Ready for a rebound: Put technology to work as lead flow returns

franchise lead flow

Speed-to-lead is more important than ever for franchise development

There’s no denying that franchise sales results took a big hit in 2020 because of the pandemic. FranConnect’s 2021 Franchise Sales Index Report revealed that the number of days from inquiry to close rose dramatically, and the total number of deals closed declined 28.8% year-over-year. On average across all industries, the sales cycle time more than doubled. 

However, despite the challenging environment, franchise brands of all sizes continued their recruitment efforts, with many reporting strong results. As North America continues to recover, your franchise sales teams should be ready to operate in “rebound mode.” Some industries are already seeing lead growth, with many that are gearing up to ensure that they are nimble and capable of jumping on opportunities. “Top of mind” is the name of the game, and our metrics prove that whoever is first to the lead wins. Speed-to-Lead is more important than ever for franchise development

According to FranConnect research: 

  • 86% of all franchise deals sold happened when the lead was contacted within four hours of expressing interest. 
  • In 75% of instances, franchise development teams are unable to contact prospects within that four-hour goal. 
  • Nearly 70% of leads never receive a callback. 

If you wish to improve on this goal, begin tracking two metrics: lead-to-booked appointment ratio and no-show rates. Our research shows that 40% of leads who confirm appointments fail to show up for those appointments. Addressing these ratios can be game-changers as you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

High-interest leads have a dramatically higher rate of conversion if they are contacted and engaged within the first 30 minutes of their expression of interest.

Prospective franchisees often contact many potential franchise businesses simultaneously distributed by franchise portals, so the business that connects first has the highest likelihood of converting the lead. In fact, high-interest leads have a dramatically higher rate of conversion if they are contacted and engaged within the first 30 minutes of their expression of interest. At this point your franchise is top-of-mind and the prospective lead is sitting by their phone or laptop. 

How are franchisors doing with this 30-minute gold standard? FranConnect research has shown that only 12.9% of franchisors successfully conduct initial outreach within that first 30 minutes. 

The onus is on you to ascertain why the sales team is unable to contact leads on a timely basis and to immediately put measures in place to improve average response times. One clue as to why this is such a challenge is that in a review of over 1,200 booked appointments, 68% of leads are coming in on nights and weekends.

Fortunately, smart usage of technology and data services offered today can help brands overcome manual workflows and limited insights, which make it hard to effectively qualify, prioritize, and track sales leads. Following are three ideas to keep in mind as you prepare for an influx of leads: 

Maintain consistent engagement

A cornerstone of good sales funnel management is getting the first follow-up step right every time. Respond to leads, implement a consistent qualification process, and develop a positive candidate experience, starting with the first response. Today’s prospects need a multi-channel approach to those initial communications. This is a necessity as we are now in an age where relying on initial contact by phone calls is greatly diminished as they are viewed as being interruptive and disruptive given that your prospect won’t likely recognize your number and your calls can come at inopportune times. Increase the likelihood on those connections through email and text message campaigns, including bitly video introductions imbedded in your emails.

One of the most important things to consider is that it most often takes seven to 10 attempts to finally connect. Most sales people give up way too soon after just two or three attempts to contact.

Consider using technology that will help you automatically engage with franchise candidates from awareness to close with personalized content, dynamic email delivery schedules, and seamless campaign management.

Automate your responses

Your franchise can put conversational AI solutions to work to foster a better buyer experience. More and more sales teams are improving conversions through automated emails and text messages (SMS) that also trigger relevant workflow-based actions where candidates can readily book online appointments. This is critical, as FranConnect data shows that, on average, franchisors are only realizing a lead-to-appointment conversion rate of 7%. 

Start by setting up an automated reply for inbound email inquiries and, better yet, AI-driven “smart bot” scheduling, which have the highest rates of conversion. This same technology can also improve the percentage of kept appointments — given that 40% of those who commit to the first call fail to show. The same technology can confirm that appointment, nurture the lead, and send an auto-reminder the day before and hour before the scheduled initial call. 

You’ll know if you’re a candidate for making the investment if, when regularly reviewing data about when leads flow into your system, you find that a high preponderance are those after-hour inquiries. Alternatively, if a sizable number of calls come in during the evening or on weekends, have staff on hand during these times or employ an answering service to field these calls. This type of attention shows potential buyers that they are valued and sets the standard for the quality of support they will receive if they become a franchisee.

Outsource due diligence

Your team should never have to sacrifice client interactions and relationship building because of tedious administrative duties such as information verification. Securing objective data like verified liquidity, net worth, credit, and a background check is crucial for ensuring that any potential franchise candidate is a serious applicant and will have the wherewithal to open and succeed, but the process can be outsourced so that sales teams can stay focused on building strong connections with the right candidates.

For example, data from BoeFly, a leading marketplace solutions company specializing in financing, found that by using technology to complete due diligence on applicants, leading franchise brands reduced the time from FDD to applicant approval from 62 days to 31 days. Franchisors have fast-tracked their franchise sales process, while also giving the applicant a more friction-free process.

So as 2021 lead generation gains momentum, be sure you’re ready. Using a thoughtful and technology-powered strategy can put your franchise sales process on autopilot and help your team achieve record results.

Previous ArticleNext Article
Keith Gerson is President of Franchise Operations at FranConnect, a recognized leader in franchise management software. For the past decade, he has worked closely with executive boards and leadership teams that are part of the company’s portfolio of more than 800 brands and 150,000 locations, with a focus on helping franchisors achieve their desired goals in sales, operations, and marketing.
Send this to a friend