Played it in high school, and could have played it in college, but didn’t. What I love about any sport, but tennis especially, is what a difference proper mechanics mean to the game. Holding your racket at the wrong angle when returning a backhand could mean you send the ball sailing out of bounds. But with just a slight rotation of your racquet, that same shot lands in with greater speed and accuracy.
That same slight adjustment applies perfectly to one of the biggest challenges that can occur at any point in the recruiting process: Successfully getting past a prospect’s objection. And just like my mediocre tennis game, slight changes in the mechanics can actually give college recruiters a fighting chance to win.
In working with the coaches we serve as clients, I know the most common scenario that plays involves a coach hearing an objection from their prospect about something during the recruiting process, and that coach doesn’t make the small adjustments fast enough, using the right steps, to give them a chance to overcome that objection and continue forward with the recruiting process.
Here’s how to do it:
- When you hear an objection, or even a general statement about your campus or program that comes across as a little bit negative from your prospects, repeat that objection back to them. “So what I hear you saying is that you’re just not sure the conference we play in seems challenging enough for you, right?” Or, “So what you’re saying is that your parents seem really concerned about how far away we are from home, right?” Confirm their statement, right at the start.
- Assure them that you understand what they’re saying, and that they’re not alone. “I understand how you feel. In fact, a lot of prospects we’ve recruited – and who are competing for us now – have told us the same thing.” It’s important they hear you tell them what they’re concerned about is on other recruits’ minds, and that they are normal concerns as they get to know you and your program. Assure them that you’re not ‘offended’, and that there is nothing wrong with them bringing up things that are concerning them. This is a vital adjustment that most coaches don’t make, and it can grind the recruiting process to a halt.
- Next, it’s imperative you challenge their assumptions, and redirect the line of conversation back towards something positive for you and your program. “The thing is, now that they’re here competing for us, they realize that our conference is actually really challenging.” Or, “What their parents have found since being here is that their daughters are so much more self-sufficient and mature since living away on campus…it’s turned out to be a great decision.” Assure them that they’re not alone in their objection, but turn their focus by making the point – politely – that they’re wrong, and it’s actually not an objection that they should be worried about. They need to hear you confidently tell them that their concern isn’t something that should prevent them from committing to your program.
The two important mechanical alterations we’re making to your approach here is important. First, we’re pushing back on their objection, letting them know they’re not looking at the full picture of what they should be considering when it comes to the opportunity to compete for you. That’s something that most coaches aren’t doing, and it’s prematurely ending the recruiting process. Secondly, they’re hearing directly from you with an alternate view of a potential objection. It’s important they hear you counter their objection, because now they have a choice to make: Believe a fear or misconception they have, or believe someone who is experienced in the matter talk about other fellow student-athletes who observed the same thing, but decided it wasn’t a real objection.
In our research, we’ve found that prospects bring up objections because they are actively considering your college, and have interest in competing for you. Objections are a clear sign of interest on their part; prospects who aren’t interested in you don’t tend to want to debate you or spend time delving into a topic with you.
If you’re hearing a recruit push back on specifics you’re telling them, it’s a clear sign of interest. Watch your mechanics as you go through the process of turning their objection into your selling point.
Dan Tudor is the founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, and is the author of three foundational recruiting guides for college coaches. Click here to add them to your coaching library.