Key #3: Effective Closing Skills, Part 2
In the three previous newsletters, I discussed the Three Key Selling Skills:
#1: Follow a successful sales process
#2: Strong relationship-building skills
#3: Effective closing skills
This time I complete the discussion of Selling Skill #3. These three skills, essential for making new franchise sales, are part of my book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster" - and are appropriate for both new and emerging franchisors, as well as experienced sales pros seeking to brush up on their skills and/or improve the performance of their sales staff.
- Role-play for refinement. Most sales people dislike role-playing. It puts them under the microscope, with someone (or a group of "someones") critiquing each presentation point, eye twitch, and probing question they make. It's not fun. But it's an accelerated learning technique that forces them to better prepare, practice, and present your great franchise opportunity. Once you have a sales process in place, recruit a staff member to role-play with your sales reps, so they can sharpen their delivery and get it right. These mistakes don't cost you anything. Contacting prospects without role-playing may cost you a franchise sale and its 10-year royalty stream.
- Shop yourself to get it right. Ralph Ross, founder of American National Fidelity Group, was a master of franchise selling. He taught me the self-learning process of recording your sales calls so you can listen to the playback and perfect each step of your sales presentation. If you haven't tried this, do it because it works! It's a Berlitz-type technique for faster learning. Ralph instructed me: "Tape your sales calls on a microcassette during the next week. When you feel comfortable with your performance, give me your two best copies." After reviewing the material, the founder would call me into his office, where we replayed notated segments. He praised me where I did well and offered guidance in areas I needed shaping up.
What you discover when you shop yourself is that mistakes leap out at you that you instantly correct, such as talking too much and not listening enough; not probing with open-ended questions; repeating yourself; allowing your prospect to take control; forgetting key benefits; pushing rather than leading the candidate; or not closing the call effectively. I strongly recommend that both new and experienced franchise sales people use this taping technique to self-monitor. It's self-improvement on steroids.
- Get shopped to get it better. The final tune-up is to have third-party mystery shoppers contact your sales people (or you) so you can evaluate their recruitment approach, relationship-building skills, closing techniques, and overall effectiveness in moving them through your recruitment process. High-performance franchise companies contract outside services to periodically shop their sales personnel. Let them know from the start that you are doing this and investing the money to help the team grow and increase their sales results. It's amazing how sales people immediately brush up their prospect presentations and lead follow-up when you implement a shopping program.
When I conducted a mystery shop for a franchise, I had my client tell the sales team to get ready because the program was starting that week. But actually it wouldn't begin for another three weeks. Why would I do that? Because this prompts the reps to immediately sharpen their presentation, thinking they will be contacted soon. It also catches them off guard when they eventually are contacted and evaluated. Interestingly, some sales people will tell you they were shopped before it happened! Random timing gives you a more accurate picture of a salesperson's ongoing performance. It provides a sensitivity to delivering consistency and maintaining a higher level of professionalism. It also serves as documentation when you need to terminate a salesperson who isn't coachable or performing to your standards. For those interested in this, shopping services are available through some franchise development firms.
To take performance training to a new level, some franchise sales managers are implementing phone technology that allows them to listen in on their sales personnel's calls. It measures the call time, records the conversations, and includes a "whisper feature" that allows a manager to coach the sales rep during the presentation without the buyer hearing. Some industries have been using this tool for several years to monitor customer service and quality control.
- Learn one step at a time. When you establish a new sales process, don't try to learn it all at once. Focus only on the first step until you get it right; then on the second and successive steps. Franchise selling takes time, practice, and feedback to master the details, variables, and nuances within each stage of the process. There are no shortcuts; if you try, you'll fail and pay for it big-time. Only after you have successfully learned to pre-qualify inquiries and book them for scheduled follow-up appointments should you dive into total preparation for the second stage of the process. This sequential learning will accelerate your command of the selling system. Some call this the "Swiss cheese method" of poking holes one at a time, rather than trying to swallow a huge chunk all at once.
As you encounter the different buyer styles, motivations, and personalities, you will learn to more effectively evolve, organize, and structure your presentations. Without a doubt, start-up franchisors will save significant expenditures of time and money by attending professional sales workshops and/or hiring reputable sales development consultants to get them on track from the start.
- Contact the worst leads first. First impressions are everything in franchise recruitment. If a qualified prospect who is ready to buy has contacted two other concepts and wants to know about yours, you'd better have your act together. I was working with a young food franchisor who immediately tried selling some of his good customers interested in owning his franchised business. What a disaster! The founder was like a shotgun, spraying information into these prospects' faces for hours. He was very excited to tell his story, but had no system in place to recruit these hot prospects effectively. I said, "Tell me about these people, their financial situation, skill sets, expectations, and goals, and how they will operate the business." Silence reigned. He didn't have the answers and didn't recruit any of these initial customer referrals.
If you are a first-time franchise recruiter, practice on your weakest leads first. Use these "throwaway" prospects as your training camp. Work on overcoming objections. Try different ways of presenting your benefits. Ask the key questions and discover how to engage these leads through controlled, yet open conversations. When you gain confidence and get into a comfortable rhythm, it's time for Game Day. Be prepared before you take on the quality candidates. You want to have all the moves in place that will win them over to your franchise opportunity.
Steve Olson is a 30-year franchise veteran specializing in development performance. This is adapted from his #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 email@example.com.