The Foundation to Sales Success

Throughout the franchise community, there are many reasons to prospect for new business. Whether it’s prospecting for franchise candidates, national accounts or even at the franchisee level prospecting for outside sales, good old fashioned sales skills are paramount to sales success. The first step in the sales process, sales prospecting, sets the foundation to that success. Yet, many individuals, even many experienced sales professionals, despise prospecting and some actually fear it! Below are some points from one of our recent B2B training sessions. Keep in mind, whether you’re in B2B or B2C sales, or selling franchises, the fundamentals remain the same. Adapt accordingly.

Sales Prospecting: Motivation and Overcoming Rejection

Style points don’t count. Ability is not enough. In sales, winning comes only with the right attitude! And winning at prospecting or cold calling, whatever you may call it in your business, is all about attitude!

When you’re responsible for opening new accounts, as a salesperson one of the keys to your financial success is your attitude toward prospecting.

If you don’t have the desire to prospect, or are afraid of it, you don’t do it often enough. As a result, your prospecting skills become weaker. This in turn causes your motivation to diminish and prospecting then becomes a monumental task.

ProspectingWhen we evaluate the reasons why a salesperson has failed or plateaus at an unacceptable level, we are constantly reminded of the following; they are not motivated to prospect or, have a fear of rejection. Neither their lack of motivation nor the fear of rejection is the main culprit; both are to blame. It is a catch-22. Either the lack of motivation causes the fear of rejection or the fear of rejection demotivates them. Either way, the person never becomes the effective prospector they could be or should be.

What we offer here, are some ideas on how to get motivated and stay motivated when prospecting or cold calling. We have also included suggestions that will help you overcome the fear of rejection. When you internalize these concepts and techniques, you will become the most effective prospector you can be and will achieve the level of financial success you deserve.

Believe in it: it works.

Prospecting over the phone or cold calling “door-to-door” is a very effective way to find qualified leads for your business. Since the beginning of time, farmers, livestock ranchers and a variety of other vendors have been bringing their products to market on horse and buggy. Today, millions of companies spend millions of dollars and have millions of salespeople doing it. So why shouldn’t you?

Prepare yourself properly.

Prospecting is like a contact sport. You are either prepared and have an advantage over the other person, or you are unprepared and don’t. Top salespeople have regular phrases, statements and/or scripts they use to generate interest on the part of the prospect. They are also prepared with a list of common objections and responses to handle any resistance the prospect or gatekeeper throws at them. This preparation comes from practicing with a peer or sales manager and/or from making a lot of calls to prospects. The key question is, “Are you fully prepared?”

Discipline yourself.

Every time you feel like quitting and/or find yourself procrastinating, you are being bit by the Fear of Rejection bug. The only way to beat this bug is to maintain the discipline to keep going. Discipline in business is about forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to do. When you are staring at that name on your list or standing outside the prospect’s door – Just do it! No one has more power to discipline you than you.

Convert that feeling.

attitude-scaleTry to understand why you get sick to your stomach when you have to prospect. Or why you hate the phone and have fear of rejection. Ask yourself why you feel this way and then listen for the answer. When you are in a quiet place and are truly interested in finding the reason, it will come out. Don’t let that feeling control you. You have to learn how to control it. Once you have control, you can convert the negative feelings into positive energy. The good news is, the worse you feel now, the stronger you’ll be when you convert it and the more chance you have of being a prospecting dynamo!

Don’t take it personally.

Most, if not all, of the prospects you are going to call are bombarded with salespeople each week. And they reject most, if not all of them. They are not rejecting you; they have rejected every other salesperson that has called them this week. So when you call, it is not you they are rejecting, they are rejecting another salesperson. Don’t feel so singled out. You are among an elite group of people whose job it is to find people who are not so willing to or who are unable to reject salespeople. And that’s easy when you have a good call list and are well prepared.

Partner with a buddy.

Many people that exercise would rather do it with a friend because this helps keep them motivated. Both people enjoy the workout more, plus they keep each other in line. We recommend you find another salesperson in your organization that has the same or better work ethic as you and agree to keep each other motivated and positive during prospecting sessions. When you make commitments to each other of when, how long, and who you are going to prospect, you subconsciously put incredible pressure on yourself to hold up your end of the bargain. This is very healthy pressure to have.

Make the time to prospect.

This is part of the discipline theory we spoke of before. Every salesperson we meet says they are busy, and some say they are too busy to prospect. This is nothing more then an excuse and an infection by the Fear of Rejection bug. Top salespeople make a habit of allocating a certain percentage of their week to prospecting. Regardless of their workload, they put a priority on prospecting and do it regularly. It is your responsibility to make time to prospect and create this habit.

Organize your list of leads.

It is a complete waste of time to make phone calls to companies and people who are not qualified to buy your product or service. Top salespeople have at least 100 qualified leads on their call list at all times. A qualified lead is defined as a prospect you know can use and pay for the products or services you offer or is currently using similar products or services offered by your competition.

