In this age of prospects friending you on Facebook, or following you on Twitter, it’s good to know that most of what you’re going to be doing to solidify the relationships you’ve nurtured up to this point will be done over the phone.
The interesting irony of that fact, of course, is that it’s also one of the most difficult parts of the recruiting process for many college recruiters.
It’s a timely topic as we start the new year: We’re at that point of year when coaches all over the country are starting to hear about decisions from their prospects (or wishing they were hearing from them, in many cases!). For the majority of coaches reading this today, the jury is still out in terms of what next year’s recruiting class looks like.
So, what’s a nervous coach to do? I know what you want to do. You want to pick up the phone and make another follow-up call to that prospect who’s taking just a little too long to call you back with a decision.
Since many coaches seem to be facing the challenge of making effective follow-up phone calls, I wanted to give you several tips for making great follow-up calls to your recruits. See how many of these proven strategies you are already doing as a part of your regular recruiting communication plan, and what you may want to consider adding to make it more effective.
Get a Commitment from Your Prospect for the Follow-up
Perhaps the single biggest mistake I watch coaches make is not establishing a specific date and time for the follow-up call at the end of their previous visit. Vague commitments from prospects (“call me sometime next week if you want”) or recruiters (“I’ll send the paperwork you need and follow-up in a couple of days or so”) result in missed calls, voice mail messages and ultimately a longer recruiting cycle. All you need to do is ask for an exact follow-up date and time. Try something like this, Coach:
“John, I’m going to be sending you and your parents that overview of our program that we’ve been talking about. You’ll have it by the end of the week, so how about I call back next Wednesday night around 7:30. How does that sound?” Trust me on this one…ask “how does that sound?” instead of something like “what do you think?”
Back to your call…if this is not a good time, recommend another time. If that doesn’t work, get them to establish a set future time and date. Creating a deadline is a simple but extremely powerful tactic that gets a prospect’s attention. Use it.
Build “Call Equity” and Be Remembered
After every first call to a prospect, send a thank-you card. Handwrite a message that simply says, “John, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I look forward to catching-up with you further on the 16th! Keep up the good work.” No more, no less.
In today’s fast paced world, a short, handwritten card tells your prospect (and his or her parents) that you took the time and the effort to do something a little differently than most other coaches. We’ve seen this register in your recruit’s mind and creates a degree of “equity” in you. When we suggest this as a strategy for our coaches who are clients, we notice that it differentiates them immediately and is remembered for a long time afterwards. And, it gives your teenage prospect a reason to be there when you make your follow-up call. If you want the details behind this line of thinking, you should read “Inside the Mind of Your High School Prospect”, our special report that goes inside the mind of your college prospect…it’s fascinating, and will tell you all about what your prospects think about handwritten notes and letters.
If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an email with the same note. Just be aware that an email does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note.
Email a Reminder and an Agenda
The day before your follow-up phone call, email your prospect to remind him or her of your appointment and something else that you can attach that might interest them like an article about your or your program. In the subject line, enter the words: “You and I talking on March 19th – and something extra for you.” Note that the subject line acts as a reminder but it is vague enough that the prospect will probably open it. There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed since you last talked.
Your email should confirm the date and time of the appointment and then briefly list your agenda:
“John, the call should only take about 10 or 15 minutes. We’ll review what we talked about last time and I’ll answer any questions. And then we’ll determine what you see as the next steps, if any.”
Notice how the words echo those used when the follow-up was initially set. In particular, notice the trigger phrase “. . .the next steps, if any.” The “if any” helps reduce some of the stress or concern your prospects or their parents might have. Often they skip the follow-up call because they are worried that they’ll be pressured to make a commitment. This is natural. If prospects sense an easy, informal, “no pressure” type of phone call, they are more likely to show up and be on time for that call.
Add Value in a P.S.
Notice the reference to an article in your email’s subject line. At the end of your email, add a P.S. that says, “John, before our call, I wanted to show this to you…check it out.”
As I referenced earlier, the article may be about your your team, a big win, an interesting story about a recruiting issue of interest, or something completely non-sports related that might show a little bit of your fun side. This creates tremendous value even if your recruit does not open it. Why? Because you took the time to do something extra. This helps you be remembered and gives the prospect yet another reason to take your follow-up call.
Of course, this means you have to do some homework, Coach. Keep an eye out on the web for articles of interest and value relative to your sport or the topic of recruiting. You might even keep a file of these articles because they can be used over and over again with future recruits.
(By the way, if you want some extra research on why a P.S. works so well, click here)
Call On Time!
Don’t start your relationship on the wrong foot. Call on time. Never, ever be late with your follow-up call. Not even by a minute. The promptness and respect you show on a follow-up call reflects on you, your program and your college.
By the way, you know who notices late calls the most? The parents. And you don’t want to get your relationship with them off on the wrong foot, do you?
Here’s the bottom line, Coach: New information gets attention and keeps your prospects engaged. Old information, or no information at all, results in a non-productive phone call every single time.
Got prospects to follow-up with now that we’ve started the new year? Try some new tactics and use some of these tips to get a better response.
If you need more tips on how to successfully recruit this generation of recruits, you really need to attend our upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. It’s a three day, one-of-a-kind recruiting weekend dedicated to making you the dominant recruiter in your conference . Click here to learn more.