But the fact of the matter is, some of your competition is in the process of losing recruits they are assuming will be coming to their campus after they graduate. What they don’t know is that right now, those same recruits are second-guessing their decision to their original school. That other coach, after getting a verbal commitment from the recruit, has started to ignore them. Not because they’re a bad person, but because they’re slightly unorganized and really busy: There are other prospects to turn their attention to, and the daily grind that is their college coaching world.
When another coach (or you) break the normal rhythm and routine of contact with a recruit, they feel it. Instinctively, they know that something has changed. When we conduct our focus group research with actively recruited prospects, one main them emerges on this topic: That change in feeling prompts them to second-guess their decision, which leads them to wonder if they might need to consider other options again, feeling like they might have been too quick to make their original decision.
That key change in their outlook opens the door for you.
If you’re a coach who wants to continue the battle for a recruit after they tell you they’re going to compete for another program, here are several recommended strategies to use to help give you a fighting chance for getting them to take a second look at what you’re offering:
- Approach with caution and professionalism. When deciding you want to continue to pursue a prospect after they voice a verbal commitment to a competing program, let them know that you’ll still want to communicate with them moving forward just in case they change their mind or something happens at the other program. It’s not bad to ask them, “is that o.k. with you?” The goal here is not to be an unwanted distraction, it’s to be a safety net for them in case their original feelings change.
- Be consistent. As we’ve outlined in previous articles and training throughout the years, regular outbound messaging to your recruit is crucial: They tell us that they want to hear from a coach every six to nine days, throughout the process, as you tell them 1) why they should choose to compete for you and your program, and 2) hear details on why you’re better than their other choices.
- Never ever, ever, ever criticize or demean another coach, program or college. First, it’s unprofessional. Secondly, when you do that, you immediately cause them to defend their original choice, and move them back closer to their original commitment. Why? Because when you trash a competitor, you’re also trashing their original decision to go to that school. That’s not good strategy, and it also taints your name and reputation.
- Prepare for the long haul. Changing their mind, and getting them to consider you again, isn’t going to be a quick process most of the time. Have a plan to continue to recruit them with the same kind of messaging series you were using to get their attention in the first place. In other words, recruit them the same way you were recruiting them before – with an emphasis on answering those two questions I mentioned earlier.
- Be positive and enthusiastic. What you might want to increase is the level of enthusiasm the prospect hears from you. If we understand that their mindset is changing in terms of their view towards their original choice due to the other coach ignoring them, or taking their decision for granted, we want to differentiate ourselves as that competing coach by being overly positive, and show enthusiasm in our messaging and personal communication. That’s what will make you ‘feel’ better to your recruit, and get them to further consider you as the choice they need to switch to.
- Let them know you’d love to be their coach. I don’t advise you ‘pressuring’ them into changing their minds, but I do advise you to let them know that if they ever feel like changing their mind and looking at other programs again, you’d love to be at the top of that list, and that their original decision to go to the other program hasn’t changed the way you feel about them. In other words, convey that you still want them in your program.
By the way, there is a compelling line of thinking as to why this is something that most coaches should do: Today’s prospect is being asked to make decision sooner, with less information, than ever before. If we agree that this isn’t an ideal decision-making environment for them to make what is certainly one of the biggest decisions in their young life, shouldn’t they always have the option to change their mind as time goes on?
Where you feel it is appropriate, be that option they can choose.
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