Fear of the C word. When your franchise buyer can’t commit

Inside Franchise Business: how franchisors should respond to fearful franchise buyersYou’ve put in the hard work. Your franchise business opportunity is an attractive proposition. A killer integrated lead generation strategy has generated genuinely interested parties. It’s all positive, conversations are flowing, we are in the courting stage, we have moved to getting to know about one another, exchanging how the future looks.

Suddenly, we are in a holding pattern, we no longer have engagement, with longer time periods between text threads, returned calls and email communication not being responded to – what’s going on?

Committing to buying a business is huge, perhaps a life-changing moment for many first timers. It won’t be a decision that is made quickly – and nor should it be – due diligence must be taken. However, what happens when the due diligence stage is stalled, and your relationship lead isn’t able to engage the signature on the dotted line despite ongoing interest? Stop, the gut tells you the connectivity has shifted. Stop calling them, stop stalking them, give them breathing space in this life experience.

While they ponder, consider, reflect and process their journey – how about you do the same?  Be mindful, retrace the journey, step back and consider the vital aspects of your strategy: hard work, branding and lead generation.

Your franchise buyer's love affair with the brand

For many of your franchise prospects, their experience with your brand started well before they ever considered business ownership. It may have begun as a customer of the brand or a potential customer.

Perhaps they compared the prices of a gym in your franchise network to those of your competitors. Maybe they eat at a restaurant in your network every other week. Perchance they have simply heard your commercials on the radio or your ads have graced their Facebook and Instagram feed. .

Whatever it was, an impression of your brand and its personality started to form in their mind and no doubt shapes how they see your franchise community.

While franchise networks focus on building a strong, reliable and consistent brand that will appeal to future franchisees, you want prospective franchisees to have an emotional attachment, trust and a desire to be part of your brand. The financials and details are important but if people don’t have a positive impression of your brand, the nuts and bolts are irrelevant.  

Assess your current recruitment processes

If your brand is attractive, you will likely generate some leads based on reputation, but the question is, what processes exist within your business once they make an enquiry. Are those processes assisting the decision-making process or hindering it?

Detailed, accurate and easy-to-read information is essential. If prospective franchisees need to go hunting for details or feel information is incomplete or vague, they may feel like they can’t trust your offer.

It is important to build trust with compelling and complete information that is delivered at the right point of the journey. Consider when your prospects step back from the process. Is it when you provide the fee structure or suggest that they contact existing franchisees? If this is the case, consider providing this earlier to ensure that there is a clear expectation on these matters.

Consider who is building trust with prospective franchisees and at what point in the process different people in the business are introduced. Is this individual personable and able to relate to prospects?

Don’t rush your franchise buyer into making a decision

When you have spent a lot of time with the potential brand partner and the decision-making process seems to have stalled, it can be tempting to try to rush a decision.  

This is not a good outcome for you or the prospect. People will make their decision in a timeframe that is right for them. Stalking people, overloading them with information or applying pressure in sales may leave the prospect overwhelmed and distrusting of your motives.

With a strong brand, a competitive opportunity and structural recruitment process, you shouldn’t need to resort to sales tactics that simply dilute the experience for your prospect. Be your brand’s ambassador but let the prospect be your tour guide.

The key is letting the relationship take its course, build your understanding of your prospect and then focus on the business. Let them guide you on their comfort journey and ensure that you are focusing on engagement, relationship building and opportunity to match the needs of both parties to progress the discussions. Consider if they are seeking external advice, as that may take time, or whether there is additional information you can provide them to help further build trust.

If the franchise buyer is scare to commit, let them go

While it is important to let your prospect guide you in terms of their comfort, you need to remember to put a value on your own time. You don’t want to spend months and months working on a prospect who is just never going to sign.

How do we spot those with a true fear of commitment, compared to a prospect who is perhaps just a little uncertain?

Consider at what point you think you lost them. Identify the triggers of concern for your prospect. Are they concerned about an aspect of the business or is there something they don’t trust? If this is the case, what can be done to give them the information they need to make the decision or the support they need to build trust.

It may be that their reluctance has nothing to do with your brand or business. Is it driven by personal factors such as finances or family responsibilities. In this case, it might be time to consider that they are simply not ready to make a decision and it is best to let them go. Give them time to reflect, process and re-establish their own commitment to business ownership, not just franchise ownership.

Ultimately, any prospect who makes a decision with reservation is likely to end in tears for all stakeholders and may damage your brand or future lead generation.

Tips for getting franchisee commitment

  1. Ensure that you take the prospective on a brand journey; educate the opportunity, rather than simply a sales job for the brand. It is about building trust and open lines of communication.

  2. Nourish their curiosity, lead them to the best learning forums which will help them appreciate the franchise relationship, the business frameworks of excellence and the mind health they require to be the leader not the follower.

  3. Nurture your prospective franchisees to use the right communication to engage with you via email, phone, text, face-to-face meetings, emojis – whatever will best enable clear two-way communication.

  4. Be transparent in all communications, processes and figures.

  5. Strongly recommend your prospective franchisees to seek and take seriously the step of third party advice through lawyers, accountants or other industry professionals. Due diligence is essential.

  6. If you reach the stage where you are simply not making progress and they have gone quiet (perhaps after you have attempted three or four methods of communication, it is a good idea to close the communication with a polite email indicating you will not be contacting them again but you would be happy to be contacted should they like to discuss further.