I recommend everyone in our industry visit other facilities. I enjoy visiting new facilities opening in my area, and make it a point to visit and even work out in local facilities when I’m on the road.
I admittedly go in with a critical eye — that is my job after all — but I truly love learning from others. When consulting or presenting, I often share best practices that I’ve seen or personally experienced during such visits. There is great innovation in many areas of the fitness industry, and I love some of the trends I have seen in design.
That said, I also notice areas in which facilities fall short. Often, those shortcomings encompass the critical area of sales. I recently visited a new studio in town and wanted to share a few ways in which its staff fell short during the sales process. Most of the misses came on simple soft skills, which can make a huge difference. Some basic tweaks could have yielded much better results.
1. Find the why
Upon entering the new facility, I noticed it was clean, organized and laid out well. They had a nice merchandise area, and the person who greeted me had a big smile on her face. The rest of the staff was also polite and friendly. All the basics were covered — from checking in to signing a waiver to indicating where to go for class. Yet, there was no rapport-building and no discussion of why I had come in to try a class.
People feel comfortable doing business with people they like and to whom they can relate. When you exchange names, be sure to ask appropriate personal questions and share some personal information. By doing so, you begin to build a relationship and — more importantly — trust.
What should have happened was an exchange of names, followed by questions such as, “What brings you in today? Have you been in before? What are you looking to achieve? Do you live in the area?” Asking questions and getting to know a prospect lets them know you care about them and their goals and are there to serve them. This applies to a studio workout experience, as well as a more traditional membership-based facility. Step one is always getting to know someone and starting to build a genuine relationship.
2. Pre-frame the sale
Prior to taking the class, I expected them to let me know we would discuss membership options. Nothing was mentioned. I simply walked into class.
Prospects need to be reminded that the facility is a place where they can, and should, become a member. It also makes it much more natural when revisiting the topic and presenting membership options after a class or a tour, because it is not a surprise. As a matter of fact, it is expected.
What should have happened was something like, “You are going to absolutely love the workout. It will help you with your goals (uncovered in step one), and when you are done, I’ll show you some of our great membership options.” This applies to traditional facilities, as well. “I’ll take you on a tour, show you all the great things we have to offer (based on finding the why and building rapport), then review some membership options.” This simple and small step creates a much smoother transition to a price presentation after the workout.
3. Seek post-workout feedback
After the class, the team member asked me if I was interested in hearing about memberships. This was a little off-putting and gives the prospect (me) permission to say no!
A better engagement strategy after a prospect tries a workout is to ask for feedback. “How was the workout? Did you have fun? Do you see how this type of workout could help you reach your goals?” If a prospect is simply on a tour, the questions could be, “Did you like what you saw? Could you see yourself working out here and achieving your goals? Was there anything missing?”
Questions like this demonstrate you care about the prospect’s experience and want to see them achieve their goals. It also allows you to answer questions and address concerns prior to presenting the membership options. This is called pre-closing. The pre-close strategy is designed to eliminate possible objections to joining, outside of price. This step should seamlessly lead into the price presentation.
4. Present price options
At this point in the sales process, the team member informed me of the monthly membership price. She also suggested that the drop-in price was expensive, but that perhaps I could consider joining Class Pass if I wasn’t interested in the monthly membership. Obviously, I didn’t join.
The important element for the price presentation phase is to use the information you have learned about the prospect and combine it with the rapport you have built to recommend the best option. As an example, if you discovered that the prospect works in the area a few days a week, you may recommend a more flexible membership option or a 10-pack of classes. If a person mentioned that they get relocated frequently for work, you may recommend a month-to-month plan versus a 12-month membership. The bottom-line is to present the best option in a positive, energetic and enthusiastic way.
And don’t forget to ask for the sale! Using phrases such as “Let’s get you signed up!” or “Are you ready to get started?” are a great way to do that.
5. Follow up
When I declined to join, I was given a half-hearted goodbye — and that was the end of my experience with the facility.
If you do have the prospect sign up, congratulate them! Reaffirm their great decision. Go through any of the necessary paperwork, then give them additional information they might need, such as how to follow you on social media, instructions to download the club app and info about booking a complimentary training session.
If the prospect doesn’t sign up, it is acceptable to ask politely and positively what is preventing them from starting their membership. At this stage, you can directly address concerns or questions, then ask for the sale a second time. Refer to their original goal and reinforce the value. If their answer is still no, let them know that is okay and inform them about your follow-up protocol. “I want to help you hit your goals, so I’ll follow up with you in a few days to check in.” This is a great way to remind them you care. Strategic follow-up is crucial.
I don’t recount this experience to bash a business. The facility was a well-designed, good-looking space with a friendly staff. My point is to note that details matter. A few small tweaks would potentially help the business get more members to enjoy its facility. Each one of my steps represents small and subtle changes that could result in huge improvements to the sales process. These tweaks can be the difference between a new member and a prospect you never see again.
Take the time to practice these skills through role-play. With time, they become second nature and make the sales process an enjoyable and productive experience for prospect and team member alike. Build rapport and learn about someone, let them know you will give them membership options, ask what they think, recommend the best option for them, and ask them to join! These simple steps work.