That could be a sensitive question in today’s politically charged climate. Two different studies over the last year say that somewhere between 75% and 88% of the U.S. population are hesitant to reveal their choice for political candidates to neighbors. Today, Republicans and Democrats alike are hesitant to talk about who they’ve voting for, and why. And, that extends to polling.
Polling in today’s political campaign world is a lot more challenging than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Home telephone numbers were readily available, and polling organizations could easily target addresses they wanted to call to get a fairly accurate picture oof where election results were heading. Today, it’s much harder: Nearly all of us have cell phone numbers that we’ve kept throughout the years and after moves and job changes, which makes the data polling professionals are searching out more difficult to harness. And even if a potential voter is successfully reached, there’s an increasing chance we believe our neighbors are lying to those pollsters about their true choices.
The same dangers, and potential inaccuracies, plague many coaching staffs’ recruiting efforts day in and day out, as well. They read the signs and listen to the information that they get from reliable sources about their prospect, and act accordingly. But just like the pollsters, getting accurate information isn’t always the same as getting reliable information. Why?
- Prospects, and their parents, lie. Not because they’re bad people necessarily, but because they’re in the middle of a negotiation with you. Lying, or half-truths, benefit them (at least in the short term).
- Like many voters, they’re scared of revealing their true intentions. It’s easier to tell you they are ‘voting’ for you, or that they’re ‘undecided’ as to who they’ll be committing to, rather than be honest and tell you that while you may be in their top five, you’re a distant fifth. That lack of clarity messes with your polling data, Coach.
- More and more, they are hiding their intentions and true feelings. That secret dream of a higher level, better conference or slightly more money than your offering is becoming a surprise revelation at the end of the recruiting process. Like voters, they’re reluctant to express their true intentions.
Misreading presidential polling doesn’t affect your recruiting class, however. And since this is your job we’re talking about here, I’d suggest you take a skeptical look at your own internal ‘polling data’ given to you by your recruits: Listen, take it in, but then look at the hidden data that might be right in front of your face, but could be getting overlooked.
Assuming you’d want to buy-in to that approach, here are four primary strategies that you should be implementing right away in order to further control the process by getting the best polling information possible to make your decisions on what direction to take with your next recruit:
Assume they aren’t telling you the complete truth. That shouldn’t affect your relationship or having a positive attitude towards recruits, but it does mean you should always assume there’s something they aren’t telling you. Your goal is to continually mine more information out of them…because trust me, there is more information to mine.
Make sure you make it comfortable to reveal uncomfortable information to you. Your prospects are often scared to tell you the truth for the same reason many voters are reluctant to share the truth with pollsters: They don’t want to be criticized, or disagree with someone else’s opinion, and so their answer is to either lie or express undecided opinions. It’s up to you to create open dialogue with them early on so that they’re honest with you towards the end of the process, when it really, really counts.
Ask them questions that are based in negativity. We’re better about expressing what’s wrong with something, and what we don’t like. Teenagers are the same way. Asking them what they don’t want, and what would be the wrong type of college for them, or what kind of coach would be a bad fit for them, are much better questions to reveal the truth.
Create questions that are based in theory and takes them outside their personal perspective. One of the more interesting presidential polling questions being asked by polling companies now, in an effort to get more accurate results, is to ask a respondent who they believe their neighbor is voting for in an election. What they find is that respondents give more honest assessments of what they feel is the true feeling on the ground near them among their friends and neighbors. You can implement the same approach by asking questions that requires their opinion, versus their personal preferences. For example, if you were trying to get a recruit who is dragging their feet on a decision to make a final decision, you might ask, “If a recruit is taking a long time to make a decision, and I had to make a tough decision between her and another recruit, how should I tell her in a way that would help her understand the situation in a polite way?” Try putting them in a third-person situation, and see if they’ll reveal more insights and details to you.
If you think about it, your job as a recruiter is much like the a pollster: Uncover information, and base your recruiting strategy around that information. A lack of reliable information is going to equal bad results in your elected class of recruits that’ll determine the next four years of your life as a college coach. Look for the best data possible, and act on it.
Want more political lessons that apply directly to your recruiting efforts? Click here to read a 2016 election-related article onwhy we don’t like to change our minds, as voters and as recruits, or click here for our 2015 piece on how outsider political candidates have the same advantages that many non-elite college programs can have in the recruiting process.