Whichever franchisor came up with the concept of Discovery Day is an unsung hero in the history of franchise sales. Prospects who might otherwise be scared off by the thought of flying out to meet a high-powered franchise salesperson were put at ease by an event that would help them learn more about the franchisor while the franchisor learned more about them. Many were attracted to the name, which had a wonderfully nonthreatening ring to it.
And soon, franchisors worldwide sold it in just that way. “Bring your spouse, but leave your checkbook at home” was the mantra. But make no mistake: Getting someone to Discovery Day is still a sale -- and perhaps the most difficult one short of the actual close. You're asking your candidate to take a day or more out of their busy schedule, spend time and money to travel to your location, and ideally persuade their spouse to come along.
The purpose of Discovery Day is fourfold. First, the candidate can learn more about you and your franchise. Second, you can further qualify the franchise prospect, both in terms of commitment (by coming to see you) and in terms of getting to know them better. Third, you can get feedback from your management team on the candidate. And finally, you can put your best foot forward and make a good impression on the prospect.
Remember, from a sales perspective, the candidate is (or should be) looking at more than just the franchise concept. Part of what they're buying is you and your team.
The key is building value around the Discovery Day event itself. If the candidate believes Discovery Day is simply a tool to evaluate them, they'll delay deciding whether to attend until they're ready to say yes. If, on the other hand, they believes Discovery Day will help them make an informed decision, they're much more likely to attend earlier in the sales process -- allowing you to put your best foot forward sooner rather than later.
This leads us to a problem I call the “founder’s trap.” Often, a franchise’s founders (or even some salespeople) want to be helpful and answer every question a prospective franchisee has as fully as possible. But the trap in this approach is that it eliminates the need to come in for Discovery Day.
The better alternative is to answer some of the candidate’s questions by pointing out the value they'll get out of Discovery Day, rather than providing a comprehensive answer. You want to sell the strengths of your team and the value of the meeting, so while you might give them a partial answer, be sure they know they'll get a much more detailed understanding when they come in to meet your team and see the concept firsthand.
This sometimes means checking your ego at the door. After all, you are the genius founder of the franchise -- of course you can answer every question candidates might have over the phone. But even if you can answer a question, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Sometimes it’s better to wait and address it in person at the Discovery Day, when you can really sell them on the concept.
It's important to have a well-choreographed process in place for your Discovery Days. While there's no definitive agenda for these meetings, these events will often involve:
A casual dinner the night before where you can get to know the prospect on an informal basis
A tour of one or more operating units (if you have physical locations)
A tour of your home office with introductions to various members of your team
Interviews with team members, during which each side will have the opportunity to ask and answer questions
A PowerPoint presentation outlining the concept, market, support provided, and other aspects of the franchise
A Discovery Day shouldn't simply be a rehash of information you've already shared with the candidate via email, over the phone, or through webinars. If they're making the investment to travel to your office, they should receive additional value that will help them in their decision-making process and overall understanding of the franchise opportunity. This again emphasizes the importance of carefully placing Discovery Day within the overall context of your entire franchise sales process.
At the end of the Discovery Day, you should let the candidate know how the management team felt about the meetings and, of course, ask for an advance. At this point, you should be looking to close, so assuming you're still impressed with the candidate, your parting conversation might sound like this:
“I haven't had a chance to speak to everyone on the team yet, but I think they were all impressed with you. If the team decides to award you a franchise, are you ready to move forward?”
If, on the other hand, you don't want to move forward with the candidate, you'll want to let them down gently. Make sure they know you're not accepting them into the franchise system for their own good—not simply because you dislike them. But do not go into specific reasons for the rejection. Simply tell them something like:
“As much as we like you as a person, our number-one concern here is always that our franchisees succeed. And while you certainly could bring some tremendous skills to the table, the team wasn't sure that your skill set was a good match for our business model.”
While a rejection is always painful for all involved, remember that it's generally in everyone’s best interest.