Most college recruiters will go into their first conversation with a new recruit with one big goal: Giving them lots of information about themselves and their program, and selling their college as a great place to go to school. And for sure, those things are absolutely important and worthy long term targets.
But that first conversation should have a different focus, according to the latest focus group survey results. That is, if you want to set the stage for a successful, long term relationship with that prospects, and actually get them to the point where they are drawn to you and your program.
Your real goal of contacting new prospects should be to set up the next conversation.
It’s as simple as that. And because it’s such a simple concept, most coaches shun it in favor of wanting long first conversations, giving their new contacts lots of information about their college and program, and generally keeping them on the phone or engaged in a text message discussion as long as possible.
But doing that goes against a majority of prospects’ natural inclinations because they have a different set of goals for that first conversation they have with you: Verify your interest in them, and find out what should happen next in the process. Everything else college coaches want to thrust into the itinerary of that first call not only tends to get lost on them, but actually makes it harder for those coaches to connect with them in an effective way in the future.
Here’s what recruiters need to keep in mind as they head into new conversations with a prospect they really want:
- More than 7 out of 10 prospects want a shorter initial conversation with a new coach.
- Most prospects’ top areas of curiosity revolves around where you discovered them, and what role you would see them playing on your team.
- Proportionally, the longer the first conversation with that first prospect goals if it’s driven by the coach, the harder it’s going to be to engage in a long term conversation with that recruit. In short, every extra minute you spend talking with a prospect (after about the ten minute mark) decreases your odds of long term recruiting success with that prospect.
Coaches reading that might think to themselves, “that’s not the way I would want a first conversation to go.” And, I’d agree with you. As adults, we judge interest by the amount of time another adult would devote to us. It’s proof of a connection successfully made, and a good foundational start to a new relationship. But teenagers – especially recruited student-athletes – tend to look at that same set of circumstances as nerve-racking, pressure filled conversations that cause them to feel ill-equipped at holding down their end of the conversation they just had with you.
So, if the new contact you’re making has the goal of establishing an ongoing series of future conversations, I’d recommend these goals and practices as you take your first step with recruits:
- Keep the conversation short, unless the prospect asks you questions and drives the conversation.
- Focus on where you found them or saw them, and what you could see as their role on your team.
- No selling. They’re not usually ready to take-in and remember information you want to tell them during that first conversation you have with them.
- Ask them what they want to see happen next in the process, and what they’d want you to talk about in your next conversation.
- In turn, let them know what you’d want to see happen next in the process, and why.
- Be careful about making that ‘next step’ a campus visit or some other large commitment: Rushing the process is something that recruits tell us makes them nervous, and gives them the feeling that you’re pressuring them into rushing a decision.
- Do make sure you tell them when the recruiting process will be wrapping up for you and your program in the future. Don’t use the word ‘deadline’, but rather let them know that the process will be stopping at a general time in the future. Let them know that it’s the latest possible time they could commit. That’s not a promise of an offer or opportunity on your part, but rather letting them know what the timeline for making a decision is. You establish it, not them. For more on how to establish that timeline earlier in the process, click here.
Your goal should be to establish interest and curiosity, not to relay facts and data. This is about building a relationship, not selling them on your school. You’re an intimidating figure in their mind, at best, and someone who they’re not sure they’d even want to talk to, at worst. In either case, remember to approach this as a long term project rather than a single chance you have to get them interested in you and your program.
Want more help in developing better interest and giving your prospects a story they’ll follow? Join hundreds of other programs around the country by becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. We’ll help you craft a research-based approach, develop messaging that gets a positive reaction, and build an ongoing relationship through better communication during the recruiting process. Click here to get started, or email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions you have about the process we use to get such good results.