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.
Will your gym business thrive, or will it join others that have faltered along the way? Here are some basic rules to make sure your gym business grows and prospers:
1. Find a Niche. For independent gyms, it is best to find a niche. A small gym with limited resources can efficiently serve niche markets. This entails sticking to what you do best, and becoming an expert at it. Realize that you can’t be all things to all people.
2. Be a small gym, yet think like a big gym. The most common question of small gym start-ups is “How can I compete with the bigger competition?“ Small gyms have inherent advantages over the big clubs, including flexibility, ability to respond quickly, able to provide a more personalized member service. Make sure that your gym takes maximum advantage of those areas that represent the strengths of small clubs.
3. Differentiate your gym services. Present the benefits of your products and services to your members, highlighting the unique solutions it offers to their problems. Avoid doing what everyone else is doing. Study your competition, and package your fitness services distinctly.
4. First impression counts. Strive for accuracy and quality the first time around. Many times you do not have a second chance to make a good first impression with members and guests. This entails a well-laid out gym, courteous staff, and personable voice over the phone, etc. Make sure that you and your gym staff are always presentable, professional in your ways and knowledgeable about your gym.
5. Good reputation. Your gym business hinges on its reputation. It is imperative that you build a good reputation for the quality of your fitness products and support services.
6. Constant improvement. Gym owners should not be rigid in their ways of thinking in their quest to improve their gym. You risk being left behind if you cling to the “this is how we’ve always done it” kind of thinking. The gym business environment today demands that you need to come up with new solutions fast!
7. Listen to your members. Listen and react to your member’s needs. Members need to feel that they are important to you because they are. When you focus on your members and gain their trust, they will not only refer you to their friends but they will also remain loyal to you. Personal referrals and word-of-mouth are the least costly yet most effective marketing strategy for your gym.
8. Plan of action for success. A gym owner should understand the power of planning and have a written plan of action. A good plan helps you increase your chances of succeeding and can help you define your gym concepts, estimate costs, predict membership sales and control your risks. It tells you where you are going and how to get there.
9. Be innovative in your gym. Innovation should also cover your operations from pricing, promotion, member service, web site, etc. Keep your eyes open for new ways of doing things, and apply those that can improve the quality of your fitness products and efficiency of your gym operation. Stay current with technology.
10. Work smart. As a gym owner, you need to possess self-confidence, plus a never-ending sense of urgency to develop your ideas. Gym owners who succeed in owning their own club are far-sighted and can accept things as they are and deal with them accordingly. They know how to manage their time, realizing the importance of leisure in as much as work. They are quick to change directions when they see their plans are not working. They recognize their weak points and move on to nurture alliances and acquire the skills they need to put their gym on the right track. They realize the importance of working smart, knowing that it is not the quantity of work you do, but what you do and how well you do it.
Now, go make your club a success.
Successful people sometimes tend to think they are successful at the health club business because of some instinctive understanding. They are good and what has happened is… they’ve done it once; they think can do it again and again. At some point club owners and managers start to eliminate some of the key details and some of the reasons they were successful and they get a bit apathetic to the ultimate detail and fundamentals that made them successful in the first place. They take things for granted. They don’t plan and train their staff quite as hard. They forget that success is guaranteed to no one.
In membership sales, such key items as the master appointment book, daily phone contacts, daily appointments, regular sales training and prospecting for new leads can be taken for granted and even overlooked. We become reactive in our approach instead of proactive.
People listen in different ways. Some people like to read, some people like to look at their email, some people like people to call them and tell them, some people like meetings, some like text messages, etc. What I suggest is that you of come up with several different ways to communicate with your employees (and members for that matter) and make sure you follow up to get confirmation of the fact that they got the message. You might want to use signs, communication log books at your front desk, office banners, emails, text messages, newsletters, phone calls, formal training classes, informal training, and so forth. Don’t expect one form of communication to get the job done.
One of the common statements I hear from club owners and manager’s is, “Well, I told them.” What they mean is, they told them once and then expected it to be done.
If it were that easy, the job of management wouldn’t be necessary.
