Salesmanship in an NIL world
Why does someone buy a Lexus when a Honda gets them to the same place in the same way? Why do people pay a premium for a Mercedes when they could get a Ford for half the price? Why would I buy a Range Rover instead of a fully loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee?
There are a few possible answers that apply here: Status, passion, a belief that the quality is materially better, an over-the-top customer experience when you buy the car, or just to maintain a healthy amount of ego in your day-to-day life.
If you have the money, it's an easy decision. Of course you'll spend to own a luxury brand - you can afford it. But, people who can't afford it are still buying luxury cars the same way.
A friend of mine is firmly in the pre-rich phase of life. His dad and older brother, each of whom are just rich, decided to each buy a new Mercedes. The cars are nice. When they drive down the road, they scream success. They are beautiful vehicles and I am jealous of them.
My friend is especially envious of them, so much so that he bought his own Mercedes just this week. It's a used, entry-level Mercedes (something that I didn't know existed), but it still has that logo on the hood and, therefore, it still screams success.
He traded in his relatively new and very nice Kia for the entry-level Mercedes. The Mercedes has fewer features and is a little older, but it still has that logo on the hood, and that's really what mattered the most.
He paid more money to get an objectively 'more basic' car. And this is the foundation of today's newsletter.
Setting The Stage
When it comes to BYU's recruiting efforts, they are never going to be at the top of the NIL charts. BYU's official collective, The Royal Blue, and other groups like Coug Connect do a fantastic job getting some money into the pockets of players, but they are never going to be able to afford the Bronny James-type contracts with multiple commas in them.
Frankly, even though those entities aren't owned or operated by BYU, that's probably how the school would want it. The University doesn't seem like the type of place who wants to pay seven-figures to convince a kid to come to Provo.
BYU's collective and NIL efforts are still good, though. No, they're not top tier and some kids, primarily those who are looking for a paycheck more than anything, won't entertain BYU at all. But, BYU plays the NIL game well enough that it's still a positive selling point.
Does BYU need to do more? Or does BYU need to do things differently? That's the crux of today's discussion.
Selling Value vs. Selling Price
Lexus knows they are priced higher than Toyota. Mercedes knows that some people won't even listen to them because they can't afford to even test drive a Mercedes. Range Rover doesn't waste its making cheaper cars because if you can't afford what they sell, they don't see any reason to find a way to make it affordable.
These brands know who they are, know what they offer, and they routinely convince people to sacrifice on price in the name of something else.
BYU is in a similar situation as some of these luxury brands.
No, they aren't the elite school like Harvard or some Ivy League school is, but for a certain slice of the population, BYU is incredibly unique and offers an incredible amount of value. They offer so much value, in fact, that if they sell things right, they can probably get people to sacrifice cash because they want the rest of what BYU has to offer.
Let's take a topical example from today. Utah State basketball transfer Steven Ashworth is considering BYU, among the dozens of other schools who have reached out to him. Without knowing specific financial figures of what NIL offers have been pitched to Ashworth, I can confidently say that BYU's pitch isn't the most valuable offer - that's just not who BYU is. I'm positive that there is another school out there who is willing to bring a very, very big bag for Ashworth.
On the surface, why wouldn't Ashworth take that big bag and turn down whatever BYU offered?
Well, BYU has more value to sell than just cash. That value could be more valuable than a check.
Ashworth grew up in Utah County. He grew up dreaming of playing for the Cougars. BYU can give him the chance to fulfill a childhood dream and wear the jersey for the school that he dreamed of playing for when he was a kid. That's a kind of intrinsic value that Creighton can't offer, because no Utah County native dreams of playing hoops in Omaha, Nebraska.
BYU can offer a locker room full of players who grew up with Ashworth. His friends, like Dallin Hall, would be his teammates. Every day he went to work, he would be going to work with kids he used to play pick up ball with at the local stake center. That's value that Gonzaga can't offer Ashworth.
