Master the last four steps of the selling system that will put you in control of the negotiating process.
In the February column we outlined the first three steps of the Sandler Sales System: establishing rapport, securing an up-front contract and uncovering the client’s “pain.” This article will address the final four steps.
The goal of this step is to find out what the prospect is willing to pay you to fix his “pain” (his true problem, which you discovered in step 3). Money is frequently an excruciating topic for trainers. However, people don’t do business for free, and a person who is truly a prospective client will understand this. It is your job to uncover the prospect’s budget through specific questioning and the use of up-front contracts.
To begin, review with the prospect what you have agreed on up to this point. For example, you could say, “We have agreed that you would like to reduce your waistline, and that is going to take more than a few new abs exercises. Meeting your goal will require a cohesive plan that includes personal training with me.”
Next, establish an up-front contract, or a verbal agreement that outlines what will happen after your budget discussion. Advise the client, “If my services are not in your budget, I would like you to tell me no at the end of this conversation. Can you do that?” Once the prospect has agreed, the conversation that follows is aimed at trying to determine his budget.
You might give the prospect some different scenarios for using your services. For example, explain, “I like to think that my coaching services are available to people with a variety of budgets. I find that clients who are motivated and comfortable in the gym need a coaching session only once every week or two and then they can complete the rest of the workouts on their own, checking in with me for a new program at least once every 8 weeks. On the other hand, if you are unsure of your ability to stick to an exercise schedule, are uncomfortable in the gym alone, or simply want to ensure that extra intensity in your workouts that I can guarantee, you will want to consider training more frequently.”
Then try to find out the prospect’s budget range. Ask, “Would you be willing to discuss with me a low to high range that you are willing to invest in yourself to reduce that waistline?”
If the prospect names a lower figure than you are willing to accept, ask, “What if that isn’t enough?” A game will begin in which you will continue trying to uncover the prospect’s true budget. You need to realize that prospects may lie. We all do when we are prospects! That’s why it is necessary for you to lead a discussion that will require the prospect either to reveal that his true budget is too low to pay your fees, or to increase his spending range to where it needs to be. All of this occurs without your revealing a fee structure. (Revealing your fees too early will allow the prospect to end the discussion with you and start “comparison-shopping.”)
Once you have discovered that the prospect’s budget is somewhere within your fee structure, it is time to get more detailed information. If the budget is enough to pay for as many sessions as you believe the prospect will need to accomplish his goals, then you can move on to the next step. If the budget is on the low side, continue the discussion, perhaps pointing out, “The budget you have just given me allows for a session only once every other week. Do you think you can do the rest of the training on your own? If not, where do we go from here? If you need to say no, that’s okay.”
This step is a creative process that takes some time to master, but it is worth every minute of practice.
The prospect is usually the one who decides whether to hire a trainer—and how much to pay—but occasionally a spouse or parent has a say, or payments may come from the prospect’s employer or a health insurance company. Of course, prospects may lie about this to put off making a decision. But you should at least ask, “Is there anyone you want or need to consult with before making this decision?”
Now you get the opportunity to present your solution to the prospect’s problem. You reveal your rates, make recommendations about the frequency of training and lay out the exercise plan.
Notice how much later this step comes in this method than in the traditional sales process. Why? To prevent unpaid consulting. The prospect never learns exactly how you will help him meet his goals until you have “qualified” him.
In this step, you present a program that is based on this client’s individual needs, abilities and goals. To ensure that the client fully participates in the program, let him know how each part of it will heal his specific pain.
Once training has begun, it is more important than ever to listen to your client’s needs and communicate continually about her satisfaction with her progress. Clients can be impatient and/or fickle about their decision to hire you. Lessen the chances that your client will back out or have buyer’s remorse by dealing with any issues when she is in front of you, rather than trying to reach her after she has left a message that she is terminating the relationship.
Have a brief discussion with each client after every session. For example, after the first session, make sure the client knows what to expect by saying, “You may have some sore muscles for the next few days. I will set the pace of your next workout based largely on how you feel after today’s session, so it is important for you to communicate with me about any joint discomfort or any muscle soreness that doesn’t go away after a few days.” By preparing the client in this way, you avoid the chance of her quitting immediately owing to unexpected discomfort.
After subsequent sessions, ask the client how she felt about the workout and tell her what you noticed about her efforts: “I noticed that you weren’t able to give me 100% today. What’s up?” These discussions enable you to do some trouble-shooting. Is the client suffering from dehydration or lack of sleep? Is she bored with the routine?
The point is to convince the client that you are committed to her results over the long term. In addition, you can uncover any new client expectations that may arise once your relationship has begun. You can even suggest some new goals: “You’ve been doing so well with your workouts. Your waistline is down to where you want it to be, and your continued efforts have helped you maintain a lower body fat percentage. Would you be interested in shifting the focus of your workouts to train for a road race or improve your performance in a sport you enjoy?” The client may not want to follow the suggestion, but at least you are continuing to communicate the possibilities.
As a trainer, you are a technician. But training clients is the easy part of your job. Think about it: You are running a business, not just spending time helping people stay in shape. Sales skills will arm you to grow your business, whether you are in a club setting or you operate as an independent contractor. Sales will afford you stability and opportunity over the length of a career, while giving you more control over your ultimate professional destiny.