Accountability is…what the job is, who is going to do it and when. This needs to be in writing and confirmed so that everybody involved in this accountability has a complete understanding. You should understand that everybody needs to be held accountable for completing their assigned job duties on time and in an effective manner. You’ll see as you go along where accountability falls into…generating reports for salespeople…reviewing reports… getting a job done, or an open house. One of the things I hear is, “I was way too hands-off, way too
easy going, way to worried about being a friend to my people and not holding them accountable.”
Earn their respect, not their friendship. Inspect what you expect.
When we go into a facility and conduct an Operational Analysis, we will conduct interviews with key staff members. One of the questions we ask is, “What is your job description?”
We go to the club owner and ask the same question…it’s always interesting how often the answers differ.
Be sure you’re on the same page with what’s expected. Your silence will be interpreted as acceptance.
We know that the health club business should be fun and we want to run a tight operation, but we want to treat people well…we want to make sure that they are enjoying their work and that we are providing an environment that allows a motivated person to act. The club business can be too much fun, if you are not careful. Other health club businesses can be too dry. So somewhere in the middle you, as the owner or manager, holding people accountable, need to have all of this process in place and think in terms of we want it all to be done, but we want it to be enjoyable as well.
Have a System and Have a Plan
We all know that the most valuable asset in any facility is our people. However, one of the keys to avoiding success apathy is to manage the system. Whether it’s a long-term employee or a new hire, the system remains the same and should be implemented and followed up on each day. Don’t simply assume they are going to do it. Everyone needs leadership and direction.
Have a plan for your membership sales, a plan for advertising and marketing, a plan for recruiting staff, a plan for resolving conflict, etc.
Be sure you are following a proven system….and follow up.
Now, go score yourself!
What will you do differently in your health club, fitness, center, gym or studio during the last three months of the year to improve your new membership sales? If you don’t take time to think about what you’ll do differently, you may not do anything different. It’s Einstein’s definition of insanity, continuing to do the same thing, but expecting a different result.
Now that’s okay if you’re happy with your year to date membership sales. If however, you want better membership sales during the final three months of the year it’s time to think about making some changes now.
One of the keys to improving your membership sales performance in your health club is effective sales planning. For many sales reps selling a membership is fun and planning is not. Remember that health club selling success doesn’t come from doing what everyone else is doing.
The most successful health club salespeople I’ve known do the things that most health club salespeople avoid or put off doing. You can either make things happen or you can wait for things to happen.
There are two requirements for successful health club sales planning. First set aside some quiet time for creative thinking. Second, be sure to put these thoughts on paper (write it down).
At minimum once a year…professional health club salespeople and club owners should dedicate a minimum of one-day to strategically think about your health club and membership sales. And…don’t be too quick to say you’re already doing it.
Most health club sales reps acknowledge they think about their club, members and guests daily. When pressed however most will admit they don’t have time to creatively think or plan about any new scenarios that may happen months or even a year from now. If you can’t devote one solid day for unrestrained creative thinking, don’t think about breaking any health club sales records.
Begin your planning process with these six important questions. Direct these questions at your
health club, your members, your guest traffic, your prospecting/marketing, and of course your competition. These questions will raise even more questions and you should consider this process a success if you end up with more questions than answers.
Here are six questions that can take your health club membership selling success to the next level.
1. Where are you right now? Where are you now relative to your membership selling results and membership sales skills? How’s your sales performance? What’s your sales rank within the industry or within your own health club? What kind of overall membership growth do you have in your health club and in your top corporate accounts? Where are your competitors making inroads in your membership base, personal training and corporate accounts? How well are you managing your time in your health club? What are your biggest challenges and best opportunities for membership growth? Please be specific. Nothing general here, please.
2. Where is your health club headed if you don’t change anything? What’s happens if you don’t acquire new sales skills? What happens to your overall performance next year if you don’t make up the loss of your largest corporate account? How will your members, prospects and guests react to a marketing strategy that is really based on a “More of the same” philosophy, especially when your competitors are becoming more creative in their sales and marketing approach? With more work and less time available, how are you planning to manage membership sales next year when your health club is expected to grow 7% across the board? If you can’t handle the challenges and opportunities in your health club this year, how will you respond to the one’s you are given next year?
