An Inexperienced Health Club Sales Staff and Their Seven Most Common Mistakes

The heart of true customer service is a commitment to deliver your members and prospects the most professional sales and service possible. But, there are some pitfalls. In working with many health clubs across the country, we find many facilities with new or inexperienced salespeople, which may or may not include the front desk staff serving as salespeople.

We recently completed a study for a health club that was struggling with its newly hired membership sales reps. As you read our findings, think about your team stacks up:

  1. Thinking small. Want bigger sales? Think bigger. Ask these questions: “How high is high?” and “What is my maximum potential?” Over and over I see the new or inexperienced salespeople only selling the lowest price membership the club has to offer. 
  1. Lack of preparation. There is an old saying: “Success happens when opportunity meets preparedness!” We find that too many health club owners are just throwing new sales reps in the fire with little or no training.  I asked one sales rep to see her price presentation sheet and she informed me that she just writes the membership prices on a back of a piece of paper. Not exactly a prepared recipe for success. 
  1. Failing to establish and/or maintain rapport. All too often the new sales reps just dives in for the sale. The key here is to talk about something you may have in common, be respectful, do some fact finding on the prospect’s goals and why they are important – and THEN move toward the sales message. 
  1. Failing to really commit and establish themselves as experts in their field. Again, this is about preparedness. Naturally, you wouldn’t throw someone into sales for your club who knows nothing about fitness. Even a person who knows a limited amount, though, can be bolstered with information so as to exude confidence when talking about the club. 
  1. Not listening. 90% of salespeople never listen, and are doomed to ineffectiveness. This one is a biggie, particularly when we’re rushed or feeling pressure. When new sales reps do nothing but talk, talk, talk, they most certainly will never find out much about the health club guest. Feature-dumping will only encourage the guest to check out other clubs. 
  1. Failing to ask for the order. This may be hard to believe, but only 70% of all health club sales folks NEVER ask for the membership sale. Do yours?  Such phrases as How does that sound…What do you think…Do you have any questions, don’t count.  This isn’t asking for the sale.  Asking for the sale requires decent boldness: “Let’s get you started today, Mr. Smith.” (Then be quiet). 
  1. Poor or no follow up. Follow up and follow through truly sets the great salespeople apart from the mediocre ones. The ongoing responsibility of the health club owner is to continually come up with new reasons for the sales rep to call back previous club The club needs to have a plan to continually reintroduce the sales rep with the non member. 

So, how do you and your team stack up? How can you help them make the changes they need to become a professional salesperson and provide value-added service?

Ask yourself how you fare on each of these areas. Would you give yourself a passing mark? Which ones would need a little work? How will you change to make sure you give your customers the most professional service possible?

Give your team a chance to win by reminding them of these success tactics. Remind them to keep focused and keep working toward their goals of helping the client make a decision that is good for the client and profitable for the company.

Should you invest in Sales Training for your Health Club Staff?

Health Club sales training is a must for any fitness facility wishing to secure a competitive advantage in their marketplace. This has always been important, but it’s even more important now than ever.

The ability to sell memberships, personal training, etc. is fundamental to success in the fitness business and the full effort of the sales team is essential. The health club sales team brings in the revenue that writes the check of everybody in the gym from the administrative staff to the cleaning crew to the owner.  Unless a health club can generate membership sales there is no revenue and there is no business.

The only thing worse than training your health club membership sales staff and having them leave….is NOT training your membership staff and having them stay.

Here are some thoughts why health clubs and gyms should consider investing in regular sales training:

  • Improve membership sales and productivity:  Just a 10% increase in the membership sales of one membership rep would offer a quick return on investment. 
  • Gain a competitive advantage over other health clubs: Many fitness facilities do not properly train their membership sales team. Health clubs and gyms that train and invest in their employees are also strengthening their own competitive position. A competitive advantage could mean the difference between success, survival or disappearance. New sales ideas and strategies learned from a proven health club sales training program give your fitness facility a strong advantage against other gyms in your area…even a slight advantage can make all the difference in that next membership sale. 
  • Increase employee satisfaction and staff retention: Everybody wants to feel good in their jobs. Health club sales training develops the abilities of membership sales personnel and encourages them to use their natural talents and abilities in the membership sales process. This helps to establish better relationships with guests and members. 
  • Confident membership sales staff: Confidence is a must when it comes to health club sales. A confident membership sales rep feels good about what they do, speaks with authority about the fitness facilities services and products and transfers the same confidence to guests and members. This confidence is crucial in making membership sales and in getting guests and members to join your health club. 
  • New creative ideas and inspiration: Implementing the new ideas and strategies learned in health club sales training makes selling memberships more exciting and simplifies the process. Working in fitness sales should be fun as well as providing an exciting daily challenge and opportunity. The idea is to create an atmosphere that allows a motivated person to act. Health Club sales training will help to do this. 
  • Motivated membership sales team: Membership sales reps are always more motivated when they can see a positive outcome as a result of their actions. This combination of confidence and motivation is a very powerful mixture in any health club situation. 

