With “first phone calls” looming on the horizon, I thought it would make sense to address some recommended do’s and dont’s for coaches who want to make the most of the incredible opportunity that’s about to be staring them straight in the face:
The opportunity to make a great first impression.
Not too long ago, I had finished-up a session with one of our Total Recruiting Solution plan clients at their campus and was checking emails in an office in the school’s athletic department. To the office of the left of me was a soccer coach leaving a voicemail for an athlete. To the right of me was an assistant football coach talking to a prospect.
As they opened their conversations, they made two classic mistakes that they – and lots of other college coaches – have made a hundred times before: They opened their phone calls with weak, non-specific phrases that were not strong, action-oriented statements. In the same way that we recommend your letters and emails be original and have a strong opening sentence, the same holds true for your phone call. Actually, it’s even more important because unlike letters, phone calls do not have the visual component to help make an impact and keep our attention.
The phrases I’m talking about might sound familiar:
- “I was calling to follow-up on that stuff I sent you…”
- “I was just calling to see if you had any questions…”
- “I was checking-in to see if you got that email…”
- “Hey, I was just following-up to see if…”
Those sound weak, and don’t set-up the rest of your vitally important recruiting calls for success. They are weak because they it puts your prospect in COMPLETE control of what happens next, and doesn’t do anything to significantly move the recruiting process forward…especially if you are at the end of the recruiting process.
So what should you do as you prepare to contact a prospect, especially if its the first time you are talking to them like you might be getting ready to do? Here are a few vital tips that you’ll want to keep in mind the next time you start dialing your new recruits:
- Have a purpose. In our study on how prospects decide which coach they’ll listen to, one of the things we uncovered was the importance of being very clear on what a recruited needed to do next, and to clearly communicate whether or not you are serious about them or not. When you call a prospect, have a clear purpose that guides your conversation with them. Be specific as to why you are calling, and what you want to talk to them about.
- Communicate that purpose. Tell them the reason you are calling, and make it about them. As we talk about in our popular recruiting how-to guides for college recruiters who want advanced recruiting skills, if you are doing more than 20% of the talking with your prospect on the phone, you are talking to much. Get to the point, and have a clear purpose for the call that is centered around them.
- Make the first 10 seconds of your call incredible. How do you do that? By scripting an amazing opening as to why you are calling them, and what’s in it for them by engaging in the conversation that’s about to take place. Are your first 10 seconds incredible? Are they engaging? Do they create curiosity and excitement? Most importantly, do they stand out from the other calls they will be getting from coaches? If your first 10 seconds aren’t incredible, it’s time to re-work the opening of your prospect call.
- Don’t sell, especially at the start of the call. As you start contacting a prospect, they aren’t going to automatically be interested in who you are or what you have to offer them. That goes for you Division I coaches, as well…some of the most critical comments I’ve heard about what coaches should and should not be doing during their phone conversations have come from D1 football and basketball players. Even with this elite group, they want the focus to be on them. They don’t want a sales pitch from you (yet).
- If you can share a laugh, you jump to the lead. Study after study tells sociologists that we Americans love to laugh, and are looking for that connection in the people we meet. We want to enjoy who we’re around, and it’s no different. If you can create a little levity in the phone call and share a laugh with your prospect, that will go a long way towards making them feel like they know you and like you.
- At the end of the call, set-up the next conversation with them. I know that’s not really staying on topic of “starting” the recruiting call the right way, but this is so important I just have to include it. You MUST end the phone call with a clear idea – both in your mind and in the mind of your prospect – of what comes next. When will the next call take place? What needs to happen between then and now? What is their “to do” list as your recruit? For the same reason you don’t want to start the call weakly, you don’t want to end the call weakly.
The phone is still one of the main recruiting tools that every college coach uses in their daily search for the best athletes. It’s also becoming one of the most challenging communication methods because of some of the unique traits of this generation of prospects, how they communicate with coaches, and what they are looking for in a program.
My advice? Don’t make things harder by a weak start to your first phone call with a prospect. If you do, it’s an uphill climb to re-gain their attention in the months to come.