Dan Tudor

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

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

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

It’s all about the “yes”.

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

Sounds counter-intuitive, right?

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

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

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

My recommended solution? Search out the “no”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Debates and Your Prospect’s VoteMonday, August 10th, 2015

As the 2015 Presidential primary season started heating up, one of the largest – and, to date, most watched – candidate debates took place.  It featured 16 men and women running for the Republican nomination.

And while I don’t want to parse the political messages that each candidate brought to the table, I do want to make this case to you today:

What each candidate was trying to do effectively is the same thing that each college coach is trying to do in winning the “vote” of his or her prospect.

Think about it…in this debate, you had sixteen different messages from sixteen different candidates who were desperate to make an impact with a potential voter, and with a limited time to get that voter’s attention so that he or she might be interested enough to take the next step with them.

Sound familiar, Coach?

There are lessons to be learned by savvy college recruiters from political campaigns. But instead of breaking down a candidate’s message and creating some kind of cheesy “who won and who lost” list based on their performance, I wanted to ask you some important questions.  Questions that you can ask yourself now as you develop your next recruiting campaign for your prospects, and questions to keep in mind the next time you hear political candidates making their pitch as to why they should receive your next vote:

What are you going to say in the first ten seconds you have your recruit’s attention that will make you stand out from the other fifteen coaches you’re competing against?

That’s the foundation of everything else you’ll build a message on. Have you defined it? As a client, we help you craft that message loud and clear. But if you’re crafting it on your own, ask yourself: “What am I telling my prospect that nobody else is?” If the answer is ‘nothing’, then it’s time to re-think your core initial message.

Is it about your message or about the feeling you’re creating?

I can make a case that modern politics is more about the art of the candidate making his or her voting block feel a certain way about them as a potential leader, rather than logically convincing them of the merits of their proposals.

I think I can also make an effective case that the art of recruiting could be defined that way, as well.

When you’re assessing politicians, don’t you want to feel good about the person you’re supporting? Likable candidates usually do pretty well.  So, in the message you’re creating for your recruiting campaign, how are you creating the right feeling about you, your program, your school and what you have to offer?

In a debate (and in recruiting), are you going to be the “attacker”, or the “safe alternative”?

Watch almost any debate and it’s clear that some candidates have a master plan to attack, attack, attack. They want to establish themselves as the lead dog in that political fight right from the start.

Others will make very obvious efforts to establish themselves as the “safe alternative”. They want to be the logical choice that a voter can feel good about once the “attacker” flames out or makes a mistake that puts their candidacy in trouble.

There are merits in both approaches.  The question I have for you is, “Have you defined which strategy you are embracing?” Because not having a pre-defined strategy and a clear plan on how to execute it could leave potential voters looking at you as a wishy-washy, undefined option that lacks passion and excitement.  And, you certainly won’t be talked about much afterwards.

Voters like to break down candidates into “winners” and “losers”. Your prospects, and their parents, are the same way.

If you Google a winners for this particular debate you’ll find no less than 2.3 million results. We like to score campaigns, debates and individual candidates into two tidy little categories that help us keep things organized.

So do your recruits.

They begin to define you, according to our research, within the first 5-7 minutes of contact with you (that includes your letters, email and direct messaging efforts). So, why are they probably classifying you as a “winner” when it comes to your message? What are the potential ways they might define you as a “loser”?  Make sure you know how to answer that question, Coach.

So as you build out a revised recruiting message, Coach, make sure you follow the political lessons offered during election cycles.

Your goal is incredibly similar to a politician’s goal: Tell an engaging story that gets us to believe that “voting” for you and your program is the smart thing to do.

 

Want an excellent way to learn the finer points of advanced recruiting techniques? Enroll in Tudor University, our online certification and training program for college coaches. Our annual registration passes are an affordable investment in your college coaching career, and will teach you the communication, marketing and sales skills necessary to be a successful recruiter. Click here to learn more.

 

The Secret Sauce Of Stealing From A CoachMonday, November 3rd, 2014

by Mike Davenport, CoachingSportsToday.com

Coaches do it all the time. We see something successful and we steal it. Well … more like copy it.

That coach won — so I’ll do what she did.
He got the big recruit — so I’ll use his system.
That team got to go to Disney — so we’ll be doing what they did.

It is understandable. Especially in coaching, where we work so hard for success that can be so elusive.

Yet, do you believe what works for coach Steve will work for you?

