After just fifteen seconds talking with one of our clients on the phone, I could tell she was ticked-off.
She just found out that she had lost a recruit. A good one, too. One that I had helped her with in developing a strategy for selling that prospect on her school. But it had all just “blown apart”, in her words, thanks to a competitor who bombarded the prospect with negative recruiting over the last two weeks. Now, this coach’s prospect had doubts and was passing on the offer to come and play for the coach.
The best way to respond? Certainly not with negative recruiting. And not by acting defensively in responding to what another coach has said. So how do you compete with a tough recruiter who wants a prospect just as badly as you do – and seems to be willing to say or do anything to keep that prospect from signing with you?.
Here are my five ways to beat other coaches for recruits…tactfully, creatively and without slandering them:
Find out what they like about the competition, then chip away at them. Before you can chip away at the other guys, you need to know what your prospect perceives their strengths to be. Ask them to list the strong-points of each of the other schools that are recruiting them. As you hear the answers, reply to each one with a phrase like, “That’s interesting that you mention that, because actually we are stronger in that area than them.” Then, list why. Even if they’re a bigger program, or more prestigious, this subtle reply works well. It’s important to note that I don’t consider this negative recruiting; instead, its pointing out side-by-side comparisons between you and the other guys, and doing it in a professional way that accentuates your positives.
Have the prospect create their own doubt about the competition. A good way to do this is to ask your prospect, “As you’ve had the chance to get to know these other coaches that are recruiting you, what are some things that you’ve noticed that you don’t like that much about the coach, program and school?” You might word the question differently, and that’s fine. But the point is to get the prospect to start actively thinking about your competition’s weaknesses instead of their strengths. Is this negative recruiting? Hardly. You are letting your prospect develop their own questions about the other program that is recruiting them, which is something that they may not have done yet.
Spend time really, truly connecting with your prospect. This is a big focus at the “Building a Winning Recruiting Message” workshops we’re getting ready to host in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. Connect with your prospect through your communication with them is essential if you want to block-out a competitor. Most coaches are too focused on just “getting the sale” than they are about really connecting on a deep level with your prospect. Ask thought-provoking questions of the athlete, and of their parents. Spend time talking to their coach. Invest your time in your prospect and the people that will help them make their decision, and try to dig deep into the non-sports areas of their lives. Coaches who do this usually beat their competition, and you always come across as more professional than their counterparts. If you need some good strategies on how to improve this area of your career, join us at one of these upcoming workshops.
Make sure you overcome ALL your prospect’s objections to what you’re offering them. This is another big topic in our training guides for recruiters, and one that we’ll be focusing on with our Premium Members later this Spring. Why? Because its the most important part of recruiting an athlete, and it may be something that your competition isn’t doing. Find out specific objections your prospect has, and make sure they get addressed. If you want a free article on two ways to successfully address objections that your prospect brings up, click here.
Ask your prospect how they’d like to be recruited. Here’s what I mean by that: Tell your prospect you really want to tailor a specific recruiting conversation to them personally, and then ask them how they’ll be making their decision. What information do they need? What questions do they need answered? What’s important to them? What aspect of your offer (you, your program, your college) means the most to them? Most of your competition doesn’t ask these kind of direct questions. But they should…they work!
Competition is tough, and its only getting tougher as we head into the last few months of the 2008 recruiting season and as you start to recruit your 2009 and 2010 recruits. Try using these strategies to start to get an edge on your competition in the battle for recruits, and let us know if we can train you further on any of these techniques.