Two Tips to Help Sales Staff Sell with Long-Term Retention in Mind

Retention tips
(Photo by LightFieldStudios / Getty Images.) Making the right first impression is key to retaining any potential member. For this reason, one best practice to adopt is making tours of your club specific to the needs of the customer—and not what most clubs offer, which is a “museum tour.”

(Editors' Note: For more retention and sales help, attend educational sessions in the Retention and Sales tracks at the 2019 Club Industry Show Oct. 9-11 at the Hilton Chicago. Register now by going here.)

In my 20-plus years of experience within the health club space, I have found there is always one glaring question that club owners face: How do I keep my members from leaving?

Retaining members remains a threat to any club operator, especially with the ever-growing popularity of both large franchises and boutique concepts. Consider how much effort goes into gaining one new member only to see that member leave your facility in less than three months.

Too many sales directors don't spend enough time teaching staff how to generate leads, call those leads, set up a tour appointment, deliver the in-person tour and then ask for the sale (armed with the skill to overcome an objection). The amount of time and money that goes into this process is even disproportionate to how much time is spent building that subsequent member relationship. In fact, fitness professionals too rarely build and maintain relationships with new members.

Members who visit their club less than once per week during the first month of membership eventually renew their membership 59 percent of the time, according to IHRSA. Those who visit at least three times per week during the first month of membership rejoin 78 percent of the time, a difference of 19 percent. In other words: Once new members join, it’s to the facility operator’s benefit to ensure they return to the club often.

Consider what can happen if a member enjoys their experience at your club and begins to refer others. What if you have 3,000 members and deliver such a great experience for all of them that you receive one referral from each new member? That becomes 3,000 new leads. Even if you close 20 percent of those leads, that still results in a member increase of 20 percent.

With this in mind, a proper sales experience will lay the groundwork not just for a sale but also for a happier member who will be retained for longer. Here are two tips that will help set your club up for success. 

Offer Dynamic, Not Museum-Style, Tours

Making the right first impression is key to retaining any potential member. For this reason, one best practice to adopt is making tours of your club specific to the needs of the customer rather than what most clubs offer, which is a “museum tour.” We have all been a part of the museum tour during which a salesperson shows you everything in the club whether or not you intend to use everything. I always found it odd that I was being shown areas of the club that I personally don’t care about. The reason this happens is because, most of the time, a salesperson shows us what they want us to see versus showing us what we want to see. This can make or break a first impression.

To quickly change this mindset, salespeople should start a tour with one simple question: “What area of the club are you most excited about seeing?”

With this one simple question, you can make sure that your potential member is engaged from the beginning. For example, if I say I’m most excited to see the cardio area, then take me to the cardio area. This allows the salesperson to engage a potential member with open-ended questions. This could be, “So, tell me what you typically do for cardio?” Or, “How many times per week do you think you want to incorporate cardio?”

Building a relationship rather than just trying to make a sale starts off any relationship with trust. The best salespeople are the ones that could walk through your facility and know almost every member’s name. So, a great way to achieve retention is to give each member a great first experience. 

For many people, group fitness is either a major attraction for a club or of no interest whatsoever. So make sure to ask if the prospect is interested in group fitness. Group fitness spaces are among the most utilized areas in any club and offer the most potential revenue per square foot. Many people enjoy the added motivation and camaraderie when working out in a group setting. However, some people are intimidated to take a group fitness class, which brings me to the next point.

Expose Your Staff to Your Club’s Amenities

Ensure that all your sales advisors attend some of the classes and use some of the amenities (spa, smoothie bar, etc.) that you have. That way, when they give a potential member a tour, it is easier for them to convey the value of that offering since they have experienced the value firsthand.

The lack of knowledge and participation from sales staff directly influences whether a member joins and stays. Some health clubs require sales advisors to attend a group fitness class as part of their onboarding. A prospective member who is a group fitness junkie will immediately respond to a staff member who clearly demonstrates passion and knowledge about this area of interest.

For example, a member may ask, “Can you tell me about this BODYPUMP class on your schedule?” Ideally, your staff member would reply with, “This is one of our most popular classes because it helps build strength, tones your body and pushes you to your limit to be strong. I took it last Tuesday with Karen, and it was an awesome experience.”

If you want to gain and keep members, these strategies will help you on your way.


Kory Angelin is an award-winning trainer and two-time published author with more than 25 years in the fitness business industry. He has worked for some of the top global fitness companies teaching brand experience. He has worked with a variety of pro athletes, partnered with NIKE to launch its SPARQ brand and has been featured in Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Training & Conditioning, Club Industry and Mastering Your Money. Angelin has been an on-air host with QVC and is a sought-after motivational speaker. He holds a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine and has just launched his second book titled #Sellout. You can follow him at @koryfit and on his website at

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