by Paul Nemetz-Carlson, Tudor Collegiate Strategies
You had a prospect interested, excited, and saying you were the first choice. You stayed in touch. You continued to recruit them and build a strong connection. You felt confident you were the right program and it was a perfect fit.
And then they choose another school.
It happened quickly. It was surprising and devastating.
Almost every college coach has a similar recruiting story about the one they almost got. The one decision they don’t understand. The one athlete that could have changed their program. With it, every one of those coaches has a reason for why it happened and what they wished they had done differently.
But reflecting on this current environment, where many coaches are approaching the recruiting process with trepidation – slowed by uncertainty – I want to remind coaches that the answer to all of these situations may actually be the same: You waited too long.
By waiting too long to ask your prospects to come, they slipped out of the emotional space where they were prepared to make a decision on you. Fear and anxiety clouded their decision-making, adding uncertainty and caution. Another coach jumped in – found a prospect searching for a feeling, got them excited about a similar opportunity, and asked them to make a decision they had already been prepared to make.
With the pandemic affecting seasons, on-campus experiences, and certainly recruiting, many coaches have paused recruiting – or been less aggressive – because they are concerned about the anxiety and pressure put on prospective student-athletes and their families. I spoke with three coaches last week struggling with the line between respecting families and losing recruits in this ever-changing environment.
I know we’ve shared a lot of information about the setting – and leading prospects to – deadlines over the years, but I’m concerned that if we don’t keep talking about it many coaches will fall behind during this challenging time. So consider this the pandemic version of how to create better decision makers.
Despite the inclination to slow down, the best recruiters will now actually speed up when they see an opportunity to get their recruits in the right emotional space and ask them to come.
To help you improve your results, you need to match the current reality to your approach, knowing how they make decisions and helping them get to that place.
If you’re thinking about your own decision-making – buying a house, a car, taking a new job – you know there are times where big decisions feel easy and can be made quickly. It often depends on your mindset and readiness to make them.
So too with recruiting. Recruits have always been ready to make decisions when you ask them while they’re in the right mindset. But our research indicates they are making faster, quicker decisions during the pandemic.
Capturing the hearts and minds of teenagers is a difficult thing. Made more challenging by the fact that while most coaches – by nature or necessity – are thoughtful, intentional decision makers, the people they are recruiting are not.
Because recruits make emotion-centered decisions, your goal is to capture their heart and have them make their decision when they feel most connected.
You don’t improve your chances by continuing to pile on logical, rational reasons for your prospect to choose you. You improve them by helping them make a decision when they are most ready to choose.
Here are five tips to get them to that space and keep them there.
1. Be conscious of the space between the time you feel you’ve provided all the information and when you ask them to decide.
There is an ideal window for decision making. Too much time – between when you provide all the information and when you ask prospects to make it – creates doubt and weakens the emotional connection you’ve made.
2. Create a timeline that is separate from their other offers. One of the most effective ways to get recruits to choose you over others is have them decide on your program BEFORE they get the chance to decide on others.
Clouded decision making, influenced by many similar options and competing deadlines, leads to poor decision making. When you separate your decision, you provide clarity around your emotional connection and a healthy, pressure-free environment.
3. The best strategies for setting a timeline rely on mutual agreement where both parties feel comfortable. Set the end of the process as a date that works for you, tell them why it needs to be that way, and ask them if they feel confident they can get everything they need to make a decision on that timeline.
Our research continues to tell us that prospects and families are not only agreeing to faster timelines, they’re suggesting them at an increased rate.
4. Don’t let your prospects make decisions in the dark. So many coaches struggle with trying to provide their prospects space to make decisions. They lose control of the process stuck in the waiting game.
The more space and more time you provide, the more likely the emotional connection you worked so hard to create will fade. Be in their space when they’re making decisions – providing value, answering objections, and personalizing your recruiting messages.
5. Finally, when you feel a prospect is emotionally connected to your program, ask them to come. It’s very important to have them make their decision at that emotional high.
Even if you want to be overly empathetic about each family situation, especially now, time is rarely the answer. Unless you have a specific objection or answer you need to answer, keep them confined to that space.
One of your primary responsibilities in recruiting is to teach your recruits how to make decisions. You achieve that by pulling the best kids through the process so they feel like they’re making a great decision.
If you want them to choose you more often, the answer is a deadline and nudge. Even in a pandemic with altered timelines and seasons challenging everything you know about recruiting, you can succeed by committing to the basics.
Get them interested. Get them informed. Get them emotionally invested. Get them to decide.
On your timeline. On your schedule. On your terms.
Be Distinct. Be Different.
Looking for the best way to ensure you recruit on your timeline, on your schedule, and on your terms? Our team of experts work side-by-side with coaching staffs around the country through our successful client program. Should we be helping your program achieve your recruiting goals? Contact us to talk about how it can work for you, Coach.