BYU can also offer Ashworth a campus that is full of people who believe in the same things he does. His wife would know people on campus, have friends when Ashworth is on road trips, could join the local Bunco group that the ladies in her ward have set up. And all of this could be done in an environment that is familiar to Ashworth. That's a valuable experience that, realistically, no other school can offer to him.
Maybe BYU (and by BYU, obviously, we're talking about TRB) won't write the biggest check, but that doesn't mean that they can't offer the biggest value.
BYU's coaching staff - football, basketball, and every other sport - needs to ensure they are selling value, not just dollars. Because for certain players, what BYU can offer is more valuable than dollars in a bank account.
Lifetime Value That Lasts
The BYU network is unique. There are BYU graduates all over the world. There are successful BYU alumni in all kinds of different fields in all kinds of different places. There are also a bevy of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who didn't attend BYU, but immediately recognize the stretch Y and understand what it represents.
There is value in a BYU degree, especially for a former BYU athlete.
Being successful on the field or on the court at BYU catapults a player into celebrity status. Not every player will have songs written about them like Jimmer Fredette or have a mountain with their name on it like Ty Detmer, but even former walk-on players like Ben Criddle are able to tap into their former BYU playing days to help with their careers post-football. (Love you, Criddle!)
BYU athletes develop a cult-like following. Zach Wilson was drafted by the New York Jets and suddenly there were thousands of Jet fans in Utah. Jamaal Williams can't sneeze on the internet without thousands of BYU fans following the sneeze and lauding about Jamaal's personality. Taysom Hill can't throw a pass in the NFL without BYU fans pleading the New Orleans Saints to give him a shot at quarterback.
BYU players become celebrities, and they are able to tap into that celebrity status long after their athletic careers are over.
Whether it's enhacing their celebrity status (like Kyle Van Noy on the sideline microphone for BYUtv) or using BYU connections to help launch professional careers in another field (like Craig Cusick at Qualtrics), there is a ton of value in being a BYU athlete - and that value extends far beyond an NIL check.
Selling BYU's Competitive Advantage
Sales professionals are trained to find a company's competitive advantage and to lead with that in the sales process. For some, it's price. For others, it's quality, or service, or production and delivery, or stability, or any number of other things.
Good sales people find that competitive advantage, sell it hard, and close a bunch of deals.
Good sales people also recognize quickly when a potential buyer is looking for a different kind of competitive advantage. At that point, the sales person either pivots or recognizes that a deal isn't in the cards and moves on quickly.
BYU's coaches - across all sports - need more salesmanship.
What is BYU's competitive advantage and how does that resonate with the person BYU is recruiting? The answer certain varies with each recruit, but the process that a coach should go through is similar.
Is the player LDS?
What is the background of the player?
What are their ambitions for life after sports?
How much do they care about NIL money?
What kind of campus culture do they want to have?
What are their primary goals for college?
Who are the key influencers who are helping them make a decision?
What are the things that are most important to those key influencers?
Depending on the answers to these questions, BYU's recruitment of each individual player could look very differently.
And yes, sometimes, the answers to these questions could ultimately determine that the salescoach needs to shake hands with the potential client/recruit, thank them for their time, recognize it isn't a fit, and ultimately walk away.
Sometimes, turning down a recruit is the best recruiting strategy that a recruiter can take.
As BYU's coaches work through this process, they can find value that lasts a lifetime and sell that to each individual recruit.
BYU Has So Much To Offer - Sell It All
I had a conversation with a contact today about a potential transfer into one of BYU's sports programs. The response was simple and telling, "I feel pretty good about (redacted) enrolling at BYU, but in this NIL world, things can change with a phone call."
BYU won't always be able to win every deal on price - sometimes they will get outbid. But, if BYU's coaches are selling everything that BYU has to offer, those higher NIL bids might not matter.
BYU's collectives ensure that BYU will be able to be competive in NIL, but it's up to the coaching staffs of each respective sport to sell the product. The only thing the collectives can do is influence the price.
The coaches have to sell the value.
And there is a lot of it to sell.