One of our core services at Sparktank is franchise lead generation. Our mission is to deliver as many quality leads as possible, giving the franchise a great pool of people to select from. But ultimately the goal of any recruitment campaign is to actually close deals with the best of these applicants - and that's where having a strong sales process in place can make all the difference. We decided to ask one of strategic partners to share his expertise on this very topic. Whether you're looking to handle inquiries internally or bring in a franchise sales team, we hope that these tips will help make your campaigns an even bigger success!

MICK RIDDIOUGH: Franchise Sales and Development


Mick has been involved with franchising for over 34 years – since 1984. Throughout his career, he has successfully marketed and sold a wide variety of franchises of all sizes.  In addition, he has built lasting relationships with a wide variety of successful franchise executives, salespeople, marketers and corporate officers.

Mick often speaks to the BIG TIME changes he's seen for franchises both domestic and foreign since 1984.  He states "while franchising, in general, has enjoyed tremendous growth, today's market requires outstanding sales and marketing skills, perhaps more than any time in the franchise industry's history." 


How did you first get into the Franchise industry?

My wife purchased a Decorating Den Interiors (DDI) franchise. She did so well, we then purchased the DDI master franchise for North and South Carolina. In 18 months we awarded and managed 33 unit franchises.  We sold that business, at which point I joined the home office as their Sr. VP for WorldWide Development and helped build the company to 1,400 franchises throughout the US, Canada, and 5 overseas countries. After that, I became an independent franchise development consultant and have worked with 30+ companies over the past 3 decades.

What is the biggest challenge in the franchise sales process?

It is two-fold. The first hurdle is building trust with people inquiring into a franchise. Too many company representatives start "selling" their company, before creating a trusting relationship with the potential candidate. Century 21 had a very famous TV ad that stated, "No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." More franchise companies should adopt that posture when talking with their candidates.

The second hurdle is most companies do NOT make their potential candidates truly QUALIFY to earn the right to be a franchise owner in their system. Instead, they RUSH their candidate through the "qualifying" process, using only "the mirror test" as their selection criterion, i.e., if the candidate can "fog a mirror" when they breath (indicating they are actually alive), they get in.

Tell us about your process for helping franchisors with their franchise sales process.

For 25+ years, we have used a 6-step qualifying process that has worked quite well for over 30 companies. These six steps are:

  • STEP 1: A 45-minute initial phone interview that is "all about the candidate" and very little about the company
  • STEP 2: A 60-minute, PPT-supported 1-on-1 webinar that is "all about the company"
  • STEP 3: A 60+ minute review of the company's FDD (Franchise Disclosure Documents)...the good, the bad, and the ugly
  • STEP 4: A round of "validation phone calls" with 4-5 existing franchisees
  • STEP 5: A full-day Discovery Day held at the home office (preceded by dinner the night before)
  • STEP 6: A thorough review of all candidate info collected at the preceding 5-steps by the company's Review and Selection Committee -- 2 - 3 days AFTER Discovery Day

Of course, there are smaller steps in between these 6-main steps, such as collecting a completed application, pulling credit/background checks, distribution of several sales collateral pieces, etc. We call these "tweeners".

The "magic" of our system is HOW these steps are conducted, i.e. with an attitude of respect while qualifying the candidate constantly.

In your experience working with franchisee prospects, what do you think motivates people and what matters to them when considering a franchise opportunity?

In truth, there are five categories of motivations, i.e. money, independence, security, personal time, and passion for the business itself. It is the job of the salesperson to identify (ON THE FIRST INTERVIEW) the order with which these five factors motivates each individual candidate. ASSUME NOTHING! Every candidate is different, and each "walks to the beat of their own drummer". If the salesperson does not correctly identify the MAIN motivation of each candidate, they will miss the sale every time. That's why the first interview is SO important. The salesperson should have a list of key questions related to each of these five factors that they ask a candidate to assess and prioritize the motivational factors that will keep the candidate moving forward.

What tips do you have for responding to leads in terms of how quickly and how often?

