Great Salespeople Listen and Learn to Leverage Established and New Brands
Listening at every stage of the lead generation process is paramount.
By Stacy Soderstrom
Selling franchises in 2003 required a Filofax organizer to keep track of leads and contacts. Technology was archaic and we had to install software, often taking minutes and sometimes even hours. It was cumbersome, time consuming and frustrating.
At that time, I had just started at Quizno’s when it was on the verge of becoming a national brand. The first two years I was there, we opened 1,000 stores in back-to-back years. We had to have excellent lead generation and tracking tools and, with the state of technology at that point, it was paramount that we communicated well.
Then, as now, we needed a technology support system to help the franchise development team execute at a higher and more consistent level to:
- Ensure that all leads are responded to within a set callback period, in my case less than 12 hours.
- Educate prospects about your brand prior to a phone call.
- Speed up the sales cycle with electronic franchise disclosure document manager.
- Include online financial qualification forms.
- Warm up the prospect through early franchisee validations.
A Common Denominator
Over the past decade, I have worked with several other brands, some established and others emerging. Even though technology has evolved and the brands have changed, there is one constant in my book: Great salespeople need to be more than great communicators, they need to be great listeners. That’s been the common denominator in excellent business practice for me regardless of the brand or the moment in time.
Listening is a skill I’ve honed over the years and I’ve learned to ask about certain topics. The first question to ask a prospective franchisee is “What is important to you?” This helps them to open up about themselves and share what they are currently interested in and doing. I want to know what drives them. Is it passion, money, family, support or security?
Adapt Your Pitch
People love to tell you about themselves. As they do, I jot down notes to identify their trigger points for buying a franchise. For instance, I may be talking with a franchisee prospect with an engineering background, someone who is practical and interested in our brand’s unique technology. When I respond, I’m not going to lead in with the financial benefits; instead I’ll focus on the four or five pieces of technology that make my brand stand out from the competition.
This example shows that by listening, you adapt your pitch to the buyer. Everyone is different, and if you don’t customize your message to fit their interests, you’ve lost them. People want to buy. It’s in our DNA. But they don’t want to buy from someone who doesn’t listen and understand their needs.
Established brands usually sell themselves, but they might not have available locations in areas that interest or attract the potential buyer. Listen for these details and find ways to bring the conversation back to what matters to the individual considering a stake in your franchise. For instance, Blast 825 Pizza is an entirely new brand, but the leadership behind it has an established, proven history with six other successful concepts and 55 years of experience.
What is the Franchisor Seeking?
Similarly, listening to the franchisor is also vital. Whether your company is an established brand or an emerging concept, you should listen to learn what the franchisor is seeking. Not every franchise lead is the right lead. Does your franchisor want single or multi-unit operators? Where does it want to grow? What kind of franchisee is the right fit for the concept? Who is the leadership behind the brand? Ask.
Listening is also important when it comes to choosing your vendors. If you don’t have a good customer relationship management system, leads can fall through the cracks. You have to ask the right questions and listen carefully to find the best tool and entire package for your brand.
For example, Blast 825 Pizza uses FranConnect’s Franchise Recruitment ManagerCRM system. This system qualifies my leads before I even speak to them, which saves me time, money and effort. I needed a project management side of the sales process that I was confident would engage, interact and tell our story.
An electronic FDD manager tool can be helpful. It is simple to check when the FDD was sent, and you have a paper trail in the event of litigation. The manager tool is not only for legal compliance, but replaces the high cost of shipping a hard copy version of the FDD, allowing for instant delivery of the FDD which significantly reduces time.
The right technology support should have a tracking and monitoring tool to see if your team is effectively managing the leads so you can accurately monitor each moving part in the system.
Remind yourself daily that listening at every stage of the lead generation process is paramount. Little of what you say will teach you much, but listening can reveal a world of information.
Stacy Soderstrom is the vice president of franchise development at Top Level Management. With more than 11 years of franchise sales experience, Soderstrom has worked with start-ups, as well as large developed brands such as BLAST 825 Pizza, LYFE Kitchen, Quizno’s and Boston’s Gourmet Pizza. Find her at fransocial.franchise.org.