Franchise Sales: A Tale of Two Theories

franchise_salesA couple of years ago, there was a discussion in the Franchise Executives group on LinkedIn with the posted question, “Who is using outside franchise sales groups [brokers]?”

Below are some interesting responses from group members that are not franchise consultants or brokers:

An experienced franchise executive stated:
“Why wouldn’t you develop your own small sales group? Using a service that sells multiple franchises diminishes your quality control to some degree. I have been a part of 2 franchisors for 25 years and neither has ever used any of these groups and we have had lots of success. What are you trying to achieve by using these”groups”? Lower cost of acquisition, less hassle, expecting more leads, more foot soliders?”

The president of a national franchise concept wrote:
“We do not work with an outside group. In talking with our prospects it seems important to them to know that our development staff are part of the company and experts on the concept they are selling. We even have a dedicated sales team for each concept. My advice is to talk with some of your new franchisees to see if it would have made a difference in their decision making process.”

A franchise attorney posted his response:
“…if you use an outside broker in the true “sales” role, they can lose credibility if they appear detached and not knowledgeable about what they’re selling (often happens when your brand is only one of many in the broker’s portfolio). That should factor into your due diligence process when you’re looking at outside brokers. But when the relationship stays between the franchisee and the sales person, the prospect’s going to be let down when that sale is done and the sales person is on to the next prospect. Besides, I always wanted my sales person’s relationship with the prospect to taper off once the sale was done – the franchisee’s relationship should be with someone on the development then someone on the operations team. Two points – first, I always caution my clients to use brokers more as “matchmakers” rather than “salesmen.” What should really “sell” the franchise is not the sales person (internal or external) or the broker, but the confidence that the prospect has in the brand and in the ability of the management team; and, second, if my clients use outside sales people, I always make sure the outside sales team attend the same training I give my client’s internal team and do so at the same time. That way the outside sales folks get entrenched into the company’s culture, they know what to expect from management, they see how to use management to “sell” the franchise, and they know what management expects of them.”

A Vice President of a national franchise concept went on to write:
“For a variety of reasons I’m personally a big believer in building sales teams from within the company. But then again I’ve had the luxury of working for established franchisors and had resources to either develop salespeople from within the company, or rely on referrals to hire from outside and train them to become franchise salespeople. Both methods take time – generally about 12 months for a franchise salesperson to really “hit their stride”. Many franchisors don’t want to wait that long, or can’t wait that long, or don’t know how to train franchise salespeople. In those situations it may make sense to bring on outside franchise sales groups.”

So, that’s what franchise professionals were saying a couple of years ago… but what about today? Please, let us know your thoughts!

Franchise Candidates: A Changed Mindset

This article was originally posted on August 13, 2009 as Franchise Candidates: A Changing Mindset. Well, I guess we can revise the title slightly to reflect candidates’ current views – A Changed Mindset. Nevertheless, the article may be even more relevant today as franchising attempts to rebound from the economic downturn and continues to explore more viable lead generation strategies that will attract today’s franchise candidate. Many continue to explore social media and have realized its position as an integral and effective component of these strategies… of course, when utilized according to a plan.

caution-01A look at today’s franchise candidates will reveal they are more sophisticated, better educated, and more technologically advanced than ever before. In addition, and even more so because of the economic downturn, they are extremely cautious.

Today’s candidates are spending more time researching opportunities, and doing so at a much slower pace. In order to be diligent in the process, more time is spent online pouring through page after page of information, constantly bookmarking, and moving back and forth from new information to saved information. They’re comparing notes with other franchise candidates on social networking sites. As well, they’re gaining invaluable insight monitoring online discussion groups and forums.

Ultimately, today’s franchise candidate desires and needs to be certain the franchise opportunity is as close to perfect for his or her situation, as humanly possible. In the past, and especially after previous recessions, franchise candidates took their capital gains and invested in a franchise opportunity. Many times leaving the principal investment untouched. There was a sense of throwing caution to the wind because they were investing profits. Many times ungodly profits, at least by today’s standards. Does anyone remember when money markets kicked out 17% profit margins?

Unfortunately, many individuals looking at franchise opportunities today are looking at things differently. They have to. Many are transitioning corporate executives staring at the back end of illustrious careers trying to squeak out just ten more years before retirement. Facing the challenge of younger talent, new technology, and a rapidly changing business environment, many opt to “buy” a job and explore franchising and small business ownership.

What Changed?

