by Dan Christensen, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
When coaches ask me for help with their recruiting strategy, there are some common parts of the recruiting process they identify that need improvement.
Getting a higher initial response rate from recruiting emails.
Figuring out how to overcome objections.
Improving their ability to close recruits.
While these are incredibly important parts of the recruiting process, I think there are some areas of recruiting that if improved upon, will solve a lot of other problems.
The dilemma is that many coaches don’t understand that these are the areas they struggle in. They aren’t as obvious as a low response rate or getting turned down by recruits at the end of the process.
Here they are and some ways to improve in these areas:
1) Strategy for recruiting in the middle
A lot of the time coaches get ultra-focused on the procedural parts of recruiting. You make contact, get your prospect to visit, apply, and then they make their decision.
But these few steps are a very small percentage of what is truly involved in getting a prospect to ultimately choose you.
This middle portion of the process is critical. It is where coaches can take recruits from interested to super fans of the program. It is where coaches should be identifying who are the truly interested prospects and who are the ones that are just dragging the coach along.
Unfortunately, without an effective strategy for navigating the middle, coaches will often get stuck. And recruits will lose the interest and excitement they may have had in the beginning of the process.
The middle is where the heart of your recruiting message belongs. You’ve got them hooked. But, you can’t close them without a strong story.
This story should consistently explain to them why they should choose you. It should also explain how you are better than the other options they have.
Assume that your prospect always needs more answers to these two questions. They’re unsure about whether you’re the school for them and so they want to hear from you. Over and over again.
Plan to tell a consistent story in the middle rather than just frequently “checking in” with them to see how they’re doing or asking them to take one of the steps like applying or visiting.
Another part of a strong strategy in the middle is asking the right questions to know whether you should continue to recruit that prospect or move on.
If you do not navigate the middle effectively, you’ll end up with a lot of rejection at the end from the recruits that just never told you “no”, even though the answer was almost always “no”.
Keep an eye out for red flags. Ask recruits to further explain their answers to dig deeper. Play out hypothetical scenarios to see how your recruit feels.
If you have this mindset in the middle, the end of the recruiting process will be much more favorable for you.
2) Approach to recruiting the influencers
Coaches that only talk to the prospect during the recruiting process are at a big disadvantage. There is always someone helping your recruit make their decision.
For most it will be their parents. Or maybe their high school or club coach. For others it could be a family friend or a grandparent.
Whoever is helping that prospect needs to hear from you. Even the person that gives you the line, “we are being hands off and letting the athlete make their own decision”.
That parent or friend is still giving their opinions of schools and has an influence on which schools the prospect visits and applies to.
If you’re a coach that has trouble overcoming objections, especially cost, or just doesn’t get enough recruits to apply and visit campus, this is probably the biggest area of improvement needed.
When you can explain to the recruit’s influencers why that athlete should choose you and you’ve built trust with them, a lot of the rest of the pieces fall into place with that prospect.
Need help recruiting in the middle or connecting better with the influencers in your prospect’s life? Dan Christensen and the team at TCS support over 500 programs to help them be more effective in these parts of their recruiting strategy. To ask any questions or inquire about getting this kind of support, email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.