Copy-Coach … Copy-Coach

Copying is the act of mimicking another, and it has reached epidemic levels in our society.

Cars look identical
Cereals taste the same
I can hardly tell my shoes from yours

Everyone is copying everyone.

The same is true in coaching. Are you using Wooden’s pyramid? Copying Summit’s playbook? Wearing a Belichek hoodie? (Yes, I’ve got one around here somewhere.)

Why do we copy? A couple reasons, actually.

In nature, mimicry helps animals survive. It’s a tactic that works. A tasty viceroy butterfly copies the distasteful orange and black colors of the monarch butterfly. Birds who have learned to avoid eating monarchs will avoid eating viceroys as well. (I certainly won’t be trying any soon.)

In coaching, where so many coaches don’t have a formal education in coaching sports (ahem, my education is in physical oceanography), we copy to survive. Reality is, it’s not easy to survive in coaching. If you’ve been doing it for more than a week, you know that already.

We also copy as we search for an advantage. This Fall, a fellow coach explained to me how he mentally and physically prepared his crew before they launched the boat for practice. It was a refreshing idea that made sense, so I copied it for our team.

When we see someone rocking their coaching it is so tempting to copy. That’s not always the wisest choice.

The Dark Side

10-26-14 - the dark sideDo you remember carbon paper? An entire industry built around a piece of paper you put behind another piece of paper so you could copy your typing and writing. That industry is long gone. Xerox, the company that built copy machines to replace carbon paper itself has fallen on hard times these past years.

The lesson here is copying might work in the short run, but it’s not a good long-term strategy. And, more specific to coaching:

  • copying what everyone else does reduces your authenticity
  • authenticity is critical to highly functional (HF) relationships
  • HF relationships are at the core of coaching

Also, mimicry can keep a training room busy. That workout program used for the U.S. Olympic team WONT work for your team. That is, unless you have the talent, skills, and facilities of the U.S. Olympic team, and even then, odds are it won’t work for you.

And, AND, copying creates unrealistic expectations for athletes, coaches, supporters, parents. “Coach Tom Tehar has won 8 World Championships and two straight Olympic Golds. We are doing what he does, so we should have that same success too, right coach?

See what a dark path copying can lead too?

The Bright Side

But there ARE reasons to steal & copy, otherwise the whole tone here would be Hey, don’t do that!

In nature, copying is an art form:

  • a harmless snake copies a poisonous one (Batesian Mimicry)
  • a tasty bug mimics a disgusting one (Mullein Mimicry)
  • a slow animal looks like a fast one (Speed Mimicry)
  • a beetle impersonates ants so she can live in the ant colonies where the ants provide her with food, shelter and protection because they can not distinguish her from other colony members (Wasmannian Mimicry)

Could those apply to your coaching? Well, some version might, if you do it smartly and apply …

The Secret Sauce

Between me, you, and these pixels, I steal & copy all the time. Here’s exactly what I do:

I see an idea/process/solution I like.
I morph it to our situation.
I test it in small doses. If it works,
I’ll use it in bigger doses.

It’s a system that works for me, but the secret sauce is in steps 2 & 3, adapting and testing. They’re the critical parts of the equation.

For example, back to the U.S. Olympic team workout plan. As I mentioned, it would never work for us. Yet, parts, such as periodic testing and the expectations of continual improvement, are ones I liked. So I stole, I morphed, I tested (in small doses), and then rolled out a bigger version. (Feel absolutely free to steal that system.)

And the thing that will make that secret sauce, super-duper special, is to acknowledge where your idea came from. That’s one thing that Austin Kleon talks about in Steal Like An Artist (a book I highly recommend!).

Additionally, you might find this article on innovating in sports insightful & helpful.

Oh, and worth mentioning, if you see something that flat-out doesn’t work for another team, like a coach yelling and cursing at his team after a subpar performance, anti-copy him. Learn from his mistakes … (you know that’s a mistake, right?)

And here’s a worksheet to help navigate all this:  Stealing From A Coach Worksheet

Join me for a lively talk about coaching

If coaching rowing is your thing then join me for the 5th Annual RowingTalks. Yes, the focus is rowing, and attendees are limited to only high school rowing coaches, but there something for everyone (and it will be live streamed, but being there live offers so much more.) Seats go fast for this bad boy. Last year we sold out quickly. READ MORE HERE and then sign up, if that helps you.

Teaching Your Prospects to Read the Greens BetterMonday, July 14th, 2014

Golf glassesHold on a second:

They make golfers read greens better?  The sunglasses make golfers read greens better?