A business card is not a prospect.

We are amazed at how little value salespeople put on prospects. They get a business card from somewhere, write some notes on the back and use this as their main prospecting system. A stack of these things with a rubber band wrapped around them is an inefficient method of prospecting. We recommend you use your computer, iPhone or tablet and keep as much information as possible on each prospect. In addition to the name, title, phone number with direct extension, and address of the person who has the authority to buy your product or service, you can collect additional information and use it to your advantage.

Call Decision-Makers only.

Strong lead lists will have the name of the Decision-Maker for each lead. A Decision-Maker is generally defined as the person who makes the decisions in relation to your products or services. Generally, there are two things we look for when categorizing someone as the final Decision-Maker: 1) the ultimate authority in their organization to over-rule everyone’s decisions regarding products or services, 2) the ability to allocate money, set budgets, issue POs, sign checks, give a credit card or enter into agreements. They have the money and they can spend it!

All at once or not?

Salespeople regularly ask us if it is better to cold call for eight straight hours (one full day) or to break it up into two-four hour sessions. Frankly, we have met successful salespeople that do it both ways. One salesperson may prefer to allocate a full day to nothing but prospecting while another may prefer to break it up into two mornings on two different days. We don’t think it makes a difference, we believe we all have to find the method that is comfortable for us. Provided you discipline yourself to concentrate on prospecting during this time period and not on other busy work.

Break up the day/session.

The fact of the matter is that even great prospectors are going to be rejected. Prospecting is a numbers game based on percentages. Having said that, we believe it is sometimes difficult for people to take a lot of rejection for a long period of time. So we recommend breaking up your session in a fashion similar to this. Make a particular number of calls to brand new prospects and then, make some calls to prospects you have previously called on, then call some people for referrals, then take a short break.

What we have just described is one cycle. The length of each cycle will depend on your commitment to prospecting, your work ethic and level of tenacity. In order to effectively prospect, you are going to have to repeat these cycles as often as you can in order to get results. Only you can determine the length of each cycle and how many cycles per day you are comfortable with.

Use a headset.

telephone headsetNot for motivation, for discipline and efficiency. When you are “literally” connected to the phone via a headset, it is much harder for you to walk away from your desk. So many people put the phone down and have trouble picking it back up. They don’t even realize it, but as soon as they put it down, the resistance to picking it back up is even greater. If you don’t have a headset, make it a rule that you will never put the receiver down until you dial at least “x” amount of calls. Just hang up each call with your finger instead of putting the receiver down. Once it’s down it’s even harder to pick back up again!

Hold all calls.

Not for motivation, for discipline and efficiency. A telephone prospecting session is just that – outgoing calls only. Have your receptionist or assistant hold all your calls or direct them to your voice mail. Telephone efficiency is all about rhythm. Once that rhythm is broken it’s hard to get it started again. When you start to field incoming calls you might get sidetracked by a friend or even worse a customer who needs something now. Boom: rhythm broken.

It’s a numbers game.

Even professional baseball players are only successful at getting on base 30% of the time. And they rate in terms of skills in the top 1% of all the millions of kids who start out playing baseball. So let me get this straight. They are the best of the best, get paid millions of dollars and yet actually fail on a consistent basis 7 out of 10 times! Why don’t they get the fear of failure? Because they understand it’s a numbers game. In the sales profession a 20 to 30% success rate is good. When you can secure 2 – 3 appointments from every 10 prospects or leads you are doing a good job. Keep in mind that every customer “no” gets you one step closer to that elusive “yes.” Just keep stepping up to the plate.

Build on little successes.

Regardless of your experience level, you may occasionally hit slumps just as professional athletes do. To overcome this they don’t quit, they focus their attention, practice regularly and keep at it. Little by little they start to succeed and get their confidence back. You can do the same by working a strong referral list or by calling on some previous accounts. By doing so, you will get your rhythm back. As soon as you start to succeed throw in a couple of cold prospects and watch your confidence take over. Even if you are not in a slump, during a call session you may want to call on some older customers to keep your motivation and confidence level up.

Increase your tolerance level.

You don’t start your running career with the 100-mile marathon. You start by first running the 5-mile marathon. Then you build your level of tolerance and stamina. Same with prospecting. If you are suffering from a lack of motivation or the fear of rejection, start small and build your way up. Start with 10 calls the first week, 15 calls the second week, 20 calls the third week, 25 calls the fourth week, and so on.

Set goals.

sales successRecently we were speaking with a veteran salesperson of about 16 years. For the past 8 years, he had a strong account base and did not have to make cold calls. He just took a new job with a company that does most of its business by telephone prospecting. He said he was scared at first (he took a cut in pay in hopes of the bigger payoff) but had faith in the company and went at it. He told me the main reason he has been more successful on the phone than most of the other new reps is because he sets goals for himself every week. He has goals for the number of times he dials the phone, the number of contacts he makes and the number of appointments he sets. Basically, he said he works as many hours as it takes to hit his goals. Now that’s commitment and desire!

