Best-in-class training and support can lead to faster signing of ‘zees
Illustration by Jonathan Hankin
People occasionally will ask me, “Why should I buy a franchised business instead of starting up an independent business?” The answer is easy. It’s the support.
But that support does more than simply differentiate a franchise from a startup. A well-developed support program can also act as a sales and marketing tool in attracting candidates and ultimately awarding franchises.
The first sale
Most franchisors know that selling a franchise requires a lot of convincing, ideally on both sides of the equation. Assuming that your franchise prospect is actually a good fit for your concept, your franchise salesperson must convince your prospect of four specific things: that they should go into business for themselves; that they should enter this particular industry; that they should invest in a franchise rather than go at it alone; and, that they should choose your franchise rather than a host of others.
Typically, the first two items are relatively easy to address. But the final two “sales” made in the franchise sales process are where your ability to support franchisees will become a key part of your messaging.
Why would people buy a franchise with its substantial fees? While people go into business for a variety of reasons—independence, financial rewards or a change of lifestyle—they often choose a franchise because they are afraid they cannot succeed without the help of the franchisor.
How do you offset that fear of franchising? By demonstrating you are going to help the franchisee at every turn. And by demonstrating your commitment to their success.
The second sale
The problem is, virtually every franchisor you compete with will tout the quality of its support. That leaves you in the position of saying exactly the same thing that everyone else is saying —hardly a way to differentiate yourself in a competitive marketplace.
Assuming you do want to use your support as a differentiator, the obvious first step is to create a state-of-the-art support system for your franchisees. Ultimately, you want to be able to respond confidently with, “because you’ll never find anything like this anywhere else” and have the evidence to back it up, even in an industry that is saturated with competition.
Of course, an operations manual is the price of admission into the world of franchising. But while the content of the manual is vitally important, remember the appearance of the manual will be all your candidate will see in the sales process, and it will send an important message in the sales process.
So start by making sure your operations manual looks as if it has been created by professionals. That means modern graphics, appropriate illustrations, relevant photos demonstrating step-by-step processes and professional formatting.
With the basics covered, you should turn your attention to other aspects of your support role. For some, this might come in the form of a formalized training program, perhaps with a dedicated classroom or a mock storefront. For others, it might come in the form of video training which can be housed on an online learning management system that will serve appropriate content not only to the franchisee but to the franchisee’s employees. Perhaps it is an app, a site selection and mapping tool or a franchisee-facing intranet.
The primary motivating factor behind the creation of these tools will be their utility in improving franchisee performance and enhancing their odds of success. But regardless of what tools you choose to develop to support your franchisees, be sure to consider how you can demonstrate the value of these tools to prospects in the sales process.
Delivering the message
When using franchisor support as a sales tool, both the message and the way it is delivered become vitally important. The franchisor must walk the fine line between how difficult the business is to operate as an independent and how rewarding it can be with the right support.
In the process, the franchisor must be cognizant of legal concerns when touting the benefits of the support they provide. And, of course, the manuals and training themselves are confidential and cannot be freely shared with prospects, further complicating the issue.
The first reaction to this might be to simply tout how great your materials are in your marketing materials, but that simply will put you in the same undifferentiated boat with all of your competitors. While franchisee testimonials may help, in order to convince prospects of the superiority of your documents, you should plan to demonstrate just how good they are as a part of the sales process.
Historically, this is where the choreography of a great Discovery Day came in. As a candidate would tour the franchisor’s office, the various people tasked with support would leaf through these support tools and discuss the support provided. And in fact, one of the “selling points” to induce a prospect to attend Discovery Day was the ability to better understand the support provided by the franchisor.
Increasingly, though, the advent of online meeting platforms allows this process to be incorporated into the franchise sales cycle at a much earlier stage. But regardless of how these tools are presented, the franchisor should be sure to incorporate them into their messaging.
Ultimately, when you devote time and resources to developing best-in-class training and support, you’re doing more to improve the odds of franchisee success and ultimately franchisee validation. Done right, you’re also paving the way for new franchisees to see value in your offering and to better understanding how you will work to make them the next successful operator in your network.
Mark Siebert is CEO of franchise consulting firm iFranchise Group. Reach him at 708.957.2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His new book is “Franchise Your Business: The Guide to Employing the Greatest Growth Strategy Ever.”