Franchise Sales Rhythm

I probably don’t need to tell you this, but the Internet changed everything.

And it has completely changed how franchise buyers research and buy franchises, morphing into a process that a lot of franchisors, sales people and even consultants haven’t kept up with.

Franchise Sales Rhythm - Michael J. Childs ConsultingBut if you understand the way interested prospects research, learn about and buy franchise opportunities, you can then take steps to make sure your sales process is in sync with their buying process.

Changing your process doesn’t mean you should cede control and let your buyer call all the shots; that doesn’t work either.

Whether you are thinking about franchising your business, just starting out or looking for a way to revamp your sales process - if you can match your sales rhythm to your prospects buying rhythm, and focus on an accurate, friendly exchange of information - your life will get a lot easier, and you will sell more franchises.

The first few stages are typically buyer driven, with the later stages mostly controlled by you.

1. Research

The Research stage is when prospects start collecting information about franchise opportunities.  During this stage you (usually) don’t know they exist and even if you did, they want to be left alone.

It is the beginning of the buyer’s process, and your website and other information on the Internet are their main source of information about the franchise you are offering.

Most potential candidates abandon the process during the Research stage without ever contacting you or speaking with someone in franchise development.  Some research for years, some for a day or two.

That is why your website and content is so important.

Today’s buyer will almost always decide whether to move forward - or not - based on the content on your website.

Learn more about the importance of your franchise opportunity website in the article; "Hello My Name is Susan…"

2. Request for Information

An information request usually happens at some point during the Research stage when a prospect wants to learn more about the franchise you are offering.

They are willing to give you their contact information in exchange for more information about your franchise, or because your website or the franchise information portal requires it.

Contacting you for more information doesn’t mean they are ready for the “first conversation” or a sales pitch; they are still collecting information.

Other than a short email auto-responder letting the prospect know you received the request for more information, I recommend that you make every other contact personal.

Emails should be sent by a real person with a real return address, and phone calls should come from someone who answers their own phone.

I like to use Prospect Qualification to add a human into the mix with a personal, zero-pressure touch, and a brief phone call leaving contact information they can use to get back to us.

The goal is to let your prospect know you are interested in them without bugging them.  If they have an interest in learning more, it’s best to give them enough time, and enough space, to let you know.

3. Reach Out

Candidates that reach out to you most likely found something persuasive enough in their research to be willing to have at least a first conversation about the franchise concept.

The Reach Out stage doesn’t mean they are ready to buy.  It is simply the first real step toward learning if the franchise might be a fit.

They want to know if they are qualified financially or otherwise, whether there are territories available in their area, etc. so they don’t invest time into something they can’t afford or isn’t available.

During this stage, you can continue to use Prospect Qualification to answer some of the initial questions and to set up a time for the first real conversation, or you might want to reply personally.  I’ve done it both ways, and they both seem to work.

4. The First Conversation

The first conversation is the beginning of the actual franchise sales stage, but “franchise sales” to me is just a figure of speech.

I always approach it as a business deal.

If you’re not sure how to work with your prospect during this call and later calls, take a look at; “Franchise Sales – It’s a Business Deal.”

Don’t be surprised if your buyer already knows a lot about your offering, and asks detailed questions based on their research.  Today’s buyer, with all the resources available to them, can actually make your job easier – because they already know so much.

Which is why the first conversation shouldn’t be your prospect trying to take a drink out of a fire hydrant. The dreaded features-and-benefits-information-sales-dump.

If things go well, there will be follow-up conversations where you can build on the previous calls with the information they want to know, and also begin to educate your buyer on what it takes to be successful with your business model.  For example; what makes you different, the competition, support and so on.

A good thing to keep in mind is with all calls or contact with your buyer, try to focus on just getting to the next step - not the end result.

5. Disclosure

I like to disclose the Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD) early in the process, as soon as I know I have a bonafide prospect, which usually means one that is willing to send in a no-obligation Franchise Application and can afford the franchise.

