Challenge The Pros - Improving the Speed and Effectiveness of Your Responses to Prospects

What are you doing to improve the speed and effectiveness of your responses to prospects evaluating your system?

Steve Cox
Vice President, Franchise Development
i9 Sports

To better position us to reach our 2012 goal of doubling franchise awards, we recently revamped our lead follow-up processes to increase the speed and effectiveness of our prospect follow-up.

Step one was the implementation of Captivate from FranConnect. Prospects want a lot of information before they are willing to fully engage. With the implementation of Captivate, we are providing prospects with more information than ever. Our Captivate virtual brochure provides them with the emotional hook needed to engage them, while also providing them with the nuts and bolts of our opportunity, which allows them to determine (1) if investing time in the discovery process makes sense for them, and (2) if they qualify to engage.

Step two was hiring a lead qualifier. His job is to engage prospects through a series of three telephone calls and three emails over a 10-day period. Prospects reached are asked a few pre-qualifying questions, and their basic questions are answered. Our qualifier not only invites all new prospects to a weekly webinar we host, but for those ready to engage immediately he also offers an opportunity for a one-on-one call with a development specialist.

Step three is for me to host the weekly webinar for new prospects. This allows us to reach out to prospects who haven't yet engaged fully with our franchise development team, but who are interested in learning more about the franchise opportunity. Since I am both our vice president of franchise development and an i9 Sports franchisee, I look to bring some real-world answers to our prospects in these webinars. The webinar focuses on who we are and provides an overview of the opportunity and the support we provide, followed by a Q&A session. The call is wrapped up in one hour. The following day our qualifier is on the telephone working to schedule a follow-up call with those who attended. We send an email to those who missed the call, with a link to a recording of the webinar.

Step four is a drip email campaign designed to (1) keep us top-of-mind with those looking at different opportunities, and (2) serve as an ongoing touch point with those who may be great prospects but who are not quite ready to engage.

We believe these four steps will increase our speed of follow-up, make us more effective, and allow us to hit our goals.

Jim C. Brown
Vice President, Franchise Development
Comfort Keepers/CK Franchising

The in-home care sector of franchising has become extremely popular in the past several years. More new concepts are being launched every year. In addition to more competition, these new brands bring more visibility to the sector. Our strategy and sales system have evolved since Comfort Keepers began franchising in 1999. One foundation of our system has remained the same, however: TKD, or Time Kills Deals.

The first opportunity for engagement with a potential prospect starts the clock ticking. Most often, that first opportunity is an Internet inquiry. Like many systems, we use a CRM system that generates auto-responders and a drip email campaign. The drip campaigns include links back to high-interest areas of our website. Many of our franchisee prospects are Baby Boomers who still appreciate printed materials. Because of this, we also mail a small trifold brochure the same day we receive the inquiry. Additionally, we send a comprehensive information packet to engaged prospects.

To connect as quickly as possible with prospects, we have increased our sales staff. Today we have three people working with potential franchisees. In our process, we believe phone skills are critical to success. The truly golden opportunities are from inbound inquiry calls. This first interaction is critical, and having a process for that call is essential.

Comfort Keepers participates in the annual Franchise Update Leadership & Development Conference, which includes mystery shops. Additionally, at least twice a year, we engage an independent research company to do mystery shops. Each sales team member receives at least three calls with each engagement. The company representatives listen for the key process components we have identified. We are supplied with a written report on each shop, including a narrative of their experience on each call. Our team is very competitive and the mystery shop results make for some lively sales meetings.

Comfort Keepers' strategy and sales system evolution is continuing this spring when we launch a new, more interactive engagement system for our web inquiries. The goal is to more effectively communicate with truly interested prospects on the front end, which in turn, will increase opportunities for the sales team to optimize their time.

Dino Chavez
Director of Franchise Development
Pizza Inn/Pie Five Pizza

After years of declining store sales, the slow economy, and the challenges franchisee candidates face in securing loans, the pressure and responsibilities of securing and approving candidates falls back on the franchisor and the systems they use to evaluate each one.

I currently have two brands I am working with on development, Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza Company. Pizza Inn has three levels of investment a candidate can choose from. The Pie Five concept is searching for experienced multiple-unit candidates who can obtain financing and follow an aggressive development schedule for a new and emerging brand. Because the Pizza Inn brand has several ranges of investment, it does attract candidates who are searching for their first entry into franchising or even the industry in general.

The biggest lead generator for our brands is our existing website. There are other services and various publications, along with multiple conferences where we exhibit, that help drive traffic to our website. We currently use a lead management program that assists us in providing an immediate response to the incoming prospect. Within a couple of minutes, the potential candidate will receive an appreciation letter we created to thank them for their initial interest in our brand.

The program also provides an electronic brochure containing franchising information about the concept that is of interest to them. To receive the brochure, a candidate will provide us with basic personal and financial information. This program also gives us the time frame the candidate would like for opening their first location. This helps in determining if the candidate meets the criteria for area and concept availability, along with initial financial qualifications. We can then determine the next step.

This crucial first step helps the franchise team respond more quickly if we decide to move ahead in qualifying a candidate and provide them with additional support materials. The additional information provided to the candidate will help them understand what type of opportunity they are entering into. After the candidate has qualified, we can set up a time to talk about the next steps in the process. If the potential candidate did not qualify, we can provide a quick response and thank them for their interest. This automatic response is generated within 24 hours.

This system has allowed us to filter through candidates in a professional and timely manner. It has also allowed us to have the platform to continually provide information for any franchise leads in our system. Our responses to the candidates are timely and can include any type of information we would like to provide. It also helps us guide the candidate along from the initial inquiry to signing the agreement in a timely and professional manner--thus giving both franchisor and franchisee a much better feel for the relationship they are about to enter.

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