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Guiding VS. Selling: How To Talk About The Cost of Your College To Your Swimming & Diving Recruits

Written By: Dan Tudor

Of course, most college swimming and diving coaches don’t naturally love talking about money with their prospects.

And I get it. Discussing partial scholarships that they were hoping would be full scholarships, the cost of your university, and helping them cope with the realization that in most cases, years of paying for club swimming doesn’t mean college is going to be ‘free’. None of those topics are fun, and it’s certainly not one of the reasons you got into college coaching in the first place.

But, it’s the topic many prospects - and nearly all of their parents - want and need answers to, and they will likely look to you to give them that answer. How you are able to answer it may very well dictate whether or not you get the prospect to commit in the end, and also may determine how long you will get to be employed as a college swimming and diving coach.

One of my favorite business and marketing authors is Seth Godin, who talked about an experience he had recently with a salesperson just reading a script to him during a sales call. There are lessons to be learned for every college coach engaged in the process of guiding a prospect to their decision, versus trying to ‘sell’ them on their college swimming opportunity - especially when it comes to the topics of money, and how much a product, service or a college education costs”

“Twenty-four ninety-five.”

I was on the phone hearing a pitch for a service I needed. I had reached out to a recommended vendor, and was now sitting through a pitch from a salesperson who had a script but no listening skills.

I had figured that the service was probably $300 if I shopped around, but I was willing to pay a bit more than that if it would save time.

Finally, the script-reader got to the price.

“It’s 24.95.”

I paused for a second. “You mean it’s twenty four dollars and ninety-five cents?”

“No,” he said.

“Oh… you meant to say two-thousand-four-hundred-and-ninety-five dollars…”

Why would you write the script to anchor the price at 1% of what it really costs?

Instead of a fruitless hustle, two other stories could have worked better.

A competent salesperson could have said, “Some of our competitors charge $300 and some charge $5,000. We’re right in the middle and I can tell you why.”

Or perhaps they could have said, “Some people charge as little as $300 for this. Let me tell you why we charge a lot more than that, and why it might be a smart choice for you.”

In both cases, the truth becomes a firm foundation for a story about value and position.

Money is a story we tell ourselves about value, status and position.

The last line of Godin’s story is key: Money is a story…for you, when you’re deciding whether or not to switch vendors you use as a college coach, and for prospects and their parents involved in a complicated decision-making process.

I know there are some coaches who get tired of me emphasizing the incredible importance of crafting a story around what you’re offering a prospect, but this simple, everyday example of how important it is proves my point and offers a valuable lesson to college recruiters. Why? Because much of the buying decision, and what they’re looking for from you as they get close to making a final decision, involves you doing something very similar to what Seth Godin suggests here:

“I can tell you why”. This aspect of giving a swimming or diving prospect the context of what you’re asking them to pay to go to school at your campus and compete for you.

First of all, bringing up the reality that some colleges may cost less, and some may cost more, is important: It helps your prospect (and/or their parents) feel like you’re open to the conversation about other choices. That may seem minor, but prospects tell us all the time they tend to hide information about who they’re looking at because they think you will criticize them, criticize the other program, or just generally make things uncomfortable for them.

Secondly, the “I can tell you why” is something most coaches avoid: Their opinion as it relates to why a prospect should pick them. Your prospect, and his or her parents, want and need you to give you their opinion on the ‘why’ aspect of their pending decision. Most coaches neglect to do that, to their own detriment.

Don’t hide or dance around your college’s cost. Get over it, Coach. The fact is, some recruits will be able to afford your campus, while others won’t. Your job as a coach is to bring that part of the conversation to the forefront, not hide from it or apologize for it. Engage with the prospect, and try to understand their point of view so you can get a good idea of whether or not they belong on your recruiting list. And, when you find a prospect who isn’t in the market to take on the cost of your college, that’s a good thing! Smart recruiters don’t focus on prospects who won’t be able to afford to come and swim for you, so the sooner you find out what the realistic chances are for the prospect you want, the better.

Make your case as to why you’re worth the extra cost. Can I tell you something as a two-time ‘purchaser’ of a college education as a parent of both a recruited student-athlete and a regular college student? My wife, daughters and I were actively looking for reasons we should choose the right school. And, as an extension, why it was ‘worth it’ to buy that option we felt was right. Recruits and their parents are constantly trying to justify an emotional decision (which is what the vast majority of college decisions are) and they desperately need your help. We want, and need, your opinion on why it should be you.

“Money is a story we tell ourselves about value, status and position.” A big part of your job outside of the pool is to be telling a big part of that story because it serves as a guide through a very complicated, illogical and emotional decision your prospects are making. The better you help them with it - and the more accurately you assess their probability of being able to come to your campus without a full-ride scholarship of some kind, is key to your long term success when it comes to building a program.

Dan Tudor is a regular speaker at the CSCAA and is the Founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, a nationally respected athletic recruiting advisory firm that specializes in training coaching staffs to communicate and recruit their prospects more effectively. Dan has been referred to as “America’s recruiting coordinator” thanks to his company’s cutting-edge strategies, research and ongoing advice to the college coaching community. Dan and his team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies conducts recruiting workshops at athletic departments around the country, as well as serving several hundred individual coaching staffs as clients as he and his staff help to craft their recruiting strategy and communication. You can contact Dan directly at

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