THE CHANGING FACE
OF FITNESS SALES

The nature of sales within the fitness industry has changed enormously in recent years. By using readily available technology we can create relationships and build trust in order to grow our membership, says Steve Jensen.

In the early days of the fitness industry it was easy to create leads and get that vital one-on-one rapport with potential members. All that was needed was an ad in the newspaper, an advertorial in a local publication, a few flyers and a heavy reliance on the good old Yellow Pages, and the telephone would ring. Job done.

Today, things are a little different, and the cost of a lead is a lot higher. Not the advertising costs, which are much the same, relatively speaking – but the cost of a lost lead, the revenue lost when relying on the methods of old.

Too many clubs still rely solely on incoming telephone enquiries and walk-ins. In the competitive environment of the fitness industry, this practice, combined with a weak sales process, will result in struggle.

It is vital for fitness facilities to utilise the technology that drives communication in today’s society. There is little chance of face-to-face relationship-building rapport with a potential member unless you embrace multimedia.

You need to give people a reason to walk through your doors, something of value to them. You need to create relationships, show them that they’re going to be cared for at the club, and then, once you’ve done that, take them through the club to show them how it will happen.

Is your website working for you?

Before embarking on a relationship with your business, most people will check you out online, so you must have a presence. The website, therefore, has become a pre-requisite to success. Businesses that neglect to organise a domain name, or that have a static website that doesn’t generate leads will struggle to communicate with prospects and generate quality leads.

Today’s websites are based on a far more sophisticated model than even five years ago. More than simply relaying basic information, the best sites are a resource for members and prospective members. By offering something of value – such as professional training tips, videos, and how-to’s on weight loss and muscle gain – you can sow the seeds of a fruitful relationship, while also gathering contact information. By compounding these benefits with the offer of a free short-term membership, you can create the opportunity for them to visit your club.

When it comes to gathering information, heed this advice: the less you ask, the further you’ll get. It may sound like backwards logic in an industry relying on rapport and relationships, but the fact is that the effort required by a potential client to fill out a lengthy questionnaire is too high. Request only an email address and phone number – anything extra can be discussed at the one-on-one meeting.

A new Page

Of course, in this day and age your own website is not the only online presence you should have. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can enable you to quickly and cost-effectively reach a much larger group of people than any amount of cold-calling.

This means you need a Facebook Page (not a personal profile) for your business that features offers. When your Page followers ‘Like’ an offer, their friends see the information and a percentage of them may in turn ‘Like’ it and become followers. By creating this web of connections you can generate some quality lead opportunities.

Offers on both your website and Facebook Page should include: a free short-term (three to five-day) club membership; and a voucher for any of your secondary spend products, such as a massage session or personal training. Offer something of genuine value. If a prospect can perceive value, they’ll take the time to register for the free offerings.

People read SMS

Another great way of producing positive leads is through SMS. If you’ve followed the avenues of marketing suggested above, you should have collected the prospect’s mobile phone number. A text message is an incredibly time-effective way to make contact. Furthermore, statistics show that around 95 per cent of people who own a mobile phone will read an SMS – all you have to do is make sure the message is compelling.

The language of leads

Just as the marketplace in the industry has changed, so too has the business language. Gone are the days when walk-ins and incoming telephone calls were our major source of enquiry – with an enquiry being an open opportunity to make an appointment for a tour of your facility. Someone who sends in an expression of interest about your club or studio via online media is actually sending you a request for information. Consider these requests a ‘customer lead’ which must in turn be converted into an enquiry. This distinction is important, and makes all the difference to how your consultants will deal with them.

The formula

Statistics show that we need to call someone between three and seven times to actually get hold of them. Calling a web lead to make sure it becomes an enquiry (meaning you can invite that person into the club) is quite a skilful activity in this day and age. Fortunately, a formula exists…

Day 1

When calling a web lead and reaching voicemail, always leave an exciting, bubbly, enthusiastic message. Include your direct line: you want them to want to meet up with you. If you’ve got an offer, throw that in too and let them know you will be endeavouring to call them a few more times that day.

Call the person between three and five times that day, as promised. If you’ve done that, and perhaps also sent an SMS, and you still haven’t managed to speak with the person, move on to day number two.

Day 2

Call again and let the lead know you want to speak with them in order to get them started on their journey to a fitter, better life as soon as possible. Remember: this is for them and because your business prides itself on proficient follow-up and customer care.