You can read more about my reasons for early disclosure in the article; “You Know the Deal, They Know the Deal.”

Using the Bad News First rule, make sure you give your prospect a heads up on anything that might filter them out to give you a chance to go over the FDD with them.

Try to set up a time to go through the 23 Items, explaining what each one means.  I like printed disclosure, and when setting up a time to talk, I make sure they have a highlighter handy.

Start by going through the 23 items and discuss what they mean.  Be prepared for some objections; FDDs almost always appear one-sided.  

You will most likely need to explain that some clauses or provisions they may object to are there to protect the franchise system – and to protect the investment of all franchisees.

By the way, waiting until the bitter end to send the FDD hoping they don’t read it is a really bad idea.  You want them to read it, so get it out there as soon as possible.

To learn more about the Franchise Disclosure Document with suggestions you can use to design a sales friendly FDD for a startup franchise concept, read the article; “The FDD - One Size Never Fits All."

6. Validation

Once they have the FDD, they will have a list of current and past franchisees including contact information, and you should encourage them to contact as many as they like.

If there are existing franchisees that seem to match up well with your prospect such as those that came out of the same corporate structure, have similar backgrounds, etc., make sure they contact those.

Basically, you want them to contact enough existing franchisees so they can hear from the ones that are performing up to your prospect's expectations, and the ones that aren’t.

They can then decide who they are more like; the winners, or the losers.

Some prospects try to jump ahead on validation (pre-FDD) by calling your existing franchisees directly.

There are a number of reasons for this.  From wanting to gauge the overall satisfaction of existing franchisees in the system to those that are just curious or don’t wish to jump through the franchise sales process hoops.

Whatever the reason, it’s best not to allow this to happen if you can help it.  

Not because you have something to hide, but it is a huge time suck for your franchisees who are now talking to someone that may just be curious - even a competitor, when they have their own business to run.

I make sure to bring it up during the first call by asking my buyer to wait until they receive the FDD and know enough to ask the right questions, reminding them that should they become a franchisee themselves they will appreciate the same courtesy.

7. Discovery Day

If validation goes well, it’s time to invite your prospect to Discovery Day if you plan on having one.  Some franchisors insist on Discovery Day, some make it optional, and some don’t offer it at all.

If you do hold Discovery Day, it’s a nice opportunity to meet your buyer in person, and for them to meet the decision maker (s) and day-to-day operations and support staff.

Discovery Day isn’t selling.  Selling is over, validation completed, and the FDD and Franchise Agreement already reviewed by your buyer’s attorney.  If needed, financing is pre-arranged and available.

Discovery Day is usually the only time the buyer will get to meet face-to-face with the founders, decision makers and so on.

Be sure to make it all about giving them the opportunity to ask any remaining questions they may have – even the tough ones, as well as a look at the actual product and behind the scene procedures.

8. Yes or No

I have personally signed a lot of franchise agreements during Discovery Day.

I already knew so much about the buyer, and they already knew so much about us, neither needed any more time to make a decision.

The takeaway from that is that we were ready.  There was nothing in the way of closing the deal.  And that’s how you should approach your Discovery Day.

If you or your prospect need more time to make a decision, keep in mind that they are now at their emotional commitment peak, and that level of excitement can only go down from here.

I like and practice zero pressure, but, in this case, you want a yes or no as soon as possible, no more than a week after your buyer returns from Discovery day.

Buyers don’t decide how to decide until they can’t decide.

Warning: Do Not Try This at Home

Even though I use “you” and “yours” in this and other sales articles, the articles are actually intended for your sales staff or person.

If you’re the Owner, Founder and Sales Department, be sure to read the article; "FSBO – For Sale by Owner."

To be successful selling franchises, you as the owner and founder should be the last, or one of the last, people your prospect talks to during the sales process.

Not the first


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