Often, young franchisors have their sales executive initially screen and pre-qualify prospects. This certainly makes sense during the start-up phase, especially when dollars and inquiries are scarce. However, when franchise sales start multiplying, a qualification specialist can be worth their weight in platinum. Why? Simply because your star recruiter gets bogged down with time-robbers that begin cutting away at their sales productivity. Often they become shackled by departmental meetings, reports, paperwork, coordination with real estate, marketing operations, trade shows, conferences, and travel.
As shown in Franchise Update's annual mystery shopping survey, qualified prospect leads tumble through the cracks all too often. Even though 143 participating brands knew they were being mystery shopped, 43 percent still failed to contact these qualified prospects within 24 hours - and some didn't contact them at all.
Because dedicated qualifiers are readily accessible, they are much faster following up with every lead. Within their parameters, they are often more disciplined to stick within your scripted vetting process than your salesperson is. Their sole mission is to eliminate poor and mismatched inquiries, and produce only properly screened appointments to speak with your development professional. This frees your sales executive to zero in on pre-qualified leads - increasing the number of candidates they can effectively handle, and consequently providing greater opportunities to sell more deals.
"It's all about your responsiveness," advises Dominique Main, qualification specialist for two food franchises and a business-to-business brand. She adds, "If you're not on top of every inquiry, you lose the race. Same-day service wins! If an inquirer has to wait more than 24 hours, they're gone." She also cautions, "Don't put on the sales pitch!" For Dominique it's about helping people with their investigation, and then motivating those who initially qualify to take the next step. To expedite setting appointments, she books the meeting on the spot by accessing the sales executive's calendar online. If prospects need to change the time, they can rebook by accessing the calendar themselves. Dominique sends a text reminder on the day of the scheduled call to both the franchise sales executive and the prospect. This saves time, expedites communication, and helps accelerate the process.
Stephanie Zinsmeyer of Sport Clips is the franchise recruitment specialist in their sales department. She is passionate about her key role vetting franchise inquiries. She proudly views herself as "the brand ambassador" and the first contact representing the Sport Clips franchise opportunity. And she emphasizes her responsibility to be genuine with every person inquiring about the brand. "I won't dance around the tough questions. It's my job with potential prospects to share both the good aspects and the challenges of ownership they must consider in their particular situations," she says. Her team energy as a member of the Sport Clips brand culture is certainly infectious. "It's my obligation to be totally transparent with people who are investing their savings, families, and energies in a life-changing event."
Also, representing a highly recognized brand with multiple thousands of customers, Zinsmeyer must be particularly aware of its fan base. "It's not unusual for us to be speaking with Sport Clips customers interested in our opportunity." Showing sensitivity for those who don't qualify takes diplomacy and honesty. "Maintaining our brand relationships with our customers is always top priority," she says. "First impressions make lasting impressions." It's not surprising that on several occasions discovery day candidates have asked to meet her.
Sharon Mettra, who does franchise development for Mettra Marketing, is a master at developing credibility, confidence, and trust by implementing her informal, somewhat unusual approach. She asks key questions that allow inquiring individuals to make choices during the pre-qualification call. She wants them to feel comfortable while capturing information to see if there's a potential fit for the brand.
"Personally, I don't like sales people," she laughs. "I want to do what's right for the prospect and the franchise. It's my obligation as a sales qualifier to instantly engage and build rapport with potential prospects." She adeptly uses a reverse process of gathering information with these types of questions: Would you like me to answer questions or would you prefer an overview? Do you have an idea of what you are looking for? What would you like to hear about? How much do you know about our brand? Can I share with you what sets us apart from other brands?
Top pre-qualifiers are great listeners, relationship builders, and "process driven" individuals who often become successful sales executives themselves. They certainly learned the skill sets and gained the experience and knowledge to teach new qualifiers to vet prospects for their sales!
Steve Olson is a 30-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.growtogreatness.net. He can be reached at olsonandassociates.com or by calling 562-856-1909.
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