Inside the Mind of Your New Member

Ken Freiberg is the associate director of The Santomauro Group, a health, fitness, martial arts and sports consulting and management company. Freiberg, a 30-year health and fitness veteran, was the owner and president of Train For Results, a personal training studio in Fort Lee, NJ. He is an exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer, muscle activation techniques specialist and an Aikido black belt and instructor. He can be contacted at [email protected] or 973-396-2100.

Many people cite a lack of time or money as their reasons for not joining a health club, but I've found that these three more prevalent factors stop them from getting started:

1. Fear of pain
2. Fear of embarrassment
3. Fear of not being able to achieve their goals

Here are some suggestions for successfully addressing these potential roadblocks to membership:

1. Pain. Pain is a stronger emotion than pleasure. In other words, most people will do far more to avoid pain than they will to pursue pleasure. At the point of sale, it’s the membership salesperson’s responsibility to recognize this fear factor when it occurs. Once identified, the salesperson must skillfully educate the prospect that exercise doesn’t need to be a painful experience. He should explain that seeing the results of an ongoing exercise program and healthy lifestyle can be gratifying both physically and often to the member’s self-esteem. The salesperson needs to emphasize that the club emphasizes that pleasure, not pain.

2. Embarrassment. Many club owners and trainers have been exercising for so long that they assume every new member knows what they are doing when they first arrive. Think again! Most people who join health clubs are novice exercisers with little idea of what to do or how to do it. They fear that everyone in the health club will be in better shape than they are and that their every move will be scrutinized. (And let’s be honest, unfortunately, some of that is very true.)

The thing to remember and express to the prospect is that everyone was a novice once — even you. I use that example all the time when I’m teaching an Aikido class to a first-day beginner. I explain to them that everyone in the class had a first day and had no clue what to do, including me. Then I point to a photograph on the wall of the founder of Aikido and say, “Even him.” When a senior instructor teaches a beginner, that instructor needs to go back to “beginner mind.”

So if embarrassment is a factor for the prospect, both the salesperson initially and the personal trainer later need to step up. They should explain how their club instills a “no intimidation” factor and that every member of the staff is there to assist members in achieving their health and fitness goals.

3. Goals. The sales and personal training departments must maintain a close relationship and effective communication to assist members in achieving their goals. At the point of sale, the salesperson should have already clearly identified the new member’s goals and explained to her why the club is the ideal choice in helping her achieve the results she desires.

That’s where the personal training department comes in. The member’s goals must be communicated to the trainer by the sales team, and the trainer needs to take time to go over the goals as well as any orthopedic concerns and limitations. A good evaluation by the trainer is essential in helping the member reach his health and fitness goals. This opportunity to collect essential data in order to design the safest and most effective exercise program shouldn’t be taken lightly: Every new member should be treated as an individual. Trainers need to completely design the workout around the member’s goals, rather than fit the goals into the trainer’s predetermined cookie-cutter workouts. No two people should ever have the same workout. This time spent with the new member during the initial evaluation and fitness orientation can make or break the relationship between the member and trainer, as well as the member and club.

The workout should not be too difficult for the novice. Remember pain? One of the biggest mistakes a trainer can make during a first workout is to make sure that the new member is sore for a few days. The trainer must do her best to educate and “under” train that novice member so that he will and “can” come back. How can you reach your goals when you can’t even work out because you’re too sore? All goals must be within reach and be able to be easily executed once demonstrated.

Getting inside the mind of a new member is something that comes with practice and more practice. Listening is your best tool. So the next time you have a new prospect before you, try to remember what they might be thinking and put yourself into “beginner mind.”

Suggested Articles:

The fitness industry must take action to prevent liability risks that video training presents.

Before you reopen your health club’s doors, take some time to consider these three strategies that may help you future-proof your business.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic is presenting every fitness business with a unique set of obstacles. The degree to which each business will struggle