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I don’t participate in social media any more, but I have some young friends who do. One of them sent me a screen shot of something Virginia Tech Co-Defensive Line Coach Darryl Tapp tweeted yesterday, and on one hand, it made me happy Tapp was bringing awareness to a problem that’s been brewing for quite some time.
On the other hand, it made me somewhat wary, because he can’t do anything about the problem alone. The tweet kind of made it seem like he was.
Tapp’s a great guy originally from the Tidewater area, and he tweeted “To the former OG Hokies and my Hokie Brothers PLEASE HIT me up in my DMs. VT will FOREVER be YOUR HOME. WE WANT YOU BACK AND NEED YOU BACK. Sincerely, Not A Random Guy. This is your brother.” Then he finished it with 17 turkey emojis.
It made me smile, as I thought “finally.” It has always been my thought as a career sales guy that some of the recruiting issues in major places like Tidewater and Richmond have been because of a lack of work building the necessary relationships with coaches, former players and the people on the ground who can make or break you. It’s hard work, takes time, and does not give you any sort of instant gratification.
But that was Frank Beamer’s edge for many years. He had the same assistants for most of his 28 years and they worked certain geographic areas hard. Coaches knew the Hokie assistants because they were in the schools frequently, not just to scout a player, but to build a relationship for when there was a big time recruit down the road they hoped to steer to Blacksburg.
It’s what you have to do when you are not Alabama, Notre Dame, or some brand name that can come in, sweep you off your feet and get you to change your mind on the strength of one visit. You build trust, and instead of finding yourself selling a commodity where the highest bidder wins, you end up selling a program, an experience, a family to join.
Tapp seems to be realizing that with this tweet. But Darryl, my man, you’re not getting it done with a tweet, a text or an email. That’s not selling. That’s casting out 100 lines on the ocean and hoping some fish bites on a couple. Anyone can do that.
Now’s when the hard part starts.
It’s more likely to be similar to a situation I had once with a dealer in the greater metropolitan area of Southern Alabama. It’s not a place a lot of people are going to travel 3 or 4 times to in a year, but I did because we wanted that particular dealer. The owner and I got along well, and he even told me more than once the old Southern joke about saying no to salesmen the first three times they come around.
Why, you ask? To see if you’ll come back the fourth time. Everyone says they will take care of you, always be there for you if there’s trouble, and you should absolutely trust them. But you don’t really know…until they come back the fourth time.
I did, and ended up getting the business. I also kept coming back (there are some great barbecue places in Alabama, by the way) to strengthen the relationship as much as I could. You see, human beings aren’t like computers. When something annoys them, there isn’t an error message or a warning light that goes off. They tend to expect you to notice something’s wrong, and in the sales game if you don’t notice, they slowly drift out to sea and find someone else who will notice.
Turns out two years later I got a call from this dealer. He didn’t say he was mad, didn’t say there was something wrong, he just said he thought it was time for us to play golf. His numbers were down so there was an issue. Faced with the tremendous challenge of going and playing a round of golf at Montgomery Country Club before consuming more Alabama barbecue, I said yes.
He was a huge Auburn football fan that could work “War Eagle” into a sentence that dealt with return on invested capital and inventory turns. We played mediocre golf, I talked about the Hokies while he countered about the Tigers, and there was little to no mention of business, despite me throwing softballs out there to make it easier to complain.
Finally after he had birdied a hole and was all smiles, he mentioned what the problem was. He was mad, his people were mad, and he didn’t understand why the problem wasn’t being fixed. The answer was easy; we didn’t know. But that night after my plane landed in Greensboro, NC, it got fixed.
The moral of the story is you put in the time, you get the business. Put in even more time and when things go wrong, you get the benefit of the doubt and a chance to fix it.
Not by DM, text or email. Person to person. Face to face.
So Darryl, it’s great you realize the problem. But you’re among the most gregarious and positive people Virginia Tech has. Get in front of these coaches, former players and people on the ground who can help you. Let them see they can trust you and depend on you for years to come. Bring your head coach and other assistants with you.
Show them who we are.
Truth is, I think there are many people in the state who have watched the boat drift out to sea and have just been waiting for someone – like a Darryl Tapp – to get this thing started again. Instead, they’ve been seeing a coaching staff that doesn’t come by so much, instead winking and nodding at every prospect who smiles at Virginia Tech from Texas, North Carolina, or any place other than the state of Virginia. When those smiles don't turn into commitments, the Hokies have then scoured the transfer portal looking for one-year wonders.
Kind of ironic for a program whose motto is “This Is Home,” don’t you think?
My money’s on Darryl. He can coach, he can make people believe, and he can sell. He just has to be patient, because while he will be well received, he can’t do it on his own. They’re going to listen to him, cross their arms, and then wait.
Right up until he comes back the 4th time.
Does Tapp, or any other coaches, subscribe to your blog? (Rhetorical)
And a former player, Davon Morgan possibly, tweeted a while back about hosting a golf outing for former players. I think that would be a great start as well. Give them a discounted rate at the VT Golf course, a discounted rate at the VT Inn, etc...and have the Hokie Club solicit hole sponsors, etc. to offset feeding them.
You plan events to make it easy for people to spend some time with you. I can't tell you how many company sponsored golf events I've been involved in and you always let the customer win. They feel good about you, you get to spend quality time with the customer, and what it costs you versus the benefits you eventually get are peanuts. You'd think the Hokie Marketing department would have a program specifically aimed at the retention of former players and high profile alumni....