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Franchise brands are few and far between on list of top brands in customer service!

Despite repeatedly hearing that exceptional customer service is paramount in today’s economic environment, franchising sees few brands make the list of top brands in customer service.

Do you believe it’s possible for a franchise brand to consistently deliver positively memorable customer service along the likes of Apple and Amazon.com, just to name a few of the brands that are repeatedly mentioned when discussing exceptional customer service and customer experience?

Are franchisors dedicating enough resources on customer service training? Are franchisees focused enough on providing exceptional customer service?

Personally, I believe it all starts with the culture of the Franchisor and the same must be conveyed to franchisees, not only through training, but in the way franchisors treat franchisees. It must be a top-down effect to start the process and must be on the forefront of everyone’s mind at all times and at all levels of the franchise organization. I also believe an extremely high level of providing positively memorable customer experiences is a key component towards improved unit-economics, and also in helping increase interest in franchise opportunities.

50 Brands Named ‘Customer Service Champions’ as posted on MediaPost.com March 15, 2012

In the faltering economy, the importance of customer service has reached new highs, overtaking even price as a purchase determinant, according to a J.D. Power report.

Read the complete article.

Want to learn more about customer service in franchising?

Mindy Golde, Director of Sales at Listen360 (formerly Systino) discusses Consumer Sales and Customer Experience at the upcoming Franchisee Sales & Marketing Summit. Listen to what she has to say about franchise brands and customer service! FranSummit is March 26-29.

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Franchisee Failure: Logical Reasons or Lame Excuses?

personal accountabilitySome time back, posted on LinkedIn was a discussion about franchising that generalizes negative franchise experiences, places blame for the experiences on “improper practices” and ultimately forces the franchise community to defend its practices, and ultimately, its integrity. My question is, “When do franchisees take responsibility for their own actions, or in many cases, their own in-actions?”

Too often franchisors are assumed to have done something wrong in the franchise sales process, when in fact, they have been diligent throughout the process. Certainly, that does not mean there aren’t franchise sales professionals taking shortcuts and providing misleading financial performance representations. I’d be a fool not to acknowledge that this occurs! But in having surveyed hundreds of franchisees that have failed over the past five years, I have discovered a multitude of issues that may have contributed to franchisee failure. And, in only a handful of cases did these franchisees complain about false promises or improper disclosure from their franchisor.

Some of the issues that may have contributed to franchisee failure include franchisees’ lack of general business skills, little or no emotional support at home, personal or family members’ substance abuse, and as a result of just sitting back and waiting for business to come to them. With this in mind, I believe franchisee training should address business 101 skills and franchisees need to understand the necessity of grassroots marketing. With respect to the “family and personal” issues, although franchisors cannot and should not be family counselors, many do promote their franchise as a family, and as such, should attempt to identify problems when franchisees begin to show signs of failure. At least they should keep their eyes and ears open for troubling signs outside operational issues.

As we’re discusing franchise failure, I would be remiss in not first referring to my own personal experience as a franchisee.

The following is the actual LinkedIn discussion along with a few key responses. As we have always done in the past, the responders are kept anonymous and are only identified by their Linkedin position statement or by a review of their LinkedIn profile. As always, your comments are encouraged and should be submitted in the section provided below this post.

Franchising – Have you bought yourself a prison sentence?

I have recently had a number of discussions with people who had been looking to improve and secure their futures by investing in a franchise, a proven business model that, whilst perhaps not leading to a grandiose life style, should offer an honest income and self fulfilling future.

Acknowledging that there are many successful franchise opportunities, however I have been shocked by the revelations that have unfolded through my discussions. In some cases, plights of despair, with franchise agreements being sold on the pretence of realistic earning that do not even come close to reflecting reality. Many feel conned and trapped by lengthy contracts, weighted heavily in favour of the franchisor, but struggle through with acceptance because they are not necessarily dependant on the income. On the other hand, some find themselves in serious financial difficulty, with dwindled saving, remortgaging and further borrowing to survive and support a non viable business, with no easy exit and the threat of legal action for non conformity or failure to keep the business going.

If you were running a small business and it turned out to be a non viable proposition, you would most probably take the decision to close it down, learn from the experience and move on. However, one franchisee told me that they had “bought themselves a prison sentence”. As a result of the franchise they had no funds remaining to fight a case or exit from the business and were fearful of their harsh and unsympathetic franchisor.

Senior SEO and Marketing Consultant provided some perspective from outside the franchise community:

“This tragedy speaks to two serious issues that are not in fact confined to the franchise business model, yet are, due to contractual agreements and financial outlay up front, most often more severely felt.

First there’s the issue of false / misleading and otherwise deceptive sales tactics used by unscrupulous people.

