected and called-out as “wrong” then you will have let it become fact, and it will rule the rest of your recruiting conversation with that athlete and his or her family. Note the root cause of this problem: You. We can’t blame the athlete, who is using limited information and has never gone through the process before, for trying to come to some initial definitions (positive or negative) about you and your program. That’s to be expected, especially if you haven’t won a national championship lately, aren’t in a great location, cost too much, don’t have a successful program history, can’t brag about your extensive resume…you get the picture.

The person that can be blamed is you, since you and you alone are the voice that can correct those common misconceptions quickly and effectively. Most coaches, however, don’t do that. They give in to definition that their prospect has wrongly created, and begin the recruiting process with two strikes against them.

Don’t do it. Correct their perception of your program, and re-define it for them boldly and in as much detail as possible.  And, do it as early as possible. Once we decide something is true, we don’t like being proven wrong and seldom change our mind. Don’t let that happen with your recruit.

Your recruit will tell you they need more time. More time to look at other schools. More time to think about your offer. More time to come back for another visit. In general, “more time” is the same as telling you “I don’t want to make a final decision.”  Even recruits that we interview for our clients as a part of our ongoing strategic work in developing their recruiting message tell us that much of the time they knew they were going to commit to that program, but just didn’t want to make it official…or they were scared to end the recruiting process…or they felt like if they waited another bigger, ‘better’ program would come calling.

For the majority of your prospects, it’s imperative that you set a fair but firm deadline. It’s wrong for your recruits to think that they can control the process and make you wait. It’s your job as a coach to give them the direction that they need to understand your timeline for making a decision.

(Note: This is not a universal rule, certainly. There are situations where you will strategically want to give your prospect more time, and where waiting puts you in a better position to get that athlete. However, in the majority of cases, college coaches don’t direct their recruits strongly enough, resulting in the recruit and his or her family dictating when they will give you a decision. And as I’m sure you’ll agree, most of the time that isn’t to your benefit).

Your recruit lists objections as to why your school or program isn’t going to be right for them.  Sometimes, they’re right. Much of the time, they’re wrong. (And most of the time, the reason they’re wrong is because you haven’t corrected them about the common misconceptions about your school or program, as we talked about a few paragraphs earlier).

Objections are not bad. They are needed in the recruiting process! Tell me about the last top-tier recruit you had who didn’t have any questions, objections, hesitations, or arguments with you about your school. When was the last time that happened? Almost never.

You need to address each objection, and correct it. When your prospect objects to something you have presented, or in the way that they view your college, it’s because they want to know why they should think differently. Read that again, Coach. When your prospect throws out a reason that they aren’t sure your program is going to be right for them, most of the time they want you to give them a counter-opinion as to why they are wrong. You need to do that, Coach. (Here is a quick video primer on the steps to do that).

Do you get the idea, Coach? It’s your job to set the standards, manage the timeline, and correct false assumptions. In short, you need to tell your recruit – your “customer” – when he or she (or the parents, or their coach) is wrong.

If you don’t, nobody will. And if nobody does, the inmates will continue to run the asylum.

Learn more of these kinds of advanced recruiting philosophies and techniques by enrolling in Tudor University, our online training and certification class for college recruiters. It’s an effective way to gain the edge on your recruiting competition! Click here to get started.

7 Steps To Turn Your Coaching Into An Amazing ExperienceMonday, October 5th, 2015

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

How’s your coaching? Having an amazing experience?

If so, then — bravo. Stop reading and get back to what you were doing.

For the rest of us, who at one time or another feel our coaching experience can be better, I offer a few suggestions.

Foundation first

Great homes are built on solid foundations. Same with great coaching experiences. There lies something rock-solid underneath it.

Y’see, coaching can be rewarding, but those rewards don’t come easy. Many coaches I work with have big hearts, big desires, and big energy. But often they haven’t taken the foundational steps so the rewards are accessible. They miss out — needlessly.

Up for an experiment?

In 7 steps anyone can build a solid foundation for their coaching experience. An experience that rocks. Rewards. Rejuvenates.

If you’re game, here are those 7 steps.

Step 1) Why Do You Coach?

I love asking new coaches “Why do you coach?” The answers range from “giving back,” to “unfinished business,” to “I was bored.” That is, when they have answers. Many have never considered WHY.

