by Greg Carroll, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Several years ago while I was the director of athletics at a DIII school I was invited to participate in the launching of an NCAA sponsored program designed to equip member schools with programming to help promote a positive competition environment on their campuses. It was called “Game Day The DIII Way” and hopefully it remains a viable program on many campuses.
A several dozen athletic directors and coaches were brought together and trained to be presenters of the program at colleges around their region and within their respective conferences. It was a terrific training experience. One of the day’s training focused on teaching skills and was moderated by the director of employee training at Disney World. To make on of his points he spoke about a challenge faced by Disney parking lot attendants literally hundreds of times each day.
The challenge they face daily is helping visitors who have forgotten where they parked their car when they are ready to leave the park. Think about it! Literally miles and miles of parking lots that look identical and you’re so focused on seeing the mouse, corralling your kids, and not losing your park hopper pass that paying attention to where you parked your car is an afterthought.
The point of the gentleman’s example was to focus attention on questions. He said an attendant can get a park visitor to within 10 parking spots of where they parked their car by simply asking them at most five questions, starting with what time they entered the park. From there, they narrow the scope with each question, ultimately leading the visitor to where they parked their.
While it may take more than five questions to find out if your recruit is right for your program and vice versa, the parking lot example does demonstrate the value and importance of asking the right questions. Here are a few to think about building into your next exchange with your recruit and their parents.
- Ask “About how much do you expect it to cost to attend our school annually?” Yes, you have to ask this question as uncomfortable as it may be. And while it shouldn’t be the first question you ask it has to be among the very early areas of inquiry. That’s a necessity because you don’t want to put a lot of time and energy into a recruit who simply cannot afford to attend. You both end the experience disappointed and worse yet, the recruit and their family will have a bad taste for your program if you lead them on. The best practice here is to give them as much information as possible and then direct them to your website net cost calculator and subsequently ask them “If we’re within a couple thousand dollars, plus or minus, does this sound like something you were expecting?”
- Ask, “What are some things that would turn you off immediately from considering a school.” Yes, you want them to talk in the negative. The answer to those questions can give you even more insight than a question that asks them to name something that the school they choose must have. They have stock answers for all those “layup questions!” They know they are supposed to say great academics, low student/faculty ratio, amazing starting salaries for grads, etc. Asking them to think in reverse will lead to more insightful responses because they can’t simply pull an answer from their standard list of responses.
- Ask “What are some of the other schools you are considering?” Some coaches are reluctant to ask that question. The fact is, they are DYING to tell you what other schools are chasing them. They want you to know. They want to brag about their importance and value. So ask! And when they tell you to be supportive and talk about what great schools they are and what a great collection of programs they’re considering. Then, you begin to describe through the consistent (every 6-9 days) stories you tell them about your school and your program how you are different from the schools they are looking at. Not only how you are different but WHY those differences are important, relevant, even vital to the decision they make.
- Ask, “What concern do you think someone might have about choosing to attend our college?” The important thing to note here is that we aren’t asking them what they’re concerned about but rather what someone else might be concerned about. Depersonalizing the question eliminates the sense that they are being critical of your school. You will likely get an answer like “Well, my coach was saying how you don’t run the kind of offense we did in high school so it might not be a good fit for me.” What the recruit is really saying “I’m not sure I’m going to fit in with my specific skills and the way your team plays.” Then, you can describe your individualized personal plan for how you are going to develop them as a player that will build on the current skills while building out new skills that will make them all conference caliber.
- This next one isn’t so much a question as it is a strategy. After you ask any one of these questions, ask the follow up question. It’s the journalistic style of “60 Minutes.” Keep them talking long enough and eventually you will get to the heart of the question and the answer you need to find out if you’re right for them and they’re right for you. Examples of these questions are “tell me more about that,” or “can you give me an example of what you mean,” or “I’m not sure I completely understand. Tell me a little more.”
One of the first things I tell every new client I work with is that our goal for you as a recruiter is to be less of a sales person and more of a problem solver. The best way to solve your recruit and their family’s problem of choosing the right school is to ask all the right questions.
Greg Carroll is part of the team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies that helps coaches navigate the recruiting process more efficiently. If you have a follow up question for Greg about his article or another recruiting topic, you can email him at email@example.com.