The second is people wanting to buy a dream more than a business – people who truly do not comprehend the complexities or depth of commitment required in running a business in any economic situation, let alone our current economic landscape. These people almost always do little true due diligence in just about any aspect of a business model.

While many of these people are more vulnerable to unscrupulous sales tactics (as in they don’t bother to hire a accountant to do an in depth accounting, or a business attorney / barrister to review the terms), just as often many buy a business that they are not truly passionate about or think it won’t involve 60 hour work weeks at certain points.

While we can not condone unscrupulous business sales practices, we need to truly hold those looking to buy a franchise or ANY business accountable for their footwork and business sense.”

A Director of Development at a National Franchisor submitted a very detailed response:

“Given the current conditions, I think the question makes for an excellent discussion. Since no direct question was posed, I’m responding to your general request for comment regarding what I paraphrase as franchisees who buy a franchise which is not viable and then feel trapped by the terms and of the franchise agreement. For me, you’re looking at three components: (1) integrity of the selection process (sales process), (2) performance of the franchisor and franchisee, (3) contemplations on the missing “no fault” termination by the franchisee (the prison).

1. The sales process is not a yes/no or right/wrong proposition. Each franchisor is defined by a number of characteristics: lifecycle, capitalization, experience, management team, strategy, customers, etc. Likewise, each prospect has different personal goals, experience, talents, discipline, and aptitude for being a franchisee within the confines of a system. Alignment between the Zor and Zee from the onset is critical. I understand the UK does not have Disclosure Laws which makes this process all the more difficult and important. The question every Zee should ask is… am I prepared to fail? In my experience, prospects would rather “make money now” than conduct disciplined due diligence to select the opportunity making them easy prey. See link for more.

2. Mutual Performance is required. Need not be said but was not mentioned in your post. I’m a firm believer that businesses don’t fail for one reason alone but a series of bad decisions over time. With that being said, I’ve found one of the fastest ways to failure for a franchisee is lack of capitalization by the franchisee to carry through a rough opening or difficult time. A solid turnaround often times requires capital that just isn’t available. Franchising is a strategy for growth using other people’s money. Franchisors rarely bailout franchisees.

3. The thrust of your question really is the word “prison” which I can only conclude evolves from the reality that while franchisors can terminate the franchise agreement based on default conditions a franchisee does not have the courtesy of a “no fault” termination. (ie… Franchisee may terminate the franchise agreement/close the business with 60 days notice.) As a franchisor, it’s important to note that we’re building a system with a number of franchisees and only one franchisor. The strength of any system is its size and stability. Allowing franchisees to simply walk away is not always in the best interest of the franchisor, the customers of the brand or franchisees who might be operating nearby. Indeed, a no fault termination could cause havoc for a system at the first sign of danger.

Still, franchisees actually have three exit options: (a) find a buyer (nearby franchisee, someone looking for a new challenge, which can be approved by the franchisor. etc) and transfer the agreement; or (b) request a “workout” from the franchisor; or (c) declare bankruptcy as a franchisor usually reserves the right to legally terminate the Franchise Agreement in the event of bankruptcy or other creditor issues. If the Zor/Zee were aligned and both worked hard to make the business work, the Zor should be able to find a way to let the franchisee out of the deal. More often than not, a reasonable workout can be provided with the franchisor assuming the business or closing it on mutual terms with the franchisee. Workouts don’t work when the franchisee is unwilling to take some/all of the responsibility for the failure of their business. It’s not the job of the franchisor to bail the franchisee out… indeed doing so would cause challenges for the system and tax the successful franchisees that are performing. In all cases, it is very important to clearly review the terms of the agreement and seek legal advice.”

A very prominent franchise consultant provided his perspective:

“I can only add that I’ve been involved in franchising for 30 years and during that time I’ve certainly met unhappy, disgruntled and failed franchisees — and some who failed because they selected faulty franchise systems and didn’t necessarily do anything wrong themselves.

Fact is: Not all franchise companies are created equal. Some are better than others.

The thing that always gets me is the failed franchisee who is boo-hooing because they’re “held prisoner,” they had no options, they “bought a job,” they didn’t know any better, they were misled, even lied to . . . come on now. It’s possible that happens to some of the people some of the time — but it doesn’t happen all that often EXCEPT to people who allow it to happen.

People don’t want to accept that there are no guarantees. They think they should be able to buy a franchise and be wildly successful just because it’s a franchise. They’re shocked to find out that it doesn’t always work that way. And if you ask them how much homework they did, who they asked about the opportunity, did they ask others: “Is this the same as buying a job?” . . . “Do you feel imprisoned by the franchisor?” . . . “Do you think you were misled about how much money you can earn?” . . . etc. etc. etc, it turns out they didn’t do any (or much) real homework.

Thanks to the recession, we may be coming out of the Age of Entitlement, and that will benefit franchising, network marketing, and all other forms of business.”