Here’s the deal: The statement of “why you coach” will be the foundation of your coaching. Everything you do as a coach — your decisions, your actions, your visions will derive from this one statement.

Start building: Steal 5 minutes of quiet time from your day, and answer this question, “What are NOT reasons why I coach?” Write as many answers as you can — as quick as you can.

Over the next six days, add to the list. On the 7th day, look at your list, and you’ll see some solid trends (such as: “I am NOT coaching to hurt people“, or, “I don’t coach to make a million!”).

Then finish this statement: The reason why I coach is … . It may not feel perfect, and it will likely change over time — that’s to be expected. Don’t be surprised by the power of what you come up with.

Step 2) 3-Word Philosophy

I’ve seen coaching philosophies which are pages long. Word after word after word on how they are going to create an amazing experience and blah, blah, blah.

Here’s the deal: Short, memorable, remarkable words will impact and engage. Long, forgettable, average words will snore and bore. Both you and them.

For example, here’s my coaching philosophy: Guide, protect, nurture. That’s it. Simple, memorable, and it’s open to interpretation, and is flexible.

Start building: Can you describe your coaching philosophy in 3 words? Yes you can. Then commit them to note cards, and carry them around with you at all times.

Step 3) Expectations

Coaching has a sneaky way of stealing expectations. If you’re not careful your expectations will become those of others. Last week a fellow coach commented on how she loves teaching the details of her sport. But everyone around her only seemed focus on winning and had little patience for learning. Needless to say, her experience wasn’t what she wanted.

Here’s the deal: You have three flavors of expectations to focus on. All three will impact your experience: (1) your expectations, (2) your athlete’s expectations, and (3) your boss’s expectations. Knowing each will make a world of difference.

Start building: If you don’t know your boss’s or athlete’s expectations — you must find out. This is a foundational step you have to take.

Schedule a meeting with the boss, or send an email, and ask, “What are the organization’s expectations of my coach and the program?” Then at your next practice, have your athletes answer those same questions on note cards.

The most important part of this entire step is the answer to this question, “What are you own expectations.” Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do I expect from my coaching?
  2. What do I expect from the athletes and the team?
  3. What do I expect from my boss?

As before, write them down, and have them someplace you’ll see them every day. Paper or digital doesn’t matter, as long as it works for you.

Step 4) The power of Pre-meetings

A pre-meeting can make or break an experience. For instance, you have a great practice planned. Everything is scheduled, equipment in place, weather is beautiful. But if you don’t do this one thing, chances are strong your practice will be a bust. That foundational thing is a pre-meeting. It’s a critical step many coaches miss.

Here’s the deal: People, especially athletes, love to know what the heck is going on. Gathering the team before practice for a quick meeting (might be only 60 seconds long) and telling them what the plan is, greatly increases your chance of success.

This works on a larger scale too. Before the season starts, have a pre-meeting with athletes, parents, support staff. Tell them why you coach, what your philosophy is, your expectations. (Also a great time to get a behavior commitment, see next step.)

Start building: Before your next event, practice, contest, have a pre-meeting. Leave the strategies and tactics for later — this meeting is about the overview of the event, especially the expectations.

Step 5) Behavior Commitment

Every person emits a behavior. It’s impossible not to. So does every team.

Here’s the deal: The tricky part, Coach, is you want the right behavior to be emitted. Bad behavior will destroy your experience, but good behavior can build something amazing.

Start building: First, set the standard for the behavior you expect. Second, get a commitment from the athlete/team that they will emit that behavior. Third (and super critical), respond accordingly and appropriately if the behavior is not what is expected.

For instance, if you expect athletes to be at practice on time, and Jack has committed to being there on time, you need to act if his behavior is not what he committed to. He’s late, and their needs to be action on your part.

If you ignore establishing a behavior expectations, getting a commitment to it, and then acting if it doesn’t happen, you are setting yourself up for a bad experience

Step 6) Boundaries

Coaching is a 24-7 gig. Doesn’t matter what sport you coach, where you coach it, and how old the athletes are. You’re their coach every minute of every day. That is where I see so many coaches make mistakes — we don’t have the energy of brain space to be coaching 24-7.