That was the promise.  Lured by the temptation of the tagline “seeing what #1 looks like”, I studied the ad display in the middle of the mega-sports store for more than a few minutes.

I came to the conclusion that it was brilliant.  And, as I thought about it later that afternoon, I realized that it’s exactly the approach that more college recruiters need to take when they are creating messaging for their recruits.

Coaches need to show their recruits that they’re going to read greens better, if they commit to their program.

Here’s what I mean:

Coaches need to go beyond telling a recruit what they have at their school, how many championships they’ve won, or how new the locker rooms are.  Instead, coaches need to explain how all of those things will impact the recruit.

  • Instead of listing what your school is famous for, explain to your recruit the end result of being around those great things on your campus for four years.  Outline how they are going to read the greens better.
  • Instead of rattling-off how successful you’ve been as a coach or as a program, explain to your recruit what it will look like for them as they go through their college career with you as your coach.  Outline how they are going to read the greens better.
  • Instead of just showing them your new locker room, and expecting them to fall in love with you because it’s nicer than what they’ve seen at the previous schools they’ve visited, make the case that they deserve what you’re showing them and should feel like the deserve the best that you have to offer.  Outline how they are going to read the greens better.

The reason that this is so important is because the research we’ve done on how recruits take in messaging from the coaches who are recruiting them clearly shows that they need a college recruiter to connect the dots for them.  You could talk with me adult-to-adult about your championships and past success, and I would understand pretty quickly why a smart recruit would want to be a part of that kind of history and tradition.  But most of the time, your teenage recruit isn’t going to make that connection.

You, as the person who is painting the picture for them, needs to go into as much detail as possible in explaining it to them.

And it needs to happen as early as possible, across all mediums.  Especially social media: When you post a picture, or show a video, make sure you are making the case to your recruit as to why it applies to them, and what it is that they will experience as a result of being a part of your program in the future.

It’s a simple concept, and it’s easy to implement into your messaging.  But it takes you making the adjustment in how you communicate:

Stop selling them new sunglasses, and start proving that when they put on the sunglasses, they’re going to read the green better.

There are intelligent ways to alter your communication to your prospects that will result in a higher likelihood of them seriously considering you as a potential program.  We’ve outlined one major way to do that in this article.  If you want more one-on-one help from our team of experts, email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and ask about becoming part of the Total Recruiting Solution client program

7 Ways to Amp-Up Your Visual Recruiting MessageMonday, July 7th, 2014

When my wife’s cell phone suddenly quit working yesterday, I jumped at the chance to earn a few points and rush to the cell phone store to talk about a replacement and return as the conquering hero.

Back in the olden days, men would be expected to kill a buffalo to feed his family, or ride horseback to the  next state for the opportunity to work in a mine.  Now?  We alpha-males negotiate cell phone upgrades with high school aged cell phone sales reps. That family from Little House on the Prairie would be impressed, I’m sure.

Once I had completed the dangerous journey to the cell phone store and fended-off savage marauders for a pretty decent parking spot, I began my quest for an iPhone for my wife.

ATT1In the midst of negotiating with my sales representative, the inevitable discussion of the terms and the contract came up.  We husbands tend to hold onto our wallets a bit tighter than this phase of any new cell phone contract, so when the rep started to try to talk to me about the terms of the contract, I immediately began to tune him out.  It all sounded too good to be true.

We’d pay less than we are now?

att2

Yeah, right buddy.  We’d get a new phone and more data to use in our smartphone plan?  Please…do I have the word “sucker” written across my forehead?

I was alone in my thoughts and was immediately discounting what he was saying, not even paying attention to the important information he was going over with me (that my wife would have to live with for the next two years of her cell-phone-life.

Then it happened.

He turned the tables on me, and got me to see what he was talking about.  He wrote it out, and showed me what the plan would look like.  And, I believed it.

What he did is what I want every serious recruiter to start doing when they are talking with their prospects and families.  Most likely, it will occur on campus, but if it can somehow happen earlier on a home visit or via Skype or Google video chats, even better.

He started writing down what he was saying verbally.

Why is this such a powerful tool for college coaches to emulate?  Because most people you talk to are visual learners.  We need to be stimulated by the sound of someone’s voice, but also by sight.  Someone wants us to believe them?  Fine, prove it.  Show it to us.  Retail merchants rely on proven visual stimulation research to increase sales, and in a one-to-one selling (like recruiting, or cell phone sales) it is vitally important as well.

