Shaun Thomson, CEO of Sandler Training in the UK, shows you how to develop one in your first year as a franchisee
One of the biggest misconceptions about franchising is that the first year will be easy. After all, you don’t need to develop the product, content, market and/or materials. You’ve chosen franchising so that you can hit the ground running, rather than going through the pain of starting a business from scratch.
As a franchisor myself, I don’t want to do my sector a disservice by saying that franchising isn’t a great way to enter a market, but nothing in life is ever easy.
A franchise business is still a business. You will undoubtedly have a head start and better grounding by opting to start a franchise, but the pitfalls and challenges in the first year are the same as any other company.
Selling is not innate
Last year we asked 2,000 small business owners about the biggest mistakes they made in the early days of running their companies.
86 per cent of respondents admitted to making mistakes in their first year. When asked to reveal their biggest mistake, the top one 32 per cent of small business owners made was not getting the product/service right, followed by not setting and sticking to a sales plan (23 per cent), pricing their product/service too low (15 per cent) and recruiting too early (12 per cent).
Think about this from a franchising perspective. You should have the product/service nailed, but there’s huge scope for error when it comes to developing and sticking to a sales plan.
Business growth is dependent on four pillars of business - skills, structure, strategy and staff. Knowledge of these is not innate and often a business founder lacks experience across many of these pillars. The most notable lack of skills is normally in sales.
Developing a sales mindset
For many business leaders, ‘sales’ can feel a little bit like a dirty word.
This misconception 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 they would say accounting, HR, marketing and project management before sales.
Last month we commissioned a 1,000 business respondent survey by Censuswide to understand this issue in sales.
31 per cent of UK managers believe that ‘sales shame’ is negatively impacting their business growth, while 27 per cent 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.
Putting a plan together
There are two common mistakes business owners make when putting plans together.
Firstly, they overestimate what they can do in the short-term and play down 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’s 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 or spending more time with family and friends.
Learning to love metrics
As well as targets, it’s paramount to track activities to see what has worked best, such as what time to call and what communication 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 bitesized 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 opened, new contacts, new markets and new meetings, so that you get early notification of whether adjustments need to be made and which sales behaviours need to be repeated or avoided.
Not falling for free consulting
One of the biggest scourges of sales is ‘free consulting’. This happens because the business leader thinks success is proportional to the information they give out. The opposite is actually true. The most important technique to learn is ‘listening’ - getting a clear understanding of what the prospect needs and what issues they’re facing. Only when you understand this can you start to discuss how your company can address it.
People are programmed to resist aggressive sales techniques, which is why they need to discover for themselves why they should buy from you.
Use third party stories of businesses that were also in their position. By looking at the issues from the prospect’s perspective, you’ll demonstrate empathy and prove you care about the issues you’re solving, not just how much you’re selling.
N-O spells success
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 say it back.
The fact is your product or service won’t be right for everyone. If a prospect isn’t sure or is making unrealistic demands, stringing it along is a false economy.
No one buying from you is doing it as a favour - they’re doing it because it’s a partnership and you’re adding value to their business.
Its best to find out early on if a prospect isn’t right, so you can nip it in the bud and save your most precious resource in the first year of trading - time.