The coach’s hand went up in the middle of one of my recruiting workshops on a campus recently.
“Here’s what’s frustrating”, he said. “If I text my prospects, or send them a direct message on Twitter or Snapchat, they’ll talk to me for an hour or more. But if I try to call them, it’ll usually go to voicemail – which doesn’t get returned – and if I actually get them to answer, they won’t say much at all.”
And then he asked, “Why can’t they just talk with me on the phone the same way they do when they text me on their phone?”
Because for much of this generation, a traditional phone call just isn’t logical.
When we begin work with new clients and start the process with a detailed focus group study of how their players came to the decision to come and compete at that particular university, we ask them about the communication that they had with various coaches. Consistently, they detail instances where the coach who was comfortable with text messaging them consistently was the coach that they felt was easiest to “talk” to and the one that made them feel the most wanted.
Our ongoing studies with athlete prospects, as well as other non-athlete millennial communication studies, tell us why they have an aversion to talking to you, and other coaches, on the phone.
For them, phone calls kind of seem like a waste of time. If you think about it, that’s true. Calling on the phone means the superfluous chit-chat at the start, before you eventually get around to what you wanted to talk about. And even then, that conversation will always be longer instead of shorter. For your prospects, that’s inefficient. Text messaging is faster and straight to the point. They like that.
Conflict avoidance. One of your prospect’s number one fears throughout the recruiting process is that you will criticize them, get mad at them, or pressure them into visiting campus or making a final decision. When you talk to them on the phone, they feel like there is a higher likelihood of that happening. In a text message conversation, they feel more in control. There’s less of a chance of them being put on the spot with a tough question, which gives them more comfort when they’re talking to you.
They get time to think. In a phone call, this generation of student-athlete feels enormous pressure. What it they say something wrong? Or something that makes you less interested in them? With a text message conversation, when you ask them a question or send them a response, they have time to think about what their reply should be. They can type, read it, edit, read it again, and then send it to you. It puts them in more control.
It’s what they’re used to. In the same way that many coaches are more comfortable using a phone because that’s what they grew up using, today’s student-athlete grew up learning to communicate letting their fingers do the talking. In the same way that a coach would complain about having to use text messaging to communicate, they would feel the same way about having to navigate their way through a conversation on the phone with you.
The good news for you phone lovers out there? Once you establish a relationship with them, and earn their trust through their preferred communication methods, they tell us they’re more comfortable with the idea of talking on the phone – or in person – with you. But I’d stress that this is only after a foundational communication relationship has been established.
The bad news? This isn’t optional. Developing a strategic approach to how you set-up the communication relationship is going to determine how well you are able to move your prospect through the recruiting process, from start to finish. And, I’d recommend doing it on their terms.
This generation of student-athlete recruit demands it.
The best way to learn the latest communication techniques so that you can become a more successful recruiter? That’s easy: This June, join your fellow coaches from around the country to the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. You’ll learn what other coaches do to create effective recruiting plans, and how to make the right changes to your plan. Click here to register.