3. Where should you be headed? Do you have specific personal and health club goals? Are these
goals specific and clearly defined? Are they in writing? Do you have completion dates established?
For your top corporate membership accounts do you have specific objectives for sales, growth rates, personal training mix, etc? Have you made a commitment to get more training in health club sales?
4. How will you achieve your membership sales objectives? You really can’t “do” a goal or an objective. What you can and must do is create a written plan of action detailing how specifically you plan to achieve the goals you outlined when considering question three. For example, if your goal is to increase your membership sales by 7%, how specifically will you do it? Your goals define (what you want to achieve) and your strategies define (how specifically you’ll do it.) A goal is not a plan.
5. What are the specific details involved in your plan of action? The details referred to are the…who, what, where, why, when, which, and how as they relate to initiating and implementing your health club sales strategies. Ben Franklin once said, “Small leaks can sink big ships.” In health club sales, minor adjustments often create big impacts. When it comes to personal selling in the health club business, never forget that little things mean everything to your membership selling success.
6. What should you measure? Always measure what matters most in your health club. I’m sure you’ve heard it, but “What gets measured gets done.” To keep you on course (objectives) how will you measure your progress in your health club? What key elements of success should your review monthly? Personal growth and development are the result of careful measurement and evaluation. The difference between winning and losing is often a very narrow margin. It’s time for a health club sales tune-up if you’re serious about making this year’s 4th quarter your best 4th quarter ever in your health club membership sales. These questions can make a significant contribution to your membership selling results, but only if you invest the time to ask them. The favorite day of the week for procrastinators is tomorrow. Action-oriented people, the real doers in life, recognize, if you focus your energy on today, tomorrow takes care of itself. The future is yours to live one-day at a time. The shape of your future health club selling success depends on the foundation of your plan. Are you planning your health club future today or waiting for tomorrow to do it? It’s a clear choice and it’s all yours.
The choices you make today will determine the health club selling success you achieve tomorrow.
Most health clubs already have a membership sales manager or someone who is in charge of membership sales production in some capacity, so why hire a sales coach for the membership department? Many sales managers are not trained in the subtleties of effective health club sales training nor have they developed the necessary skills and tools to be effective sales leaders. The most common way to hire a health club sales manager is to simply promote your best sales person in the membership department. This logic suggests this person is the most qualified to lead the membership sales team based on their past membership sales achievements. This type of promotion by necessity is common, but not commonly successful. In the process you may even lose your top membership sales performer when their leadership abilities fail to match their sales ability.
The key reason being: Great health club sales people don’t often make great health club sales managers.
Why? This is largely due to the behaviors inherent to traditional individual health club salesmanship. At the risk of generalizing, these individuals can be highly competitive by nature and many can often be found running by their own set of rules when comes to making a membership sale. Many sales superstars can be described as egocentric, disorganized, manipulating, persuasive and let’s not forget charming. Often embodying the true entrepreneurial spirit, the sales superstar by nature will just get out there and make things happen. And yes of course, they may even cut a corner or two in the process. This poses an interesting but challenging dilemma for their health club sales managers or club General Manager.
To promote such individuals to a health club sales manager is to promote the same individual behaviors. More often than not, these behaviors are challenging to replicate successfully without ramification. The decision to do so will play a huge role in developing your health club sales culture. This is why so many health club sales teams operate by the 80/20 principle, with 80% of the membership sales being generated by 20% of the membership sales team, and the rest merely making up the numbers. Usually the successful few are doing things very differently based on what they know or have learned in the role through their own positive and negative experiences in sales or in the health club industry. The normally enthusiastic but struggling majority is left to make up the numbers. Health Club sales models that demonstrate this type of unbalanced success are clearly lacking the right leadership, sales support and sales coaching structure in their health club.
A health club sales coach’s role in the above scenario would be to coach the membership sales manager and membership sales team members to demonstrate common habitual behaviors and skills across the entire team for optimum membership sales team performance in the health club membership sales department.
Now, go close a sale!