Example: ‘Hi Bob, this is Steve from the XYZ Club. Look, I’m not sure if you got my message yesterday, but I understand you wanted to know about the club, and we’ve got some great offers at the moment to get you started. I will be in the club until X o’clock tonight, so please feel free to give me a call on my direct line 00 999 999 and I will help you as much as I can. I’d like to get hold of you as soon as possible, so I’ll try to call a few times today, so if you see this number please pick up.’ Then put down the phone with a happy smile.

Day 3

Do not call! Deliberately leave this day free of calls to the lead.

Day 4

The lead is getting a little bit old now, but persist with your calls. This is when you let them know that you couldn’t call the day before because you were busy, but again list the great opportunities available at the club and reiterate your interest in welcoming them for a one-on-one chat. However, when signing off, tell them that if they want you to stop calling, to simply let you know. Again, call three to five times. Remember: the person did send you a request for information, so it is your job to give good customer care by making sure you get in touch with them.

Day 5

This is a different type of phone call. It’s not as high energy, but it’s still polite and energetic. You should say something like: ‘Hi Bob, it’s Steve here from the XYZ club. Look, I’m not quite sure if you’re getting my messages, but I’ve left you a few over the week. I’ve got some good and some bad news for you: the good news is I’m going to be here until X o’clock and I’m here ready to help you as much as I can; the bad news is I’m not going to be giving you any more calls after today, but I will send a few emails out to you to make sure everything is on track and you are kept up to speed with what we’re doing.’

Autoresponders

If you have still not had a conversation with the web lead, you move on from your telephone ‘campaign’. Your next move is very important, and thanks to technological developments, is in the form of an autoresponder. Once the autoresponder system is set up (either internally or by a third party company), you simply need to add your lead’s email address to a list. The system will then automatically send out a series of regular emails, over a recommended duration of at least twelve months, using the CBA protocol: Create the relationship; Build the trust; Ask them to buy.

Let’s say that, after calling, leaving messages and SMS’ing, you decide to add Bob’s lead to the autoresponder mailing list. The initial email should be nice and succinct, giving a little information about your club in order to create a relationship (C). Then, maybe two weeks later, it’s time to build the trust (B), by sending a video clip of two or three exercises they can do at home, or a PDF illustrating exercises personal trainers use. It’s a little propaganda, but it’s something they can use. Don’t try to sell to them at this stage! Next up – a week or two later – send them something that will get them into the club (A), such as two free personal training sessions or a ten-day membership for $10.

If the lead is still not taking up your offer, this is when the CBA autoresponders come into their own, allowing you to effortlessly send regular emails containing useful information and offers (always remembering to add the disclaimer ‘Conditions apply. All of our memberships are quality guaranteed’). This paves the way for an effective closing strategy.

In addition to taking the drudgery out of the follow-up, a major benefit of the CBA protocol is that prospects that once sat in a file gathering dust continue to receive information about your business, putting it at their ‘front of mind’. Sooner or later, when the time is right for them, it will be your offer and your brand that they feel familiar with, making them more receptive to taking up your offer.

It is also important that leads who receive your autoresponders should be given the option to simply click on a hyperlink and buy a membership online. This requires you to set up a user-friendly ‘pay page’ where they can purchase on the spot. This is called a ‘break-link marketing campaign’. These links should only be sent to people who have either been into the club, have already received information or who you have been attempting unsuccessfully to reach for a very long time. You’ll be surprised at how many of these seemingly unresponsive people will buy online.

The implementation of an autoresponder system within your sales and marketing infrastructure is hugely beneficial in today’s fitness market. An avenue that keeps you in contact with customers and allows you to not come across as ‘sell, sell, sell’ can give your club a reputation for trustworthiness, and make leads feel as if you are there to help, not harass, them.

The fitness industry has changed dramatically in recent years, as have the opportunities to generate business success. Changes in the nature of the marketplace and consumer behaviour have been matched by changes in technology. Rather than learn to deal with change, we should embrace the opportunity it presents, and appreciate the fact that it can greatly benefit our clubs. Instead of relying largely on chance, we now have the ability to implement ongoing strategies that allow us to generate and connect with quality leads, build trust and ultimately convert them into members.

 

Steve Jensen
Steve has been involved in the fitness industry for more than two decades. As the founder and CEO of Impact Training Corporation and the National Sales Academy he has helped boost the profits of thousands of fitness businesses. A certified DISC presenter and the creator of the Public Speaking and Presentation Mastery courses, in 2009 Steve was named Australian Fitness Network’s Presenter of the Year. Visit www.impact-training.net for more information or call 02 9955 1500.