Are Emotionally Engaged Buyers Really What You Want?

Posted on 13. May, 2010 by in Franchising, Management Philosophy

Is creating an emotional bond or emotional engagement really what you’re after when working with prospective candidates who are interested in your franchise?  If your job function is in franchise sales you’ll probably say “Yes”.  If you’re a CEO you’re likely thinking “No?”.  The nature of the franchisor-franchisee relationship is complex and must begin with a proper alignment of expectations if you want to achieve long-term viability.

By definition, an emotionally charged buyer is someone who makes a buying decision based on feeling rather than rationale and reality.  This creates fertile ground for a misalignment of expectations; the consequences of which are typically dire in franchising.  But why is franchising different?

Well, in scenarios where you may be selling goods and/or services and the buyer and seller are independent of each other once the transaction is complete the consequences are not as severe.

As an example, if I visit a car dealership and see a shiny, new, red, foreign sports car I might envision myself sitting behind the wheel, driving around, and being the center of attention.  It smells new, it looks new, and it handles great.  I could easily romanticize about all the joy this car will bring me, and it’s this type of emotion that will be easily picked up on and played by the car salesman.  Despite the high cost of ownership including the premium gas, insurance, expensive maintenance, not to mention the price tag – I can probably talk myself into buying it.  However, in a few weeks the newness will wear off and I’ll find that nobody was as impressed with it as I thought they would be.  I didn’t achieve all of the joy that I had envisioned that day while standing on the lot and now the reality of the gas, insurance, maintenance, and first loan payment has sunk in.  I still like my car but I can see that my expectations were not realistic due to my emotions.  I rushed the decision a bit, but perhaps I’ll sell it or just leave it in the garage.

The good news for the car dealer is that they aren’t relying on me to drive the car every day or to maintain it.  What I decide to do with the car after the sale is made has no impact on the dealer’s business.  A car dealer wants you to be an emotional buyer.  They want you to create an emotional bond with the car, fall in love with it, romanticize about how great it will be to have it.  Because a rational approach would require studying the total cost of ownership and being realistic about what you’re really getting and therefore you might not buy it.

In a franchising business model the seller (franchisor) is dependent on the buyer (franchisee) after the transaction.  This dependency creates a completely different relationship dynamic than a typical B2B or B2C transaction.  A franchisee who wants to sell their business soon after opening, or one who quickly becomes overwhelmed with the realities of operating a business and underwhelmed with the fruits of owning it is not an optimal situation.  If too many of these misaligned relationships occur during the growth phase of a franchisor’s life cycle the cost of unwinding them, in both financial and human resources, could easily drain the franchisor thus pulling the focus away from new opportunities and setting the sights on extinguishing fires.
The bottom line is that if your franchise sales process is primarily designed to create an emotional engagement with the candidate (especially those who have never owned/operated a business), without doing a thorough job of ensuring that expectations are aligned, then you are most likely setting the stage for long-term failure.  You will win the battle of selling franchises but lose the war of building a sustainable, healthy, franchise system.

Investing the time to create a sales process built around understanding your prospective franchisee’s expectations and criteria, instead of trying to create an emotionally charged buyer, is a step in the right direction toward longer-term success.

As always, I look forward to your feedback and comments.

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