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Are You Asking the Right Franchisee Candidates the Right Questions?

Applying the right questions will draw out information you can use to start a rapport-building opportunity.

We’re a small family-owned business, my husband, my son and myself. While we have 27 employees, we’re still a Ma and Pa business. We started it a while back as a franchisor and are now a supplier. We’ve been very lucky.

Many years ago we were approached by a consultant who wanted to “help” us franchise our business, Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training. Have you ever heard the expression: “It seemed like a good idea at the time?” Well it did.
The folks who brought the idea to us had a spreadsheet that made our eyes pop and our mouths water. We were ready. Bingo. We were the franchisor. Now we need some franchisees.

questionmark-blogFast forward to the present: we are out of franchising. None, zip, nada. Why? Because rather than building a franchise system of multiple units, we learned that our strength was in training our clients, whether franchisors or franchisees, on how to improve their customer service approaches.

But I did learn a lot during those 10 years as a franchisor. And one of the things I learned was how to apply my questioning skills to qualify each candidate who seemed interested in our franchise.

Developing Questioning Skills

I happen to be a good questioner. Not everyone is. That’s not conceit; it’s a fact. A fact like someone says, “I’m a good cook” or “I sing well.” My philosophy is: know what you’re good at and also know what you’re not good at. (I’m not a good cook.)
We’re out of franchising now for many reasons other than we didn’t ask the right questions, because we did.

Recently, I saw a discussion on the International Franchise Association’s free online member-only networking community, FranSocial. A franchisor asked how to better handle a call he gets that says: “I’m interested in your franchise, tell me about it” or any one of those types of inquiries.

He shared how the call went and he felt badly because he might have lost the possibility of getting a good prospect. He didn’t know whether to ignore the prospect or explain what his business was offering the caller.

You need to stay in control.

The franchisor hung up without knowing much, if anything, about the caller.
Remember why we were born with two ears and one mouth? Because we’re supposed to listen more than we talk.

In some form or another, the interested prospect eventually says: “Tell me about your company, I’m interested in buying a franchise.”

No matter what they ask you, do not answer the statement or question immediately at the top of the call. The question or statement they ask can be anywhere from:
“Hi, I saw your ad about XYZ Franchise and I’d like some information.”
or
“I met Mr. Big at IFA and I’m interested in learning more about your franchise.”
or
“My mother told me to call.”

It doesn’t matter what the question is. Your first words should be: “Thank you so much for your call and interest Mr. Jones. We like to get these kinds of calls. Before we get going, let me be sure I have all your information and especially your phone number in case we get disconnected.”

Now you have control. You have a name, address, city, state and telephone number. With this information you can start a rapport-building opportunity. You’ll be surprised how much of an opportunity that is.

Important Questions to Ask

Here are important questions to ask a person who wants information on your franchise. These questions will let you know if the person calling might be a good candidate to interview, let alone, be a good franchisee.

“Well, Mr. Jones, let me ask you first off, how did you happen to learn/hear about us?” (“Happen” is your key word there. Without it, it’s not a nice question.)
Again, depending on the answer, you may still have a few more questions.

“Before I start my part, Mr. Jones, let me ask you a quick question. What’s your experience in franchising? Tell me a little bit about your background. I’m always interested in hearing about that.”

We use the words “a little bit.” Believe me, they’ll tell you lots. You can also ask, and have the right to ask the following:

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, will be speaking at the IFA Annual Conference Feb. 24, 2014 in New Orleans.  Find her at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, will be speaking at the IFA Annual Conference Feb. 24, 2014 in New Orleans. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

“Tell me Mr. Jones, what do you know about our franchise operations?”
Depending on the answer, you can find out what candidates are doing now and what they’ve done in the past.

Remember, you need to stay in control. And the best way to stay in control is to ask questions. If you lead off with these questions, you’re not wasting your time.
With these techniques, you’ll know in short order if you should ignore them or keep them on the line.

What if you didn’t get the caller’s name and he just starts asking questions? Your job is to say, “My name is _________. I’m the franchise president (or whatever title). And I’m speaking with…?”

Don’t ask “Who am I speaking with?” Don’t ask, “Who’s this?” Don’t ask, “What’s your name?” Simply introduce yourself first. Your title is critical. Then use our “And” technique: “And I’m speaking with …?” They’ll fill in the blanks. This works every time.

Good luck.

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, will be speaking at the IFA Annual Conference Feb. 24, 2014 in New Orleans. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.

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Greg S. Jones is the founder and chairman of BookKeeping Express, a national franchise focused solely on bookkeeping and financial intelligence consulting for small-business owners and franchises. Jones is also a multi-unit franchise owner of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org via the directory.
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