Health club membership sales reps that have the motivation and confidence in themselves will sign up new members who are not only satisfied members but members who will also refer their friends.  We all know that there is no better way of marketing your health club than word of mouth advertising. We instinctively have more confidence in a fitness facility when it has been recommended by somebody we know. This is particularly the case where the health club we are selling is a more expensive one.  For those of you competing against lower-priced competition, this can be the difference-maker.

Now, go get some health club sales training!

Outlast, Outsell and Outsmart Your Health Club Competition

As the competition of more new clubs continues to grow, there isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t consider competitive marketing and salesmanship as top priorities.

Your greatest achievement as a health club owner lies in trumping the fitness competition in the area of expanding membership sales. Here are some thoughts on accomplishing that expansion:

  1. Know your competition. It’s essential to understand all you can about the other clubs in your area. If you don’t already have copies of your competitors’ advertising and brochures and can’t recite their key selling points and messages, now is the time to make it happen. Otherwise, how can you hope to successfully position against those clubs?

  1. Capitalize on your specialty. Once you know everything possible about your primary competitors, you can identify an offering of your health club that’s unique or special. Take a long, hard look at the current programs in your health club. If necessary, alter your classes or services themselves, bundle in additional features or find a way to deliver a similar core programming or service in a way that uniquely meets the needs of your members. Then, build your marketing campaigns around this central specialty theme.

  1. Tackle new audiences. If you’ve reached the maximum market share of a particular member niche, why not try a new one? You may be able to add variations of your product (also known as line extensions) that will stimulate sales from a whole new set of customers. You can also launch a new media campaign targeting ethnic audiences or a different age group, who may embrace your product or service with a minimum amount of alteration.

  1. Offer more bang for the buck. Some product and service providers traditionally compete based on discount pricing, but for many other types of businesses, cutting prices is often detrimental and sends the wrong message. The concept of “value” is, well, valuable. If you offer a service, for example, and charge the same rates as your chief competitors, cutting your prices may make you look suspiciously cheap and inspire customers to wonder what’s “wrong” with your club or the services it provides. A better idea is to offer something of additional value that your customers will find tempting.

  1. Add a sales channel. Are you presently selling via one channel alone, such as exclusively through a brick-and-mortar store or by catalog only? Adding another channel, such as online sales, gives your customers more choices and allows them to shop more often and at their convenience. (It’s likely that most of your competitors offer sales through multiple channels too.) What’s more, studies show that customers who shop through more than one channel will spend more (often as much as three times more) than customers who shop through one channel alone.

  1. Dial in to your members. You have to understand what your customers want if you want to remain highly competitive. Unfortunately, your customers’ needs and preferences sometimes change on a dime, so you should have systems in place to regularly solicit their feedback. As a club owner, you’re in the enviable position of being closer to your customers than some of your big-business competitors. You may know many of your customers or clients by name and even have the advantage of being able to contact them periodically to check in. To take it a step further, be sure to initiate regular surveys as well as solicit ongoing feedback via your website.

  1. Ask for the sale.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but the reality is complacency is the enemy of small-business success. If you’re not continually asking your best prospects and customers for their business, you can be sure your competitors are. Set up and monitor an ongoing marketing program that reaches out to your former customers and new prospects year-round. The key to success is to have a consistent marketing message and select a mix of media and tactics (email marketing, direct mail and social media, for example) that “touch” prospects and customers with sufficient frequency. This will help you drive your message home and stand out from your toughest competitors.

How to Reverse Decline and Restore Stability to your Health Club, Fitness Center or Gym

Several years ago, I received a call from a gym owner with several facilities. He called me in despair. He knew that his gym was failing because membership sales had been declining steadily.

The club owner had just received a major wake-up call. In addition to the loss of some long-term key personnel, his business has just lost a major corporate account that made up a significant part of his overall sales.

