Editor's note: After years of writing columns for our Franchise Update magazine, the author selected this column as one of his 3 all-time favorites. It's one of ours too, so we're rerunning it here (with updated numbers) as an FUSR "classic."
Once a salesman complained, "What an idiot! I can't believe my prospect went with our competition." In quizzing him about the lost candidate, the troubled rep was clueless about the buyer's motivations, concerns, and goals in owning a business. My question is, "Was it the buyer or the sales rep who was the idiot?"
In today's change-prone economy, sales pros gain the edge by moving directly into their prospect's world. They probe, read, adapt, and outsell their competition by fully understanding and responding to how their candidates think and behave. Here are selling insights that may help increase your recruiting success.
Buyers expect responsiveness. Today franchise follow-up is still in crisis mode. According to Franchise Update Media's 2018 Annual Franchise Development Report, late or no callbacks/responses to email requests, phone calls, and web applications are a continuing problem; too many respondents are immediately thrown into voicemail jungle; and inquiring prospects, if lucky, may receive correspondence several days later. At a $112 average cost per lead, many brands are losing potential deals. The "first to the door" sales pros are winning the development race.
Buyers are seeking a relationship. Franchising is people-driven, not product-driven! Buyers smell product-pushers 10 miles away, which is why many sales people fail at selling franchises. You'll outperform competitors by focusing on a prospect, their families, aspirations, and the health and wealth of their futures. By gaining their credibility, confidence, and trust, you're in the driver's seat.
Buyers don't know how to buy a franchise. Most of your prospects haven't purchased a franchise before, so how would they know how to go about it? You're the expert, not them. It's your role to take control of the investigation through leadership. If you don't, they will! If you fail to define the steps and timeline of your buying process early on, they'll create their own, which in most cases leads to confusion, uncertainty, and lost deals.
Buyers are highly impressionable and fragile. Every word you utter to a prospect is recorded in their memory. What you say and do will greatly influence their investigation. Minor errors have major impact, e.g., when your investment costs don't match your brochure estimates; when you take 2 days to return their phone call; when you misspell their name on your follow-up correspondence; when you ask the same question twice; or when you're 15 minutes late picking them up at the airport.
Buyers want ownership information."How will your franchise help me achieve my business and personal goals? What are the benefits of your industry? What are the unique advantages of your franchise system? What training do you provide? Can my family be involved?" Prospects don't contact you to find out more about the custom, curved counters in your stores, special white sauce on your noodle dishes, or torque ratios of your service equipment. They are interested in the ownership opportunities, benefits, and lifestyle rewards your franchise offers. It's not about what your business does, it's about "what your business can do for me."
Buyers share what they think - if you ask. Often sales reps feel they are intruding by asking too many questions about their candidate and "where they are coming from." This is a mistake. Prospects want you to show interest in them. Ask many questions about how they feel, their family's level of support, what else they are looking at and why, what their business strengths and shortcomings are, and what they want and don't want in a business. These telling answers provide powerful direction on how to respond to their needs and interests. Focus the attention on them, not yourself.
Buyers process information in stages. Avoid overdosing individuals with too much information up front, or you'll cause them to eliminate your opportunity, thinking they know your whole story before you've even begun! Or worse yet, you can overly excite a candidate with nothing left for an encore. Keep prospects engaged by wanting more, deflecting questions for additional information that you'll cover later in the process. "Joe, when we receive your qualifying application, then we can discuss financials from our disclosure documents."
Buyers' actions reveal their intentions. It's not what prospects say, it's what they do! When a candidate breaks an appointment without explanation or stops returning calls, it means they aren't interested any longer. Yet some franchise reps continue to chase these individuals. Don't waste your valuable time. Move 'em up, or move 'em out.
Buyers are in a specific stage of buying. Did your prospect just start looking at opportunities, or have they qualified their search to your industry? Find out quickly. If they're in the preliminary stage and don't know exactly what they want, they will welcome your education and guidance. For buyers who have diligently researched franchise opportunities, direct your attention to what they discovered in their franchise investigations. Ask questions such as, "What don't you like about some of the franchises you have considered?" and "What are the most important factors for you in the business you choose?"
Understanding prospect behavior, character traits, apprehensions, needs, expectations, and goals catapults selling opportunities to the next level. Do it and your buyers, brand, and sales team will profit!
Steve Olson is a 33-year franchise veteran specializing in development performance. He is the author of the #1 Amazon best-seller, Grow to Greatness: How to Build a World-Class Franchise System Faster, available at www.olsonandassociates.com. Call him at 562-856-1909.
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