The Office Visit: Best Practices For Discovery Day Success

The Office Visit is arguably the most important step in the franchise sales qualification process.

The Office Visit goes by many names: Discovery Day, Information Day, Audition Day, Support Center Visit Day and on and on. Regardless of what you name it, it is the day for the management team and the franchise candidate to "get to know" each other beyond phone and email and decide if this is a good match for both parties.

In my experience, about 80 percent of franchise companies conduct a Discovery Day. Most often, the day's activities take place at corporate headquarters. Some franchisors, however, use the day to visit existing locations and sometimes venture out in the field with their candidates. Some companies invite only one candidate for the day, while others make it a group event. So what are some of the best practices for your Discovery Day? Let me share what I've found to be most effective.

  • When is the "best" time for the visit? In my experience, the Office Visit is the highlight of the sales qualification process. The right candidate will never be more excited than they are on this day, so work your sales qualification process to effectively prepare candidates and ensure that all issues have been handled so a decision can be made in short order. If the candidate needs financing, be sure that a pre-approval letter from a lender is secured. If is a hurdle, make sure that all objections are handled before they arrive. In short, eliminate any roadblocks to a decision before you have candidates make the trip.

  • Who should attend? Everyone. It is imperative that all stakeholders in the decision to buy the franchise attend. Don't waste the candidate's time (or your staff's) if all parties have not committed to be there. There is no way this type of decision is made with only one of the spouses or partners in attendance. Conducting the visit without all stakeholders in attendance will only delay the process and defeat the purpose of the day visit being the springboard to the close!

Most candidates today started their investigation on the Internet, in a trade magazine, or through an ad in a newspaper. Once they've completed a qualification form or application, the process is usually conducted over the phone. The of the candidate in understanding your franchise offering will include several phone calls from the franchise salesperson totaling four to six hours. Once that is complete, the candidate will generally speak with several franchisees and then make the decision to visit and meet the franchisor. The candidate is now ready to meet the management team, confirm the information they have received from the salesperson over the past several weeks, and decide if is a good fit for them.

Most candidates have spent the majority of their conversations up to this point with the salesperson. As a franchisor you don't want to host candidates who are not prepared or properly qualified. You should have a written sales process that the salesperson has successfully completed before an invitation is extended to visit your franchise facility. It is very important that all of the candidates attending the Office Visit Day be prepared in a similar fashion or the experience will be very disjointed with candidates asking questions that should have been handled earlier. The larger your sales team, the more important it is for the franchise development manager to make sure all candidates are prepared equally.

I suggest the following structure for a successful Office Visit experience:

  1. Expenses--who pays for what? Since the Office Visit is for both parties, I suggest that expenses be shared between the candidate and the franchisor. The most equitable way is for the franchisor to pay for airport transportation, and meals while the candidate pays for the airfare.
  2. The night before should be used as a "get to know you" event. I suggest an informal dinner with the salesperson and one or two mid-level managers, saving the executive team for the actual visit.
  3. When candidates arrive at the facility, the office staff should greet them and have the candidates' names on a board in the lobby.
  4. An organized presentation of facts about the company using PowerPoint presentations by the department heads.
  5. A visit to an existing store or facility.
  6. An informal lunch with the staff.
  7. A one-on-one meeting with two or three executives.

Conducted correctly, the Office Visit should give both parties the confidence and information to realize whether this is the right decision for all. Some franchisors use this as a closing day where the candidates must bring a check. I'm not a fan of this method. It puts undue pressure on candidates and risks losing any candidates unwilling to make the commitment that day but who will make a decision soon after.

I much prefer that the executive approval committee meet after the visit and inform the candidate if they have been accepted into the franchise company a couple of days after the visit. This allows everyone to be more relaxed and open to sharing thoughts and ideas during the visit.

In summary, the Office Visit is the final step in the journey for both parties and is more important than everything else you've done to this point. Involve your entire office staff and make it an informative and "fun" experience for all. When this important day is executed correctly you will have fewer failures and many more happy franchisees.

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