Fortunately, he had some good cash reserves. From our conversation and initial evaluation of the gym, it was clear the gym could be saved. The cash reserves would give us enough time to fix the business.

I explained the drastic action that we would need to take in order to save his gym business. It was too much, too quick and too much heartache for him. (Significant layoffs of club staff were going to be required.)

He decided not to retain our services. He looked for a miracle and hoped everything would work out in the end.

Unfortunately, he was wrong.

Approximately 4 months later, the gym owner called me again and he was very down as he spoke on the phone. Membership sales had continued to decline (which caused other sales to decline), long term members and key staff had left the club and he was now almost out of cash. He was literally down to his last $1,000 with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

His gym chances for survival were gone. Within a week of his last call, he closed his business. Even worse, his home backed-up the personal guarantee on his business loan.

The saddest part of this story is the gym owner sent me an email a few weeks later. He knew that he could have avoided all of this if he had acted sooner…back when we first spoke. By failing to act quickly, he had lost his gym, his livelihood and his home.

Do not become paralyzed and fall in the trap of hoping for a miracle. You need to take immediate action to get a handle on your existing circumstances and get your business turned around.

Are You a Candidate for a Gym Turnaround?

Conducting a gym turnaround is all about reversing a gym’s decline and restoring stability to the business of the gym. There are some key factors that will help determine if your gym is a good candidate for a successful turnaround. Here are some questions you should ask yourself?

1. Is your gym still a viable business? If you were going to open this club today…what would you need to know to make an informed decision?

2. Is there still enough time left to get this done? Are there any hard deadlines looming that could stop you in your tracks?

3. Is there enough available cash to get this done? If your cash flow is good enough, many times you can use a simple float to get it done, if not, you will need outside funding.

4. Do you have a clear vision on how your gym should operate? Have you done this before? Do you know how this should look?

5. Do you have the proper management team and leadership in place? Are your key people truly committed to the success of the gym?

6. Do you have the confidence and belief of your stakeholders? Of course, your stakeholders will see you as the person who got them into this mess. You will need to win these folks over…again.

7. Do you have a structured and proven approach to get out of this mess? Go with what’s known and proven…no guesswork here.

Key Steps for the Gym Turnaround

 The first step is critical. You must recognize the need. Most gym owners wait until it’s too late. If you have a problem…face up to it now! Speaking from my consulting experience, don’t wait to admit the need until the patient is on the operating table. The longer you avoid what’s happening, the worse it will get and the more difficult the turnaround becomes.

 You must get an immediate grip on your finances. Only pay what will keep you in business. Everything else can wait.

 Next, you must take an objective look at your situation and develop short term and long term priorities. Don’t let emotion rule your decision making. Be willing to make the difficult decision.

 You will need to determine what has caused the underperformance. If you don’t know why this happened, you are doomed to repeat the mistake. Be sure and re-establish discipline.

 Establish a marketing plan and get the entire management team on board for the planned objectives. Do your research. Now is not the time to be testing new marketing ideas. Go with what’s proven.

 You will need supplier and vendor support to ensure your plan can happen. Don’t ignore these folks. Meet with each of them and let them know your situation and your intentions. The key here is good communication.

 You need to become an expert at health club management, particularly sales management. Start surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are at what you are asking them to do. Get your system in place. Assume nothing.

 Keep everyone involved in the process. Communicate, don’t keep anyone guessing. Communication is the key to most anything, but it’s the foundation when trying to keep everyone on the same page during a gym turnaround.

 Manage the process. Let people know what needs to be done and why. Then follow up. Train. Train. Train.

 Know your numbers. Don’t let the process of change distract you from the need to manage your gym. Track everything that is done in your gym just like you normally would.

 Manage with a cautious optimism. Know the risks moving forward and be prepared to deal with them. There are many elements that can stall your turnaround progress. Make a list of these potential setbacks and then a have plan if this were to happen.

 Keep your foot on the accelerator. Don’t let up. Ever. Don’t take success for granted. It’s hard work. Be on the lookout for success apathy.