A Founding Partner of a Media Business provided his perspective based upon prior ownership of a franchise:

“My wife and I owned a franchise on the East Coast for a while. We used it as a transition from the corporate world to getting the courage to do “our own thing” and form our own business. Here is my take on franchises (we investigated 10 franchises before buying one specific franchise): we dealt with a really good, top-notch franchise consultant, by the way:

1. You’re essentially using your capital to “buy” a new job or career. It just comes wrapped in a business model which may or may not work depending on your region, local area, local culture, and most important, your level of effort and seriousness.

2. As long as you’re a franchisee, you will be paying rights, royalties, percentages of your hard-earned income, to a franchisor. That money comes off your top line, by the way.

3.Some franchises are innovative and create significant improvements in their products or services; others have founders who lose their excitement or will to develop innovations when they’ve made their money, BUT you’re still paying royalties and fees to them.

4. Many franchises and franchise types are profitable only if one obtains employees from the bottom of the economic barrel, because they must pay “bottom of the barrel” wages in order to break even or make a profit. That level of employee is often undependable, turnover of employees is inordinately high, and one often spends days without adequate staffing when employees don’t show up.

5. Because one hires from the bottom of the economic barrel and is paying not much over minimum wage, one feels (at least we felt) that we were exploiting people.

6. Finally, “owning” a franchise, because of the often restrictive nature of the business model, the marks, the methodologies, is just as often about NOT being in charge of your own business as it is about being in charge of your business. When all else fails, read my comment number 1 above.”

Last, an entrepreneur of what appears to be an independent business responded:

“Isolating individual experiences and calling that a pattern or problem with franchising might be a little misleading. It’s not a perfect world and if you have 100 of anything, a certain percentage of that number will not pan out for an infinite number of reasons. there are a lot of bad franchisors out there, and there are a lot of bad franchisees. As for the bad franchisees, a good franchisor should 1) never should have awarded to them and agreed to their locations etc and 2) some franchisees never follow thru on the execution and hard work.”

Need additional food for thought? Here’s another interesting article.

*This post was originally published on this site December 2010.

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Improving Local Brand Awareness AND Driving Sales & Profitability for Franchisees!

Individuals on the buying side of a transaction in today’s business environment are more diligent and cautious than ever before. Not only are these individuals consumers, but they are also business owners, executives, and basically anyone making a purchase for personal or business use. Taking this a step further, although a decision to offer credit is not considered to be a buy / sell transaction, today’s credit providers are also exercising caution and diligence at higher levels than in the past. So, what does this mean for today’s franchisees?

Considering that people buy from people, and people do business with people, the personal aspect is paramount to establishing a relationship that evolves thru to the transaction, and many times, repeat transactions. But, who has the time to network and afford people the opportunity to learn about them and their experience? Well, the answer is, “not many”, as they also have businesses to operate and manage, and time is limited. The key, then, is to brand ones’ self in a way to create a personal platform whereby franchisees, the business owners, will be searchable by the diligent and cautious parties that want to learn more about the person behind the local business before deciding whether or not doing business with them makes sense, and is in line with their own objectives, and possibly, values.

Typically, franchisees are hesitant, reluctant and frightened to network. Even in their communities. Basically, they don’t know where to start or even know what to say beyond, “I’m a such and such franchisee, and we sell this and that.” Therefore, franchisees work hard in the business by working long hours behind the counter, serving customers and interacting with employees; both important to the business but not to the growth of the business. Or, they do the opposite and check-in at some point, pick up the deposits and then do something completely unrelated to the business. Again, things may be in order but the business remains status quo. Does this all sound familiar?

Personal Branding for Franchisees, developed specifically for retail and service B2C and B2B franchises, can change how franchisees are perceived by consumers and others desiring to do business with them. It will improve franchisees’ confidence in going main-stream into the local community. It will create a platform whereby franchisees would be perceived to be on a similar level as executives of larger businesses and corporations. It will provide franchisees with the motivation to expand his or her reach into the local business community. It will present franchisees as experts in their field and in business in general. It will open communications at various business levels potentially exposing franchisees to strategic alliances, future employees and key contracts. Ultimately, it will help improve local brand awareness and drive sales and profitability.

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Social Media in Franchise Organizations: Who’s Responsible?

I work with many franchise groups in developing and implementing social media strategies. Right now, there’ s a pretty equal split in franchisors handling all social media activities and franchisees participating in the activities. This includes financial and operational activities and responsibilities.

Personally, I believe franchisors should embrace and participate in social media from a brand standpoint. They should develop a basic social media presence and manage it accordingly. Of course, they should be responsible for related costs as well.

As for the franchisees, I believe they should have a presence as well, but with the franchisor’s guidance, training and direction to maintain brand consistency in appearance and message. As for day-to-day activity, franchisees should be responsible for their own posts, which of course, will be complemented by posts on franchisor’s site. Franchisees should also be responsible for the costs involved in day-to-day activity just as they are for marketing activities.

