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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.