Coaches all over the country are entering the crucial weeks of the battle for this year’s recruiting class, and even getting early positive (or negative) signs for the next year’s prospect class.
What tends to surprise me as we start work with new clients is how few college coaches today are able to read fairly clear “buying signals” from their prospects. What’s more, I find that coaches are not actively looking for these signals, relying instead on the off-and-on direct statements that their prospects make from time to time.
So, are there better signs available to college coaches to help them pick up the early signals that a prospect might be interested in their program?
We think there are. In fact, over the years of collecting research data on prospects making their final decision, we’ve identified several reliable signals that are given by a prospect who is interested in a coach and his or her program. We wanted to share those with you today…here they are:
- They ask questions about when you are going to be offering scholarships or opportunities to commit to their program. If they bring up the question, you should know that they have a serious interest in your program. There’s no need to wait…if they are the kind of athlete you would want in your program, then jump ahead to talking about a commitment to your school. If you wait, you will risk losing them within a short time…the kind of prospects who are ready to verbalize a willingness to commit early are also faster to look elsewhere if their signals are not answered.
- They ask questions about cost. That can be direct questions about the tuition price of the school, what they would have to pay, or even comments wondering how they are going to afford the cost. All of those questions and comments revolve around the fact that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford to go to your school. Recruits who aren’t serious about you will never bring up cost. Recruits that have an interest in your school will always bring up cost.
- They ask questions about how long you’ve been with the program, and if you’re planning on staying with the program. When a recruit is serious about you, they will try to find out if you have a commitment to the school that they are seriously thinking about committing to. As we talk about in our two recruiting workbooks for coaches, its important for you to give them confidence in you as a coach and in your program’s direction. If they sense uncertainty within the program, they will likely delay making a commitment to your program.
- They ask a repeat question. This is a strong signal that they are seriously thinking about signing-on with your program. If they ask you to repeat something that they told you earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during your conversations with them, you should know that they are really, really interested in you.
- They make negative comments about other schools, coaches or programs. If you have a prospect who opens up to you and offers an opinion on a competitor, you have a prospect who is highly interested in your program. We don’t make comments about other people like that if we aren’t really comfortable with the person we are talking to, or if we don’t care about what they think. The reverse is true if that person is interested in you and your program.
- They ask questions about the quality of aspects of the school or program. “How new are your dorms?” Or, “How many Top 20 teams are on your schedule next season?” Or, “What percentage of your graduates are accepted into a Master’s program?” All of those are questions about the quality of your school and your program. Only kids (or parents!) that are really interested in your program ask those kinds of questions.
- They ask you questions about your qualifications and coaching history. As we teach athletic departments and coaches when we go to a school to conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops, your story and background as a coach is vital to them buying in to you and your program. You need to learn how to showcase yourself as the leader of the program, and build the case for good prospects to see the logic of choosing what you can offer them.
- They ask specific positive questions about your school or program. These questions are rare, so when you hear them you really need to take them seriously and accelerate the recruiting process. It might be a question like, “How did team get to be so close with each other?” Or, “Can I try to room with the girl who hosted my during my campus visit?” Positive questions are little nuggets of gold. Don’t overlook them!
- They ask specific “how do I“ questions about your school or program. “How do I sign up for the new suite-style dorms that just got built?” Or, “How do I know what my final tuition cost will be?” Any kind of question that starts with “how do I” are important: They signal that your prospect is actively figuring-out the process of being a student-athlete on your campus. In other words, they are “projecting” themselves as already being an athlete on your team. Run with that! Be the coach that feeds that feeling of already being a part of your program.
- They ask to see something on campus again. “Can we go back and take another look at the dorms?” Or, “Can I see the weight room again?” Uninterested prospects don’t want to spend more time with you on campus. They’ll politely shake your hand and be on their way (probably to the next college). However, the prospects who are highly interested will want to linger and take a closer look at what you have to offer them.
- They give you verbal “buying signals”. Parents are great at this. During a campus tour or phone conversation, listen for comments like “Wow, I didn’t know that”. Or, “Oh really…that’s interesting.” Or, “Great, that’s what I thought.” Those are great signs that they are engaged mentally with what you are saying and what they are seeing.
So, now you know what to look for. The next step? Acting on the signals the right way, and at the right time. The priority for you should be simple: Develop an action plan for reading these very clear buying signals, and then act on them.
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