Many franchisors are taking advantage of this economic slowdown to examine and improve their sales process. Rather than discussing tweaking and fine-tuning, I'd like to look at three fundamental selling skills essential to franchise sales success. You'll recruit new franchisees much faster if you train (and re-train) your sales staff in these three key selling skills.
The first key requires your commitment to follow a successful sales process. This can be extremely mind-bending for some franchisors, since the franchise recruitment process is an odd duck with its own rules. Some of you may require the "detox chamber" before you get it right. Don't feel bad, because franchise sales pros initially suffered through these same challenges. The key is going in with your eyes open, knowing that if you aren't coachable and willing to change habits you'll drown. Many development consultants concur that only one in four new franchise salespeople will be successful recruiters. Often the challenge isn't a question of intelligence. It's the inability to adapt, the regression to old sales techniques that don't work, and second-guessing and short-circuiting the principles of the franchise process.
If you don't have an effective sales process now, get one in place ASAP before you lose more qualified buyers. Employ a sales consultant, attend franchise development workshops, and/or implement the time-tested sales process revealed in this chapter. Sixty percent of your success is the process, 40 percent is the execution.
A CEO contracted me to retrain a former auto sales whiz who was striking out awarding his franchises. First I reviewed the steps of his recruitment process, which had delivered quality operators until the new sales guy took over. The system in place was effective; the problem was his new sales person. I recommended three times that the CEO fire him, before he finally did. We spent hours training this rep, shopped his presentations, and gave him how-to solutions with homework to correct his mistakes. He simply couldn't shake his former selling techniques. I sent him to "reform school" a few times to see if he could change. He was a personable, persuasive guy. But he was a slave to his old habits. The new twist to franchise selling was too painful and too far from his comfort zone. The CEO finally kicked him out and sales took off once again.
The second key to recruitment selling is strong relationship-building skills. Franchising is a family, a partnership, a journey, and an experience that changes the lives of the people you bring into your system. Successful sales execs are genuinely sincere, interested, and engulfed in their prospects' worlds. They relish their role in counseling candidates and opening doors of opportunity that can help them realize their goals. They have deeper insights and sensitivities to a buyer's personality, motivations, hesitance, and family situation. Buyers quickly see this personal dedication.
I once had the pleasure of hiring John, a sales executive who is truly a master in connecting with his franchise candidates. They often raved about him and wrote letters about his valuable counseling and friendship in guiding their decision-making process. One of his fans was visibly upset at a Discovery Day because John was unable to be there. "We were so thrilled, thinking we would finally meet John. You can't believe how he helped us with his coaching and caring about our future. It's such a disappointment he couldn't make it." Fortunately the couple did sign, although there was a fleeting moment I thought John's absence would jeopardize closing the candidate.
Relationship-building can't be emphasized enough in franchise recruitment. Perhaps money-driven "sales predators" can initially manipulate a buyer with a powerful recruitment process, but their insincerity eventually gets the best of them. I asked a new retail food franchisee why he didn't select another concept he had seriously considered. "I realized they were more interested in my franchise fee than in me. Their franchise exec was a 'schmoozer,' mouthing all the buzzwords and ignoring my feelings. He didn't care about me. He was interested in getting his commission. I loved their concept, but I wasn't comfortable about their motives."
This reminds me of an experience in my 20s, when I worked for the Prudential Insurance Company. I asked a Prudential sales person to show me life insurance options for my young family. Wouldn't you think I was a slam dunk sale? The agent was late for the appointment, talked at me, never took the time to listen, and got huffy when I didn't write him a check. Two weeks later, I purchased from a professional agent from a competitive company who showed interest in the welfare of my family. He asked a series of questions and explored several options before making his recommendations. I never felt I was being sold and actually felt good buying from him. Ironically enough, Prudential conducted a consumer survey that addressed my buying experience. One question was "What has been the greatest factor influencing you in purchasing your insurance policies? The company name, product, or the sales person?" The sales person won first, then the product, with the company name last. So it is in franchise recruitment: If you can't get close to your buyer, you can't close the buyer!
The third key in franchise selling is effective closing skills. In working with a quality candidate, your franchise recruitment builds to a crescendo signaling the final step in the process--when the buyer must make the life-changing move, cash out bank accounts, and leap into your franchise world placing total faith and trust in your hands. "Closing the close" is an art and a science. It requires confidence, leadership, and a clear perception of who that franchise buyer is and what they are thinking. It's knowing what behavior and influences will comfortably steer the candidate to, rather than away, from your franchise. The closing event distinguishes the masters of franchise recruitment from the ordinary. Pros "ink more deals" because they can adeptly uncover and overcome the hidden objection, unmask unwarranted fears, and reaffirm the decisive steps that initially led the buyer to choose your franchise opportunity.
Frequently, franchise sales people struggle at the final close. They dance through the first four to five weeks and crumble when it comes to check-asking and check-cashing time! These are what I call the "professional visitors." They know how to follow the process and they do boast strong people skills; they are likeable, responsive, and empathetic. But they just can't get the contract signed. They make excuses for their candidates, unknowingly making excuses for themselves. It could be any one or more of many reasons: their own insecurity, a lack of belief in the franchise concept, an inability to read their candidates and provide assurances, thinking "commission" rather than "right fit" for the buyer, or straying from a proven closing process. Now don't get me wrong, even the best of the best sales pros loses a few deals now and then. But not very often!
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