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STAY IN TOUCH TO GROW YOUR FRANCHISE

by Simon Lord,
last updated 23/07/2009

in this article:

How can franchisors attract, involve and appoint new franchisees during a time of economic uncertainty?

Many franchises are reporting that while levels of enquiry about opportunities are high right now, actually getting new people to commit is difficult. Understandably, the uncertainty about the economy means people are taking longer to make a decision or raise the finance. The longer the period between first interest and actually starting the business, the more time there is for a potential franchisee to succumb to the usual doubts and fears. This means it is more important than ever that franchisors don't just respond to leads but actually work to create... read the rest of this article relationships with those who express interest in their opportunities that will help to reduce nervousness, increase confidence and keep enthusiasm high.

When I worked for a printing franchise in the UK, the process of opening a new centre was long and drawn-out because we needed to get planning permission to use designated retail premises for light industrial processes. Thanks to British bureaucracy, it could easily take nine months from appointing a new franchisee to getting their centre open. That's a long time, and as a result we continually lost a percentage of people along the way.

A smart new franchise manager introduced what she called ‘pipeline meetings'. These were regular meetings with the heads of the various departments involved - legal, property, training and others. Their aim was partly to speed things along and reduce miscommunication between departments, but the main reason was to keep franchisees enthused. Greg Nathan writes about the initial ‘Glee' stage enjoyed by all new franchisees - but it's hard to stay in that glee stage when nothing is happening.

The same thinking applies to people who have expressed interest in buying a franchise. They might be ideal candidates, but how long is it going to take them to be ready to make a decision? What can a franchisor do to maintain their interest in the meantime? Here are some suggestions.

1. Don't send out information without following up. It's no longer enough to think ‘If they're serious, they'll come back to me.' People are nervous and need reassurance. Also, they will probably have contacted other franchises in your field. If you don't follow up, someone else will.

2. Once you've made contact, have a plan for staying in touch on a regular basis. That gives you a chance to address issues and concerns as they come up, rather than letting people's interest be eroded by negative news stories, family worries or people they meet in the pub.

3. Share stories of what existing franchisees are doing. These needn't be over-the-top tales of record sales, although those are good - they could be stories of how a franchisee has taken a month off for an overseas wedding or how another has trained for their first marathon. Lifestyle is a big motivator for many.

4. Talk about new areas or resales coming up. You never know what is going to push some people's buttons - it might be the chance to move closer to their daughter or nearer to the ski fields.

5. Don't make every contact a sales call. Invite queries, ask them to outline concerns and build their confidence in you and the business. 

6. Set the tone for a trusting and understanding relationship. Even if they don't end up buying a franchise, you may create a customer for life.

A final word on this topic. Every month we get calls from readers who have contacted franchises and never heard anything from them at all! Make sure you have a foolproof system in place to capture information and contact details from prospective franchisees and for tracking your follow-up procedures. That way, you won't lose good people and waste your advertising budget.

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