CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Net Profit Explosion
Last Saturday, I arrived in London. My first order of business was to get set up for success in the week ahead. When I'm on the road, that means a trip to Whole Foods, rocking food preparation for the upcoming week, and getting a gym membership for the time I'll be in the city.
I walked into a large club chain in the area, and to my amazement, I couldn't give my money away.
Two staff members behind the counter told me a month's membership was 80 pounds, so I told them to sign me up.They both then proceeded to panic. Apparently, they had not been trained how to take money or run the point-of-sale system.
I waited patiently for about five minutes. One of them went into the back office, then came back to tell me she couldn't take my money. She asked if I could return tomorrow.
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, I'm afraid I'll overcharge you," she said.
I explained, "The price is 80 pounds. We've both agreed to that, and you won't be overcharging me."
"Well, I'm afraid I won't set up your paperwork correctly," she said.
"No worries. You can give me the paperwork tomorrow. I'm happy to pay now and sort that out later," I said.
I tried to overcome about three to five objections about why she couldn't take my money before I gave up. Then, I walked down the street and joined another club.
It amazes me how often this happens, not just in large health club chains but in your business, in my business, in everyone's business.
All staff must know that everyone's No. 1 job is to take the money. When you start turning it away and sending ready-to-buy people down the street, it's a quick drop to the bottom of revenue, profits and fun.
Could this problem have been overcome with technology? Maybe. But, in this case, I didn't want to buy online. I knew what I was looking for, and I wanted to walk in and see the facility myself before committing to a purchase.
And most buyers—whether they're experienced or novice exercisers—want to see what they're getting before enrollment. It's tough to fully establish a value proposition in the mind of your prospect simply by having a great website. A big part of membership value is in the culture and service of your organization.
That is why the limiting factor for most fitness businesses isn't technology leverage—it's simple training, culture alignment and management of frontline staff to the fundamentals of communication.
Here are five keys to success for every owner, manager and leader to follow:
- Create a culture of caring. It sounds simple, and it is. The foundation of all success for a team must be caring: caring about team members, caring about the company mission, caring about the purpose and caring about the clients. If someone had really cared about helping me with my fitness goals, I would have been presented with options, not obstacles. Even in a worst-case scenario where you really can't take someone's money (and I'd argue on this one), then give the customer a free day pass. Capture their contact details in exchange. Explain you'll have someone take care of their membership tomorrow morning. Build reciprocity by taking care of someone's needs today.
- Get everyone aligned with "selling is serving." Every organization has multiple jobs and roles that must be played. Cross-training frontline staff in multiple roles may not fit your model. However, everyone must know and understand that it is everyone's responsibility to facilitate (and reduce friction) in how prospective customers become clients (i.e. make a purchase). All too often, untrained but well-meaning staff are intimidated or scared to ask for or take someone's money. But when everyone is aligned that "selling is serving," even those who get uncomfortable when asking for a sale can psychologically get behind the idea.
- Drill the sales process over and over again. Role-playing is always a good idea, and so is mystery shopping and recording conversations. Then review with staff. Train, train, train, and then when everyone is sick of it, train some more. The sales process must become so habit-like that it's as simple as breathing for you and your team. Every organization can get an uptick in sales and revenue from consistently making time to review and tighten these fundamentals.
- Train open-ended questions. Use scripts. The most powerful tool every employee has when engaging in customer-focused communication is an open-ended question. An open-ended question can't be answered yes or no. It requires someone to think about an idea or share an opinion. It gets people talking, which is key to establishing need, and, therefore, the value of a solution. Questions that begin with who, what, where, why, when and how are all open-ended questions. Have every customer-facing employee know 10 to pull out, at any time, to engage a customer or prospect in conversation. And yes, scripts are key. If you're relying on staff to wing it with what to say when representing your company and brand, you'll be disappointed with their responses. Give them the language that keeps your company positioning on track.
- Don't ever let someone who is ready to buy walk out the door. This goes without saying, but it still happens every day. Nobody should allow a ready-to-buy customer with a credit card in hand walk out the door—ever. When a prospective customer has agreed to your price and wants to buy, there shouldn't be much need for additional conversation. Or, if you can't take their money, at least take their contact details and get them engaged in your membership. Give them a free day or week trial pass. Create value to where they want to come back for more.
Although technology is the hot topic and rage for sales and marketing growth these days, no tweet, post or CRM platform will fix your fundamentals. Leadership, culture and training are always the biggest keys to success and points of leverage, especially the larger your team grows.
Don't forget what got you here, and commit to investing in the people, systems and structure that will ensure continued scale and success with your organization for years to come.
Net Profit Explosion CEO Sean Greeley has an unrelenting passion for supporting entrepreneurs and growing businesses. Just don't ask him to go slow and be prepared for straight talk when you ask him a question. Learn more about how to engage effective sales training for you and your team by downloading NPE's free report: The 7.5 Step Advanced Fitness Sales System.