How to Turn Around a Health Club With Lagging Sales


Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at:

Is your health club producing far below potential?

In working with clubs all across the country, I get the opportunity to step into health clubs that are in need of a sales turnaround. The attitude of most struggling health clubs is embarrassing. We hear a lot of justification and excuses for poor performance, such as, “We’re not getting any walk-ins” or, “Our membership prices are too high.” But what most health club salespeople really lack is a success role model.

Over time, we have identified the following nine success strategies that have improved the sales performance of many health clubs:

1. Delay decision-making in order to observe what’s happening in your health club. When you first arrive at a health club with a sales team in distress, don’t do anything. Take some time to understand the health club’s situation, gather information about the people involved, and….

2. Study and evaluate the problems in your health club. One of the biggest problems clubs have is salespeople who don’t believe in themselves. Many salespeople haven’t experienced success, and if they’ve never had a success role model to look up to, they may not know what to do. Many salespeople play “follow the leader,” so make sure you have a leader on your staff that others can emulate.

3. Find the “bell cow” in your health club. Who is the informal leader, or bell cow, of your health club? Who does not have the title but has the influence (and attitude)? It’s important you win this person over to your side so that they will help you sell the message to others. The example of work ethic and attitude that your bell cow displays for the health club is, perhaps, even more important than the example you set for the team. This does not have to be a person in membership sales. It can be anyone that has the ear of others.

4. Don’t tolerate mediocre membership sales performance. You must stand firm and not tolerate mediocre sales performance in your membership sales department. Far too often, poorly performing salespeople in health clubs are allowed to continue their lackluster ways, bringing the rest of the club down. Poor sales performers in your health club must make a decision to either recommit themselves to the attitudes and fundamentals necessary for success or leave the health club immediately.

5. Install performance standards. You have to communicate your expectations. So, raise the “B.A.R.” on everybody with standards that consist of Behavior, Activity and Results. A common standard performance in health clubs is a higher membership sales quota.

6. Terminate those below minimum standards. Your health club salespeople will be wondering, “Do you really mean it?” The first person you terminate will send a loud and clear message throughout the staff that performance standards will be enforced. If you don’t enforce them, the standards in your health club are meaningless.

7. Don’t spend all your time with the salespeople who need you the most. One of the biggest mistakes health club owners and managers make is to spend all their time with the low producers on the sales staff. But when you think about it, if you increase their productivity by 20 percent, so what? You’re much better off spending your time with the salespeople most capable of learning and implementing the sales system.

8. Make it a fun environment in your health club. For example, have contests that get everybody focused on a club goal. One example is to reward achieved sales goals with a round of golf with others.

9. Know what each health club salesperson wants. Every health club salesperson has his or her own personal motivation (their super objective or hot button). Your job as owner or manager is to find out what that is and then help the health club salesperson toward achievement. Try to learn something about each of your salespeople. What are their goals with your health club and beyond?

Now, go turn around those lagging sales.

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