So, if you want to begin to use more visual stimulation in your direct communication with recruits, here are some simple but effective steps to make it happen:

  • Always sit alongside your prospect, not across the table from them.  When you’re sitting at your desk, you’re an authority figure that is probably trying to sell them something.  That is likely to put your prospect on the defensive.  Instead, sit next to them.  You want to collaborate with them as a potential future member of your team, not manipulate.  Creating that atmosphere starts with your body position.
  • Write down EVERY big point you’re trying to make.  We all lose track of a conversation easily, and this helps us keep focused on the main points you’re trying to make.  Assume, in every conversation, that they are pulling away from you.  It’s your job to constantly make sure that your recruit is understanding what you’re saying.
  • Ask questions regularly.  Not “yes” and “no” questions, but questions that probe to see what they are agreeing with and what they are disagreeing with.  Keep in mind that most kids, and their parents, find it far easier to talk about what they are concerned about, what they don’t like, and what they are worried about.  Make sure you’re getting that real time feedback from your prospects as you talk with them one-on-one in a conversation like the one I’m describing.
  • Assume they are not happy with part of what you’re telling them.  If you do that, it will automatically become your goal to search out and discover what exactly that is that might be a stumbling block in your effort to bring them to your program.  Never, ever assume that they are happy with what you are telling them.  I think there is great value in taking a defensive attitude in every recruiting battle you engage in.
  • Explain the details.  “The devil is in the details”, and we all know it.  So, when you open up and explain the why behind your plan for a recruit, we’re more likely to understand you and believe you.  Remember my initial hesitation about believing that we would pay less and get more data on our cell phone bill by upgrading the cell phone?  My skepticism vanished once he started writing out the side-by-side comparison of our current plan versus the proposed new plan.  How often do you write out the details of why you want a prospect right in front of them and their parents, Coach?
  • Ditch the brochures.  At best, they are a quick visual distraction that almost never factor into a recruit’s decision as to whether to become a part of a program.  At worst, they become a substitute for a coach who doesn’t want to do the small amount of extra work involved with writing out a plan in front of a recruit.  Your writing, in your own words, is far more effective than anything your college could print for you.  Please, Coach: Don’t rely on your brochures to sell your program.  If you saw how little they impacted your recruit’s final decision, it would depress you (if, that is, you are one of the coaches currently using brochures to sell your program to a prospect).
  • Ask for the sale.  If my cell phone sales representative had said, after doing a great job of walking me through the logic behind his plan for our account, “Do you want to talk this over with your wife and get back to me in a week or so?”, I might have taken him up on his offer.  We all like to delay decisions.  It allows us to defer a potentially wrong decision until “later”.  And, many coaches are happy to oblige because it delays a potential “no” just a little bit longer.  What have I seen work best?  If you want the prospect, and you walk them through why you see them succeeding in your program, complete the process by asking them for their commitment.  Most prospects are disappointed if you don’t ask them to take some kind of significant “next step” in your recruitment of them.  Please ask them if what you are telling them makes sense, and if they are feeling like they would be ready to commit.

There is power in sitting next to someone and visually outlining your plan for them, and writing down why it’s smart for them to be a part of what you’re building in your program.  There’s power in giving your prospect those notes you’ve written out for them, and letting them take it home with them (unlike your college’s lame brochure, your hand-written plan for them will be read over and over, and won’t be discarded after a few days).

My wife has her new iPhone as I write this article, and I have my new amazingly lower cell phone bill.  All because my sales representative told his story in a very engaging, logical manner.  I want to make sure you adjust your recruiting presentation moving forward, Coach.  If you do, I can assure you that you’re going to like the results!

As we enter into a new recruiting year, we’re committed to helping any coach who wants a more research-based, systematic approach to recruiting.  If you would like to find out more about how we work with other programs on a client basis, click here.

Teaching Recruiting Techniques While Selling Cosmetics at the MallSunday, April 20th, 2014

If you keep your eyes open, there are people all around you in your daily life that can teach you really valuable recruiting techniques.

I was reminded of that on a recent walk through the Water Tower Place mall in downtown Chicago.  It’s seven levels of shopping paradise – at least if you ask my wife, my daughter, and my mother-in-law, who were with me in Chicago after visiting my daughter in college.

