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Designing the New “Sales Experience”

By: Bruce Carter

Bruce Carter

Sales has been one of the dominate foundations of the health and fitness club industry. It has evolved from “sales or selling” to terms such as membership, fitness consultant, and even, fitness trainer.

With the advent of low-price clubs, selling memberships in many facilities became minimized; the art and science of convincing people to join a club evolved into filling out the paperwork for $10 memberships with the individual joining filling out most of the agreement themselves (in person or online).

Yet, as more and more low-priced clubs came into the marketplace, it became clear that getting “more revenue per member” was the evolving goal. This need has once again put productive selling at the forefront of club operations. However, many clubs, often larger and with higher dues, continued to sell as always. But, even with those clubs, there seems to be a new format, that of selling memberships and non-dues programs.

Now… “the Upsell”

Now, the “upsell” is becoming the new norm for many facilities. No matter what the initial price of admission is, the new business plan calls for providing a variety of different programs and facilities not available as part of the base membership. The good news is that there is an upward trend in the percentage of people willing to pay considerably more than a base membership to participate in a better club experience that gives personal results.

Yet, most people don’t just add $10 to $99 (and more) to their monthly dues just by coming in and asking to do so. Trained, sincere and committed professionals using proven systems of operations are needed to maximize revenues in these areas, and state-of-the-art sales areas are integral part of a successful process.

From a design perspective, the key components of a successful sales experience are two-fold. The first is the location in the club, and the second is the immediate sales environment. Here is how to be successful with both.

Decide if your plan calls for one or two points of sales and one or two different people selling. One would be for sales of basic memberships and another for the upselling of additional programs. You may decide to do both at the same point and by the same sales person. Other clubs will break this down into a sales area and a separate fitness trainer desk. The fitness desk is for working with members on their training programs and to sell additional programs. For the purpose of moving forward, we will refer to these areas as sales area and trainers’ desk.

Typically, any sales area is near the front desk. However, it should not be one of the first things you see when you enter a club. It should be off to the side, but its location should allow for potential members to see the areas that are part of the experience they are considering purchasing. If a club decides to use the “bull pen” (a number of desks grouped together) up approach, having it too close in proximity to the front entrance makes the statement the club is more about “selling” than it is about fitness.

Trainers’ desks can be at one of two places. It may be near or part of the reception desk (possibly on the back side of the reception desk). Or, it may be out on the exercise floor. If out on the floor, ideally, it should be visible to most of the club. An attractive well-designed trainer’s desk supported with the proper signage will contribute to members seeing other members interacting with trainers, and therefore, potentially increase the numbers of those wanting to have that same experience.

There are a number of ways to set up a sales area. Some clubs have made the sales area a casual Starbucks-style area with comfort seating and café table type seating. Both sales consultants and trainers may use the area. This is casual and inviting, but it may necessitate the need to have a backup office for sales calls, etc.

Another option is to have sales cubicles, which are 3-sided offices with the front being open to the club. The side walls can be half walls or glass walls.

The major rule with sales areas is to create environments that are non-intimidating. Don’t think about what is best for your sales process without thinking about what will intimidate a guest/member. Most people coming into a club dread a potential stress-oriented sales process, so everything should be done to minimize the intimidating feeling. For example, any type of sales area down a hallway or in an office behind closed doors (even a glass door) is not recommended, and this also applies to upselling.

Often, traditional sales desks where one person sits on one side and the potential member(s) on another side (perceived to be a psychological barrier) have changed more into round or half-round desks where everyone “sits together.” The trainer’s desk is usually a millwork type desk where the trainer is on one side and the client on the other. Clients can sit or stand, but sitting is better if any length of time is involved. One of the newer concepts for trainers is to have the trainer sit next to the client in a trainer’s desk setting. Sitting together side by side is more inviting and seemingly helpful. Another newer trend is smaller kiosk type trainers’ desks, which tend to be more personal, and there are good options available on the internet.

O.D.S.I.All points of sales should be kept neat and clutter free. All furniture should match, be of good quality and comfortable. Colorful graphics or motivational sayings in the area work well. Lighting should be soft and not overly bright. Architectural things such as a water feature, stacked stone or wooded walls can be more inviting.

Helping people make decisions that will improve their life by joining a club and also adding important specialized fitness programs is the primary mission of most clubs. Investing in attractive and professional looking sales and trainers’ areas is money well spent, and it will result in more revenue. The goal of the member is to be the best they can be, and the goal of the club should be to be the best they can be in helping people make the best decisions for making the positive changes they desire.

As published on clubinsideronline.com, September 2018.