- Nov 26, 2014
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...No experience with franchises, but as an ex sales-rep / part-time sales manager assistant slowly turning into a business owner, a few of my questions right off the cuff are:
- what is the residential/commercial service that your franchise packages about, exactly?
- who are the precise kind of wide variety of people that it can be of interest to?
- by "growing", do you mean from 0 to 1, or from an existing traction to a higher level still? as "zero sales" usually indicates a need to "test the waters" first and find out whether your franchise is actually viable to begin with
- what is your own background in selling and the underlying service packaging that your franchise will provide? how is the supply chain expected to tap into it all?
- how "quickly" do you intend to go, what are your expectations in terms of sales/months, and what are they based on?
In terms of advice and recommendations, as pertaining to what I did manage to grasp:
- "sell" your salespeople on the offer first, before ever expecting to go out there and do the selling themselves; their enthusiasm and conviction will be the reflection of your own
- clearly lay out the basic reasons of why it makes all the sense in the world for your future clients to deal with 1) your company, 2) your services, 3) your team - over your competitors
(read the "way of the wolf", J.B. knows his craft)
- clearly define the long-term outcome: what starts as a sale usually involves a good amount of backend support and assistance, without which dissatisfied customers will bury you in complaints, law suits, and whatever they can reach for - destroying your reputation and driving you out of business entirely
(this point assumes you're operating in a good, long-term oriented faith, not to make a "quick buck" and run away with the money stashed)
- based on those long-term outcomes, think through the kind of an incentive that would encourage your sales reps to meet them
- painstakingly and thoroughly analyse your bonus program, to take into account not only the previously mentioned point, but also any possible ways for your sales reps to "cheat", cutting conners for the sake of their personal compensation, at expense of the overall future of that client and your whole business
- base your pricing and bonuses both on the market; they have to be fair or better than the kind of % others would be willing to pay
- set reasonable (industry-based, not "me-the-owner-says-so-based") targets for dials made, calls had, cold/warm/hot leads added to the pipeline, deals closed; track them together
- write up your follow up process from the beginning, to avoid losing qualified customers because of "I forgot" or "I didn't know what to send/write/call about" (lots of $ is lost here)
- forget about the reasons of why they couldn't close: they will always be able to make up one - their job is to sell, you really think they won't be able to sell you on "that lead wasn't that good"?
- do encourage them to bring up any doubts or stalls as they happen - don't interrogate them at the end, when the lead goes dead silent; solve all deviations from the conversion process in real time, and keep your finger on the pulse
- make them roleplay regularly, ideally - every single day; it's better for them to "embarrass" themselves in front of their colleagues than with a future client in the middle of the talk
- allow for deviations from the script: real life is not a movie set, and there always unexpected contingencies that call for different responses
- do make sure they know the flow of both the bigger process and the steps to take the lead through as the conversation progresses
- ensure they know, practice, and rehearse objection handling (mandatory part of role play)
- be the best salesperson for your franchise and service and let your reps reach out to you; don't expect a "sales superstar" to come and turn your whole enterprise around if you yourself have never read Cialdini and wouldn't know where to start looking for your own leads
- listen to their calls and review them together, with less "this was wrong" and more "what do you think about this moment here?"
A great sales pro can greatly improve your existing sales process. He can also quickly close a whole bunch of leads on nonsense promises and pie-in-the-sky expectations that you will pay him for, only to resign shortly afterwards and leaving you to deal with all the mess left after him. What he'll be able to do or not will be based, in part, on what he thinks he can get away with - and on another, the upside of putting in the work for the long-term benefit of everyone involved. You can't check for this in an interview. You can only prepare yourself by being an outstanding sales person yourself.
Those would be my two cents on it, so far.
....Glad to help - as long as you don't skip over any of these, your chances of catastrophic failure (at least as pertaining to the sales part of the equation) will be reduced dramatically. Don't sue me over this in 10 years, though. Just to be safe:
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With that out of the way - your niche sounds quite peculiar, indeed. A bit of a higher-level question now, given your situation: what makes you think building a franchise for your service will be the best way to go about it?
The way you've described it makes me think of it as quite a profitable side-venture for one individual, who'll be able to profit from his personal discovery of the procedure you've outlined for as long as:
1) manufacturers keep producing their water heating units the exact same way
2) none of them, or their partners, come to know of this technology of yours
3) other plumbers or heat owners don't discover it on their own accord
You've got to consider the overall defensibility of your model in a larger context here. If either of those variables change, your whole venture, as such, will come to a screeching halt. And building a franchise to teach people the specifics of it sounds to me here as one of the easiest ways to impact at least the point 3) in a major way, should you come into contact with any plumber that doesn't happen to live and die by the rule of law, moral code and basic human ethical guidelines.
The fact that you're considering just promoting it to "everyone" further reinforces the concern. Why not simply scale your operations in-house, first? You know how to do it personally - you know which parts of the formula must not be revealed, and what is safe to pass along. Hire one assistant for yourself, teach him the essentials, send him over to one of the clients you've worked with previously (or a totally new one, losing which wouldn't hurt you a lot), if he doesn't screw up in a major way - keep him. Build a process that would allow just the two of you to work nicely together, slowly scale via additional hires, distance yourself from day-to-day labour, focus on the "higher picture" of your enterprise.
Franchising, from my fairly limited perspective on the subject (so again, don't quote me on this in 20 years), is usually best served for established businesses that have a complex system in place, supported by the underlying infrastructure that can serve the whole franchisee network (think McDonalds). If the only part of your infrastructure is your proprietary tech, than keep it proprietary and build your venture around it on your own. Why go out of your way to involve a bunch of god-knows-who that are just looking for a "side hustle" when you can build a solid enterprise of your own here?
That "side hustle" they're looking for might just be a part of another "side hustle" a cheeky plumber that have heard of your method paid them for, in order to understand how is it exactly that your tech and procedure works. Have you considered the scenario of this kind in your overall franchising plan? How would you detect such "foreign agents"?
A proprietary tool with an easy-to-teach method is a great scaling tool, IMHO. Franchising will come once you have hundreds of people working for you, with none of the variables upon which your business stands being remotely threatened. At that point, sure - document your larger-scale process, consider what kind of a proprietary network / infrastructure combo you can build to serve your franchisees, and help other people get in business via your franchise.
Clearly outline your idea for yourself here, first - the SWOT approach can be helpful here. It sounds like you have quite a few too many elements left to chance, when they really be extensively researched and documented, for clarity - at least.
And I wouldn't say you're asking too much of your salesmen, as much as you're asking too little of yourself here. Think of sales as yet another fundamental part of the equation. You wouldn't go out into the world to hire an engineer with an idea of demanding from him a proprietary piece of water-heating-unit-life-improvement technology (of the kind you've discovered) when you have no understanding of what their work is even supposed to be about, would you?
You have to know the basic, the essentials, the most crucial parts - of sales, in particular, as your business will breathe die by the amount of deals you'll be able to close. If you want to stick to engineering, consider partnering with a bit more of a marketing/sales-savvy guy who'll take care of it for you, but don't get yourself high on "hopium" when it comes to your hires doing both the working and the thinking for you. Their job is to execute better than you, not to fill the void in your cluelessness about (arguably, the most essential) part of your business with a genius of their own.
If that sounds harsh, it's because it's real. You asked for proper advice, not for "you can do it!" kind of b*llcrap, after all.
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