My 7-year old son knows that the second floor of the mall is home to a Lego store, so we were chasing behind him as he darted into  building block heaven.  As I looked behind me, I noticed that the rest of my family was now talking to a stylishly dressed cosmetics salesman at the Orogold Cosmetics kiosk.

I wasn’t worried.  My wife is a pro at politely listening to salespeople and then walking away.  However, as my son sat building a robot at the Lego table inside the story, I peeked out the door and saw that they were all still listening to what the cosmetics salesman had to say.  In fact, they looked like they were actually kind of enjoying it. (My daughter Kaley looked downright fascinated!)

Nasav 3

Uh oh.

Twenty minutes later, I made my way over to seehow the ladies were doing.  I walked into the middle of one of the best, most professional, most engaging sales presentations I had ever heard.  The sales professional’s name was Nadav, who I later found out was originally from Israel but was now part of a small group of owners who ran four cosmetics kiosks throughout the mall and across the street.

After he had made my wife and her mom an offer on a moisturizer and de-wrinkler they couldn’t refuse, I stuck around to ask him a few questions.  I wanted to find out his secret to selling in a highly competitive environment – a mall on the Miracle Mile in the middle of touristy downtown Chicago, where finding bigger, better known cosmetic brands in flashier settings.

I came to find out that Nadav was a highly successful professional, who had studied his market and taken time to develop his technique.  His all-time best single sale in the mall was $13,000 to one person, so this guy was a pro.

I asked him to share some of the principles that made him successful.  What he told me has direct application to any college coach looking to connect with his or her prospects more effectively, as well as sell them on their program (even if it’s not he biggest brand on the block):

  • Earning trust.  Nadav tries to earn the trust of each customer before he tries to sell.  Without trust, he says, he can’t justify why they should buy his product from him.  We’ve talked about earning trust before…how do you earn trust with your recruits, Coach?
  • Mastering the approach.  Nadav has put a lot of time and attention into how he first establishes contact with a new customer.  That sets the tone for the relationship, even if it’s for only a few minutes.  If he does that correctly, he says “I have the chance of earning a customer for ten years.”  How much time to you put into figuring out what your approach sounds like to your recruits, Coach?
  • Compliments.  Part of his approach is to compliment his potential customer.  It’s such a simple act, but extremely powerful.  And yet, many coaches don’t continue to compliment their recruits throughout the process like Nadav does.  “Compliments”, says Nadav, “help make that connection.  And everyone that I talk to likes to be complimented.”
  • Knowing more about his competition than his own product.  “I don’t know if I can tell you everything that’s in our product, but I make sure I know everything that’s in my competitor’s product.”  Why?  Because he wants to make sure he can outline the differences between Orogold Cosmetics and whatever brand of cosmetics they are currently using.  He isn’t focused on “negatively recruiting” his competitor; rather, he wants to be passionate about outlining the differences between his product and others, as well as passionately explaining why his is the better solution.  “From start to finish, I believe in my product and am excited to sell it.”  Are you passionately selling your program, and highlighting the differences between you and your competitors in a professional way?
  • 10 lines.  Nadav has ten memorized, rehearsed, fall-back one-liners and conversation points that he is ready to use with any new customer.  If the conversation is lagging, or they seem to be uninterested, Nadav has a stable of tried-and-true lines to get the conversation going, or to make his customer laugh.  He’s practiced them, and figured out why they work and when he should use them.  It makes him comfortable about approaching any customer in any situation.  Do you have a set of conversation points, questions, or one-liners to help connect you with your recruits, Coach?
  • It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.  In other words, the “feel” of the language you use with your prospect is even more important than the facts you are relaying to them.  Why?  As we’ve said before, our research clearly shows that today’s teenage prospects are focused more on how you are making them feel, whether they are reading a letter you’ve written or engaging with you through social media.  That’s one of the big reasons we focus on the overall tone of the messages and recruiting strategy that we help develop for our clients.  The first thing recruits look for is the ability to trust you and connect with you (just like someone trying to figure out which cosmetic product to use).
  • Only sell what you think your customer needs.  Because he’s talented, Nadav could probably trick a lot of people into buying as much as he could.  But he holds to a principle of “only selling my customer what I truly feel they need.”  That helps build trust.  And, it’s the right thing to do.
  • “I love my job because it’s hard”.  Nadav works in an extremely competitive market.  It’s a $43billion dollar industry comprised with tens of thousands of products being sold by hundreds of different companies.  If you’re going to work in cosmetics – or in college coaching – you’d better love your job, because it’s hard and takes place in a competitive environment.  Approach your duty as a recruiter with passion, excitement, and an attitude like Nadav.  If you do, you’ll probably be successful at what you do.

