by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
If you are a regular consumer of content offered here from Tudor Collegiate Strategies, you know that we are deeply committed to informing coaches about the data we collect regarding the role of parents in your recruits’ choices.
As a reminder, our data indicates that more than 90 percent of your recruits will be relying on input from their parents in making their decision. While the Covid crisis has changed a lot about recruiting right now – this is unchanged and I would argue that if anything that stat has gone even higher. Why? Because recruits are now spending so much time with their parents!
One of the challenges we sometimes hear from our clients is that they have trouble connecting parents. Perhaps the only upside to the current situation is that reaching parents has never been easier because so many are working from home and they aren’t doing as many things outside of their homes presently. It could be as simple as ending a phone call with your recruit and asking if Mom or Dad are around because you’d like to go see if they have any questions about your program, your timeline, or any other aspect of your program. This is a real opportunity to build that relationship so you should be taking advantage of it.
While it is notoriously hard to get most recruits to talk on the phone that is usually not the case with parents. Usually they have a lot to talk about but you may need to get them started by introducing some questions. Here are a few talking points to get the ball rolling.
- What are their priorities for the school they want to see their son or daughter choose? If you can get an answer to THIS question that is the key to telling your program’s unique story about those priorities. Maybe it’s academic support, internship possibilities, opportunities for scholarships and grants, etc. Talk specifically about how members of your team have tapped into those programs or services. Make it personal. Another tip here is that if you have the chance to ask two parents this question independently do so. While you want to believe they’re on the same page, often they aren’t so it’s important to be aware of the competing interests.
- Why does the parent see your school as a good fit. Again, an answer to this question affords you the opportunity to affirm through your future conversations, messages, and during the campus visit what they already believe to be true about you and your program. This is a critical piece of information. If they believe one thing but see and hear something contrary it will likely move them toward another school.
- What are you trying to get your son or daughter to focus on right now? This is your shining opportunity to be a star. If the parent’s are frustrated by their child’s procrastination about doing their essay, finishing an application, focusing on their high school grades, etc. and you can help the parent win that battle by moving your recruit down the road you have won the good graces of the parents. In effect, you jump to the front of the line!
- Have the parents eliminated some kinds of schools? Knowing what the parents aren’t looking for is just as important as knowing what they are. If you don’t feel like you got a clear response to this inquiry in the affirmative, turn it around and see what you get.
- What is your biggest fear as you begin talking to college coaches? This may be the parents first experience with recruitment and they may have heard stories from other parents and have preconceived notions about the process. If you can put any concerns they have to rest early it will cement your relationship moving forward. This is a good opportunity as well to take the high road by offering to be counsel for them EVEN IF THEY’RE NOT LEANING TOWARD YOU. Doing so creates significant goodwill and earns you their respect. Even if their child chooses another program they will speak positively to someone else about you.
- Is there anything about our school or program that you don’t like? As I mentioned in the previous point, they may have a notion about who you are that was shared with them by someone who knows nothing about you. It’s vital to clear the air about any concerns they may have about you. If they are misinformed about a point this is your chance to offer clarity. If they bring up a legitimate concern, speak to it honestly and openly. If you are defensive and dig in your heels on something that you cannot respond to honestly the parents will see you as a flawed communicator. You will emerge from any shortcoming your school or program may have in a much better place if you simply own it and offer an explanation.
- What other schools are you looking at? This is often the hardest thing to ask because it feels like you’re pushing into a space you shouldn’t be going to. Know that they expect you to ask that question and they won’t be surprised by it. And, as many of you know, a lot of parents are dying to tell you who else they’re considering. Again, always take the high road. No one wins with negative recruiting. You might win a battle or two but you will certainly lose the war. You need to know who else they are considering for obvious reasons, most importantly because knowing that allows you to tell how you are different from that school AND why you’re a better choice.
These are great conversation starters but their value lies in your ability to listen carefully and hold on to the answers the parents offer. If you listen carefully enough they will tell you exactly and precisely what’s important to them and how to build your messaging and the points to talk to the next time you call!
Greg Carroll is a former college athletic director who now focuses on working one-on-one with college athletic departments and coaching staffs throughout the Northeastern U.S. in an effort to maximize their recruiting results. To find out more about how our team of experts works with programs around the country, click here.