Read most of our advice, listen to our podcast, do a great job of following a recruit, make friends with his parents, knock it out of the park on his campus visit…you’ll still lose more than you win.
The important thing to do is what most college coaches don’t do:
Ask the prospect you just lost why you just lost them.
Of course, coaches try to do that once in a while. But as many are finding, they most often get a series of wishy-washy, vanilla, ‘saying something without really saying something’ answers from their prospect that doesn’t give them workable information to use in the future with their next recruit.
And that’s the problem. Bad information is actually worse than no information, in this instance. Why? Because we’ve seen coaches make adjustments to their approach based on the false feedback they get from recruits, the same recruits who just want to end the relationship with a coach without getting yelled at, criticized, or made to feel guilty.
How do you know if you’re getting bland, unusable feedback? It sounds a lot like this:
“It just felt better at the other school.”
“My mom just really wanted me to stay closer to home, so I decided to play for the other program.”
“Their facilities were just nicer than anyone else’s I saw.”
There’s not much coaches can do with that information, truthfully. And your recruits know it (which is why they tell that to you). It gets them off the hook painlessly, and lets them move on.
They get closure, you don’t.
What I’d like to suggest is a better, more probing series of questions that will not only get you better, more truthful feedback, but also give you a shot at saving the relationship – and maybe, just maybe, change their mind.
Here are some questions we have seen work with coaches who try them with recruits they end up losing:
- If you would have ended up choosing us, what would you be telling other coaches the reasons were? “What if” scenarios are a great way to get the truth out of your recruits after it’s all said and done.
- What was one thing you immediately loved about their campus compared to ours when you visited? Spoiler alert: It’s likely to be something they’ve already told you was not a major factor in their final decision as they were looking at your school and your competitor’s. Turns out, it often time is a major factor.
- What were two or three things your parents told you about each of your final choices as you were trying to decide? It’s a great question to ask if you’re wondering what was going on behind the scenes. It’ll also give you good ideas for how to connect with parents the next time around, and focus on the topics that are truly important to them.
- What was the number one thing they liked most about the program you chose? It may be completely different than the answers to the previous question. That’s why it’s a good follow-up question to ask.
- When did you know in your heart that we probably weren’t going to be your first choice? Play it cool and try not to lash out when they tell you it was several months ago, even though they told you last week that you were ‘still in my Top Five’.
- Give me the non-sports reason you ended up choosing the other school. Their answer is going to be incredibly valuable, because you can use that answer to figure out what you should be focusing on in your messaging and campus visit with your next round of recruits. It’s never all about their sport; they’re looking at multiple factors, most of the time, when it comes to their final decision.
- If you ended up changing your mind about the school/program you just chose, whether that was next week or next year, would you see us as a program you’d contact to see if we still had a place for you? This question is your opportunity to express how much you liked getting to know them, and that you still want them. Tell them that’s not going to change. Get a read on whether or not they would feel the same way down the road.
The finishing touch to the conversation? You take a minute of your busy day to pull out a notecard, tell them congratulations on their great decision, and how they’re going to have a great career, and let them know if they ever change their mind, to make you their first phone call.
Your job as a recruiter doesn’t end with their answer. If you get a no, there’s incredibly valuable intel that you can get to make you a more effective recruiter the next time around.
Don’t pass up that opportunity.