COACHES’ CORNER: SELLING YOUR PROGRAM – TIPS FOR CONVOS WITH RECRUITS
DIRECT CONTACT INFO: Get their direct cell phone number and email address and confirm their correct social media accounts. Give them your direct contact info and tell them to call you whenever, especially if they are too young to contact under NCAA rules.
REMIND THEM: If it’s a young, top prospect, remind them that NCAA rules prohibit when and how often you can call them. But, they can call you at any time! If very talented, encourage them to call you at a set time each week or as often they want. Remind them that you are unable to return their message, so if you happen to miss their call that they should call back.
HELP THEM REMEMBER YOU: When speaking with recruits, keep in mind that they get initially overwhelmed meeting college coaches or are hearing from several assistant coaches all at once.
As adults, how many times have you got an exciting phone call but forgot the intro as the caller announced their name? “Great news, but WHO is this,” you want to ask. A lot of head coaches are national or regional names, but assistant coaches (even at major programs) are often faceless, and nameless! Help associate your name, and repeat yourself of what school you are from and what position you coach. Help them remember you by name! Tell them to save your name and school into their phone while you are on the line with them, and to call you at any time!
PUT HEAD COACH ON: Since most sports are limited by the number of times they can call prospects, get more out of your calls by putting the head coach or coordinator on the line as well. Set up time with your head coach or coordinator to make calls together.
IN YOUR RECRUITING CONVERSATIONS, KEEP GREAT NOTES. YOU WILL BE TALKING TO HUNDREDS OF PROSPECTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY KEEP THEM ALL STRAIGHT, ESPECIALLY BEFORE MEETING IN PERSON. MANY SCHOOLS EVEN HAVE AN INTERNAL QUESTIONNAIRE OR FOLDER THAT COACHES CAN USE TO GET TO KNOW PROSPECTS AND KEEP TRACK OF THIS INFORMATION COLLECTED THROUGH THESE CONVERSATIONS.
MAKE PLANS FOR NEXT CALL: Especially when getting to know a prospect, give them a head’s up about when you’ll be calling again. If they’re too young to contact, set up a time for them to call you next. “Good luck Friday at your tournament, give me a call Saturday and let me know how it went.” Prospects are insecure and unsure, try to always set up the next call before you hang up!
WHEN ARE THEY MAKING THE DECISION: “What’s your timeline, when do you plan on making the decision?” Do they want to make the decision early and wrap up the recruiting process quickly to focus on their prep season… or do they want to take their time, enjoy their high school season and decide closer to Signing Day? Flat out ask them. Remember, they’re teenagers and change their mind often, but at least get some clues to when they’re planning on deciding.
WHAT OTHER SCHOOLS ARE THEY CONSIDERING: Sure, for some prospects you can read about their Top 5 on the internet, or hear it from their prep coaches or parents… but always ask them directly yourself! You need to identify your key competition and it’s your best bet to hear it directly from the prospect.
WHAT’S THEIR DREAM SCHOOL?: Ask them directly and they’ll give you a secret roadmap. Once you know exactly what they’re looking for, you can tailor your pitch to them! Distance from home, style of play, conference, academics? Find out why their dream school is their dream school and brainstorm ways to spin your opportunities to match.
IN ORDER TO CONVINCE THEM THAT YOU ARE THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR THEM, YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND THEM AND THEIR DESIRES. WHAT MAKES THEM TICK? WHAT DRIVES THEM?
WHO WILL HELP THEM MAKE THE DECISION: You know they’re likely influenced by someone else, getting input and advice to make the decision. Go ahead and ask who it is, so you know who else you need to recruit. “So, who’s going to be helping you make the decision? Mom? Dad? Coach?” You never know who the key player will be, who they trust and who they look to for approval. Go ahead and ask directly!