The sales person needs to contact a new inquiry ASAP and certainly within 4 hours of receiving it. "He/She who hesitates loses." I have heard many salespeople say, "I don't want to jump on the inquiry because ...(whatever)" Nothing could be further from the truth. On the initial contact by phone, I recommend ONLY setting the appointment for conducting the first interview. That should be set for within 1 - 2 days. After the first interview is conducted, we recommend scheduling each subsequent step be scheduled about 3 - 4 days apart, allowing a little longer for the validation calls, because it usually takes a little longer to set appointments with the franchisees. Obviously, if the candidate needs a few extra days for work trips or vacations, you allow for these, but make sure you send them a piece of sales collateral every 3 - 4 days while they are absent from your process.

What tips do you have for responding to leads in terms of what medium (phone, email, etc.), what content (i.e. what to talk about on that specific call), and in what order?

We use a 5-step approach to making one initial phone contact with a new inquiry, i.e. phone call-email-phone call-email. If we do not make contact using this combination, then we send a final email and archive the inquiry into a longer email campaign consisting of one emailing (can be anything) every 3 - 4 weeks for 2 months; then an emailing every month for 3 months; then an emailing every 60 - 90 days for 6 months, then an emailing every 6 months forever.

HOWEVER, once we make that initial phone contact, we then go through our 6-step process outlined above at the pace suggested in the previous question. And we do not vary from this process.

The idea is this: if a prospective candidate cannot follow a simple system in our qualifying process, they most likely will not be able/willing to follow the systems within the franchise itself. It is better to learn this before they become a franchisee.

Do you recommend using a presentation? Are there other "tools" to rely on during sales meetings?

As outlined above, we interact with our candidates very frequently. The first interview is not really a is simply a conversation ABOUT THEM.

Our only formal "presentation" is our 2nd step, in which we use a powerpoint to teach the candidate about the key elements of the franchise. But, even here, we like to keep this as conversational as possible. We expect the candidate to respond to questions and make this a two-way street of discussion vs. a lecture. The 3rd step (the FDD review) is close to a presentation per se, but still, we seek feedback from the candidate on each of the 23 items in the FDD table of contents, even if it is "Does that make sense to you?" We work hard to draw questions out of the candidate as much as possible.

Other "tools", besides the powerpoint, include a liberal use of supportive sales collateral: press releases, links to key points on the website, an application, published articles about the company and its leaders, the candidate's personality profile (Zoracle), a credit/background check (great conversation piece), the FDD itself (marvelous sales tool when used right), conversations with franchise owners, territory maps, Discovery Day (a MAJOR, MAJOR "tool"), and individual, personalized short notes when indicated, i.e. how's "Johnny's cold coming along", etc.

In general, we keep this process moving along at a steady pace, with no more than a few days in between steps, and keep it FULL of interactions and communications. The rule of thumb is this: The franchise awarding process is like a tennis match: we (the sales team) hit the ball over the net, and they (the candidate) must hit it back...each and every time. This is a two-way conversation with NO spectators...only participants.

Perhaps one of the BEST sales tools we use is "a sense of humor". If you cannot make your candidate laugh, then s/he "ain't" gonna buy nothin' from you. Why? because laughter is a very important indicator of "trust". No laughter = no trust.

What tools do you use to follow-up, track leads, record communication etc.?

The CRM of your choice. No serious franchise sales program should be without a CRM program, be it a "freebie" from the Internet or a $15K high-end program that has all of the bells and whistles. It does not matter, as long as you use it. This process is simply too complex anymore to try to keep track of all the events and interactions either "in your head" or "using paper and pen." A good CRM does ALL of these things, i.e. remind you to follow-up at designated times, track leads, and allows EVERY SINGLE communication to be recorded in your CRM.  This is a MUST for two reasons: to help you keep track and to document everything you do, in case the person is awarded a franchise and decides to "come after" the company legally later on. Right?

What are the best indicators to gauge how serious a lead is? What do you consider the difference between a cold lead, a warm lead and a hot lead?

This is easy to answer. As long as the candidate does what you suggest, when you suggest it be done, they are serious.

Once they depart from your leading them through YOUR program, you have lost them. The "temperature" of the lead is determined by the degree to which they follow your system. Leadership...not the key here.

Someone reading this will say, "Isn't money the key way to determine a candidate's seriousness?" Yes, but many times, a candidate has access to the necessary funding, but they simply do not want to divulge this early on. Again, a candidate's willingness to discuss financial strength is a test of the trust level you have achieved with them. No trust = little/no discussion of $$$.

