It’s the core of every good recruiting effort…the single thing that can determine whether you get the prospect, or lose them to a competitor.
Especially asking the right ones, the right way, at the right time.
When you get right down to it, questions drive successful recruiting efforts. Everything else – all those exciting brochures (not), all those tantilizing one page letters (???) – don’t measure up to really effective questions. Like the ones we talk about in our two recruiting guides for college coaches.
To make sure this ends up as a successful year of recruiting for you and your program, I wanted to give you a few of the right kinds of questions you should be asking your prospects right away. See if you can incorporate these into your recruiting conversations as you head into recruiting’s stretch run:
1. The Who Question
Never, ever assume that the prospect you are speaking with is the real decision-maker.
It sounds strange, but it is true: Your prospect may be only one of a number of individuals who will figure into his or her final decision. Parents, coaches and others may have real influence over your prospect.
Know all the players in the game so you can prepare strategies and tactics to deal with them and how they may individually effect your prospect’s decision. Your challenge is to find out if there are other participants in the decision without putting your recruit on the spot. If you’re too blunt, the prospect might mislead you. Here is a simple question that you can’t live without. Use it every time:
“Amanda, apart from yourself, who is involved in your decision?”
Here’s a variation: “Kevin, when a player like you has to make a big decision like this, there are usually several people involved. Apart from yourself, who else will help you make your decision?”
2. The When Question
I am amazed at how many coaches and recruiters ignore this powerful and insightful question:
“Kathy, when do you see the final decision being made?” Or, “Chad, if our offer was a go in your mind, when do you see it happening?”
The “when” question helps you to assess your prospect’s urgency. A decision that will be made within a week has more urgency than a decision that will be made in three months. Knowing when the recruiting might conclude helps you set priorities, determines the time and effort you devote and dictates your follow up strategy with the prospect you’re recruiting.
3. The Scenario Question
Discovering a prospect’s needs can be challenging in the early stages of recruiting. When prospects don’t know you, they tend to be much more reserved in the information they share. Many are not comfortable telling you about their “warts and blemishes” (i.e., their needs, challenges, weaknesses and concerns) until you’ve established some rapport. You’ve probably noticed that by now, right coach?
To get around this hesitancy, coaches should use a scenario question. As the name implies, the scenario question paints a scenario that addresses a problem or concern without putting the prospect on the spot. Here are a couple of examples:
“Eric, a lot of the prospects we’re recruiting this year have said they’re interested in committing as early as possible. Let me ask you, is that something you’re thinking about also?”
“Jennifer, we are getting more and more feedback from our prospects that are part of our upcoming recruiting class about who they’ll rely on to help them make their final decision. Let me ask you, how would you answer that question?”
The scenario question is based on the premise that “misery loves company”. You want the prospect to think, “Gee, if others are experiencing the same thing then it’s okay for me to open up.” Master the scenario question and you’ll get to their needs and inner motivations more quickly, reduce your recruiting cycle and get more recruits committed in less time.
4. The Net Impact Question
Even if you use a scenario question and the recruit opens up to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the their need for what you’re offering at your college is strong enough for him to take positive action. One of the best questions you can ask to determine the depth and breadth of a need your athletic prospect has is the “net impact” question. Here are two versions:
“So what’s the net impact of our offer to cover half of your total tuition costs?” Or, “What’s the possible net impact of waiting until late March to give us your final decision?”
The net impact forces your prospect to think about the rippling effect of a problem. It gets your prospect to do some analysis. In effect, you want him to say, “Gee, I never thought of it like that.” Suddenly, seemingly minor problems become more significant. Or, you learn the net impact is minor in the mind of your teenage prospect. If so, avoid wasting your time. Move on. Because the question is opened-end it gets your client to expand and elaborate. You get information and information is power.
Those four questions alone should generate a lot of insights into the mind of your prospect.