One of my very good friends, Jerry Ellner, was an outstanding salesperson. It seemed no matter what he was selling, he figured out how to be the best in the world at doing so. He had a secret that was so different and unintuitive that it would likely shock you. Likely, many of you do it now when you are selling your franchise, but you don’t think about it in the way my friend would describe it. Or you do it to a certain degree but don’t maximize it.

Let me tell you about his success at one company he worked for. It wasn’t a franchise, but the principle is still valid. It was a for-profit vocational school. He had been taught to go to schools, make a presentation, then go to the student’s home, meet with them and his or her parents, and sell them on attending the vocational school. 

This approach produced the kind of results you might expect. People needed more time to think about things. My friend had to follow up constantly. He spent a lot of time overcoming objections. And his closing rate was relatively mediocre.


How He Changed His Selling Process

He wasn’t happy and couldn’t possibly make the living that he desired. So he changed the model. He stopped selling and started interviewing. Instead of proving to the student and their parents that his vocational school was a good investment, he had the students and their parents convince him that they were a good fit for the school. And part of his role was to advocate for students that he felt were worthy. Previously, the school would accept any student whose check didn’t bounce. So, he was really breaking the mold.

Everything changed. Instead of him telling the students and parents why they should attend, they told him why they were a good fit. The student was making a commitment to work hard and not let him down. He certainly didn’t close everyone he talked to, because many prospects were legitimately not good fits. But he more than tripled his closing rate and became the number-one salesperson in the country. He would later go on to teach his technique to the entire company. Year after year, he won awards for his success.

My good friend and franchise expert Bob Gappa always says you award franchises, you do not sell them. It’s human nature to want to sell. Yet the act of selling sends a signal to your prospect that they have a salesperson to deal with, not a trusted advisor whose primary concern is the health of the franchise system.


Making the Paradigm Shift Happen

So, how do you make this happen in the real world? To start, you really have to understand which candidates are ideal for your brand. It’s critically important that your brand has the right franchisees. You need to understand what questions you need to ask to determine if they are, in fact, your ideal candidates. 

Your candidate is going to expect you to be selling them, because that’s what everyone else is doing. You need to change the expectations. This does not mean being rude, not returning calls on time, or acting like a prima donna. 

Here are some examples of how to explain your advisor role to a prospect. These approaches are all very different, and you can create your own. I only want to give you different ways that could possibly work for you.

  • “I want you to know my role in the process, and I am a guide to help you understand our franchise opportunity. At the same time, I’m doing an evaluation to determine if you’re a good fit. This is to your benefit because the last thing you want to do is to buy a franchise where you are not the right fit to be successful.” 
  • “I would like you to know up front that we are different than other franchise companies; we do not sell franchises. We award them to the right parties. We know the key to success in franchising is to only work with people that are highly likely to be successful. Because of that, I’m going to be asking you a lot of questions to see if you’re a good fit, as well as answering your questions so you can determine if we’re a good fit for you.”
  • “I want you to know that we are different than other franchisors. We accept less than 1% of the people who express interest in buying our franchise. We do this because we know that our success is dependent on having the right franchisee. Part of my role, in addition to telling you about our franchise, is to evaluate whether or not you will be a good fit. It’s best to know this up front, before you make an investment.”

In addition to this introduction of your role, early on you want to set an expectation of how the company is going to choose whom to award a franchise to. The following is an example.

“I want to give you an insight to how we determine if you are a good fit. Of course, you must have the financial wherewithal, the right experience that demonstrates that you can be successful, and the right kind of personality that works well in a franchise environment. By the way, we will be doing a personality assessment as part of the process. We also evaluate your responsiveness and how seriously you take our recruitment process. I will be only one of many people that need to approve you to move forward.” Clearly stating that you evaluate their responsiveness is going to greatly improve the communication between you and the prospect.

This shift is a big one. After all, it is so natural to want to sell everyone. But when you truly start awarding franchises and stop selling them, you will become the franchise system that people want to become part of.


About Evan Hackel, Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, Podcaster

A 30-year franchise veteran. Evan is the leader behind the launch of three successful franchise businesses. Evan managed a portfolio of franchise brands with systemwide sales surpassing $5 billion in five different countries. Dive into the world of “Ingaged Leadership,” a concept Evan not only coined but passionately advocates for. For the budding minds, his illuminating book, Ingaging Leadership Meets the Younger Generation, bridges the generational leadership divide. Recognized and revered in leadership circles, Evan’s insights have positioned him as a trailblazer in leadership and success.

Evan is the CEO of Ingage Consulting, a leading franchise consulting firm focusing on growing franchise systems. Reach Evan at (781) 820-7609 or