So if you find ourself walking around the Water Tower Place mall on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, make your way up to the second level and spend some time with Nadav at the Orogold Cosmetics kiosk next to the Lego store.  You’ll probably end up buying some expensive cosmetics, and you’ll learn some incredible recruiting techniques that you can use in your future recruiting efforts.

Reading Their Hand Signals in the Big Game of RecruitingMonday, February 10th, 2014

The headline you can take away from the Super Bowl between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos was how Seattle’s defense managed to shut-down the Broncos high flying offense, leading to one of the biggest championship routs in the history of the big game.

It wasn’t through brute force.  And it wasn’t from stopping a last-minute drive at the end of the game for a lucky win.

No, the big news was that the Seattle defense was able to crack the code of Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning’s vaunted hand signals – the same secret code that lead Denver to the becoming one of the best offensive powers during the 2013 NFL regular season.  Here’s what Seahawks defensive back Richard Sherman said after the game:

“All we did was play situational football,” Sherman said after the game. “We knew what route concepts they liked on different downs, so we jumped all the routes. Then we figured out the hand signals for a few of the route audibles in the first half. Me and my he other guys in the secondary… we’re not just three All-Pro players. We’re three All-Pro minds. Now, if Peyton had thrown in some double moves, if he had gone out of character, we could’ve been exposed.”

So, what does all this have to do with recruiting your next college prospect?  Simple:

I want you to start stealing their hand signals.

They give them all the time, and yet sometimes coaches miss them.  I want to outline a few of the big signals you should be looking for, and de-code them for you so that you can get a better idea of how these recruits (and their parents…and their coaches) try to give you a head-fake in the big game of recruiting:

  • Your prospect doesn’t return your phone call.  They’re either busy, or find you boring and too time consuming.  The solution?  Text them.  It’s been consistently replacing phone calls as the top personalized way to have a conversation with a prospect.  (Not because you like it that way, Coach, but because they like it that way).  They’re silence is signaling that they either want a new way to communicate with you, or they’re ready for something more significant in terms of what you’re talking to them about.
  • Your prospect puts your call on speaker phone.  Finally got them on the phone, and they put you on speaker?  Get out of that call as soon as possible.  They’re bored, and not listening to you with 100% focus.  Give them one or two specific things you want them to do next, and end the call.  Why?  Well, let me ask you a question: Why do you put people on speaker phone?  So you can do other things while kind of paying attention to whoever is on the line.
  • Your prospect just told you they need a little more time to think about your offer.  They’ve decided that you’re clearly not their number one choice and just don’t know how to tell you that, or they have interest in your program but they’re trying to see if something better comes along – whether that’s a better athletic option, or more money.  They’re signaling that it’s time for you to make a strong case for why you should be a serious contender for their services, and that you’d better either set a fair deadline or get them to confirm that they probably aren’t going to be choosing to compete for you or your program.  Either way, it’s time to get them to define why they need a little more time. 
  • Your prospect gives you a verbal commitment.  After you tell them thats great, and that you’re excited about that news, ask them when they’re going to announce it on Twitter.  That’s this generation’s real letter of intent.  Whether you’re a big-time D1 program, a small private college, or someone in between, if they aren’t willing to announce their decision on Twitter they’re signaling that they’re still keeping their options open.  Trust me on this one, Coach.
  • Your prospect calls you and ask you questions without you prompting them to do so.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.
  • Your prospect emails you back after you send them a message.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.
  • Your prospect gives you updates on what they just turned into admissions, or what they just heard from financial aid, or what they just did in the last game that they played.  They’re signaling they’re interested.  Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process.

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course, but chances are you’re dealing with a prospect or two that are signaling what’s really going on behind the scenes.  Your job as a coach is to read what they’re signaling, interpret it, and then act on it.  It’s a crucial part of the job if you’re aiming to be a high-level, successful college recruiter.

No go out there and play the big game in recruiting the way we all know you can.

Want more innovative approaches that will help you become a dominant recruiter?  You need to be at the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this June.  It’s the greatest weekend on earth for serious recruiters who want to make sure they use the latest techniques and approaches with this next class of recruits.  Get all of the details here.

Anticipation (and How to Use It In Recruiting)Monday, December 23rd, 2013

The night of Christmas Eve, lots of little kids are full of anticipation.

