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 work with 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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.
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!
New fitness industry job website benefits both employers and job seekers.
Dallas, TX – October 16, 2013 – Fitness Management & Consulting announced today the launch of its new web site at www.fmconsulting.net/myfitnesscareer for job seekers and employers in the fitness industry. The new web site is designed to provide job seekers and employers from all fitness verticals with tools and resources they need to build their business, career, or both.
While working with club owners and fitness experts through the years, it became evident to Jim Thomas, president of Fitness Management & Consulting, that the uniqueness of the fitness industry did not lend itself to traditional staffing outlets such as Monster or CareerBuilder.com. “Our new MyFitnessCareer job site offers all fitness verticals additional resources to find the right employees as well as helps the job seekers search out the ideal career opportunity,” states Thomas.
Personal trainers, fitness teachers, gym managers, and sales consultants can post their profiles and submit their resumes for free on the site. Club owners and other employers looking for experienced fitness personnel can post job listings for $35.00 for 90 days.
Fitness Management & Consulting offers several programs to health clubs, fitness centers, gyms and other fitness verticals to help expand their market bases and keep the facilities productive and profitable. “Now,” says Thomas, “We’re excited to deliver the MyFitnessCareer site to the fitness industry to address needs at many levels. It’s an ideal complement to our health club consulting services, while offering career opportunities.”
About Jim Thomas’ Fitness Management & Consulting
Fitness Management & Consulting is a firm specializing in health club business consulting, turnarounds, new club start ups without franchisee fees, and sales training. Its founder, Jim Thomas, has over 25 years experience in all aspects of health club sales, club ownership and management. Fitness Management & Consulting is a privately held company based in Dallas, Texas. For more information on Fitness Management & Consulting, please visitwww.fmconsulting.net.
Fitness Management & Consulting
After having interviewed thousands of potential salespeople over the years on behalf of client clubs…and after having hired and helped to supervise many of them…and after having trained them and worked beside them, I have found there are certain qualities that every star health club salesperson possesses.
One of the secrets is…don’t be tricked by what they know relative to fitness or the health club industry, and don’t be blinded by how they look. Instead, concentrate on who they are. Here you go:
1. Will they do the right thing when no one is watching? Do they have integrity?
Members and guests appreciate and want to deal with honest people. Fast talkers will come and go. Hard closers will get some sales, but will create some ill will… experts in fitness will help us understand, but the thing that draws us to do business with a person, more than anything else, is that person’s integrity. We know that we will be dealt with fairly and honestly.
2. Do they have a high energy level? Are they a self starter? What kind of work ethic do they have?
Whether we like it or not, it is still true, to a large degree, sales, in the health club business, is a numbers game. Every health club sales person must talk to a certain number of people in order to sell one.
So, the element of volume is very important to a successful health club sales person. Given two salespeople of equal skills, experience, intelligence, product knowledge, etc., the one who works the hardest will be more successful.
There is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes, the difference between one sales person being successful and another being unsuccessful comes down to quantity of sales efforts.
3. Are they coachable? Do they have the ability to learn?
I’m not talking about the kind of knowledge that you get in school. For the successful health club salesperson, the ability to learn means the ability to evaluate a situation, and then to modify or make adjustments in the way they do things as a result. Can they think quickly on their feet?
In today’s health club environment, there are a number of areas in which a good salesperson must continually be inquiring, learning, and changing their behavior.
The first of these…are their personal sales skills. Health Club sales is an area of endeavor where a person is never as good as they could be. There is always some skill that can be learned or improved upon. The successful health club salesperson never considers themselves to have arrived, but is constantly looking for ways to refine and improve their sales skills. It’s a continuous learning process.
The health club salesperson must learn how to change their behavior to meet the needs, drives, and personalities of the club guests and members. The successful health club salesperson is a chameleon. They change their behavior and, to some extent, their personality, to meet the ways in which different guests and members need for them to behave.
4. Do they have the ability to build positive relationships? Do they have a winning attitude?
The successful health club salesperson is the individual who can quickly build trusting relationships with all sorts of people in the community and inside the club. That requires empathy, the ability to listen, perceptiveness, and the ability to mold themselves into the kind of person the prospect and club member needs.
