Dan Tudor

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January 7th, 2013

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Curing Your Prospect’s Analysis Paralysis

You’ve heard of “analysis paralysis”, right?

It’s the term we use when someone over-analyzes a question, situation or choice so long that he or she is “paralyzed” with the inability to decide what to do.  As a coach, you’ve had moments of analysis paralysis, right?

So do your prospects.

Especially as the recruiting process enters the final stages.  The fun of being pursued is over, and now it’s decision time.  And making a final choice is tough for many prospects.  Heck, it may happen way before the end of the process…some prospects freeze in the face of the decision of where to take a campus visit, or even which phone call to return.  “Analysis paralysis” is at the root of a lot of the recruiting hurdles college coaches face when it comes to getting their recruits to get to the next step in the recruiting process.

If you want a more detailed, psychological study explaining the reasons behind the very real phenomenon that is analysis paralysis, click here.  But if you’re ready to jump into a strategy that will provide you with a good opportunity to help your prospect (and their parents) overcome paralysis analysis, let’s get started.

First, understand that the fear of moving forward is going to be commonplace for most of your prospects.  While you’ve been through the recruiting process multiple times, your prospect and his or her family are trying to maneuver through unfamiliar territory for the first time.  And the easiest thing to do when they reach that fork in the road in the process (“what campus should I visit?”…”which coach do I like the best?”…”who is giving me the best offer?”) is do nothing.  You should expect it, and plan for it.

Secondly, understand that you – and only you – can take control and help manage the process and lead your prospect out of the morass of inaction, and begin moving towards a decision.

Thirdly, regarding their decision: It could be “no”.  And as I’ve talked about before, hearing that answer earlier rather than later in the recruiting process is always preferred.  One of the things I often mention to coaches while getting the opportunity to train them during one of our On-Campus Workshops is that I take a “real world” approach to the recruiting process, and the philosophies that should guide it.  That includes taking a realistic approach towards understanding exactly where you stand in the eyes of a recruit, and doing so as early as possible.  Getting a “no” early and having months (rather than days) to pivot and adjust your recruiting strategy effectively, based on the scenarios I’ve seen play out recently in our work with our clients.

So, assuming you’re agreeing with my observations so far, let me offer you a few ways we’ve seen work well in moving your recruit out of “analysis paralysis” and back onto the road towards making a decision (hopefully one that is favorable to you and your program):

  • Be direct. If you’ve been your normal sensitive, polite self to this point in the communication process, I’d want to see you change your approach and be more direct.  By “direct”, I mean short and to the point.  There needs to be a noticeable difference in your tone and approach in an effort to subconsciously let them know that they are entering a new phase of the recruiting process, one that will require a new sense of urgency.
  • Present an assumption. In other words, in an effort to get them to say something (anything!), throw out a statement that they will need to either confirm or deny.  This was a strategy we recommended to a D1 lacrosse coach who is our client: The coach had been waiting for a recruit’s answer on a scholarship offer for months, and together we wanted to find out where this recruit stood with regards to our client’s program.  The question had our coach ask was “so, it looks like we’re #3 on your list at this point, right?”  Of course, we were hoping the athlete would tell our coach, “Oh, no Coach…you’re my top choice.”  However, the athlete finally confirmed what we had assumed: Our coach’s program was the #3 choice in the recruit’s mind, but didn’t want to hurt their feelings and tell them that they weren’t going to go there.  Disappointing news?  Absolutely.  But it moved the process forward in a way where our client could then adjust their strategy with their next three recruits that they had waiting in the wings.  None of it would have happened had the coach not presented an assumption, and then let the prospect react to it.
  • Set a fair but firm deadline, and explain why you have to do that. It’s an interesting thing about this generation of recruits: If you are the one asking them for a decision, they tend to look at it as “pressure”.  If you can find another outside reason (your admissions department, your head coach, the athletic administration) that you are being “forced” to move the process along at this point, their reaction is much more accommodating.  All of a sudden, they’ll open up…they’ll reveal what they’re really thinking…and they’ll take the next step in the process.  The key to this is setting a fair but firm deadline, and explaining why you are having to do that.  The deadline should be a few weeks out so that it doesn’t seem like you are “pressuring” them, but once the deadline is in place, you need to keep it.  No answer from your prospect translates into “we’ve got to move in a different direction” from you and your program.  This recommendation is one of the most effective tactics to shake a recruit and their parents from analysis paralysis, especially later in the process.

The analysis paralysis phenomenon is real.  It happens when we look at real estate, it happens when we consider buying a car (which is why the salesman tries so desperately to get you into that little room inside the dealership…if they don’t, they know you’ll stay “paralyzed” out in the parking lot) and it happens with your recruits and their parents during the recruiting process.

You have some power to change their thinking, Coach.  Don’t waste it!

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