The thought of toys under the tree, some extra sugar in their bellies, and just the overall fun and excitement of what the holidays brings is almost too much for them to handle.  If you doubt me, I’ll let you talk to the 7-year old boy in our house who has spent the last week trying (and failing) to guess what’s under the wrapping paper in those boxes under the tree with his name on them.

What many coaches miss in that scene being repeated in homes around the country is the incredible power of that anticipation, and how it changes the emotions, thinking and general outlook kids who can’t wait for Christmas morning.  More specifically, many coaches miss the lesson that they can take away and apply to their recruiting efforts.

The reason we talk about the importance of creating a “feeling” in the story that you tell your recruits is because they rely on those powerful emotions to make their final decision much of the time.  You and I can agree that this isn’t always the smartest way to choose a college or program, but there’s little doubt that it occurs on a regular basis in the recruiting process – at least according to our research.

So as a serious recruiter looking to connect with a prospect you really want,  shouldn’t you want to create the same energy and excitement around your contact with a recruit, as well as how they view your program emotionally while making their final decision?  If so, building anticipation – and understanding the components of why it’s such a powerful force – should be something that you aim to do in your recruiting message.

Here’s how you do it:

  • Your prospect will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message.  One of the key principles we put to work in creating effective recruiting campaigns for our clients is the idea that messaging should be ongoing, and sequential.  In other words, one message should set up the next message…and so on, and so on, and so on.  Too many messages we see from coaches are all encompassing, one-size-fits-all behemoths that tend to overwhelm and bore their teenage recipient.  Coaches need to start focusing on breaking up their longer messages into shorter, easier to digest stories that build into the next message rather than answer every single question right away.  That’s one of the big keys to anticipation in recruiting.
  • Your prospect will anticipate talking to you if you exceed their expectations.  Too often, a coach will jeopardize an interaction with a recruit by falling-back on the same tired, boring, run-of-the-mill conversation points that recruited athletes tell us they dread: “What movies are you watching”, “What did you download on iTunes this week”, “did anything great happen at school this week”…you get the picture, Coach.  When you earn the privilege of having a one-on-one talk with your recruit, you’d better try to figure out a way to amaze them if you want to keep positive anticipation on your side with them.  Are you asking questions no one else is?  Are you going to reveal an important “next step” you want them to take in the process?  Will you go over their strengths and weaknesses from the last time you watched them play?  Can you update them on any part of the process on your campus regarding their application?  ALL of that builds importance and value in their conversation with you…this time and the next time.  (By the way, you’ll know you have let negative anticipation seep into the relationship when your calls go to voicemail, or they aren’t returning your emails as much as they used to).
  • Your prospect will anticipate coming to campus if they have been given exciting peeks at what awaits them  when they get there.  Have you teased your recruit and given them glimpses of what your team is like, what campus is like, why he or she would want to see the dorms, and what the area is like around your college?  Those are some of the key elements our research has uncovered as to what triggers that “anticipation” in the minds of your recruits when it comes to the risky, scary idea of committing to a campus visit.  Recruits will rarely visit a campus without a good reason that is solidified in their mind – either one that they came up with on their own, or a picture that you have painted for them over a period of time.

One more thing:

Since we’re building-out these concepts using the excitement of presents under the tree during Christmas and the holidays, think about what happens after they open the presents.  There’s an almost immediate “crash”.  The anticipation and excitement is gone, and all that’s left is a pile of toys, the hand-knit underwear their Aunt Edna sent them, and wrapping paper strewn all over the place.  The energy is gone – as is that valuable anticipation.

If you’re a parent, watch what happens Christmas morning after the presents are all opened.  You’ll see what I’m talking about.

The point I’m making is that you need to anticipate that, Coach.  That means after they visit campus, for example, you need to anticipate that they will need a clear picture of what the next step in your process is in order to maintain their focus and excitement about the idea of competing for you. My personal observation is that coaches tend to take an optimistic view of their recruit, picturing that with each step they take in the recruiting process he or she becomes more and more excited, and naturally wants to talk more about competing for you.  In the majority of cases, I find that the opposite is true: The anticipated is now the familiar, and they’ll search out a new source of anticipation and excitement in the form of another program (remember that recruit who got spotted late by a competitor and rushed through the process to commit with them?…That’s a prime example of a kid continuing to look for anticipation and excitement in the form of another program).

