The Six Steps to Selling Success: Step One--Pre-qualification

Objective: Pre-qualify the inquiry and sell the application

Most young franchisors have their sales executive initially screen and pre-qualify prospects. This makes sense during the start-up period when dollars and people are scarce. As soon as feasible, however, I strongly recommend using a qualification specialist to perform the initial follow-up of inquiries. This person can be worth their weight in platinum! Thirty percent of franchisors now employ qualifiers, according to Franchise Update's 2014 Annual Franchise Development Report. You'll save time, money, and increase sales performance.

The qualifier focuses on timely follow-up of every lead, eliminating poor and mismatched inquiries, and setting phone appointments for quality prospects to speak with your development professional. This frees your sales executive and staff to focus only on pre-qualified prospects, increases the number of candidates they can handle, and consequently provides greater opportunities to sell more deals. Using a qualifier as the gatekeeper also elevates the credentials and status of the franchise sales exec, who will speak only with individuals who have passed the initial qualification.

The initial conversation with potential prospects is critical. The mission is to prequalify, take control, and capture their attention in an engaging 5- to 10-minute conversation. (Anytime you realize an individual isn't qualified for your franchise, let them know. Don't waste their time or yours.)

Your closing objective is to motivate the inquirer to return their written application, the "Request for Consideration" (RFC), in the package they will receive. You must whet their appetite for your opportunity and create a responsive candidate hungry for additional information. Keep this first encounter brief. Too much conversation during your first personal contact leads to information overload and is counterproductive. It lowers the prospect's thirst for gaining more knowledge and often reduces their interest to move forward.

Start by taking or confirming the potential prospect's basic contact information. Screen them with six to eight key questions (see sample script below). Present a benefit-loaded description of your business and opportunity. Describe the candidate you are looking for, the type of person who can be successful in your system, and the process for taking the next step. Deflect their detailed questions. These will be answered in the comprehensive information package they can receive by completing your RFC form.

Confirm their continuing desire by closing the discussion with, "How would you like to proceed at this point?" or "Are you ready to take the next step?" (If they're not interested, let 'em go because chasing is wasting!) For individuals wanting to move forward, instruct them to return, within five days, the RFC you are sending in your franchise ownership package. If the application is not received, wait one day and follow up with a call thanking them for their interest and wishing them the best of success in their future endeavors. Don't worry, those still interested will promptly get back to you, apologize for the delay, and return their completed RFC. Taking the opportunity away sets the stage for your qualification system, which expects serious prospects to respond and follow through with their commitments.

As mentioned, "TMI" (too much information) can be dangerous and counterproductive during the initial personal contact. Keep this step brisk, energetic, and general. If you give too much, you often lose the candidates who jump to a premature decision before seeing the complete picture of your opportunity.

Length of conversation: 5 to 10 minutes

Next time: The Six Steps to Selling Success: Step Two - Program Review;
Objective: Qualify the prospect, build rapport, and establish the process.

This is an excerpt from my best-selling book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." To order copies, click here.

Sample Pre-Qualification Script

Name _____________________________________Lead Date___________________
Address _______________________________________________________________
City _______________________________State _________Zip___________________
Phone ______________________________Cell_______________________________
E-Mail Address _________________________________________________________
Hello Mr./Ms. ____________, I'm Bill. Thank you for contacting us about Bow Wow
Juice Bar's ownership opportunities. Juice is hot, and Bow Wow is the fastest-growing
beverage bar franchise for dogs in the U.S. Our owners enjoy an easy-to-operate,
strong cash flow business in a friendly, dog community café that requires no
food preparation or cooking. Before we provide additional information, do you mind if
I ask you a few questions?
How did you hear about Bow Wow? __________________________________________
What attracted you to respond to us?__________________________________________
When are you looking to get into a business? □ 1 year □ 3 - 6 months □ sooner
Why are you looking now? ___________________________________________________
Where would you like to open a business?
1st choice _______________________2nd choice ________________________________
What is your career background?______________________________________________
For our franchise, our average investment is $275,000, which includes working capital.
Upon qualification, you'll need a minimum $400,000 net worth with $100,000 in available
cash. Do you have this?______________________________________________________

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