I don’t know about you, but I don’t like that. Ultimatums in the form of only a yes or no choice have their place in our lives, of course – and they have their place in recruiting, for sure – namely, asking when you’re asking for a commitment. But that’s at the end of the process, when it’s time to make a choice. Before that time, however, giving your prospect choices as a way of guiding them through the process isn’t merely an option you should consider, it’s a smart strategy that can effectively cause your prospect to move faster through the recruiting process.
Choices are vital in the sales and decision making process, and since every college coach is in sales, it’s an important principle you should adopt. Sales trainer and author Jeffrey Lipsius offers this insight that I think is important for college recruiters to understand when it comes to the psychology behind their prospects, and how they make decisions:
The reason why choice is such a powerful tool for salespeople is because choice is what makes us uniquely human. Choice and free will are gifts that the human race has been uniquely endowed with. This is why customers will ask salespeople questions without requiring a salesperson’s prompting. These customers are engaging in the natural decision-making process. Salespeople may find it annoying when customers think they need more information than the salesperson provided. Salespeople shouldn’t take this personally. When customers raise objections and want to do more research—they’re not trying to give salespeople a hard time. It’s so they can feel good about the decisions they’re making.
Salespeople add value by providing choice because it improves the quality of their customer’s decisions. For example, a parent could bribe a teenager with money in order to to get him to attend church, but this cultivates a lower quality decision than if the teenager’s motivation to attend church was due to his own personal beliefs. It’s a lower quality decision because the teenager will stop attending church as soon as the parent stops paying him to go. Offering a bribe involves external motivation. Following one’s beliefs involves internal motivation.
Salespeople must appreciate the difference between internal motivation and external motivation in order to fully utilize the power of “choice.” This is because a customer’s decision process itself is internal. Customers don’t buy so they can make their salespeople happy, customers buy because they think having the product will make them happy. This is a good thing. In the long run, internally motivated buying decisions are higher quality decisions.
I’ll repeat an important caveat again: We want, and need, a prospect to make a decision at the end of the process when you ask them to commit. But along the way, providing choices to your recruit is a highly effective way of guiding their decision making process.
- Providing choice when it comes to the primary way you communicate with them. For example, a good way to engage a recruit at the beginning of the recruiting process might involve asking them, “I want to talk with you regularly, so what’s the best way to do that? Should we text back and forth, or do you want us to talk with each other on the phone?” Their answer commits them to the conversation, and we’ve given them a choice in how that happens.
- Providing choice when it comes to an invitation to visit campus. Instead of a yes/no choice when it comes to visiting campus, ask your prospect and their parents, “Would the weekend of the 4th or the weekend of the 18th work better for you and your family?” Let them pick a date. You’ve successfully moved the decision from a “yes” or a “no” to “which date is best?” We’re taking the choice of not coming out of the equation.
Those are two examples of several dozen common scenarios that arise during a normal recruiting process, but you can apply the principles to practically any situation you face with prospects. And in doing so, as Lipsius outlines, you raise the level of seriousness and quality in the answers that they give – and the outcome of their decision in your favor.
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