Balancing the Sales Approach
Source: Franchising World (p52-54)
How the inside sales team at Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions provides new franchisees a distinct advantage.
The franchise business model is more nuanced for business-to-business concepts and it can take years to evolve a brand to a certain level of success.
We’ve built a strong system at Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions, and our franchisees will echo this because we provide deep corporate inside sales support. This can allow new franchisees to begin business with three to five clients already providing revenue during the first weeks of operations and allow existing owners to accelerate growth. Here are some lessons we’ve discovered on our journey.
In North America, Filta’s primary service is active fryer management to make commercial kitchen safer, more efficient and environmentally sustainable by micro-filtering existing cooking oil, providing bin-free waste oil collection, deep cleaning fryers and recycling waste oil into bio-diesel fuel. Think of our service as dialysis for cooking oil, with significant advantages of increased convenience, vastly improved kitchen safety and environmental sustainability.
We began in the U.K. in 1996 when founder Jason Sayers had a friend who was terribly burned in a restaurant cooking oil accident. He couldn’t believe there wasn’t a better, safer way to clean or dispose of used, hot oil than emptying it into a bucket on the kitchen floor. After several iterations, Sayers worked with a company experienced in filtering oils in harsh environments to engineer our proprietary mobile filtration unit (MFU). This exponentially increased kitchen safety and convenience while extending cooking oil’s life and eliminating the need for employees to handle hot grease.
FULFILL A NEED
In 2002, Sayers and his partner Victor Clewes brought Filta to the U.S., and they were confident they would be successful because of sheer market size and, frankly, the country’s love of fried food. Today, our network of nearly 150 franchisees services almost 7,500 restaurants an commercial kitchens monthly across the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, some of our largest clients include institutional kitchens inside casinos, universities, hospitals, groceries, business facilities and collegiate and professional sports stadiums, including 21 of 30 Major League Baseball parks.
We recognized early that our franchise owners believed in our concept and cared for their customers, but they didn’t always have time to promote and actively sell the Filta service. Also, not everyone is a natural born salesperson or comfortable with the traditional sales process.
PLAN YOUR APPROACH
From our U.S. launch until approximately 2012, Filta’s internal team helped franchisees, especially new ones, with limited sales support. We trained them and then had one telemarket at headquarters, who, along with a trusty script, was responsible for making as many sales calls as they could daily. It was definitely quantity over quality to get that coveted “demonstration” and provide a franchisee a foot in the door.
The trouble with just getting a franchisee into a kitchen was that we didn’t know the restaurant’s business. We didn’t know what or how they cooked, their culture or how the kitchen operated. If the franchisee had the bad luck to arrive when the oil had just been changed, well, obviously demonstrating our micro-filtration service would be far less remarkable than filtering oil at mid-life.
Then, we’d have to make 100 calls to hopefully get a handful of demonstrations. Once booked, we crossed our fingers and hoped the oil was at the right stage and a deal could be closed on the spot, putting undue pressure on both the Filta franchisee and the potential customer. We knew we wanted to make customers for life, lower the growth barriers for franchisees and share our story in a less-pressurized environment, so we changed our strategy.
PREPARE TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS
We ultimately broke down the process and purposely developed a longer, more relational sales cycle. We developed a team of four Inside Sales Representatives (ISRs) and additional dedicated executives responsible to call on both large national accounts as well as smaller independent restaurants and commercial kitchens.
Rob Totten, our vice president of business development, oversees the inside sales team and has been on board since 2012. He has honed a process that, while necessitating a longer sales cycle, has borne fruit by increasing closing conversations five-fold and facilitating year-over-year revenue in the double digits. Today, corporate sales and brand education is ingrained in our culture. Sales in now part of the franchise marketing fund, so owners have far more access to this expertise and work.
“We used to have one shot at converting a potential client with that demonstration set up by our telemarketer,” Totten said. “Today, our ISR team still sets up a site evaluation with our proprietary micro-filtration service demonstration, but the kicker is we do this only after our franchisee makes about a week’s worth of visits gathering information.”
SALES QUALITY OVER PITCH QUANTITY
Totten said this allows Filta to see what’s going on before cleaning the oil. Different times of day, different days of the week and different foods all impact the benefit a prospect will see during Filta’s demonstration.
The change slowed down the sales process, but it let us gather valuable data, learn a prospect’s real needs and wants, build rapport and develop proposals that provide tangible benefits. This new process – the Site Evaluation Sales Method – increased our sales closing rate from less than 10 percent to about 50 percent for our franchisee network.
Additionally, and some could argue more importantly, we have fundamentally altered the way we support franchisees.
“When you say the words ‘sales call,’ most franchisees get that deer-in-the-headlights stare, a fear I completely understand,” Totten said. “So the way our ISRs work now makes the process more relationship and education-based by taking time to help them build a connection with the kitchen staff. It becomes more of a soft sell and translates into somewhat of an assumptive close, thanks to the longer sales cycle.”
TEACH A MAN TO FISH
Spending additional time on the front end pays off because we make years-long customers. We support all franchisees, but especially new ones, with classroom and field training business development and help them define what success looks like.
We foster leads and track them in Symphony, our customer CRM that has been uniquely tweaked and developed for our specific needs. With robust education and business development know-how, we help franchisees establish operational stability while servicing real clients on day one. Activating built-in customer relationships already established in their territory allows franchisees to focus on a field-based site evaluation sales approach while corporate supports them with national client opportunities.
“When a franchisee can drill down from our national contacts to develop business relationships locally, that’s when we see real success and expansion. It’s not long after that we see a franchisee staffing up, adding vans and expanding territory,” Totten added. “instead of just giving them a fish, we teach them how to fish.”
Tom Dunn, COO, Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions, is a 20-year veteran of franchising who leads all Filta franchise initiatives in the U.S.
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