Understanding Your Recruit's Decision Journey
How they get from start to finish in the recruiting process is important to identify if you, as a college coach, want to understand how you should change your approach.
In the months to come, we’re going to be focusing a lot of our attention on how athletes, and their support system like parents and coaches, make the decision on where to commit. In other words, how they “buy” from you. We’ll be focusing on all sports, all divisions, all scholarship situations.
Why this focus? Because based on the conversations we’re having with the coaches we work with, along with tracking trends and information among high school families nearing a college decision, things are changing out there.
Mostly due to the economy and inflation:
When families start paying more for food, gasoline, energy to cool their homes, how much rent and home costs are, and other regular-life items, it changes their other buying decisions. Like where to go to college, and how much they are willing or able to pay for it. We saw this same change in decision making back in 2008 during what has been tagged as “The Great Recession”, and we’re seeing some of the same signals it’s starting again. But this time, the headlines and outcomes may be more dire…
Yep, here I am, your little ray of sunshine, Dan Tudor. But since you and I both reside in the real world, and all of this news will affect the way you and your school recruits, I think we should get ahead of the wave that’s coming and make sure we’re doing everything we can to not only survive over the next year or two, but thrive. That’s my goal for every coaching staff we work with, anyway…and it starts with understanding how people (i.e., your recruits) make decisions to ‘buy’ your D1 scholarship, your D2 partial scholarship, or your D3 and NAIA small school academic package.
So let’s start with this: A very basic, but very true, outline of how we make the decision to buy things, from shoes to college educations and experiences:
5 steps of the consumer (and prospect) decision making process:
Problem recognition: We recognize the need for a service or product, or the opportunity to continue a sports career at the college level.
Information search: We gather information - sometimes before we go through the recruiting process, sometimes during the recruiting process, and most of the time a combination of the two.
Alternatives evaluation: We weigh choices against comparable alternatives. We compare the cost of the shoes we’re looking to buy with other options, or we look at the cost/benefit of a college program we’re thinking about committing to compete for. This is happening throughout the recruiting process.
Purchase decision: We make the actual purchase or decision.
Post-purchase evaluation: We assess the purchase we made, just like the recruit assesses (or second-guesses) their decision to commit to your program. And just like the shoes, they have the option of ‘returning’ their purchase and exchanging it for another option now.
Here’s where the decision making process and the bad economic atmosphere intersects. At points #2 through points #5, we’re calibrating a decision based on our available money, and how we feel about our economic future (“Will I still have a job 6 months from now?” “Should I spend this on college, or maybe something else?”).
And by the way, you full scholarship-giving coaches aren’t completely off the hook here: We’re hearing more feedback from prospects that where they go to school, and the costs associated with that decision, are factoring into their final choice, as well. Competing in a sport across the country sounds exciting, until you realize you may only come back home to visit once each year due to the cost, and parents can’t see their son or daughter play as often as they were picturing before of the same hurdle.
All of these are topics and questions that you need to come up with answers to as we head into this next year of recruiting. It’s going to get harder, but not if you incorporate the skillsets of talking about money, explaining why they should want the option your school and program are offering them, and how you can professionally make the case in doing that.
Coach, you are entering a period of time in your career when it’s going to be tougher than ever to do the non-X’s and O’s part of your job. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. Make sure you get really good at the strategic part of your job as a program leader, or assistant coach who is on the front lines of recruiting, at talking about money decisions, letting your prospect discuss their concerns with you, and leading them through those five steps on their journey towards a decision.
Over the next few posts, we’re going to break down the elements of this process, and make sure you know how to adapt it to your style, your school, and your unique situation. At the end of it, I’m hoping any apprehension or fear is going to be replaced by the feeling a plan that you can move forward with successfully.
One quick note: If you have specific questions, comments or needs as we dive into this topic, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below so I can make sure we take your situation into account, and maybe even answer it directly.
Also, this upcoming series will be for subscribers and clients only, so make sure you’re on the list by signing-up here:
Regardless, there are lots of great articles we’ve been putting out for coaches and athletic departments that take a deep dive into some of these really complicated topics affecting college recruiting and program building, some of which are listed below. Take a look if you haven’t spent time with us here, and play catch-up. It’s helped some of your competitors immensely, and we want it to do the same for you.