Handling Corporate Accounts

Small fitness facilities will do better by selling memberships to local businesses like themselves - small and privately owned.

RELATIONSHIPS WITH corporate accounts are a big topic of discussion for many fitness center operators, and small club operators are no exception. I'll bet that most small club owners, whether starting a new club or already operating one, would mention "corporate strategy" as a prominent part of their sales activities. Certainly, there are compelling reasons for small club owners to pursue corporate accounts. The business climate among employers is becoming more friendly toward health and wellness initiatives, which are meant to keep their workers healthy, productive and less expensive to insure. For the small club owner, corporate accounts can bring in significant numbers of members and efficiently boost overall revenue. That all sounds great, but what is the reality?

Think small

Small fitness facilities are typically best at selling memberships to local businesses that are like themselves - small and privately owned. Think about your local real estate offices, medical offices, lawyers, etc., as your primary targets. You have a lot better chance of selling to these businesses, which are typically small groups of likeminded people, than cracking IBM.

Mutually beneficial

When companies ask, "What type of corporate programs do you have?" what they really mean is, "How much of a discount will you give us?" Despite the improving environment for health and wellness programs in the workplace, many employers are simply looking to offer their employees a discount on a local health club membership. Many employers will equate this with a corporate wellness program. Number of employees should not drive your discount. Find out how many of the employees are already members. If there are a good number, why discount the business you're already getting? Of those workers who are not members, will a
The key is to stay focused on the businesses that are the right size for you.
discount really cause them to join and remain a member? What benefits are in it for you? Will the employer offer payroll deduction for your dues and then deliver it to you as a single check per month? Will you have access to the employees via health fairs, luncheons or other programs to sell memberships? Is the company interested in growing the relationship in meaningful ways, allowing you to offer onsite classes, seminars or screenings? Will they guarantee a minimum number of members to you, or make other financial guarantees?

Be fair, but skeptical

Many inquiries from corporate accounts are "kicking the tires." The employer will want you to tell them all about your business and what you have to offer. They may also want a written response right away because their corporate wellness program has suddenly become a hot topic. You should respond to such inquiries as quickly and professionally as possible, but don't get your hopes up - and be sure your response includes details on what you need to make the relationship valuable to you.

Find the real decision maker

Whether the company you target employs 10 people or 10,000, there is one person who holds the key. Everyone else will run around to meetings, form committees, prepare reports and otherwise pretend that they have something to do with the ultimate decision. But, in the end, there will be one person who will decide whether to offer employees a corporate program. Finding that person, and appealing to those things that are truly important to this individual, is really what corporate selling is all about.

Know what works

You can read volumes on corporate sales techniques, attend seminars and even hire expensive salespeople to attract this kind of business. But, for the small club owner, I believe the keys are to stay focused on the businesses that are the right size for you, and always remember that your business needs are just as important to the relationship as theirs. Then, when you find the right company, you will find yourself with a truly valuable and successful corporate relationship.
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