How to be an Ethical Health Club Salesperson

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:

My company was recently asked to conduct a health club sales training class on ethical selling practices. The following are some of the points that came out of that training seminar.

Whenever I conduct a training class of this nature, I start by asking each person in attendance the first thing that pops into their head when the word “sales” is mentioned. I am always amazed at the negative descriptions many people use for sales. Furthermore, I get the sense that this negative perception some health club people have about sales is used as a permission slip to “just get the sale.”

Here are six other tips that came out of the training session for your salespeople—and owners:

1. Don’t intentionally misrepresent anything—ever. Never, never, ever lie to a health club member or guest about anything. Ever. Period.

2. Make it a priority to fix any significant misunderstandings that you can. It’s possible that your member or guest will form incorrect ideas or beliefs about your health club. It’s very tempting, when these misunderstandings work in your favor, to ignore them. On the important issues that impact membership sales, allowing misunderstandings to exist is called an act of passive dishonesty. Correct them when you can.

3. Without exception, salespeople should work hard for the health club owner. It’s easy for a health club salesperson to give in to the temptation to cut corners when it comes to working a full day, every day. After all, who really knows if you make your first prospect call at 9 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m.?

A code of ethics is easy to live by when the club owner is watching. But it’s a real test of character when salespeople’s ethics are tested in situations where no one else knows. Salespeople owe their club owners consistent, full days of their best efforts at the health club. Anything less is unethical. If you’re a salesperson, do the right thing when no one is watching.

4. If you say you’ll do something, do what you say you are going to do. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. In its simplest form, don’t over promise. That’s difficult to do when you’re in the middle of a competitive situation over a big corporate sale, and you know the health club around the corner is over promising to get the sale. But, if you’re going to be ethical, you won’t over promise because you know you won’t be able to do what you say you’re going to do.

5. No one does it alone, so recognize those who help you. It’s easy for salespeople to get into the mindset that they alone are responsible for the health club’s selling success. After all, they’re the ones who are out there, fighting the membership sales battle every day. A club owner rarely knows what good work they did following up to get that sale, or how hard it is some days when nothing goes their way.

In spite of this, no salesperson—or club owner—could do their jobs without the support of a staff of people at the front desk, on the workout floor, in maintenance, etc. I’m sure the front desk staff members have cleaned up more than a few of your messes, and they have positively impacted many of your new members and guests. All of these health club support staff members have contributed in significant ways to your success in selling memberships. It is just as dishonest to not recognize them as it is to misrepresent the health club.

6. Be coachable and willing to continuously learn and improve. Salespeople can always improve. Salespeople have an ethical obligation, not only to the health club owner but also to themselves, to become as good as they can be, to continuously improve. When they decide that they know everything about health club sales, they—and you—quit learning and improving. And when that happens, you rob yourself and your health club of potential. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse. There is no in between.

Now, let’s get ready to sell—ethically.

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