Brokering Leads: Making the Most of Your Consultant Relationship
Many of us in the franchise sales business have watched franchise brokerage companies (aka consultant groups, referral networks, etc.) grow in both presence and stature and become a commonly used source of franchise leads and sales.
Although there are no reports that can tell us exactly how many deals are being produced through these groups, we can do some deductive reasoning to understand how and where these organizations fit into franchising today.
First, let's understand and agree that there are many different kinds of franchisors, and not every franchisor will fit into the sales structure or culture of a consultant group. It would appear franchisors best suited to the typical brokerage groups have some common characteristics, including:
- a viable franchise offer with very little, if any, litigation;
- the ability to generate desired income within 36 months;
- an engaged executive management team;
- a minimum number of happy and successful franchisees already in operation (more then 10 and fewer then 250);
- a well-defined, specific, and written sales process (a must!);
- a strong franchise development team with a defined closing record who completely understand the franchise offering and the type of candidate that fits their culture--and a willingness to share in the glory (and $$$) of getting the deal done; and
- an average investment of around $250,000 to $500,000.
Tips for success
A key consideration in working with a consultant group is to realize that it is one of several arms of a franchise development strategy. Brokers should not be your only deal source, but thought of as delivering incremental sales.
You should also understand in that working with a consultant group does not preclude you from having a strong in-house sales development team. In fact, this is a must-have in today's fiercely competitive marketplace.
Working with a consultant group does not guarantee deals, nor even leads. The most productive relationships between consultants and franchisors are built upon a healthy and strong respect for what each side brings to the franchise development process. As with any other sales call, walk in with a plan and be ready to listen.
Also consider the following tips for mutual success:
- Get your sales team in top working order. Marketing materials and a well-defined sales process are a must. The consultants don't want (and many times are not qualified) to build your process. You need to bring it, and bring it strong.
- Once you start working with a consultant firm, the best course of action is to develop strong relationships with just a few of its consultants or brokers. Find a commonality between you and a few consultants and work it: build rapport, build friendships, build connections, build trust. You must build it, or they (qualified leads and candidates) will not come!
- Help the consultant understand the type of candidate that best fits your concept. Provide them with the background of your recent placements, and perhaps your most successful franchisees. Telling them that your best franchisee needs to be a "people person" is not enough. Be specific, be creative.
- If consultants are sending you the wrong type of candidate (not enough capital, doesn't want to sell, etc.), it's your fault (see previous point). The best source of understanding your "type" of candidate is your existing franchisees. Use them.
- Understand how each consultant "works" the process. Do they want you to call them first, before you connect with the candidate? Once the candidate is in the system, how often will you communicate? Work out these details in advance and don't waste time getting candidates engaged.
- Don't settle. There are many kinds of consultants in business today with fees that can range from $8,000 to $25,000. Ensure that each consultant's fee is commensurate with their involvement. A name and email address should never be considered a qualified lead, nor should you accept it as such. The most productive consultants require their candidates to fill out an extensive information form and take part in an interview process that includes, at a minimum:
- a. financial qualifications;
- b. a thorough understanding of franchising and the disclosure process;
- c. complete background information;
- d. personal and business experience;
- e. desired location for business;
- f. partner information where appropriate; and
- g. a description of who the candidate is and how they might fit into your organization.
- Celebrate the success! And study what contributed to it. Nothing breeds more qualified leads sent your way than a specific and precise description of the who, what, why, where, and when of each successful deal.
So this leaves us with the age-old question, What referral network(s) should I work with?, Each offers some different services, fees, more or less experienced consultants, a bigger or smaller group of franchisor members, etc. Do your "due diligence" and talk with other franchisors to make the right decision for your franchise
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