Editor's Note: For Part 1, www.franchiseupdatemedia.com/online/fusr.html, August 2010
Aggressive growth companies measure the performance of their sales personnel just as they do their advertising. With high recruitment expenses you can't afford mediocre selling performance, which costs dearly in lost franchise deals. A policyholder survey by Prudential Insurance revealed that the greatest influencing factor in the buying process is the sales person.
It doesn't matter how good your process is... poor follow-up, deviation from the script, or failure to build rapport can chase ready buyers to the competition. As consumers, we have all walked away from deals because of an irritating sales person, not because of the product. You must know what your quality prospects are experiencing with your sales personnel. Good or not so good, it's required intelligence for upgrading selling performance.
To make your mystery shopping most productive, inform your recruitment personnel that you are implementing a quality control program to stimulate performance and provide constructive feedback to recognize their strengths and help sharpen their selling skills. This is not a witch hunt, but a best practice for producing greater sales.
Here's a quick tip: wait three weeks before you begin the program, which will give you the true picture of how well your sales people perform. The first week they expect to be monitored; in fact, they often tell you they knew they were shopped, before you started! There's also the added benefit that your development team instantly raises their selling skills--just from knowing their performance will be evaluated. Keep 'em on their toes and you can both profit from better results. More sales means more corporate royalties and sales commissions.
Franchise executives often are surprised when they first shop their recruitment personnel as they discover a need for additional sales training and support. Once problem areas are identified, remedies can be implemented quickly. Mystery shopping conducted by Franchise Update has revealed sub-par performance including: continually getting into voicemail; receiving franchise information 11 days later or not at all; receiving unauthorized earnings claims; not being asked qualifying questions; allowing the shopper to control the discussion; not establishing a time frame for making a buying decision; not scheduling follow-up calls by appointment; and ineffectively promoting the home office Discovery Day.
Coaching sales executives to strengthen areas that require attention will improve your recruitment results. For reps unable to make the needed changes, it's time to move on to a different job. Many trying to make it in our business have difficulty adjusting to some of the counter-intuitive processes of franchise selling. So cut your losses now, before you pay too big a price in lost sales and royalties.
I've worked with a few CEOs who procrastinated in firing failing reps. One mall-based franchisor gave his struggling salesman a third chance to correct his faults, again with the same predictable outcome. You just can't afford nice sales people who can't sell franchises. If you really like them, stick 'em in another department! No one has ever been accused of firing a franchise sales rep too soon.
Now for the good news. Shopping your staff also showcases their sales talent in progress, identifying those recruitment pros who have strong people skills, responsiveness, and systematic approaches in representing your franchise program. This is a valuable eye-opener for executives who may take for granted the impressive accomplishments of their best sales performers. I certainly have discovered techniques, nuances, and charismatic relationship-building skills by shopping some top sales performers. Doing this also provides you with an ideal opportunity to recognize them for their accomplishments.
Broken links, wrong links, stuck submissions, getting imprisoned in an area with no way back, outdated or inconsistent information on your various advertising sites... these are all common website problems that need continual attention. The real nightmare is when you realize too late that you have been losing prospects for days, even weeks. Just as with a lost phone connection, your lead flow stops abruptly.
Monitor your website and franchise ad portals at least weekly. If you don't, I guarantee you will burn dollars and prospects at some point. A major food franchise executive complained to me about how his recruitment website hadn't produced a single lead in quite some time. I asked him to give me a tour of his site. When we got to his inquiry form I stopped him, filled it out, and hit the submit button. A monstrous error message flashed in my face! He moaned in disgust, "No wonder I haven't been getting any leads for the past several weeks!" I wonder what that cost him in irretrievable sales.
You can avoid these expensive techno-traps by auditing your site's functionality every week. If you haven't "gone shopping" yet on your own website, try it and you'll see. Your payoffs can be immediate.
My latest tale of horror involves a retail concept using multiple third-party sites that never informed several portals of their new email address for receiving leads. Five months and several thousands of dollars later, they discovered the brutal mishap. Old leads are gone leads, and there was no recouping their investment. Again, the solution is very simple: require a staff person to regularly test your online lead generation operation.
This is an excerpt from my book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world-class franchise system faster." Order copies at www.franchiseupdate.com/magazine/growtogreatness/
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