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Cathi Aradi

Fastpitch Tip: Uncovering the PBM

The goal in recruiting is what? To find out what makes the clock run, the whistles blow, the lights flash and the bomb tick. Because if you can discover what is driving an individual, then you've got a pretty good chance of adding her to the fold. That is, if you have what she is looking for! And if you don't, then lotsa luck. In most cases, you'll have more success standing on your head and hitting a home run with the bat gripped between your feet. I've seen it done, but only once.

What we're talking about here is not just any buying motive, but a Primary Buying Motive, or PBM. It represents the hidden dream and it is what makes the bomb tick. For a motive by definition is a physical and emotional impulse. And that, my friends, is a powerful reason for action. People don't commit murder without emotion!

As a recruiter, the first thing you have to do is uncover the PBM. When I say uncover, I am suggesting this is often shrouded in secrecy, and not just from you, but possibly even from the student-athlete herself. Sometimes people, particularly adolescents, (the last time I checked, they were still considered people) do not know what drives them. They feel it, but they may not be able to articulate it. Or they may well understand it, but because it is so intensely personal they may choose not to openly reveal it. That is why you must work at uncovering it.

To assume there is nothing else to the statement "I want to start my freshman year" is dangerous. Everybody wants to play! There is nothing distinguishing about that. But why people want to play can have many variations. In other words, what's beneath the desire? Most coaches are astonishingly lacking in curiosity. You hear the old familiar song and dance and assume you know everything there is to know. And so the question-asking process stops when it should be just beginning. To find out a person's PBM, you must inquire around it and mine at deeper levels. Let me give you an example of a possible dialogue.

Coach: So tell me, Melissa, what is it you're really looking for in a college program?

Melissa: Well, of course, I want to get a good education and my parents are concerned about safety, so that's important. And I want to be close enough to home that they can see me play once in a while. And I want to play, obviously!

Coach: Which of those would you say is most important?

Melissa: Well, they're all important, but if I had to pick one, I'd have to go with, um, education?

Coach: You don't sound convinced about that.

Melissa: It's supposed to be, isn't it? I mean, I think I'll need to go to graduate school like my dad wants and I’ll have to go to a good school that has, you know, a good reputation and all that.

Coach: Okay. So that's your father's dream and he's a pretty important guy in your life. It's important to please him. Is your dream for your four years in school any different?

Melissa: Well, yeah, sort of. I’m serious about the education part, but I really do want to play. I feel like I haven't reached my potential yet and I can get a lot better.

Coach: You're really interested in developing yourself.

Melissa: Yeah! I hit 14 dingers last year and I know I can do a lot better than that!

Coach: It must really be thrilling for you to connect with the long ball.

Melissa: Tell me about it ! It's like, you know, when you hit it so clean you don't even feel it come off the bat! I mean, WOW!

Coach: So what you're really looking for, besides that great education, is a program that will be able to coach you on technique and work with you on your strength training so that you continue to experience the excitement of banging homers and trotting around the bases, especially when your dad's there watching you.

Melissa: Exactly!

The tipoff for the PBM is always going to be the amount of energy that is put into it. When Melissa talks about the importance of education, she shows little emotion. But as the coach probes and shows curiosity, the coach hits Melissa's vein. And now the coach can begin to sell her on the strength coach and the coaching staff's ability to develop hitters. Always keep it in energetic, experiential, feeling language.

Parents, of course, will have a different PBM in most cases and they will articulate it more clearly. It may also have a more logical tone about it. But make no mistake, it will be just as emotional for them, though you may want to discuss it more logically. In other words, you may have to prove it with more documentation.

You have to sell both, even if it appears that the student-athlete's PBM is inconsistent or contradictory with her parents' PBM. It's up to you to bring them into alignment using your creativity if necessary. And I would say it is a good idea on a home visit to begin serious discussions with a summary statement of everyone's PBM. Check for verity. That will start off the conversation with the prospect and her family feeling understood. It will also give you an opportunity to clarify the PBM and make sure everyone's on the same page.

Now, be careful. You cannot change a PBM. Never argue with a person about their PBM. Do you want to see somebody get emotional? What you can do is try to better mold yourself to her dream. But if it's not a fit, it's not a fit. That doesn't necessarily mean to stop recruiting, unless the school which matches her dream is offering.

To get to the bomb's tick, you must get to the emotion. To get to the emotion, you must be curious, ask lots of questions around what appears to be the motivating force and see if it remains consistent over time. If you know the Primary Buying Motive, you will automatically become a more efficient and skilled recruiter!