Maximizing Personal Training Profits
There are two reasons your members aren't signing up for personal training: "I can't afford it," or "I don't need it." Strike that. There's really only one reason: perceived lack of value. There are two ways to attack this perceived lack of value: Educate your members and lower the price (relatively speaking, as compared to traditional 60-minute, one-on-one training sessions).
Your sales staffI once worked with a fitness center that had disappointing penetration rates, and I noticed that its membership consultants were simply pointing to the personal training studio and saying, "There's the personal training studio." Period.
Sell your sales staff on personal training. Establish personal training as part of your culture. Pat Rigsby of Fitness Consulting Group, Elizabethtown, Ky., recommends making personal training an important part of the tour (better termed "presentation"). Make sure your membership staff uses what sales trainers call "assumptive closes." For example, Rigsby says, "Once you authorize the paperwork, we'll get you signed up with one of our personal trainers, who will make sure you get started on the right foot."
Remember the adage, "You can't sell what you don't buy." The best way for your sales staff to understand the advantages of personal training is to make sure they experience personal training themselves. Although you may later have to deal with political issues concerning which membership consultant works with which trainer, you may consider either assigning a buddy system, or, better yet, offering discounted personal training for your sales staff.
One thing to avoid is having an "Up System" for your personal trainers. Up Systems often get members assigned with trainers who may not be qualified to help that member's particular needs. Remember, you want to do what's in the best interest of your members. Employ a thorough questioning process to discover the member's goals, needs, limitations and motivation. This will build rapport, and help the trainer best present how personal training will be of benefit to the member.
Pricing structureIt's traditional to charge "x" amount for a one-on-one session, then charge less for a package of 12, and even less for a package of 24, or whatever magic number you make up. But, what's the true cost of a one-on-one session? Is the cost truly lower when clients sign up for more sessions? Because that's certainly what you're implying.
If you have a marketing budget, you can make a case that selling packages costs you less money, so you can charge less. Also, some fitness centers see personal training hours like nights in a hotel — you can justify discounting that open slot with a client you can count on rather than dealing with an empty hour. If that's your thinking, then go ahead and offer packages. Just make sure you have a reason that makes sense to your clients.
Another issue is how to come up with the price itself. When I look at the typical menu of personal training services in the standard three-panel brochure, I see prices that look made up. I learned years ago in Mark McCormick's What They Still Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School that round numbers look made up. There's no reason to charge all sessions in $5 increments (i.e., $60 per session, $55 for multiples). Do the actual math and figure out what the prices need to be in order to reach your financial goals. So what if it comes out to odd numbers here or there? It adds integrity to your price structure, which instills faith in your clients.
Rigsby is a firm believer in using EFT for collecting personal training payments. There's really no reason to hit members with a 12-session-package fee all at once. Charge clients at the end of the month for the sessions they used that month.
EducationEducation starts with offering seminars for your members. For instance, combine outside professionals with your personal trainers as speakers. This will help show your trainers as experts. The relationship can also lead to referrals from the professionals. Phil Kaplan, a fitness expert, has had success by having his trainers lead group orientations based on his NAVAQA philosophy. NAVAQA is an acronym for need, ammunition, vehicle, alternatives, quality and advise.
Need. What is the perceived "need" or void the client hopes to fill by hiring a personal trainer?
Ammunition. Listen for vital clues that indicate how your clients truly feel, then use their words to both establish more rapport and to use as "ammunition" (in a nice way) to persuade them to invest in personal training. As you take notes on their exercise history, for example, also note comments like, "This is really important to me" or "I've tried everything else and nothing has worked." When you repeat these comments back, it takes your clients back to the frame of mind they were in when they said it the first time.
Vehicle. Prove you are the obvious choice as the most effective vehicle to get clients to their desired goals. The best way to do this is with testimonials. Have at least one testimonial on hand for the most-common sales objections.
Alternatives. Demonstrate that previous alternatives the member may have tried before did not accomplish the desired goal.
Qualify. Ask qualifying questions, sometimes called "trial balloons" in sales-training speak, so you're not premature in closing the sale.
Advise. Be an advisor and trusted source of helpful information, not a used car salesman.
Kaplan also recommends taking advantage of the NAVAQA assessment to identify potential obstacles and negative self-talk, and to help clients recognize false beliefs that might serve as pitfalls if they aren't replaced by new, empowering beliefs. The goal of the assessment is not just to gather physiological data, but to amass emotional information about the member that you can address — then offer them the opportunity to take advantage of the only logical solution to their problem: personal training.
Biomechanics expert Dr. Mark Slavin has a unique approach he calls Lessons vs. Sessions. As opposed to the standard one-on-one session, the lesson focuses more on education than actual training. Lessons are held in small groups, and typically meet once a month or every other week. The key is to have your trainers make it clear that your members will get results because your trainers know things members can't get anywhere else.
A prime example to attract training clients is a Core Training Lesson. Discuss myths vs. science, and demonstrate a few sample exercises. Give attendees a handout with pictures of exercises they're not familiar with, including an explanation of why they should perform it a certain way. The lecture format is less intimidating and more inviting for some people; however, they may then sign up for personal training to learn more.
At the Baltimore Country Club, Baltimore, Md., we offer monthly programs coordinated with golf and tennis seasons so members get a form of periodized training specifically for their sport. Not only does this generate more personal training revenue from members who weren't interested in one-on-one training, there are plenty of "lesson" members who are so impressed by the knowledge and skills of the personal trainers that they move to "sessions" for more personalized attention.
Lower the price, but not reallyThere's no physiological reason to offer only 60-minute sessions. The marketplace demands it, but you can also offer 20- and 30-minute sessions, plus semi-private ones. Clients are paying for results, not necessarily minutes of training time (although you may have to remind them of the difference). These strategies lower the price to the member, yet yield more income per unit of time for you and your trainers. Everyone wins.
Make your personal training department an integral part of everything you do in your fitness center, and you can't help but increase the percentage of members taking advantage of what your trainers have to offer.
Facility of the Week
Ithaca College Athletics and Events Center