Every PNM’s Excuse Really Means…

By Matt Mattson

We all know the Top 10 Reasons why potential members turn down our bids. If you don’t, they’re listed below and here are some free resources to help you familiarize yourself.

But when a prospective member says “no” or “not yet” and they follow it up with “I can’t afford it,” “My parents won’t let me,” “I’m going to wait a semester,” or “I’ll think about it,” did you know that they probably don’t really mean any of those things?

It’s true. Most of those concerns or excuses are really just a veiled way of communicating something much simpler. Much more important.

Here it is. Those excuses communicate one of these two things..

1. You all don’t seem to LOVE me yet.

2. I don’t really LOVE you all yet.

Now, they’ll never admit this. And I know it sounds kind of hokey. But, I’m telling you… after years of teaching, researching, and watching fraternity and sorority recruitment, I’m 100% convinced that LOVE is the main ingredient. And 99% of the time, when someone is hesitating to join, it isn’t for any real logical reason — it’s a lack of human connection, a lack of emotional charge, a lack of love.

Back in the old days, we couldn’t talk about stuff like this with fraternity men, we’d get boo’d out of the room. But I know we’re working with a more enlightened crop of fraternal leaders, and the sorority women have been tuned into this for a while now. Fraternities and sororities sell one thing — we peddle LOVE. We call it brotherhood, sisterhood, purpose, values, etc., but all of those things are just a manifestation of a young woman or man feeling LOVED.

We teach an old recruitment skill called a “Pre-Close.” That’s when, after you’ve gotten to know a prospect really well, and they’ve gotten to know you and your organization really well, you ask, “If we were to ask you to join, what would you say?” It’s at this point when they’ll respond with either a YES, NO, or MAYBE. “No’s” and “Maybe’s” get a follow up question: “What’s one thing holding you back?” At which point they’ll give you one of the Top 10 reasons listed below. Here’s a fun old video to walk you through the Pre-Close process.

But, understand that what the Pre-Close process is really about is an opportunity for each party to have a real emotional check in. To find out if the prospective member feels at HOME yet. If they feel like they’re part of your group, if they feel like they can matter within your organization… if they feel loved.

When you find out their concerns or excuses for not yet wanting to join, you’ll also find that you probably won’t be able to convince them to join with logic, information, data, or bullet-points. They’ll need more connection, more friendship, more emotional exchange — factual info will be helpful too, but the real “convincing” is an act of the heart not the brain.

When I teach recruiters how to Pre-Close, I always emphasize the first step of the three step process.

1.      VALIDATE their concern.

2.      ISOLATE each concern to deal with them separately.

3.      TIMELINE the conversation – set a date for next steps and a decision.

To “validate” someone means to truly listen to them. To let them know that their concern about joining is not only valid, it is completely normal. “So you’re concerned about the cost. That makes total sense. It isn’t free. It isn’t even cheap. It’s a lot of money for most people to make this kind of investment. I had the same concern when I was in your shoes – I didn’t come from money. I didn’t have a full-time job. I was texting Mom and Dad for rent money all the time my first year. That is a completely valid concern.”

Notice that the first thing you should do is just let them have their concern. It’s real to them. Even if it is based on inaccurate information. Just let it be. Love them. Hear them. Validate them. There is no “right” or “wrong” here. There is only loved enough or not.

Next we ask, “If money wasn’t a concern, is there anything else holding you back?” If there is, validate it and add it to the list. If not, then move on.

Finally, the Pre-Close process ends with a TIMELINE. The last thing you want is to leave an uncertain prospective member uncertain about his or her uncertainty. Set a timeline for resolution. “Listen, I don’t know if you’ll think differently or not, but I want to make sure we give this a chance. Could we have some more conversations and share some more experiences for the next 7 days, and then one week from now I’ll ask you this same question again?” Don’t let things drag on.


1. I can’t afford it. (You don’t seem to love me enough yet for me to make this investment.”

2. My mom/dad/boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t want me to join. (You haven’t shown the people important to me that I will be loved here.)

3. I have to focus on my studies. (I don’t feel loved here.)

4. Upperclassmen don’t join fraternities/sororities. (I feel like because I’m older, I won’t be loved here.)

5. I don’t want  to live in the house. (I don’t feel loved here.)

6. I don’t want to be a stereotypical frat guy/sorority girl. (You all haven’t shown that you’re capable of more than caring about someone at a surface level.)

7. I don’t have time. (I don’t feel loved here.)

8. I don’t want to buy my friends. (It doesn’t seem like you love each other.)

9. I don’t want to be hazed. (You all don’t seem to love me enough for me to trust that you won’t hurt me.)

10. I don’t drink. (I don’t feel like you all love people like me.)

Here’s a great post related to this one, and here’s another great related post that is sorority-focused.