As long as you include some degree of conversation about financial strength at each step, including the first step, you will be able to assess their financial capability. You should be collecting financial data as you go through your process...not heavy in the beginning, just a light touch. And, assuming you are using one of the several outside funding companies, such as FranFund, Benetrends, etc., a referral into one of them will help you assess this aspect of the candidate's ability to move forward if accepted.

Again, a better method is to assess their willingness to follow your lead through the process.

What are the advantages of outsourcing sales, and how exactly does it work for the franchisor?

Obviously, we are biased because we have been an outsourced vendor of franchise development services for many years. Our clients like using us because we only "eat what we kill", meaning that if we don't sell anything, the client doesn't pay us, and they can ditch us quickly. All of our agreements have a 30-day "out" clause, meaning that either party can terminate our agreement with 30-days notice with or without cause. No fuss, no muss.

To build an in-house franchise development (sales and marketing) department, a company would need to make a hefty investment and "live with it" for several months, whether it was productive or not.

To build an internal employed sales team of comparable ability/experience, a company would need to hire a mid- to senior-level executive (typically at $100-125K base salary) commission and bonus, 1 - 2 lower level sales people... perhaps at $50 -60K/year...each), pay benefits (health care, vacation, sick leave, retirement [perhaps]) etc.

And, often the company is stuck with this team, whether they produce or not, because of legal or political factors. If the employed team doesn't produce, then the company has to "fire" the existing team and hire a new team. In today's world, this process can be quite cumbersome.

Our clients only pay for the services we provide. We work on straight commission for our franchise sales, and when needed, we provide consultative services (such as lead generation, advising on company structure/personnel, etc.) on a monthly fee for a designated number of months. Our clients like this, because it is clean and understandable. And, as noted above, they have complete control over how long we stay.

What is your favorite/most interesting case study or story you've experienced during your career?

OMG, there are so many. Instead of picking just one, let say this. My "mission" in continuing to award franchises for 30 years is this: I LOVE helping people stand on their own two feet -- financially. Too many people "die with their music still in them". They never let themselves explore business ownership as a career avenue because they are too scared of failure. We work hard to "assess the degree of match between a person and a particular business." When that match works, we take tremendous pride in facilitating the match. We help a LOT of people gain the self-confidence to take that step towards business ownership, and for this, we gain tremendous satisfaction. That's what keeps us going. Eyes are on the candidates and not on ourselves.

What advice would you give a franchisor who is new to the recruitment process?

Pay close attention to what you want. Do NOT get easily swayed by any one method of awarding franchises. Study all three methods, i.e. hiring an internal team, contracting an outsourced vendor, and employing franchise brokers. All three work, depending on the people involved, and what you want.

Probably the biggest mistake I see new franchisors make is to assume that "using brokers" requires no upfront investment. That simply is not true. Why? Because brokers sell nothing. You STILL need to hire an internal sales person to "field" the leads that are referred to you by the brokers. Plus, the broker networks often require you to participate in their sales conferences (1 - 2/year), and your inside sales person will devote a LOT of time to schmoozing with the brokers. And, referral fees can equal your initial franchise fee (IFF), so pay attention.

The key is to assess what you want, decide which of these three approaches to franchise sales makes the most sense for your company, and finally, MAKE SURE YOU SET ASIDE MORE MONEY FOR FRANCHISE DEVELOPMENT THAN YOU HAVE EVER BEEN TOLD. Too often, we get calls from young, emerging companies who simply have insufficient funds to mount an effective franchise sales and marketing program.

Lastly, read (at least a synopsis) of Franchise Update Media's Annual Marketing Survey BEFORE you start marketing. This annual survey studies EVERY ASPECT of franchise marketing and generates REALLY important data, such as:

In 2017, the average cost per franchise sale was $8,500...just for placement alone (not counting any personnel costs), and the average cost per lead that year was $112. And, numbers do not lie. Add up the total investment needed to sell at least 20 units. And, also calculate the franchisor's cost of starting up a new franchise. See if the revenue you generate covers these costs.

A company cannot exist without franchise sales. And attracting the right person to build YOUR franchise is a very rewarding experience. Keep at it.