There are many misconceptions about the first year of franchising. One of the biggest is by opting to franchise you can fast-track sales. This isn’t necessarily true.
Yes, by opting to franchise you can certainly save yourself a great deal of time in the beginning – after all, you don’t need to develop the product, content, market and/ or materials from scratch. However, a franchise is still a business – the pitfalls and challenges in the first year are the same as any other company. Starting and scaling a successful franchise takes a lot of hard work and can still be a big risk.
Having a product/ service nailed is certainly advantageous and means that the company has a good grounding, but there is a huge scope for error when it comes to developing and sticking to a sales plan. The fact is that sales skills are not innate, and many new franchisees don’t come from a sales background so they just don’t know where to start.
This lack of sales experience is compounded by the fact that for many business leaders ‘sales’ can feel a little bit like a dirty word. This ridiculous notion is engrained from an early age; if you asked the average student studying a business degree about their career hopes, you could be pretty much guaranteed that they would say accounting, HR, marketing and project management before sales.
Last year we commissioned a 1,000 business respondent survey by Censuswide to understand this issue in sales. Nearly a third (31.1%) of UK managers believe that sales shame is negatively impacting their business growth – plus over a quarter (27%) of UK managers also believe that this sales shame is holding back the UK economy.
As a new business leader you’ll quickly realise that sales is the most important business division and that all that time spent avoiding it was in vain. Start off on the right foot by revering sales and having it as the lifeblood of your company – map every type of customer journey you want to develop, proactive and reactive, with a clear sales mindset.
It’s also crucial to have a well defined sales plan. There are two common mistakes that business owners make with putting plans together – they overestimate what they can do in the short-term and play down the long-term ambitions. This puts too much pressure on the business leader in the beginning, and also stops them from stretching to reach their potential.
The second mistake is to revolve plans around financial targets. Many business owners only set monetary goals based on turnover or sales, which is why they are rarely successful. It is important to ask ‘why’ you have set these goals, as the turnover/ sales are just an enabler to make the real goal happen. When a goal has an emotional connection it becomes more personal so you are much more motivated to make it happen – such as taking a holiday, having an experience, having more time with family and friends.
As well as targets, it’s also paramount to track activities to see what has worked best, such as what time to call, what communications methods work, and then repeat the successes. This can also be complemented by weekly and monthly activities, where the sales process is broken up into bite-sized chunks, such as calls, meetings etc. – all enabling you to hold yourself accountable and take pride in progress.
Remember, actual sales figures are an indication of what has happened not what is going to happen. Put in place the right leading indicators, such as new accounts have opened, new contacts, new markets, new meetings etc., so that you get early notification of whether adjustments need to be made and which sales behaviours need to be repeated (or avoided).
Lastly, one of the biggest things you’ll need to learn in the first year is how to say ‘no.’ You’ll get used to hearing it, but you’ll find it hard to give it back. The fact is that your product/ service won’t be right for everyone. If a prospect isn’t sure or giving unrealistic demands then stringing it along is a false economy. No one buying from you is doing it as a ‘favour’ – they are doing it because it’s a partnership and you are adding value to their business. Its best to find out early if a prospect isn’t right so you can nip it in the bud and save your most precious resource in the first year – your time.
By Shaun Thomson, CEO, Sandler Training in the UK