Here’s the difference between today’s recession, and of those in the past. As huge fortunes have been lost, and large gains have not been realized in current financial markets, today’s candidates are forced to invest all or part of their remaining nest egg in order to enter the world of business ownership. Of course, everyone knows and fully understand the risks involved in owning a business. But in yesterday’s business environment, many franchisees and business owners were “gambling” with profits.

Certainly, no one wanted to lose money in a business venture. But, many had fallback positions with funds still in retirement accounts and of course, if they had to, employment. For many of today’s candidates, failure is not an option because fallback opportunities are fast becoming non-existent. Actually, I believe many of today’s candidates might not have even considered franchise or small business ownership in the past.

So, as many individuals explore their options, they will focus more and more of their efforts online. Franchisors must embrace this fact, and dedicate more resources to the internet and look to social media to complement, not replace, their traditional franchise marketing strategies. By doing so, they’ll realize multiple benefits for their entire system including:

– Creating or further developing brand awareness with franchise candidates and consumers alike
– Generating franchise leads that are genuinely interested in exploring what franchising and small business ownership has to offer, and how a particular concept may be the vehicle to achieve their goals and objectives
– Establishing an interactive environment of communications and information sharing that will become the backbone of future franchise relationships throughout franchise systems

Last, many franchise candidates previously viewed franchising and small business ownership as a way of achieving their wishes, hopes and dreams, regardless of what those may have been. Today, it’s more about goals and objectives, and necessities. We, as an industry need to fully realize this, and understand the mindset of today’s franchise candidate.

Franchise Sales Process: Consistent or Flavor-of-the-Month?

Occasionally, I take a look at some of my posts from a few years back just to compare my thoughts and perspective from then to now. I always ask myself if I’m consistent so as not to confuse anyone. But more importantly, am I focused for the long-term or for just the here-and-now. Well, below is a post from June 2009. I’m sure you’ll agree that I have been consistent and have not jumped on any flavor-of-the-day bandwagon… It really is about fundamentals and best-practices!

Franchise Sales During the Recession

WSJRecently, in one of the franchise groups on LinkedIn, there was some discussion about the Wall Street Journal article, “Franchise Sales Pull Back During the Recession.” Several franchise professionals posted their comments and, of course, I added my “two cents” as well. Okay, I was definitely long-winded compared to the others, but as most of you who read my articles are well aware, I have a passion for franchising and franchise success and tend to go on and on to share the same with all who will “listen.”

“I too, believe there are many well-qualified candidates exploring franchising. Some as a career alternative, and also, in the case of already being a small business owner, as a business expansion strategy and/or an income diversification plan.

No doubt, the number of overall franchise leads has diminished quite a bit. But I believe many of the “tire kickers” have gone by the wayside while the more qualified candidates continue to search, inquire and ultimately decide franchising is right for them to achieve their goals and objectives. However, in order to fully realize this trend, one must realize that the candidates’ approach has evolved.

Today’s qualified franchise candidate is more sophisticated, educated and technologically advanced than we have ever seen before. Add to the mix, a sense of extreme caution, and their process in exploring franchising and specific franchise opportunities has become more of a detailed, well-thought out strategy.

Always understanding that there is risk in any entrepreneurial endeavor, today’s candidates explore franchising because it may provide even the slightest edge against failure. Their mantra has become, “failure is not an option” and they now live it by doing everything humanly possible to dot every “i” and cross every “t” and then rechecking only to do it over and over again until they have full, complete confidence in their decision.

To that end, the overall process from initial inquiry to franchise award is much longer than in years’ past and that is something franchisors must be prepared to effectively handle. It’s a primary reason I believe social media works so well in the new era of franchise sales as it creates an environment for today’s candidates to research organizations, share information, communicate with individuals at all levels of the franchise organization from franchisees to corporate executives, view photos, audio and video, etc. And, they can do so at their own pace and to their full understanding. That is the key.

Understanding and adapting to today’s qualified franchise candidate will help franchisors ride out this current economic downturn. Putting their heads in the sand and just complaining about the poor economy and the franchise candidate pool drying up will only incorrectly prove true that their negative thoughts are correct.

All that being said, certainly there are challenges in securing financing and other variables that must be contended with and addressed accordingly. But as the franchise candidate pool diminishes and many of the tire kickers aren’t around to waste our time, we should now have more time to explore all options, use our creativity and innovation, network beyond our comfort zones and seek out alternative solutions. I believe those solutions are out there and many are capitalizing on them as we speak. They will not only survive, they will thrive as others have done in other recessionary periods.”