By Dan Tudor, President
Tudor Collegiate Strategies
Throughout any given year, women’s basketball coaches all over the country are waiting for decisions from their prospects. Sure, there are times when a staff manages to secure early commitments, but – for the majority – the jury is out much longer than they’d prefer.
What’s a nervous basketball coach to do? I know what you want to do: you want to pick up the phone and make another follow-up call to that prospect, or their club coach, who’s taking just a little too long to call you back with their decision.
So, since many of you are facing the ongoing challenge of making effective follow-up contact with the majority of your prospects (the ones you really, really want, anyway), I wanted to give you six key tips for making great follow-up calls to your recruits, their parents, and their club coaches.
Get a Commitment for the Follow-up
Perhaps the single biggest mistake I see women’s basketball coaches make is not establishing a specific date and time for follow-up calls and “next step” communication at the end of their previous conversation or visit. Vague commitments from prospects (“call me next week”) or recruiters (“I’ll send the paperwork you need and follow-up in a couple of days”) result in missed calls, voice-mail messages, unreturned text messages and – ultimately – a longer, more frustrating recruiting cycle. All you need to do is ask for a follow-up date and time. Try something like this, Coach:
“I’m trying to finalize recruiting at your position, and two of the other girls we’re looking at are set to come to our camp. I want to make sure you’re there, too, because I think the process is starting to move pretty quickly at this point. So can we get back together next Tuesday the 21st on the phone? . . . Call me, or have your parents call me, so I can know whether or not to plan on having you there. Does that sound OK?”
Asking how something “sounds” is vital to moving the process forward instead of something like, “What do you think?” It gives you an instant picture of how they feel, and what they’re thinking. Creating any kind of a deadline is a simple but extremely powerful tactic. Use it.
Build “Call Equity” and Be Remembered
After every first call to a prospect, send a thank-you card to them. Handwrite a message that simply says, “John, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I look forward to catching-up with you further on the 16th! Keep up the good work.” No more, no less.
In today’s fast-paced world of instant and easy electronic messaging, a handwritten card tells your prospect that you took the time and the effort to do something a little different. This registers in your recruit’s mind and creates a degree of “equity” in you. It differentiates you and is remembered. And, it gives your teenage prospect a reason to be there when you make your follow-up call, and shows their parents that you’re willing to take the extra step – and extra time – to be personal and professional.
If you don’t think a card will get there in time, send an email with the same note. Just be aware that an email does not have nearly the same impact as a handwritten note. Our research shows that short, personalized, handwritten notes get saved.
Email a Reminder and an Agenda
The day before your follow-up call, email or text your prospect (or their coach, if needed) to remind her of your appointment. In the subject line enter the words: “Our telephone appointment for tomorrow.” Note that the subject line acts as a reminder, but it is vague enough that the prospect will probably open it. There is a hint that maybe the date and time has changed.
Your email should confirm the date and time of the appointment and then briefly list your agenda:
“Sarah, the call should only take about 10 or 15 minutes. We’ll review what we talked about last time and I’ll answer any questions. And then we’ll determine the next steps I’m seeing us taking.”
Notice how the words echo those used when the follow-up was initially set. In particular, notice the trigger phrase “. . . the next steps I’m seeing us taking.” Often they are tempted to skip the follow-up call because they are worried that they’ll be pressured to make a commitment, or be asked to reveal something personal. They want to be led, Coach. Take this opportunity to let them know that you’re the one that will show them how to do this, and offer up the idea that you have a direction in mind.
Add Value in a P.S.
On a regular basis, add a P.S. to your message that tells them your message is personal to them, and that the message they’ve been sent is important. If you can find an interesting article that you can make relevant and personal, in some way, to your prospect, then you can add that as a P.S. as well.
The article may be about your team, a big win, an interesting story about a recruiting issue of interest, or something completely non-sports related that might show a little bit of your fun side. This creates tremendous value even if your recruit doesn’t open it. Why? Because you took the time to do something extra. This helps you be remembered and gives the prospect yet another reason to take your follow-up call, especially if you take the time to make a comment personal to them.
Call On Time
Don’t start your relationship on the wrong foot. Call on time. Never, ever be late with your follow-up call. Not even by a minute. The promptness and respect you show on a follow-up call reflects on you, your program and your college.
By the way, you know who notices late calls the most? The parents. And you don’t want to start your relationship with them off on the wrong foot, do you? Missed or late calls are one of the top signals prospects tell us they look for in determining whether or not to take that coach seriously, and continue talking to them.
Avoid Opening Statement Blunders
So many coaches stumble and fall by using these routine follow-up opening statements:
- “I was calling to follow up on the paperwork . . .”
- “I am just calling to see if you had any questions . . .”
- “I just wanted to make sure you got my email . . .”
- “The reason for my follow-up was to see if you had come to decision . . .”
These opening statements are not only poor; they are commonplace and do nothing to differentiate you. You are perceived as yet another run-of-the-mill coach looking for a “sale.” You need a little more pizzazz, don’t you think? Think of ways to differentiate yourself and give your prospect a real reason to sit up and pay attention to your follow-up call.
Always have a reason you’re calling.
Obviously, with many women’s college basketball coaches reading this article, you’ll want to customize these approaches and make them uniquely your own. But if you’re looking for approaches that we’ve seen be successful with the clients we work with, take two or three of these things (or all six!) and begin to integrate them into a smarter plan for making your follow-up recruiting contacts more successful.
Dan Tudor is a regular presenter at the WBCA Convention, and works with women’s basketball coaches around the country to help them develop more strategic recruiting approaches. If you have questions about these strategies, or for any other help, email Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org