We asked three franchise sales executives what they are doing to improve the speed and effectiveness of their responses to prospects evaluating their system. This is what two of them had to say. For the third response (from Steve Cox, vice president of franchise development at i9 Sports), watch for the next issue of Franchise Update magazine (Q2, due out in early May).
Jim C. Brown
Vice President, Franchise Development
Comfort Keepers/CK Franchising
Over the past several years, the in-home care sector of franchising has become extremely popular, with more new concepts being launched every year. In addition to more competition, these new brands bring more visibility to the sector. Our strategy and sales system have evolved since Comfort Keepers began franchising in 1999. One foundation of our system has remained the same, however: TKD, or Time Kills Deals.
The first opportunity for engagement with a potential prospect starts the clock ticking. Most often, that first opportunity is an Internet inquiry. Like many systems, we use a CRM system that generates auto-responders and a drip email campaign. The drip campaigns include links back to high-interest areas of our website. Many of our franchisee prospects are Baby Boomers who still appreciate printed materials. Because of this, we also mail a small trifold brochure the same day we receive the inquiry. Additionally, we send a comprehensive information packet to engaged prospects.
To connect as quickly as possible with prospects, we have increased our sales staff. Today we have three people working with potential franchisees. In our process, we believe phone skills are critical to success. The truly golden opportunities are from inbound inquiry calls. This first interaction is critical, and having a process for that call is essential.
Comfort Keepers participates in the annual Franchise Update Leadership & Development Conference, which includes mystery shops. Additionally, at least twice a year, we engage an independent research company to do mystery shops. Each sales team member receives at least three calls with each engagement. The company representatives listen for the key process components we have identified. We are supplied with a written report on each shop, including a narrative of their experience on each call. Our team is very competitive and the mystery shop results make for some lively sales meetings.
Comfort Keepers' strategy and sales system evolution is continuing this spring when we launch a new, more interactive engagement system for our web inquiries. The goal is to more effectively communicate with truly interested prospects on the front end, which in turn, will increase opportunities for the sales team to optimize their time.
Director of Franchise Development
Pizza Inn/Pie Five Pizza
After years of declining store sales, a slow economy, and the challenges franchisee candidates face in securing loans, the pressure and responsibilities of securing and approving candidates falls back on the franchisor and the systems they use to evaluate each candidate.
I currently have two brands I am working with on development, Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza Company. Pizza Inn has three levels of investment a candidate can choose from. The Pie Five concept is searching for experienced multiple-unit candidates who can obtain financing and follow an aggressive development schedule for a new and emerging brand. Because the Pizza Inn brand has several ranges of investment, it does attract candidates who are searching for their first entry into franchising or even the restaurant industry in general.
The biggest lead generator for our brands is our existing website. There are other services and various publications, along with multiple conferences where we exhibit, that help drive traffic to our website. We currently use a lead management program that assists us in providing an immediate response to the incoming prospect. Within a couple of minutes, the potential candidate will receive an appreciation letter we created to thank them for their initial interest in our brand.
The program also provides an electronic brochure containing franchising information about the concept that is of interest to them. To receive the brochure, a candidate will provide us with basic personal and financial information. This program also gives us the time frame the candidate would like for opening their first location. This helps in determining if the candidate meets the criteria for area and concept availability, along with initial financial qualifications. We can then determine the next step.
This crucial first step helps the franchise team respond more quickly if we decide to move ahead in qualifying a candidate and provide them with additional support materials. The additional information provided to the candidate will help them understand what type of opportunity they are entering into. After the candidate has qualified, we can set up a time to talk about the next steps in the process. If the potential candidate did not qualify, we can provide a quick response and thank them for their interest. This automatic response is generated within 24 hours.
This system has allowed us to filter through candidates in a professional and timely manner. It has also allowed us to have the platform to continually provide information for any franchise leads in our system. Our responses to the candidates are timely and can include any type of information we would like to provide. It also helps us guide the candidate along from the initial inquiry to signing the agreement in a timely and professional manner--thus giving both franchisor and franchisee a much better feel for the relationship they are about to enter.
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