Here’s the deal: Good fences make good neighbors, and good boundaries make a good coaching experience. You have to find separation from the athlete/team/sport or you WILL get worn down, you WILL burnout, the quality of your experience WILL being to lessen. (Those are not optional — they WILL happen.)

Start Building: Be available only during certain times, and block off “your time.” Personally, my athletes don’t expect to reach me after 7 pm, and not prior to 6am, on days when in season. Out of season, its usually only during office hours.

Yet I know coaches who have their cell phones on all the time, even while they sleep — responding to calls, texts, emails in the middle of the night. Why?

Now emergencies are different. They happen, so the athletes can connect with me — but they know an emergency is at the serious-health level, not, “Hey Coach, I know it’s 11pm, but I’m stressed about my lack of playing time.

Step 7) The Power of No

I’m a fan of James Altucher. Last year, he and his wife Claudia published The Power Of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness.

And gosh darn it, it can.

Here’s the deal: As a coach, you’ll be asked to do a lot with a little — that’s part of being the person called Coach. You’ll also be asked to do other things. Things that distract or disrupt your WHY, Philosophy, and Expectations. In those cases, you have to say NO!

Start Building: Here’s what you need to do. Each time you are asked to do something, like serving on a committee, helping Jack Bozo move, or break a rule — stop. Go to your note cards. Read your WHY, Philosophy, Expectation.

Then make a decision.

If the decision should be yes, well then, yes it is. But if the decision goes against those three foundational parts of your coaching — say no. Or NO!

Bonus Step) Liability insurance

You are at risk whenever you work with people, especially coaching. Your organization may have you covered, but are you sure? You need at least $1 million dollars in liability coverage. Ask your organization how much you have.

Here’s the deal: I’m not an insurance specialist, but I’ve been advised that I should have $1 million in extra liability coverage, because I coach.

Start Building: Contact your insurance agent, or one that you’ve been referred to, and find the price (mine is about $230 per year.) You might also check with your sports governing body. They might offer special insurance for coaches.

Action You Should (and need to) Take

The bottom line is that you cannot not have an experience. You’re going to have one — why not make it amazing.

Listed above are 8 foundational actions you need to take. Each will help you turn your coaching into that amazing experience. But reading about them is not enough. You need to take action and the more action you take, the better experience you’ll enjoy.

As always, thanks for being here. I would love to know what action you take on this information. Drop me an email and tell me what worked, or didn’t work. It’s the way we all improve.

7 Tips for Making Skype and Google Video Calls to Your ProspectsMonday, August 24th, 2015

Video calls used to be an intriguing option for college coaches to consider when they wanted to stand out from the crowd and go the extra mile to impress one of their better recruits.

Today, video calls using technology platforms like Skype, Google and FaceTime are becoming a go-to method for connecting more effectively with most of a college coach’s recruiting list.

But that can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, the technology available to a coach today makes it so easy and seamless to connect with a prospect quickly and easily through video gives them the ability to add an extra dimension (sight) to the typical recruiting phone call.

On the other hand, many coaches struggle to make an effective call, meaning that they don’t treat it like the live television show that it is. And, you’re the star.  If you appear to be uncomfortable, boring, or unsure of yourself, those traits are only magnified when you’re on a prospect’s computer screen.

Back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, my short lived television sports career taught me more than a few iron-clad rules to follow when you’re in front of a camera (most of which I promptly broke, which is why it was a short lived television career. But if you want to know what a younger, fresher Dan Tudor looked like close to 25 years ago, here’s a clip someone unearthed and placed on YouTube).

The point is, the rules for appearing on video haven’t changed.  So if you’re a coach that is determined to make video calls a part of your regular contact with prospects, I’d recommend you follow these seven tips to make sure you’re looking better than your competition:

  1. Pay attention to what you’re wearing.  Go for solid colors, preferably with your college’s name or logo displayed.  Video is a prime venue for branding, and since your prospect is going to get tired of looking at you they’ll search the rest of the screen for hints about who you are and what you’re all about. Stay away from busy patterns, as well as wearing white…it can reflect light rather than absorb it, which can lessen the quality of the video your prospect is seeing on the other end.
  2. Pay attention to your background.  Your office wall behind you is boring. Your cluttered office is boring (and not good branding). A darkened background is boring (and kind of creepy). Opt for something that has good indirect lighting, with depth of 4 to 8 feet if you’re indoors. Me?…I’d try to be outside on campus somewhere with a great background: The student union, your facility, the weight room…somewhere that showcased energy and people in the background. Don’t be boring.  And, very important: Don’t have a window in the background.  It will darken your image, and make it really distracting for your prospect.
  3. Be well lit.  You need some kind of lighting directly facing you. Natural light from a window in front of you is great, but you can even use a desk lamp angled towards you as a good option. This is one of the top mistakes beginning video callers make. Not lighting yourself gives you shadows under your eyes, and poor coloring. Face some kind of light source for your video calls.
  4. Sit up straight.  And, have your computer, camera, tablet or phone at eye level in front of you. One of the weirdest visuals teenage recruits comment on is when a coach is slumped over their computer, staring down at the camera. It doesn’t look professional, Coach.
  5. Look at the camera, not at the screen.  You’ve been on a video call when someone is talking to the screen, right? It’s really disconcerting to the viewer.  As a serious recruiter, you’re not on the call to watch a show; you’re making this call to showcase yourself and your program to your recruit. Focus on how you are looking to them, not what they are doing in their camera. Even when they are talking to you, look at the camera…react to what they are saying…pretend you have a person in front of you and you are trying to maintain eye contact with them.  This is important, Coach. If you’re shifting your eyes down to watch the screen, you’re taking your eyes off of your recruit. And they notice.
  6. Use your hands and show off your personality.  Yes, you should sit up straight and look at the camera.  But you also don’t want to come across as stiff and uninteresting. So, “talk with your hands” a little bit.  Also, make sure you over-eggaerate your facial expressions and your tone of voice. It will sound a little odd to you, but it will come across as normal to your prospect. One of the rules of television that I still use today is to over-eggagerate a little bit. If you don’t, you will most likely appear too dull and non-energetic to your recruit who is watching you. Next time you watch any kind of TV host or newscaster, notice how they over-eggagerate their voice inflections and their facial expressions. There’s a reason for that coach – and it’s the same reason you should do the same thing when talking by video with your recruits.
  7. Have something to say.  That may seem like an obvious recommendation, but I’m making it because once you’re on a video call with a recruit, it’s like the pilot of a new TV show a network is trying out. If the viewer doesn’t like what they’re watching, don’t expect them to tune in for more in the weeks to come. Keep your message on point, ask a lot questions and let them do most of the talking, and end the call a little sooner than you might normally.  Leave them wanting more.

Video calls aren’t rocket science, but there are some rules to follow for appearing calm, confident and engaging on video. If you don’t follow those rules, you could wind up being called the worst sportscaster ever.

Or, even worse: You could ruin your chances to land the recruit you really need.

The Big Recruiting Lesson From Online DatingMonday, July 13th, 2015

In the beginning, there was Match.com.

And lo, after many years, Match.com begot eHarmony.

But not satisfied with the mass market nature of online dating, the people looking for love started looking for niche dating websites. And that begat websites like ChristianMingle.com and jdate.com.

And lo, over the past many years, dating websites have become ultra-specialized. You’re a vegetarian? Try VeggieDate.org. Are you a clown looking for another clown? Try ClownPassions.com or ClownDating.com. (NCRC speaker and best-selling author John Brubaker has a great twist on this idea that he geared towards businesses in Entrepreneur Magazine here).

There’s a lesson here for you, Coach.

As you sell your program to a new batch of recruits, you’d better specialize.

Here’s what I mean:

We now live in a world that offers us incredible niche products and services. Look at the beer market, for example. There are over 1,500 different brands of beer you could buy, all with their own twist on a very basic recipe. Same for dog food, shoes, soap…you name it.

Your prospects, unfortunately, expect the same from you. They need a very specific story of how you operate, what your brand is, and why they should align themselves with you. I say “unfortunately” because many college coaches don’t take the time to define themselves in a way that specializes them in the eyes of their recruits – the same recruits who have been conditioned through the Internet, television and other forms of advertising, to actively look for specialization.

