When I was grinding to get my overseas basketball career started and/or keep it going, I sent so many emails just trying start a conversation with someone, anyone, form team that could possibly sign me to a contract. In getting my deal in Montenegro in 2007, I sent over 750 emails between September and December alone. The negotiations and finalizing emails (i.e. the time between the first reply I received form my eventual team and our agreement and flight ticket being sent to me) took about 10 messages in total.
I know that the grind continues for players who are coming up these days. This post will cover a few guidelines for how you can make your messages stand out, get read and replied to, and even who to reach decision makers in other ways with the new tools of engagement available to us.
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- Make Your Headline Stand Out. You’re not the only player sending them. If you have the idea, guess how many others have the same idea? Write a subject line that would make you want to open it. I tried many different headlines, one way that got a few responses was by listing my measurements along with my name (Dre Baldwin 6’4″ 185 PG/SG, for example).
- Sell Yourself! Your subject line gets your email opened. Now, give them some substance. Who are you, were are you from, how old are you, what are your measurements (don’t lie)? Where have you played? No need to be too specific with your history in the first message with stats and such — just say where you have played. If they want stats, they’ll ask.
- Keep Your First Message Simple And Pithy. Get to the point and be clear about what you’re writing for – remember that the person on the other end doesn’t know you and has no need for too many formalities. Grabbing their attention is pivotal though — transfer some enthusiasm in your text (which means using exclamation points!) Make it clear what your aim is in your first sentence so the person reading it knows what it is you want, and they can read with that in mind.
- Include A Video. If you don’t have one, stop sending emails and get one. Don’t have any game film to make a highlight from, and no games on your schedule? Ok, go to the gym and film yourself. As a decision-maker, I need to see something, anything, that tells me that you can play other than your words. Anyone can make any claim in an email — show me proof of what you’re saying. Especially at this point in our world of easy digital video — without it, your chances of getting a reply are quite slim.
- Give Them A Call To Action. Know what you want to happen next. What do you want to the reader to do with your email? Do you want them to reply? Do you want them to offer you a contract based on your email? Do you want to set up a Skype call?
The great thing now is that you can reach teams, agents and coaches through other networks, like social media.
- However You Reach Out, Don’t Be A Pest. If you don’t get a reply, sending the same message over and over again will not get the elusive response — it will get you sent to a spam folder (or blocked on Facebook).
- Have Some Life To Your Profile. If you utilize LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, don’t start contacting coaches from a barren, just-made-it-yesterday profile. Fill in all the “About” info, interact with people outside of your sales pitches, be human being. People will notice this.
- When Talking, Less Is More. Remember that you are talking to people who are from different countries and cultures than you are. Don’t get too familiar in your communication until they show you it’s OK to do so. When someone asks you a question, answer it and shut up.
- Always Leave The Ball In Their Court with a question or test-close (what would you need from me to bring me onto your club? Do you see how a player of my abilities could help your team?). Don’t give more information than you’re asked for. At the same time, they are people — don’t be a damn robot. Have a personality but don’t get too friendly.
Outside of actually meeting the decision makers face to face at camps and tryouts, emailing is a free, easy way to make headway with the people who could possibly put you where you want to be. But know up front that the response rate is generally low and you’re swimming in a crowded pond. But, it can work. Pay attention to the results you’re getting and don’t be too stubborn to change up your strategies if it’s not working. Be persistent and it just might work.