Those are relationship-building skills. And the most successful health club salespeople are relationship builders.
5. Do they have a self-image of success? Do they see themselves capturing every sale?
People tend to live up to their image of themselves. We all understand that.
Every one of us can think of people in our own lives who have lots of ability and potential, but who never live up to that potential because of their poor self-image.
Somewhere, they developed a poor self-image, and began to think of themselves as incompetent, unable, or unworthy.
6. Do they really want to be in sales? What is their personal motivation?
The best health club salespeople all have within them a drive to excel, to be the best. They have a desire to persuade others.
They have a desire… to get you to see their way of thinking.
It’s that internal motivation that drives all the other qualities of the superstar salesperson. And that drive to succeed is far more powerful than any of the other qualities. Given a strong internal motivation, sooner or later the health club salesperson that is driven to success will succeed. It’s only a matter of time.
Now, add that internal drive, with an ability to learn, an image of success and achievement, a high energy level, personal integrity, and add the ability to create strong business relationships, and you have the ingredients of a superstar health club salesperson.
And should you find a salesperson like this, get ready, because they will make your health club the most interesting it has been in a long time…and, oh by the way, profitable.
Now, go find that health club superstar.
The new health club salesperson was ambitious and eager to learn all he could about the health club business and the technique of selling in the club industry. However, despite all of his efforts, new membership sales were few and far between. Sales effectiveness eluded him. Finally, after many futile months of working, coaching, prodding and guiding, his club manager confronted him with the bad news, “I don’t think you are cut out to be a health club salesperson,” the manager said.
The salesperson responded, “That’s just not true. I’m selling all right. It’s just that our membership prices are too high. People need to think about buying a membership. It’s important that they talk to their spouse. I’m not getting any walk-ins, and these prospects aren’t buying.”
It sounds childish and absurd, but there are health club salespeople out there who would do anything — or blame anyone — to avoid personal responsibility.
“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” These words should be permanently engraved on every salesperson in every health club across the country. “If it is to be, it’s up to me” is the attitude that epitomizes the most professional health club salespeople I have ever met.
It’s that attitude that shows up when a sales rep takes personal responsibility for everything that happens in his or her club. The real health club professional immediately acknowledges and deals with every adversity that comes his or her way.
So, what is it that causes good health club salespeople to struggle or even fail? What causes the “death of a salesperson?” Here are six thoughts:
1. Prejudging. Thinking we know what the outcome will be before we even start is a huge problem. When we take a club guest, when we pick up the phone or do any outside prospecting, we can’t cut corners assuming that we know how things will turn out. Whether you think you can — or think you can’t — you’ll always be right.
2. Believing in “be-backs.” I was speaking with a chiropractor friend of mine recently. He had retained the services of a consulting firm to help his business. I asked him was what the No. 1 thing that he has learned from his consultant. He paused and then said, “If I don’t get them committed to being a patient when they first walk in my clinic, I’ll likely never get them.” Here’s what you want to remember when your prospect has walked in your door: Their enthusiasm is at its peak. If they leave without getting started, their enthusiasm has nowhere to go but down.
3. Not following a proven system. Too many health club salespeople will cut corners or determine that certain parts of a script are not necessary. By following a proven system, you will get results, be able to take specific action when you’re slumping, and you’ll have something you can use to train and teach others.
4. Not asking for the sale. The key here is decent boldness. If you want something, you must ask. Don’t become confused and think you’re asking when you’re not. Such weak phrases as, “How does this sound,” “What do you think” or “Do you have any questions?” will not qualify as asking for the sale with decent boldness.
5. Failure to plan. If you want to stay in control of your sales career, you have to plan. Otherwise you’ll find yourself the victim of crisis management and have to react to your particular set of circumstances. Be proactive and set your own course.
6. Be honest with yourself. Take a look again at the previous five tips. Were you really honest with yourself? It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary.
Can you control every possible problem in the sales department before it occurs? Of course not. Can you be responsible for every problem that occurs in your membership sales department? You don’t have a choice.
I remember many years ago listening to a health club sales manager talking to a salesperson about a raise. He said, “Your raise will become effective when you are.” Being a salesperson in a health club is like your own personal business, and if it is to grow, it is up to you and no one else.