How To Improve Prospect Contact Rates: Get in the (Time) Zone!
Reaching prospects by phone is a frustrating and time-wasting process for both franchise development teams and the prospects they’re trying to reach. The vast expanse of the 50 states across 6 main time zones exacerbates the problem.
The largest study ever undertaken of online sales leads showed a shocking mismatch between normal business hours and the times franchise development teams are most likely to be available. The conclusion: most franchise sales teams and prospects are on different time schedules and pass each other like ships in the night.
For nationally available franchises, prospects will be distributed similarly to the U.S. population, which is heavily concentrated in the Eastern Time Zone (see map).
Where potential buyers are found
Analysis of an entire year of lead flow to 1,524 different franchises revealed that while the percentage of prospects was highest during daytime hours (yellow), it was greatest outside normal working hours (blue).
Further, the disparity is even greater for West Coast franchises, given the time zone differences and East Coast’s population density:
Inside 9-5 Monday-Friday
After Hours, Weekends
Overall, a stunning 67% of all prospect inquiries are made outside traditional business hours (9–5, Monday through Friday local time). The implications include the following:
- For East Coast development teams, it is important to staff and/or develop automated responses to the 65% of franchise leads that arrive outside of normal working hours.
- West Coast development teams are particularly challenged by the population distribution of the U.S., which is heavily weighted east of the Mississippi. For Pacific Time Zone teams, more than 71% of prospect inquires arrive outside normal business hours.
- Related to this, Franchise Update Media’s annual Mystery Shopping Survey found that 90% of the 109 brands that responded used email solicitations and drip campaigns, which allowed them to deploy automated responses. The 10% of franchises who never responded at all to qualified queries will surely leave opportunity on the table for competing concepts.
- If you’re receiving 10 leads a day, odds are that only 3 are generated during business hours, and it might not be convenient for the prospect to talk right away. Changing your process improves your chances of connecting with each prospect.
- Digging into the data reveals mobile phones as the predominant means for reaching prospects. Data we presented at October’s Franchise Leadership & Development Conference showed that potential franchisees send 65% of their inquiries using mobile phones (see pie chart), underscoring the importance of responding immediately, and offering a powerful doorway to better contact rates. Use the phone in the prospect’s hands to your advantage.
At the October conference, Art Coley, CEO of franchise development company CGI Franchise, summed it up this way: “If you pay attention to the flow of incoming prospects given their time zones instead of your office hours, you are going to have more conversations with real candidates.”
This insight is consistent over a large flow of prospects, and actionable. There are a number of steps you can take to improve your contact rates with online leads:
- Never hesitate to call when the inquiry comes in; chances are the prospect inquired from a mobile phone and is available.
- Pay attention to the prospect’s location; be willing to call outside your business hours when it matches the prospect’s time zone.
- Pay attention to when the lead arrived; if you’re calling several hours later than an overnight inquiry, be prepared to leave a short message pointing out time zone differences and asking when it’s convenient to reconnect.
- If you do leave a message, remember to mention your automated introductory message that a prospect should receive. Given time zone differences, it might take multiple communication channels to finally reconnect with some prospects.
Finally, franchise brands should avoid being overconfident in relying too much on technology in the sales process. We have more communication methods at our disposal than ever, so when it comes to responding, remember that some people will prefer phone, text, or email at different points in the process. Depending upon personality, age, income, and business sophistication, different methods will be effective with different people.
When you think about it, this offers a solution one of the biggest puzzles of the annual Mystery Shopping Survey: Why does the contact rate for so many brands remain so low? Armed with a better understanding of franchise prospect data and a few changes in your contact process, these potential gaps offer huge opportunity. It’s about time!
We analyzed a pool of prospects provided to 1,524 franchisors in the U.S. and Canada, making this the largest data set of prospects ever compiled for purposes of day part analysis. We combined all the prospects from 12 full months of lead data ending August 2018 from Franchise.com, FranchiseGator.com, FranchiseOpportunities.com, FranchiseForSale.com, FranchiseSolutions.com, BusinessBroker.net, and the corresponding iOS and Android mobile apps for these sites.
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