The Three Key Selling Skills, Part 3
Key #3: Effective Closing Skills
In the two previous newsletters, I discussed Selling Skill #1 ("Follow a successful sales process") and Selling Skill #2 ("Strong relationship-building skills").
This month I go into the third key selling skill: effective closing skills. 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.
Effective closing skills
In working with a quality candidate, your franchise recruitment builds to a crescendo signaling the final step in the process -- when the buyer must make the life-changing move, cash out bank accounts, and leap into your franchise world placing total faith and trust in your hands. "Closing the close" is an art and a science. It requires confidence, leadership, and a clear perception of who that franchise buyer is and what they are thinking. It's knowing what behavior and influences will comfortably steer the candidate to, rather than away, from your franchise. The closing event distinguishes the masters of franchise recruitment from the ordinary. Pros "ink more deals" because they can adeptly uncover and overcome the hidden objection, unmask unwarranted fears, and reaffirm the decisive steps that initially led the buyer to choose your franchise opportunity.
Frequently, franchise sales people struggle at the final close. They dance through the first four to five weeks and crumble when it comes to check-asking and check-cashing time! These are what I call the "professional visitors." They know how to follow the process and they do boast strong people skills: they are likeable, responsive, and empathetic. But they just can't get the contract signed. They make excuses for their candidates, unknowingly making excuses for themselves. It could any one or more of many reasons: their own insecurity, a lack of belief in the franchise concept, an inability to read their candidates and provide assurances, thinking "commission" rather than "right fit" for the buyer, or straying from a proven closing process. Now don't get me wrong, even the best of the best sales pros lose a few deals now and then. But not very often!
- Visit with franchise owners. Franchisees are a wealth of information, stories, encouragement, tips, and experiences for the new sales person. I was a successful franchise owner before I sold franchises. But I had no clue what to do in marketing a franchise opportunity. However, I did know firsthand what it took to run a rewarding franchise business, which was a great introduction to recruitment selling. I shared with prospective owners the joys and frustrations of building our franchise business into the top franchise in the system, and I replayed success stories of other prosperous owners. Buyers always were most interested in what franchise operators were doing, how they were doing it, and what the challenges were.
Today, I still share how my direct mail business profited from the power of the franchise network: "We failed miserably trying to develop a successful marketing program for builders. Hearing this, our headquarters referred us to franchisee Dave Evans in Atlanta who had cracked the code for success. Dave shared all the details of his program with me. The next year my partner and I wrote $80,000 in additional revenue, and more thereafter!" This valuable information put significant cash in our pockets. And this wasn't the only time we profited from consulting with other franchisees. (Thanks again Dave--Frank and I are still indebted to you!)
Most franchise sales people are not former franchisees. But calling, visiting, interviewing, and soaking up as much of their world as possible can pay off handsomely with your franchise buyers. They want you to paint a picture of people like themselves who are successful in your business. Leverage these personal experiences of your franchise owners from the start. If prospect Joe is a sales engineer and your franchisee Bill once was, talk about Bill and how he just opened his third location. If prospect Mary has a concern about the competitive environment in Chicago, share how franchisee Julie took customers away from the competition through her grand opening and introduction of your superior products.
There's nothing more powerful with prospects than case studies and anecdotes. Remember, franchise buyers are investing their savings to achieve their entrepreneurial goals and dreams. Providing real success stories from owners transforms their dreams into reality. Have a new sales person visit with franchisees and pick their brains, asking why they joined the system, what ownership benefits they are enjoying, as well as what challenges they're facing and how they are addressing them. Owners welcome your interest in their business lives and can share feedback worth its weight in recruitment gold.
- Shop the competition. As in any business, if you don't know what your competitors are doing, you'll flounder in ignorance. Contacting direct and indirect competition is smart business, and quickly provides marketing intelligence you can apply in strengthening your sales presentations. For instance, emphasize your outstanding training programs if you discover other franchises can't match the extensive training and technology support you deliver.
Collect FDDs, recruitment packages, and learn from a competitor's sales presentations and techniques. Observe what they do well and where their weaknesses are. Don't worry about researching this public information, because smart franchisors do the same to stay on top of their game. But don't even think about going beyond this point. Some overly aggressive franchisors have crossed the ethical line in past years. Never, ever, attend a Discovery Day under the guise of a prospective buyer. This is clearly a violation of business ethics and could be cause for legal action.
Shopping a competitive sales exec, Hal, paid off big-time for me when I was recruiting franchises for American Advertising Distributors. When I had a prospect who wanted to take a look at our competition, I graciously referred candidates to him. You see, I discovered Hal was my best sales person. He was a nice, older gentleman, but hard-of hearing and yelled when he spoke to me as a potential buyer. It was obvious Hal struggled to close any deals. He really appreciated the prospects I sent him for comparison shopping. I really appreciated that he helped close more deals for me. I finally got together with Hal at an industry event and treated him to a night of drinks, which we both really enjoyed together. I was crushed when I heard he retired.
Next month, in Part 2 of Effective Closing Skills, I will cover:
- Role-play for refinement
- Shop yourself to get it right
- Get shopped to get it better
- Learn one step at a time
- Contact the worst leads first
*This is an excerpt from my book, "Grow to Greatness: How to build a world class franchise system faster." Order at franchise-update.com/magazine/growtogreatness/
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