5 ways to boost your franchise sales pipeline

by Kate on July 26, 2013

How to unlock your franchise sales door

Reliable income streams can be dangerous for a business. They can lead to business owners and sales people becoming deadened to the critical importance of generating new business.

It’s the equivalent of locking the door on your business, and it’s something franchise sales people must avoid.

You see, if the bills can be paid today, the pressure to sell is reduced. The right sales people, and good sales management will reduce the risk.

But for many small businesses, sales efforts seem to go in waves – in part due to the inevitable resource juggling that happens when a sale takes place and people get busy. This pattern is made worse when sales people get tied up in planning, or selling activity is shelved because someone thinks the real problem is branding or marketing and focus turns to that shiny object.

When the prospect to sales cycle is long, a “stop-start” pattern can be a killer. The revenue tap simply can’t be turned on and fill the bank account immediately with cash.

Franchises can get caught in this type of bind. Ongoing royalty means the bills can be paid and a missed franchise sales target doesn’t seem critical. But over time the business becomes short on revenue from both new franchise fees and ongoing revenue. Costs must be cut, and a downward spiral of lower revenue from all sources is set in motion.

The reality for many franchises is they are not putting on enough new franchisees each year to support the ongoing growth of their network. There might be enough coming in to pay the bills, but it’s a survival game. If network sales are growing at less than 5%, or are going down, then the problem is worse, because there’s less coming in to pay the bills.

So, even if the franchising mantra is “we don’t make money from selling franchises”, the reality is, you do. And there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s responsible franchising to add new locations and charge up front franchise fees.

What then of the franchise sales person faced by a pipeline that’s empty? 

Franchise buying has changed

 

Franchise lead generation used to be simple. An ad placed in the classified section of a newspaper would lead to messages on the office answering machine from prospects. A package of information sent, inquiry forms filled in and after some meetings, a sale happened.

Sometime in the last 7 years, the internet took hold, and the immediate and tangible connection between activity and result in franchise sales started to weaken. As a result, the franchise buying process has changed. Prospective franchisees – in line with the way we make buying decisions generally – have begun expect more information before they even make contact.

Not only this, but prospects have more choice than ever before. And post GFC, there’s a little more financial nervousness.

But what hasn’t changed is the need for franchise sales. So, in order to succeed franchisors and their sales people must adapt to the way the world is now.

It’s here that some of the difficulty arises. You see, adapting does mean some pretty big changes to lead generation strategies, especially regarding content. So, here we are back to the problem of sales pipelined being lengthened further as the marketers tweak SEO, create videos and build landing pages.

Boost your sales pipeline

 

Does this mean the sales person stares at a wall while the marketers get to work? Or if you’re the CEO and the sales person, does it mean focus on something else while the magicians make Google bring you leads? Well, we already know that isn’t going to help revenue in the near future.

Here are five actions you can take to boost your sales pipeline, which may help while you’re waiting for Google. They are all strategies I have used. Your mileage may vary.

1. Tweak your web site. This isn’t about rebuilding, but making quick, simple changes that help people find and contact you. For instance:

  • Can prospects easily find out about your business, and contact you without having to enter their details in a form?
  • Does your web site and online information make it clear there are real humans behind the business? Franchising is a personal business, so would it help if prospects can see the names of people they are placing their confidence in? Just putting up the name, number and email of the sales person and CEO may help.

2. Get social online. This is about using online networks to become known. Do you have a decent profile on Linkedin and are you using it to develop relationships with potential franchisees or referral sources? Don’t rule it out until you’ve had a good and deep think about how it could help.

A good first step is to learn about Linkedin (there are lots of tools and resources on line) and how people are using it (not just people in franchising). Set a time limit for research, then tweak your profile, remembering it will be a work in progress.

Then, talk to others who are active, do some brainstorming about how it could work for you. Then, most important –  start making use of this great resource.

3. Get social offline. Offline networks can be very powerful for sales people, so don’t neglect them. Become involved in an industry association or local business association.

You can use these groups to give talks about your business, or franchising, or something (relevant) that you have expertise in and others find interesting – you never know where a lead will come from! If you’re not confident about public speaking, consider joining a Toastmasters group, which is a great environment to learn in.

4. Use your existing contacts. Chances are you have previous prospects and contacts. Don’t waste them! Again, you never know where a lead may come from.

A regular newsletter is simple to set up using Mailchimp, or other email marketing software. Learn a bit about email marketing, have a think about what would get people’s interest, write some content (or get it written for you), and make it happen.

5. Make it easy for people to give referrals. Referrals can be great, but they don’t happen automatically. Have a think about how you can encourage it within your network.

You might also consider influencers such as accountants and financial advisers. For example, if you meet an accountant or financial adviser at a networking function, how about having a coffee with them and building a relationship so they know a bit about you, and you them.

The great thing about these ideas is they are fairly quick and simple to implement. There’s no guarantee they will work for you, but sure beats staring at the wall and wondering where the cash will come from.

Image courtesy of nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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