How? That’s where it gets tricky:

  • You have to figure out who you’re wrong for. The temptation for colleges around the country is to try and make themselves vanilla enough so that everyone might have an interest in them. Coaches who do that are finding, more often than not, that they can’t attract prospects as easily as a few years ago if they don’t differentiate themselves from their competition. The easiest way to do that? Define who you and your program is wrong for. Come up with a list, and talk about it with your recruits.
  • You have to figure out why you love your school.  It’s surprising to me how many times I begin work with a client and it’s obvious that they aren’t sold on their school. The location, the cost, the degree…the whole enchilada. If you aren’t 100% sold on your school, you need to be. Now. Prospects and their parents seem to have an innate ability to figure out whether or not the coach they’re considering is all-in when it comes to the campus where they coach. Are you “all-in” when it comes to your school, Coach?
  • You have to figure out your audience. Dating websites each have their specific audience defined. Do you? How do you talk about it with a prospect who’s right for you, and one who’s wrong for you?

There are other questions I could ask, of course. But start with those three. They are the most important, and if you can’t answer those three questions there really isn’t a point in moving on with asking other questions.

It’s vitally important that you develop your niche, Coach. Ask the tough questions, and start telling your story.

You and your coaching staff can learn all of the in-depth strategies that advanced college recruiters are using to win better recruits. There’s a science behind it all, and we’re ready to teach you the process step-by-step. How? By having you enroll in Tudor University. Click here to start.

 

Trust Over PriceMonday, June 22nd, 2015

542242_10201795155827901_994503587_nby Michael Cross, UltimateSportsInsider.com

Recruiting is a euphemism for sales, and sales isn’t for everyone. But we are ultimately all in sales – selling yourself, your institution and your program. Selling isn’t easy and you probably hear “no” many more times than you hear “yes.” People in sales often resort to price as a primary means to get a commitment. If you are selling a commodity (such as gasoline) price and location are a strong determinant because only the most sophisticated consumer can determine the difference between Mobil and Shell. You don’t need a high level of trust.

Two family purchasing decisions – cars and pet care – come to mind where trust is essential.

The other day I took our car for an oil change and new tires at Mike Miller Auto Park in Peoria, Illinois, a purchase that was going to approach $1000. Many people think there is no more expensive place to have this type of work done than the dealership. But Mike Miller’s service and relationship building is legendary. He’s given Green Bay Packers tickets to people who have purchased cars from him. He remembers birthdays. He is fair and honest. He is personally invested on a daily basis in making sure that the customer is always right and feels valued. Most importantly, he established TRUST from the day we purchased a car, when we left feeling great about the purchase rather than beaten into submission. Today we never even think of comparison shopping to save a couple dollars and the volume of people having work done at his dealership the day I went said we weren’t alone. In fact he singlehandedly saved the Cross Family as a customer for Hyundai after a horrific car purchasing experience at a counterpart dealer several years before that left us swearing we would NEVER buy another Hyundai.

The other example is Play All Day Doggie Day Care. We love our English Golden Retrievers, Jocelyn and Clara. We trust they are safe and happy when we travel. How do we know? When they first went to Play All Day, the dogs (and my wife and kids) were skittish. We had recently adopted them and they were older and a little shell-shocked from the transition into our home. To aid in their transition, the day care owner had both dogs stay at her house for multiple nights until everyone was comfortable with the new environment. She groups dogs by size and demeanor, has birthday treats, and posts daily facebook videos for the owners to see that they are having fun. Yes, it’s a little over the top and it costs a few dollars more – but the peace of mind is priceless. We would never go anywhere else.

So as you try to figure out how to get a recruit to commit focus on trust over price. In fact, if you are recruiting someone who is solely focused on where they can get the best deal, I’d encourage you to thoroughly evaluate their fit for your program. While college is a very expensive investment, the long term value of building trust with recruits and honoring your commitments when they are current athletes will provide the results you are seeking year after year and create a more enjoyable and differentiating recruiting approach. College and your team are more than a commodity – they are priceless opportunities where trust is paramount.

Michael Cross is an intercollegiate athletics consultant with an emphasis on athletic department evaluations and organizational culture development, as well as career development for coaches and administrators. You can read other similar posts and subscribe to his blog at UltimateSportsInsider.com.   You can contact him through LinkedIn or connect with him via Twitter @USinsider.

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