// Incoming calls - the lifeline of your business

by Justin Tamsett

• In my 16 years of health club ownership, many schools of thought have emerged regarding the best way of hooking prospects and turning them into customers. Clearer than all of these opinions, however, are the figures that have emerged; at the end of the day, the numbers say everything:

• 68 per cent of all new sales started with the person telephoning the club.

If you are not handling the enquiry with skill, you are wasting your marketing dollar. Let’s face it, we market our business to generate sales. My statistics show that the marketing I have used causes people to call the club – and the sole aim of taking an incoming call is to get an appointment!

In a recently conducted mystery shopper campaign of clubs in Australia, we found the following:

• 100 per cent of callers were not asked if they were a member of the club they were calling

• 100 per cent of callers were not asked how they found out about the club

• 97 per cent of callers were not asked their name

• 86 per cent of callers were not asked what their goals were for joining a club

• 78 per cent of callers felt they had to ask the questions to keep the conversation going and gather the information they wanted

• 64 per cent of callers were not invited to the club to look around

• 58 per cent of callers were told to call back or that they would be called back when a sales person was available.

So, what inspired me to carry out this survey in the first place? I tested my club first.

I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on sales training in my club and thought my staff members were handling calls well. But when I tested my club, none of my criteria were met – including recording that the call even came in! This scared me and made me realise that although sales training companies are training our staff , the staff are not putting what they have learnt into practice when they return to the
workplace. More importantly, I was not providing quality feedback to my staff on their job performance. I was simply assuming too much!


1. Name – find out the person’s name and then use it. This calls well. But when I tested my club, none of my criteria were will help build rapport and trust, so that the person calling wants to come to your facility and meet you.

2. Prospect – ask if the person calling is a member. People often call to ask ‘What time do you close?’; ‘Do you have a step class on at 5:30 tonight?’ or ‘How much is child minding?’ These are soft enquiries, and you really need to ask them whether they are a member to determine the answer you give.

3. Control – he or she who asks the questions controls the conversation. Ask open-ended questions to encourage the person to talk about themself. This is a rapport-building strategy, which therefore builds trust. If you control the conversation you can take it in the direction you want, i.e. an invitation to look around your facility.

4. Results – find out why the person wants to join the club. This shows that you care about them as a person. You don’t have to tell them what they will use or how you will help them, but whether they cite a slimmer figure or lower blood pressure as their desired results, you might like to say, ‘We have lots of people who get started here for that very same reason!’

5. Appointment – the goal of handling the call is get an appointment. But you can’t ask too early or you will be rejected. Ask when you have earned the right – when you have the rapport and trust – and ask by giving an alternate choice, ‘Would today or tomorrow be better for you?’

6. Answers – give the caller answers to their questions. The reality is, you can’t give them the answers until you know what they want. So tell them that upfront, ‘Yes, I can certainly tell you how much a membership is, I just need to know exactly what you are looking for. May I ask you a couple of questions?’

The goal of every incoming call is to convert it to a tour, and this can be achieved in less than three minutes if the simple steps above are followed. Skip a step and you will not have the trust or rapport – or indeed the right – to invite the caller to view your club.

This process is incredibly important to the success of your business, and everyone who answers the phone in your facility must be able to eff ectively take, and control, a phone enquiry. In order to do so, every team member needs to be provided with the tools to be successful, including a script, paperwork, training, practice (with role-playing) and regular feedback on their performance.

For many people, this call will be their first contact with your club and maybe with our industry. A well handled call could improve the caller’s life, and increase your business. You only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so make sure you take this golden opportunity to make it a good one.


Justin Tamsett
In 2006 Justin’s two decades of contribution to the fi tness industry were recognised when he was awarded Fitness Australia’s
Presidential Award. As the managing director of Active Management, he solves the marketing needs of fitness facilities. To find out more, call 02 9980 9089 or e-mail jt@activemgmt.com.au

NETWORK • SUMMER 2008 • PP40-41