The most effective programs I’m working with include a very detailed, comprehensive social media training program for franchisees. Many franchisors are now incorporating the same into their initial franchisee training. The training provides know-how, basic understanding and the information necessary to move forward in social media effectively and efficiently.

The problem I have found with the franchisor taking on all responsibility, financial and operational, is that franchisees never really realize the effort, nor the results. And, they never truly understand what social media is and they never fully appreciate the benefits of social media. Programs in these scenarios are certain to fail.

Social Media, with involvement and responsibility at all levels of a franchise organization, should provide multiple benefits including creating brand awareness in new markets and improving brand awareness in established markets, generating consumer interest in the brand and building franchise candidate interest in the concept, driving business to franchise locations and generating leads for franchise development, providing firm base for due diligence efforts by both consumers and candidates, enhance marketing efforts through integration of social media activity with traditional marketing to consumers and candidates alike, and develop a foundation for transparent and honest communications and information sharing throughout the franchise organization.

With proper planning and diligence, social media can be a very effective tool for franchise organizations and will be a stepping stone to embracing more and more social media as it continues to expand and develop. Done haphazardly and off-the-cuff, it can be very frustrating and disappointing and as such, will be considered a failure and a waste of time.

*This post was originally published on this site March 2011


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Franchising: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

As I often do on the weekends, I was searching through my personal library seeking out a book or two that might provide me some inspiration for an article or report, and this weekend, I came across a business book that was published back in 1979. The book, “Free Yourself in a Business of Your Own” by Byron Lane, caught my eye for reasons I cannot really explain. Obviously, I’ve had it in my possession for many years, yet, never opened it again since I purchased it for $1.29 at Target. It must have been a clearance book as the cover price was $5.95. Anyway, I can’t even recall seeing it when I routinely search through my library. It’s like it suddenly jumped out front and center and said, “Hey, look here!”

Well, I decided to look through the book because the back cover stated, “This book is about freedom. Freedom from an 8 to 5 regimen. Freedom from dehumanizing democracies. Freedom from job boredom. Freedom from the lock-step culture. Freedom to do your work your way.” Hmmm… not much seems to have changed although lock-step culture is not one I’ve heard of before.

Right away, my thoughts turned to franchising and I began to think about what franchising was like back in 1979. Fortunately, I didn’t have to think very hard, as to my surprise, was a chapter on franchising! It’s placement was to present franchising strictly as an alternative to other forms of business ownership, and in a book with 174 pages, the franchising chapter comprised all of 3 pages. Yes, 3 pages!

Within these pages were a series of bullet points that I found very interesting and it made me wonder how much franchising had actually changed since 1979, and if the changes have improved franchising today. Read the bullet points below and you be the judge.

– While there are no federal laws governing franchising, most states have franchise laws. Get a copy of the law in your state and read it for degree of stringency and coverage. If it is a tough law and a franchising company qualifies to do business in your state, you have one measure of security.

– Don’t believe that acceptance of you by a franchiser means they have evaluated your ability to get the job done. Some franchisers would select a corpse if rigor mortis had not set in and if it clutched in its hand a certified check for the amount of the franchise fee. Do your own introspection and decide if you can handle the franchise.

– Do not deal with profit projections or average profits. Insist on actual financial statements from a cross-section of franchisees. Then, evaluate your expected return on investment.

– Get the financial statement of the parent company and evaluate its ability to provide the services it promises.

– Read the franchise contract. It should be simple, frank, and fair, with complete disclosure, not an instrument of repression. After you think it through with your head, listen to your gut and determine if the contract fits you.

– Finally, and perhaps most important of all, is evaluation of the franchiser’s management team. You should do this from two aspects – their management ability and their humanness. If the management does not measure up to good corporate standards, you will not get the profits you seek. You may turn out okay, but they can bring you down.

Well, it’s no wonder that many individuals had a distaste for franchising. I cringed at some of the statements implying unfairness and deceit, along with an apparent free-wheeling approach to franchising. On the other hand, some of the advice was sound and still applies today.

It’s obvious franchising has changed, and for the better. But, are some of the negatives that’s were stated (or implied) above, still actually cause for concern within franchise organizations today?

I wonder what future generations will think about franchising when they discover some of today’s books and articles on the subject?

Yes, you be the judge…

*By the way, the author is listed as having several advanced degrees in business and psychology, and was a professor at a leading California university. He is also credited with developing several successful companies including a multi-million dollar franchising chain!

Note: originally posted on this site 12/10.


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Discounted Franchise Fees and Concessions: Are they really necessary?

I’m confused. Many signs are pointing towards the economy rebounding, albeit slower than we would like. The franchise finance situation appears to be improving, although also at a slower pace than we prefer. And, the spirit among franchisors appears to be positive and optimistic. Certainly, more so than this time last year. Yet, we continue to read about some franchisors offering discounts and concessions as an enticement, a lure if you will, to attract new franchise candidates. Does this practice really make sense?