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING THE RECRUITING PROCESS: This whole process is new to a lot of prospects, ask them if they want a brief overview of what to expect. Briefly explain to them how you plan to recruit them, how scholarship offers work, timelines, upcoming events you would like them to attend, academic standards they need. Give them a quick and honest overview of the next few steps.
TURN THE TABLE: Let them ask the questions, “What questions do you have for me?” If you don’t have the answer on the spot for a parent or player’s question, track it down and get back to them quickly with answers. Show them that getting answers for them is a priority to you. What’s important to them is important to you.
ARE YOU GETTING OUR MAIL?: If they’re already on your radar and getting mail, ask them if they’re receiving mail/email from you to confirm that you have the correct address. Is their prep coach passing it along, if it’s being mailed to the school?
GET TO KNOW THEM: When committing, many prospects will say, “It wasn’t JUST about sports with them, they cared about me as a person. We didn’t just talk sports we talked life.”
Don’t drill them with 50 questions in one setting, but here are some examples of conversation starters you can use over time to get to know them more personally:
• Who are you closest to- a family member, a coach, a mentor?
• Who do you live with?
• What did you do last summer? Any plans for this summer?
• What are you interested in seeing on campus?
• What is your proudest achievement?
• How often do you want to hear from me?
• Are you spiritual, do you attend church?
• Tell me more about your family – Where are your parents from? Where did they go to school? Occupation? Interests? Tell me more about your siblings.
• What would you be interested in majoring in?
• What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
• Community involvement?
• Who’s your favorite pro player?
• What’s your favorite video game?
• What’s your girlfriend/boyfriends name? How did you meet?
• What are your best weightroom lifts?
• Who is your favorite band/artist?
• Tell me about your prep coaches – where’d they go to school?
• Favorite food, snacks, drinks?
• How do you like to get info – calls, texts, mail, email, social media?
• Are there any hesitations about our program, university, coach, city?
• Have any family or friends attended the University?
• Who is your favorite coach and why?
• Do you have friends playing at other colleges? Where and what have their experiences been like?
• Who are some of the best players that you’ve played against?
• What’s your favorite vacation spot?
• Do you have any hobbies?
• What other sports or positions did you play as a kid?
• Other than your sport, what would be your dream job?
• Do you have a PT job? What was your first job?
• What are your goals for the upcoming season/off-season and how are you preparing to meet those goals?
WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE RECRUITS WORLD?: As we get wrapped up in our own world– our upcoming games, our current players, our families, remember to focus conversations on what’s going on in your prospects world. What’s big to them right now? Prom, Homecoming, Spirit Week, SAT/ACT, rivalry games, birthdays?
DETAILS: When possible, use details to show that you’re really listening. It’s so important to keep great notes. “Man, your guy Durant scored 40 last night! What a game!” Or, “I just saw an episode of Anthony Bourdain in Italy last night, you are going to have so much fun this summer!” People are flattered that you remember what’s important to them!
PROUD OF YOUR SCHOOL: You need to express and radiate how proud you are of your program, players and university. Find ways to genuinely be proud and believe in what you are selling.
WHAT YOU CAN OFFER THEM THAT SEPARATES YOU FROM THE REST: Always know your elevator pitch of the top 2-3 selling points that separate you from other schools that they are considering, and share those early to help hook the interest of a prospect.
Great recruiters don’t oversell, you don’t have to come out of the gates force-feeding the Top 100 things about your school in your first conversation. But, you definitely want to have your facts straight.
Relationships are often more important in the final decision than stats and facts. Players remember how you make them “feel,” not necessarily what’s the best decision logically or statistically.
Yes, you’re technically “selling” so at some point you’ll have to give your pitch… but hopefully you can give them a special pitch tailored just for them after you’ve learned more about how and when they’ll make their decision. Take your time to get to know them.
Truthfully, outside of wins and losses, many schools offer basically the same thing. How can you separate yourself, especially from other schools you know that they’re considering? Do stat research (not just with athletics, compare student body, academic and Athletic Department notes) and compare what you have to offer with what’s important to them.