In my previous column, I outlined the compelling reasons why a coach will need to issue a recruit a fair but firm recruiting decision deadline, as well as how to do it (if you missed that in-depth article, click here before you read this one).
But our previous advice begs the question: When is it right to give your recruit a deadline? At what point in the process should you issue it? And, what does the research show working best when it comes to how long you should give them to make their decision?
The “when” surrounding the topic of deadlines counts just as much as the “why” and the “how”.
So, based on our years of research and work with a growing list of clients, here are some key points to remember when you are getting ready to issue recruiting deadlines to your prospects:
- Establish a deadline horizon as early as possible in the process. Many college coaches complain as their own personal deadlines get closer, and they find themselves waiting for their prospect to make a final decision. Many then proceed to make the mistake of starting to voice their frustration to the prospect, causing the prospect to potentially read the coach’s new found urgency as “pressure” or a change in personality. This one is easy to avoid, Coach: Start talking to your prospect as early as possible, as a part of a consistent, compelling recruiting story, about when you’ll be needing them to make a final decision if they feel like they want to compete for your program.
- As the date gets closer, remind them about the need for a decision. “It looks like we’re going to be finalizing our recruiting class here in the next 60 days or so…are you any closer to making your final decision?” “Here in about two weeks, I’m pretty confident that we’ll be all wrapped-up with this year’s recruiting. Can we talk here in the next few days?” “Like I’ve been saying all along, the end of the month is here and we need to talk about what you want to do in the next couple of days so I know what I should do with the roster spot I have reserved for you. Can we talk tomorrow or the next day?” They need constant updates, and the recruits at the heart of our research tell us that regular reminders of when they need to make a decision – while somewhat stressful because it means they need to make a difficult decision – are ten times more preferred than a last minute deadline that forces them into making a choice that ends the process.
- What’s the right amount of time to give them when you do need to issue a deadline? If you haven’t issued a long horizon deadline as described earlier, anything longer than 10-14 days seems to get a good response. This is especially true in the cases where you have had a long, ongoing recruiting relationship with them, they have applied and been accepted at your school, or they have visited campus at least once. At this point, you should ask yourself, “What more do they need to know to decide whether or not we are right for them?” If you can come-up with a solid answer to that question, then make sure you have that conversation with them as soon as possible (because if you realize that it’s needed information, I’m pretty sure your recruit is thinking that also).
- O.K., O.K…but when do you really need to set a deadline? The rule of thumb that we follow when advising our clients is actually fairly simple: When you feel that not receiving an answer from a prospect is putting you in a dire position with another prospect, then it’s time to talk about a deadline for making a final decision. Not doing so allows the prospect to control the process (a huge no-no, as you know, if you’ve read our two recruiting guides for college coaches), and puts you in the position of waiting for your prospect to take whatever “plan” they have cobbled together in an effort to make a final decision (most of the time illogical, and without the kind of consideration for your program that you are probably praying for). I believe it is the coach (you) that should control the process, and sometimes that requires that a line in the sand be drawn by the expert (you) who knows what needs to be done next.
In a perfect world, college coaches wouldn’t need to issue deadlines to their recruits. But of course, we don’t live in that perfect world…so from time to time, it will be necessary for serious recruiters to take control of those situations by telling a prospect when he or she will need to make a decision.
Why, how and when you do it will make all the difference in whether or not this challenging strategy is successful for you and your program.