Last year there was a discussion within the LinkedIn franchise groups that addressed the issue of discounts and concessions. The original discussion posed the question, “What kind of discounts or concessions are required now to get a franchisee candidate to move forward?” and generated many responses and different views. The following was my response when my view about getting back to basics was perceived to be fine during “normal times” but was challenged as a solution in more difficult times. Sure, last year should be considered a difficult time. But is that really still the case? In that same thread, there was also a subsequent response from another franchise professional that implied there are too many franchisors. I did address that as well last year, but now have begun to ask that same question.

“Although it’s certainly easier to accomplish franchise growth during “normal” times, the basics need to be in place even more so during tough times. That’s not to say we don’t need to think and act outside-the-box to make something happen. It just means we need to be extra prudent and diligent in our actions and not use the economy as an excuse for poor execution of skills.

If franchisors are to offer discounts and concessions in awarding franchises they need to be extremely careful they don’t oversell or create the perception of desperation. By doing so, they’ll either lose the deal or create a situation whereby the franchisee will not have respect for the franchise system and feel if one or two concessions were made initially, why not more moving forward? And then, there’s the perspective of franchisees already in the system that paid full amounts without concessions. What’s in it for them?

Nevertheless, with reports like Franchise Update’s about poor franchise sales performance and practices, I can’t help believe franchise systems wouldn’t be in better shape if their sales basics were perfected. It has to start with the basics before changing direction or considering revisions to the program.

In any business, just like in any sport, when a slump is imminent, it’s the fundamentals that need to be worked on before anything else should be considered or entertained. Once that’s done, then it makes good business sense to consider other options. At the very least, it should be done simultaneously. If not, what’s going to be the excuse when concessions and discounts don’t work?”

I guess my questions now are, “What have franchisors learned from the economic downturn, and what has been done to improve, not only their franchise sales process, but the weak spots within their systems, to offer a greater chance of success to current and future franchisees alike?” Or, is it just perceived to be easier to offer discounts and concessions?

In addressing the statement about there being too many franchisors, I replied, “Saying there are too many franchisors is akin to saying there are too many businesses of the same kind. What happened to free enterprise and entrepreneurship? Maybe, franchising could be better served by more regulation, licensing and policing, to weed out the weaker (for whatever reason) franchisors and make it more difficult to become a franchisor. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening because the “big boys” of franchising will squash those efforts in a New York minute. I look forward to debating this topic in a different discussion or forum.”

Have my thoughts on this changed in the past year? Yes, they have. But, more from the perspective of regulation, licensing and policing being absolute last resorts. Instead, my focus is now on dedicating more efforts to education, and specifically, quality of education. To paraphrase Ken Walker during one of his many excellent addresses at the IFA Convention, “We need to continue to prove that franchising can effectively govern itself.

In my opinion, franchising can accomplish this, but does need to do more in educating franchisors, especially new, and often impressionable, franchisors. And, there’s the key – impressionable! Yes, there are many educational opportunities available for franchisors… more than ever before. But, it doesn’t necessarily mean that more is better as quality over quantity is more effective in the long run. Now, THAT, is something I look forward to debating!


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Franchise Failure – Why Does it Occur?

Ivan Widjaya, author of the Franchise Note blog, recently posted about franchise failure. In the post, Ivan listed these five reasons why established franchises fail:

1. Franchisors compromise too much, franchisees demand too much.
2. Franchisors don’t listen to their franchisees, and vice versa.
3. Franchisors are busy taking care of bad franchisees, bad performing franchisees are becoming “traitors.”
4. Franchisors don’t have strong Management Team, franchisees ask the franchise support team too much.
5. Franchisors make things too complicated, franchisee can’t seem to be able to follow simple rules.

His thoughts behind each may be reviewed HERE.

Certainly, this list is not complete, and I felt compelled to add as follows:

Poor franchise training program – A sustainable franchise system must have an effective, comprehensive training program complete with well-defined and documented process and procedures. Such processes and procedures should be tried and true, and relatively simple to replicate at the unit level. In addition, it is imperative to franchise succees to offer continued training as well as initial training. I agree as the author has indicated, that many franchisors make things too complicated. So, the key is simplicity, but not at the expense of diminishing best practices.

Inadequate franchise marketing programs – Strong franchise marketing programs are essential to franchise success at both the franchisor and franchisee levels, and should be integrated to ensure brand awareness. Poor brand awareness is a key component in many franchise system failures. The failures are the result of poor unit level sales, minimal interest in the franchise opportunity, and of course, poor communications throughout the system. The latter occurs as the system begins to crumble. In the years since I’ve been responsible for directing two major franchise systems, I’ve been repeatedly asked what I would do differently today? My answer is always, “drive leads to the franchisees!” as everything revolves around franchisee success… increased royalty stream, franchisee profitability, system validation, brand expansion, etc…

Of course, there are many other factors leading to franchisor failure that could be debated until the cows come home. But, this is a great start, and it’s important to get this out in the open and discuss so as to minimize failure at any level. For that, I applaud Ivan for choosing this topic, and encourage many more responses.