Your job, Coach, is to put a focus on managing the experience and continuing to build that anticipation in your recruits’ mind.  In trying to show them why you are the smart choice, it is also your job to get them to “stop believing in Santa”, to a large extent.  If you can master that art, you’ll solve a key riddle when it comes to how to ride that wave of anticipation in the recruiting process.

After the holidays comes New Years, and with New Years comes resolutions!  If you are focused on developing a more research-based, strategic approach to the recruiting process, talk to Dan Tudor and his team.  To get an overview of how the process works, and what they do when they work with a coaching staff as clients, click here.  Or, contact Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com

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

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

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

And that’s where we find the problem occurring.

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

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

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

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

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

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

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

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

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

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

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

POSSIBLE TRANSLATION:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Your Prospect Avoids Fear (and What To Do About It When You’re Recruiting Them)Monday, September 30th, 2013

When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had this bad habit of hiding my algebra homework under the desk in my room so I wouldn’t have to do it.  Immature, yes.  Self-destructive?  Mr. Grayson tried to make that case a few times.  And yet, I did it.  Over and over again.

Before I could fly to visit clients today, I had to submit to various levels of security checks from the wonderful folks at the TSA.  I’ve been patted, scanned, swabbed, and questioned.  I’ve been asked if I have any liquids in my carry-on, and if I remembered to remove my belt before walking through the scanner. Over and over again.

Do you have an insurance policy?  Do you get an annual check-up?  Do you get a little nervous when a Friday the 13th rolls around?

It’s all about our fear of fear.  Understand what I’m saying:  When I was foolishly avoiding my algebra homework, it wasn’t a fear of math that I was suffering from.  Avoiding the homework was a preventing me from fearing the test and my impending D+ in algebra class.  Insane line of thinking, right?

(Lets forget for a moment that a lot of coaches I’ve talked to over the years are reluctant to press their prized number one recruit for a final decision because they don’t want to hear “no”, even though it’s likely that the non-response from that recruit clearly signals that a “no” is only a matter of time.  Not that different from my irrational fear of my algebra homework, is it?)

Now, let’s apply this to your prospects:

If you’ve had us on your campus anytime in the past few years, you know that one of the big things we try to make coaches understand about this generation of college recruits is that they have a fear of making the wrong decision.  They are scared of saying the wrong thing to you during a phone call, scared to commit to an unofficial visit, and scared to answer your phone call.

They, like you perhaps, have a fear of fear.  They’ll avoid an honest conversation with you to avoid the fear of saying something wrong.  Insane line of thinking, right?

That’s who you’re recruiting, Coach.  That’s why your prospect avoids fear, and why it’s sometimes so hard for you to do your job as a recruiter.

With that in mind, here are a few key principles we see working well for programs around the country that we get the chance to assist as clients:

  • Always focus on their feeling of being fearful.  It’s not actual facts that your prospect is scared about…it’s the feeling of being scared that they’re trying to avoid.  So, if you’re a recruiter who is focusing on selling your facility or last year’s record as a way of overcoming that fear that’s ingrained in the mind of your prospect, you’re going to struggle.  Instead, address the question of why they are feeling scared about something – making an early decision, visiting campus, returning your phone call.  That’s the secret, Coach…focus on the feeling that’s creating the fear.
  • Ask them what scares them most about the whole recruiting process.  Logically, if they have an irrational fear that needs to be discussed as a part of the recruiting process, who is more equipped to lead that conversation: You, or the teenage recruit?  (If you chose the teenage recruit, go back to the beginning of the article).  Of course you have to lead that conversation!  And it starts by asking them the question that most coaches don’t think to bring up: “What scares you the most about the idea of choosing a college program?”
  • Put fear on the table, and tell them what you think they’re thinking.  Tell them what you see them being scared about, and see if they agree with you or not.  It’s easier for them to react to a statement about what you think they’re thinking, than it is for them to tell you what they’re thinking.  Confusing and a little sad, yes.  But we find it to be true, so use it to your advantage.

There is a lot that’s tough for us to outline exactly what you should do when it comes to this fact about their fear, because so much of it revolves around the core principles your coaching staff chooses to adopt.  For example, I can’t tell you whether or not it’s time to press this year’s #1 recruit…maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t.

The point is, fear is driving everything that your prospect does during the recruiting process.  How you react to that fact will determine how successful you are with this generation.

There’s no reason for not having a will, other than to avoid thinking about death.  Applying that truth to how your recruits are reacting to your invitation to come visit campus – and how you change your message – is going to be more and more important with this generation of teenage prospects.

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