Listen Up!: Candidates Have a Lot to Say, if you Let Them

Listen Up!: Candidates Have a Lot to Say, if you Let Them

In the life of a franchise sales professional, never a day should go by when we do not learn (or relearn) a selling skill. We are the tip of the spear when it comes to representing our brand to future franchise owners. We possess the sales skills to guide candidates from every conceivable background through a selection process that ultimately causes them to embrace risk and make a life-changing decision. And we are accountable to select only those candidates who will make positive and valuable contributions to the brand.

Wow! That is a lot of responsibility. However it is an accurate description of the contribution franchise sales professionals bring to their brand. It is also what brings us to the office day after day, year after year (or decade after decade).

Given the enormous implications of what we do, there is irony in the fact that there is little uniformity across the industry regarding franchise development. While there is similarity of intent, execution varies dramatically depending upon the business category, investment, and past experience of those on the front lines. Some brands manage the process in-house, others outsource. Some use qualifiers while others use a single salesperson. Some qualify during discovery day while others use it as a closing event.

Whatever the process employed at your brand, it begins with an introductory call to the candidate. Everyone in the industry approaches this call with one goal in mind: to capture sufficient information to decide whether to invest time and over the next 30 to 90 days. Typically that means providing a brand overview sprinkled with a few qualifying questions. Most times it is 90 percent brand overview and 10 percent qualifying--and that is just wrong.

In many ways the initial phone conversation is the most important call of the many you make during the franchise development process. It sets the stage for what happens next. Along with gathering basic qualifying information, the initial call must achieve the following:

  1. Convince the candidate we are not telemarketers but professionals seeking to match strong partners in a long-term business relationship.
  2. Identify the candidate's strengths and weaknesses and what specific support we may need to provide.
  3. Provide a clear understanding of the candidate's motivation and goal in pursuing business ownership.
  4. Provide an understanding of what changed in their life causing them to inquire at this time.
  5. Provide an exceptionally clear understanding of what they seek to avoid by becoming an entrepreneur.

Most important, these five insights provide a plan to follow during every subsequent phone conversation. The answers to these five questions provide the key to your success ("I need to escape from employment"). They provided the list of buttons you need to push to keep everyone focused on the cause ("Sorry you are on the road again. Were you not on the road last week as well?") They provided a new agenda for future calls specific to each candidate's concerns ("Let me talk specifically about how we can help you with hiring staff.").

In the quest to perform more productive initial calls we ask ourselves. "What is really going on during that first introductory call?" Among our clients the collective opinion was that the initial introductory call is really two individuals on the line together, each with something to prove and anxious to prove it.

So we "tweaked" our mindset about those two people on the line. It sounds like this: There are two parties on the line. Each has something to prove and is anxious to prove it. The sales professional wants to prove their brand is the best opportunity on the planet. The candidate wants to prove they are the best candidate ever for your brand. So we tweaked our mindset by shelving all discussion about brand benefits during the first call and began doing everything possible to enable the candidate to prove their point.

Stated more directly, people love to talk about themselves, so help them do so. We ask a few questions regarding related experience, solo or partnership, family and timing and investment budget, and let them talk. When the candidate asks a direct question we answer it swiftly, then ask a question that moves the conversation to a new topic. How do you handle the "Tell me about your franchise" question? Present a 90-second elevator pitch ending with the estimated investment and close with, "Is that the investment budget you are considering?"

Today our goal with every initial call is to find ways to help candidates prove they are the best qualified we have ever seen-- that we are the best franchise they've ever seen. Candidates now speak 90 percent of the time and give us all the information we need to:

  • Focus future calls with pinpoint accuracy on resolving each candidate's fears.
  • Continually reinforce the prospect's unique motivations and goal.
  • Gently repeat the need to eliminate or avoid what causes them pain.
  • Build a personal and trusting relationship that gives us permission to ask for the order.

Most times a little "tweak" is all you need to succeed.

Happy Selling,

Jim Bender is the president and owner of Franchise System Builders. He has been in the franchise business for 37 years and has provided clients with sales outsourcing and concept services since 2002. Contact him at or 248-647-1989.

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