As a frequent flyer, I have visited my share of airport restrooms.
It’s one of the worst parts of flying, to be honest. Bathrooms don’t smell good, they are usually in need to some cleaning, they’re crowded, and sometimes just plain weird (if we ever meet, ask me about the time I walked into a crowded restroom at LAX and saw a man with his shirt off, washing himself and shaving his back. Wow.) They’re also incredibly “utilitarian” – meaning that you’re there to do one thing, and one thing only. They serve a basic need, and don’t try to venture very far from that basic need.
Unless you travel through the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina.
When you walk into a restroom at CLT, you’re greeted by a smiling attendant like the one I had the pleasure of meeting on a recent trip visiting clients along the East coast.
The bathrooms at Charlotte International are clean.
When you’re ready to wash your hands, you’re often offered a paper towel by the attendant, as well as a small cup of mouthwash or a breath mint. The whole time, the attendant is usually politely wishing people safe travel, and asking them about their day.
Their tip boxes are usually full, deservedly so.
So, why in the world am I talking about airport bathrooms with college coaches?
Because it’s important that coaches who want to be serious recruiters understand the important mistakes that get made on a regular basis. And, because the similarities between your run-of-the-mill airport bathroom, and the challenge you have in separating yourself from your recruiting competition, are many.
- Most airport bathrooms look the same. So do most campus recruiting visits.
- Most airport bathrooms make you notice what’s wrong with them instead of what’s right with them. So do most recruiting messages you send to student-athletes.
- Most airport bathrooms are dull, making you want to do what you need to do and then get out. That’s how most prospects treat your recruiting phone calls.
- Most airport bathrooms are a necessary evil for an airline traveler. So is the closing process through the eyes of a prospect and his or her parents, as a coach is either pressuring them to make a commitment before they’re ready or not adequately outlining what the prospect should do down the stretch.
Now, what you might be expecting at this point is a list of what you should do next. You might be hoping to see a series of tips that have worked for other coaches, guaranteed to work no matter what campus you’re coaching at or how well your team did last year.
Sorry, that’s not the point of this article.
I want you to ask yourself, or have a conversation with your coaching staff or athletic department, some important questions about how you are executing your recruiting plan:
- Ask yourself about your campus visits, whether they’re unofficial or official (and by the way, as early as recruiting is getting, your unofficial visit really might be your official visit!). Do you know the worst thing your visit experience can offer a visiting recruit and his or her family? The exact same thing the last two visits they went on offered. If your current visit looks, sounds and feels like the visit you went on as a college prospect waaaay back when, then that’s a problem.
- Ask yourself about the recruiting messages that you’re putting into the hands of your recruits. Specifically, ask the questions that I’ll bet you’ve never ever really sat and thought about: “What are my recruits saying about my message right now?” And after you’re done answering that question, “Did that message prove to him or her that my program should be the obvious choice when it’s all said and done?” Your answers are important, because just like that airport bathroom, your prospect is hyper aware of what’s wrong with you instead of what’s right with you.
- Ask yourself how you’re making your recruit desperate to pick up the phone the next time you call. Because, quite honestly, that’s what recruiting calls are all about: Getting them to pick up the next time you call them! What about your phone calls are so unique, so interesting, and so compelling that your recruits are looking forward to the next time you call? And if you can’t come up with anything, what are some non-traditional, slightly off-the-wall ideas that you can use to separate yourself from other recruiting phone calls your recruits are getting. Just like one airport taking the unique step to staffing their busy restrooms with friendly attendants, mouthwash and breath mints, you can find unique ways to approach your recruits creatively – if you’re willing to take a fresh look at the way you do things, and not be afraid to do things that aren’t the traditional way you’ve done them before.
- Ask yourself how well you guide your prospect (and his or her parents) through the process of making a final decision. Are you willing to be involved in that conversation, or are you too timid to lead that discussion? Are you willing to help them through the decision making process, or are you simply going to set a deadline and leave it at that? Are you comfortable in leading a closing discussion – the ultimate necessary evil in the recruiting process – with your prospects, Coach?
Those four questions, along with your four answers, are some of the cornerstone philosophies that you need to define for yourself if you’re going to become a serious, consistent and successful recruiter. The easy thing to do is not spend a small part of your day coming up with great answers to those four important questions. Do the hard thing, Coach…fight hard to not settle for ordinary in a world of recruiting approaches that all look the same.
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