For the convenience of Internet access, I usually fork over $27 for a three and a half hour flight. Or I pay $50 a month for the convenience of just logging on whenever I’m on a flight. Either way, if you do the math, that’s insane. That’s almost what I pay for high speed wifi at my office for an entire month!
Why is that? What makes the wifi thirty times more valuable on a plane than it does at your office? What part of our brain justifies that kind of expense? (I’m guessing it’s the same part of the brain that tells us it’s o.k. to pay $7.50 for a bottle of water in your hotel room).
Are we really just telling ourselves “stories” about money? And, if we are, are there some secrets that college coaches can steal to make selling walk-on, non-scholarship or partial scholarship opportunities an easier sell with this generation of high school prospects and their parents?
Marketing expert and author Seth Godin has some ideas on where to start if we want to really understand how to think about money, cost, and the value of something like college tuition:
“Money’s pretty new. Before that, we traded. My corn for your milk. The trade enriches both of us, and it’s simple.
Money, of course, makes a whole bunch of other transactions possible. Maybe I don’t need your milk, but I can take your money and use it to buy something I do need, from someone else. Very efficient, but also very abstract.
As we ceased to trade, we moved all of our transactions to the abstract world of money. And the thing about an abstract trade is that it happens over time, not all at once. So I trade you this tuition money today in exchange for degree in four years which might get me a better job in nine years. Not only is there risk involved, but who knows what the value of anything nine years from now is?
Because of the abstraction and time shift, we’re constantly re-evaluating what money is worth. Five dollars to buy a snack box on an airplane is worth something very different than five dollars to buy a cup of coffee after a fancy meal, which is worth something different than five dollars in the grocery store. That’s because we get to pretend that the five dollars in each situation is worth a different amount–because it’s been shifted.”
Are you starting to see how this is applicable to college recruiting?
It’s not just applicable in a theoretical sense, it has immediate real world application if you’re serious about approaching the “money conversation” with your prospects.
So, with that in mind, there are some questions that every virtually every parent and prospect you are recruiting asks, and what each coach needs to answer when it comes to determining the right way to construct a conversation about money with his or her recruits. Here are the questions (many of them courtesy of Seth) that run through your prospects’ minds on a regular basis (along with some insights on how to formulate your answers):
- How much pain am I in right now? As I interpret this and apply it to the college recruiting process, I think of the family is convinced a full-ride offer is right around the corner, which makes your partial offer seem almost insulting. “Why should I pay for something that I feel I should be getting for free?” If that’s the place you find yourself in with some of your recruits, the answer to your prospect’s question, “How much pain am I in right now?” is “Not all that much”. Fast forwarding to late in the process, when the prospect and parent is more desperate for a viable college option, their story about money might be changing. Maybe now, they’re willing to look at a partial offer. If you’re a D1 coach with full scholarships to give, you know your top recruits are asking a version of this question, as well. Selling an early verbal commitment is tougher than it is a week before it’s time for them to sign their Letter of Intent. We all start with this question when we’re determining whether or not it’s smart to buy something. For your prospect, you need to help them answer that question, as best as possible.
- Do I deserve this? That question could come from a positive or negative point of view. Most recruits have the mindset that they deserve everything you have to give them. They might also be asking that question negatively, as if to say “Don’t I deserve something better?” The big point you should take away is the idea that they are constantly trying to assess their place in your world, and more specifically in your program. How are you showing them that they do deserve what you’re offering, and going into detail about why they should want it, is critically important in the recruiting process when it comes to justifying cost to a recruit and his or her parents.
- What if the coach is trying to trick me, and am I smarter to hold out for more money later in the process? That’s a legitimate question. Prospects and their parents are more savvy than ever about the process, and have heard lots of stories about similar recruiting situations and will use that info to construct their strategy in dealing with you and your offer. We’ve talked in detail in our On-Campus Workshops with athletic departments about the incredible importance of honesty, and how prospects will be actively looking for demonstrated proof of it throughout the process. As a strategic approach to justifying the “purchase” of your offer to play for your program, ask yourself: “What am I doing to demonstrate that I’m the most honest coach they’re dealing with?” That’s an important question, Coach.
- What will my friends think? I believe, at the core, this question drives much of their earlier recruiting behavior. “I’m not going to reply to this coach, they’re from a Division III school.” Or, “I’ve played club ball for the last seven years, and my club coach says I shouldn’t take partial offers seriously.” Or, “That coach is struggling. Would I look stupid if I committed to them, even though I really liked the guys on the team?” Or, “Those other parents’ daughters all went to BCS-conference schools. What are they going to think if we take the offer from this smaller D1?” Sound familiar? Just know, Coach, that this is a question going through the heads of all of your prospects and their parents early on in the process. It’s up to you to tell them why they should want the opportunity to come to your school, to play for you, and to leave with a degree from your school. Not telling them what you have, but telling them why they should want it. There’s a big difference, Coach.
Money is not the real obstacle when it comes to convincing a prospect that your offer is a good one. Defining the value of that offer, and explaining to them why they should want it, is the real secret.
Stop focusing on the dollar amount. Start focusing on creating a story about the value of your opportunity, and watch how different your conversation is with each of your recruits.
Creating the right story is important, obviously. But what if you are a coach that doesn’t have the time in their schedule to create that story, and manage it’s delivery? That’s where Tudor Collegiate Strategies comes in: We work with hundreds of coaching staffs around the country to help them strategically launch an effective, consistent recruiting messaging plan. It works, and we can show you how. If you’d like to talk about how it could work for your program, email Dan direction at firstname.lastname@example.org.