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How to Effectively Close Portal Leads

Reflect on what is and is not working and put yourself in your customer’s mindset.

By Rob Bennett, CFE, and Sue Bennett, CFE

With all the various methods of finding an excellent franchise candidate, closing a portal lead takes a specific skill set that is different from other lead generation sources. To effectively close a portal lead, there are two variables that must be scrutinized carefully to ensure a significant number of closings.  First, you have to prudently choose the best portal vendor(s) that will produce a healthy return on investment, and secondly, you have to establish a well-defined sales process.  If one of these two variables is not in perfect alignment, you will waste money and be convinced that Internet leads are an ineffective method of lead generation. To ensure the successful handling of a portal lead, here are several components you may consider as part of your process.

Choosing a portal company. When working with portal vendors, you will need to develop a strategy to determine which companies to work with and then monitor the results.First, generate a list of potential vendors by asking others for trusted referral sources. Confirm how long they have been working with the portal, what is their pricing structure and why they recommend the particular vendor.  Identify which portals they would avoid and why. This process will help ensure that you are choosing the best company for your needs.As you contact each portal vendor, compare the following:

 Pricing

Are the costs based on a monthly flat fee or a pay-per-lead program?

Are there set-up fees?

If you select a pay-per-lead payment program, how are credits handled?

Will the vendor negotiate a lower price with more volume?

Term

Can you go month-to-month or will you be locked into a specific time frame before you can cancel the contract?

 Billing

How and when will charges be invoiced?

Do you have to prepay the lead costs at the beginning of the month or can you pay at the end of the month?

 Guarantee

Does the portal company provide a measurement as to the quality or quantity of the leads or does this go “unchecked?”

 Once the portal leads begin to enter your sales pipeline, you will need to:

Track the numbers. An important metric to analyze is the total lead cost/actual deals closed. For example, if you have a $15,000 annual total lead cost that resulted in five actual deals closed that year, your total lead cost/actual deal closed is $3,000. This number reflects the true return to your company, since closing deals is the prime objective with all portal leads.

Monitor this ratio monthly, allowing for at least three months of lead flow from each portal. This number allows you to compare portal performances with other lead acquisition sources. Do not simply look at the cost per lead as the sole indicator to determine whether a portal company is effective. This number can be misleading because it does not relate to the actual placement of a candidate.

Work with the portal as a partner and identify the metrics you will track on a frequent and consistent basis. This will keep everyone accountable and you will more readily meet or exceed your closing ratios.

Have a defined and consistent sales process. Write down every detail so that everyone on the franchise team is aware of how a sale is handled from start to finish. This is the cornerstone for consistent closings. You may also want to outline the process on your website and discuss the steps at the onset of your conversation. The candidate is generally impressed when your process is clearly defined.  You may want to include the following items in your sales outline:

 What do we say on the initial conversation and how long do we need to be on the call?

Should we get the candidate financially prequalified before we spend time on subsequent calls?

What funding sources will we recommend?

How does the candidate like to be communicated to:  text, email or phone?

How will the conversations be communicated to the sales team: internally or with a franchisor broker after each discussion?

How do we handle the franchise disclosure document review, discovery days and concessions?

 The more detailed you are with your process, the more successful you will be in closing portal leads.  If you are not getting a candidate past a particular point in your sales cycle, you may also want to consider the following:

Reflect on what is not working. Take time to find out where the candidate is stalling and analyze why. When we first started working portal leads, we realized that we were requiring candidates to fill out too much information after the initial call. Of course, they weren’t responding to our requests because we didn’t build a rapport with them first.  Analyze where your customer is losing interest, refine your process and then test it until the process works. Recently, on a call with a funding vendor, and after the conversation, the funder called and asked how he could improve his presentation. We were so impressed with his desire to improve.  That’s an example of refining the sales process through the ears of the listeners.

The final component to closing portal leads is to:

Think like a customer. As simplistic as this principle sounds, it is often overlooked when speaking with a candidate.  We often forget that we are speaking to a real person and we don’t take the time to chat and get to know his needs first before we present our opportunity. Listening closely to the candidate’s motives will help you understand what he needs and you can provide valuable insights that may be hindering him from buying.  Listening carefully also fosters trust and confidence in you. When you listen, you are conveying that you really care.  Thinking like a customer involves listening closely to a candidate’s needs and anticipating how to serve him with the highest degree of excellence.

Closing Internet leads is not a simple process, but this method of lead handling can be a very productive use of time if you prudently chose the best portal company(s) and refine your sales process with sharp precision. Take time to reflect on what is not working and put yourself in your customer’s mindset.  The rewards are priceless when one more person has an opportunity to own a franchise. n

Rob Bennett, CFE, and Sue Bennett, CFE, are co-founders of FranFinders LLC, a franchise consultancy and funding company based in Charlotte, N.C. Find them at fransocial.franchise.org.

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