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Yikes! Help or Yelp for Customer Service Issues?

In working with franchise clients on integrated franchise marketing strategies, including social media, a large part of our effort is directed towards improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google Real-time Search Results play a big role in this and as we know, these results are based upon social media activity and content.

Another aspect of SEO that goes hand-in-hand with search rankings is Local Business Listings Management which basically addresses local search results through a plethora of sites, including many customer review sites such as Yelp! But, what to do about negative customer reviews is always on our minds when they push their way towards the top of the search results. Especially, if the negative review is unwarranted. Or, if the negative review was legitimate, but the issue resolved. Should a negative mark be left out in the open for all the world to see? What are the potential repercussions if the comment is posted and tweeted throughout social media channels and we know this activity will be picked up in Goggle’s Real-Time Search Results. Potentially, this becomes a Circle of Life that we want to avoid. But, at what cost? Yikes!

Well, as the old Fram Oil Filter commercial states, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” Translation for the franchise community: Dedicate some resources towards improving customer service practices now, or pay to try to remove the negative comments online later, which is not easy to do for a variety of reasons. Some of which may not be the most ethical as the customer review sites feel they have control of your destiny, and want you to pay dearly to relinquish the control back to you. Yikes, for sure!

The following post about one of the more popular review sites, Yelp! and such practices, was written by franchisEssentials Guest Author, Megan Erickson of the Dickinson Law Firm. As you may know, Megan is the author behind the recently launched Social Networking Law Blog. Previously, we posted an article by Megan that proved very popular in franchise circles, Employer Social Networking Policies.

Yelp! Faces Federal Class Action Lawsuit

Bad online review? Interested in buying your way out of it?

Yelp is a popular interactive website allowing its users to create and access reviews of local businesses and services.  The site now faces serious accusations of unfair business practices.

After Yelp! received some bad press for what many believe to be shady advertising practices, a class action lawsuit was filed yesterday in a California federal court. According to a press release posted on the Yelp Class Action Website:

“The lawsuit alleges that Yelp runs an extortion scheme in which the company’s employees call businesses demanding monthly payments, in the guise of ‘advertising contracts,’ in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews appearing on the website.”

I first learned of the lawsuit via this post by Bradford Schmidt.


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Are New Franchisees Ready to be Successful?

Last week on Franchise Today, Joel Libava (aka The Franchise King) and I discussed an except from Lizette Pirtle’s recent book, Franchise Success: The New Formula. The discussion pertained to whether or not franchisees are ready to be successful and whether or not it’s actually an assumption that is incorrectly made when a new franchisee signs on the dotted line. Further, the excerpt included a passage about an unemployed individual that entered into a franchise agreement, and his subsequent failure as a franchisee. In an attempt to jump-start discussion on this and other factors relating to franchise success and failure, I have posted the excerpt below and encourage all comments and opinions.

Franchise Success: The New Formula
By: Lizette Pirtle
Chapter 3: Readiness (Pgs 59-60)

We can’t assume that when people invest in a franchise they are ready to be successful. We can’t even assume that they were ready to make the investment in the first place. But we do make these assumptions. Yet, action does not necessarily equal readiness. There is much more to the investment decision and the success of franchisees than we have traditionally considered.

William was laid off from a job he enjoyed as the vice president of operations for a manufacturing company. He had unemployed for 6 months and was getting desperate. He had applied for every job available. He had lost self confidence and was becoming increasingly frustrated. He felt pressure from his parents, his wife and his friends who recommended he consider starting a business.

William never considered self-employment before, but the thought of working again and owning his own business became very appealing. The more he thought about owning a business, the more excited he got. He decided to acquire a franchise, and by the time he made this decision he was eager to start and his excitement was almost overpowering.

William was extremely intelligent and had been very successful in his career, but during training he experienced difficulty. He labored through many portions of the program and questioned new concepts with mistrust. Many of the exercises seemed difficult to him.

While his classmates joyfully excelled, William’s mood became somber as the training progressed. Sometimes he became hostile and withdrawn, while at other times he would engage and be open. The franchisor called him aside and offered him the option to leave the training and recoup his investment. William declined.

When he opened his business, William could not make the business go. He fought and resisted many of the marketing activities and, although he was always busy and worked hard, his efforts were fruitless. In spite of his qualifications and the full support of the franchisor, within 6 months of attending training, William closed his business.

Okay, franchise professionals, tell us what you think. How would you have handled this situation? What would you have done differently? How can we prevent these situations from actually happening within franchising?


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