Benefits of Turning your Gym Around

• You will save your investment and that of your investors.
• You can keep your well-paying job.
• You will get rid of any criticism that you have been receiving.
• You can continue to have the good things in life, such as a big house, vacations and a college fund for your children.
• You will give your gym a fresh start.
• You will increase the cash flow, the profitability and productivity of your gym.
• You will gain valuable experience that will keep you from trouble again.
• You will be able to sleep well at night.
• You will save many of your employee’s jobs.
• You will be a hero to your family, your board, your investors and your employees.
• And most importantly, you will have the personal satisfaction of knowing that you saved your business.

Learning Experience

The difference between winners and losers is that winners take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes. This will be your key to bouncing back and taking the necessary steps forward. High achievement usually only comes after having a failure.

With this done, put the past behind you. Nothing good comes from lingering on the past. You need to look forward and figure out how to save your gym business.

In the end, you and your gym will survive. You will save many jobs and increase your investors’ stake in your business. Most importantly, you will have revived an important business for your community.

The key to getting out of your rut and moving forward is having very specific and defined goals. Your key goal now is to fix your gym. However, you must balance this goal with compassion since your goal will affect many lives negatively.

In addition, you must make time for family and friends and all that’s important to you.

This will give you the strength to go into the gym the next day and continue the honorable work of saving your business.

You must start immediately to give your gym its best chance to survive.

Now, go turn around your gym!

The Prejudging Predicament for Health Clubs in January

There’s a direct correlation between health club sales experience and prejudging the membership sale in a health club. The more health club sales and prospecting experience you have the greater the tendency to prejudge your members and club prospects.

January is around the corner. It will soon be the busiest time of the year for health club sales traffic. This could mean more membership sales for your health club. It could mean a lost opportunity…if you start to prejudge your club guests.

Workouts will be up. Guest traffic will be up. Phones will be ringing. There will be lots of activity. It’s that time of year. But success is guaranteed to no one.

Years ago, when I was first learning the health club business, I remember sitting in a manager’s meeting and being told “to only work with those who are interested.” I remember immediately saying, “that’s prejudging.” And it is.

Here’s the rule: 1) have a winning attitude, 2) work hard, and 3) follow a proven system

Just because it’s January…Just because you’re busy… Don’t start to cut corners and don’t prejudge.

Do not put labels on prospects. “Most people don’t have the money . . .”

Don’t assume you know anything about your guest if you haven’t ask any questions.

Don’t assume your members and guests all have similar needs i.e. to save money and time.

Here’s the pure definition of prejudging….thinking you know what the outcome will be before you even start.

From a member or guests perspective, imagine how they feel when you jump to conclusions about their fitness objectives, personal challenges, and concerns.

Instead of assuming all health club members and prospects are similar… find out what makes them different. Asking questions uncovers more than basic needs, it reveals what is unique about the different people you meet each day in your health club. Once you know what’s unique you can zero in on what’s best for them based on what they said, not what you assumed. Get the picture?

Avoid prejudging – Goals, desires, budgets, priorities, problems, challenges, decision criteria, decision process

Making assumptions only makes you look and sound pathetic.

Asking provocative questions makes you look and sound professional. If you’re asking really good questions – you should hear your members and prospects say “That’s a good question.” If you’re not hearing that compliment often it means you’re not asking really good questions.

No matter how busy your health is in January, remember the key steps to a successful health club presentation:

1. Get your guest to register in (you’ll have plenty of follow up in January)

2. Pre-qualification. Don’t find yourself rushed and trying to do this at the front desk. Find an area of the club that is quiet, comfortable and where you can sit down with your guest.

3. Qualify. Use a Needs Analysis Sheet or Lifestyle Fitness Questionnaire. No matter how busy you might become, this will allow you to stay on course and be sure you are asking the right questions. It’s the professional thing to do. Plus it works.

4. Tour. Don’t just go on auto pilot on the tour. I know you’ll be busy, but be sure and treat each guest like it’s the only one you’ll have that day. Don’t simply point out the machines and facilities…tie it back in to their goals, what they want to accomplish and the benefits they can receive.

5. Membership presentation. Don’t just show prices. It will be tempting. Take the time to offer a professional presentation. Do a review. Show your standard membership rates. Give them a reason to get started today (other than simply a price discount). Show your rates with the savings and with plenty of decent boldness…ask them to buy.

6. Overcome objections. Most prospects won’t say yes right away. Be prepared to answer their questions and concerns. Continually go back to the benefits and results they can receive by getting started now.

7. Point of sale referral process. Don’t use the excuse that you were too busy to get referrals. This is where your next sale will come from.

When you prejudge, you misjudge.

Now, go have a record breaking January.

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