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Plugging the Product or Program

by Shannon Fable on Sep 10, 2009


Once you’ve done your research, you’re ready to ask upper management for what you want.

Over the past year, we’ve embarked on a crash course in Budgeting 101. You’ve learned that getting what you want as a group fitness manager involves far more than simply understanding the cost and return of a specific project and desperately wanting it. You’ve explored the position of group exercise within the facility’s bigger picture; strategies for researching and developing your C.A.S.E.; budgeting basics to get facts and figures straight; and formulas and suggestions for tracking stats to prove your point. Now it’s time to put it all together. The next and final step: set a meeting with upper management to present your findings and ask for what you need.

Set the Meeting

Just like you, the general manager (GM) is an extremely busy professional. Respect his unique scheduling challenges and request as little time as possible, at least 2 weeks in advance, to get the ball rolling. Make your request in writing, and include the following key information:

  • Suggest a timetable for the meeting (offer 2 or 3 days or times, with at least 2 weeks’ lead time). Be specific about your availability and offer alternatives, but also be flexible and firm that the meeting needs to happen in the near future.
  • Summarize the reason for the meeting in one paragraph, and provide a brief overview of your main objective. For example: “I would appreciate 30 minutes of your time to discuss a new product I’ve been researching: the BOSU® Ballast® Ball. I have a few ideas about how this product can add variety to our current programming; increase our outreach to a wider audience; and eliminate the storage racks, which are an extra expense.”
  • Outline your talking points. This way the GM knows you are prepared. Use no more than three to five bullet points to detail your agenda. The list of talking points serves as an outline and proves you’ve done your research and won’t be coming in just to toss ideas around. For example, key points might include list pricing you’ve secured, the dollar amount saved by making the purchase, clientele you can service beyond your current attendees, and so forth.
  • Thank your GM for her time in advance and express gratitude to her for entertaining this conversation. The last paragraph is a great place to communicate your understanding, once again, of how group fitness fits into the bigger picture and how this new product or program will enhance members’ experiences.

Prepare for the Meeting

Once your GM has agreed to the meeting, it’s time to prepare. The good news is you’ve already done the hard work, and all the information you need is ready to go. Your job now is to whittle down the information to no more than 20 minutes’ worth. Make your message compelling, and plan to leave behind complete written support materials that will serve as a hard copy of your verbal presentation. Take only two-thirds of the time allotted, allowing adequate time to field questions. Make sure your speaking points are prepared in advance (use notes, just as you would when delivering a speech), and include highlights of what you’ve learned from your research.

Draw a Direct Line to Dues--Know Why You’re Doing What You’re Doing. Your opening statement should reflect your understanding of the department’s place in the grand scheme of the facility. Begin by mentioning—specifically—how the proposed product or program will enhance the overall facility experience. Avoid speaking in generalities: “It will be great to have new core equipment for members” is too general. A better opening line might be “Ballast Balls will save us money and space and will provide a better way for a wider variety of members to enjoy core classes.”

Use Your C.A.S.E. Technique to Introduce the Product/Program. As a reminder, C.A.S.E. stands for “Consider, Analyze, Strategize and Evaluate.” Begin with the unique selling proposition of the product or program. Explain how it can replace what you already have and add a new twist to current products or programming. Detail why it is better than the competition and how the investment will positively impact the bottom line (decrease expenses, increase revenue, etc.). Take about 2 minutes to articulate your thoughts, and stick to the highlights! The GM will not necessarily want to hear about the history of the program or the key players (although you’ve done your research!). However, do include this information in the written summary you prepare for the GM’s review.

Understand Budgeting Basics, and State the Facts. Have “hard” numbers from your current budget, and be able to explain how this purchase (and all costs involved) will fit into your given parameters. The easiest way to explain this message concisely is to provide a return on investment (ROI) overview. ROI is a performance measure used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. To determine ROI, subtract the cost of an investment from the gain, and divide this number by the original investment. ROI is a group fitness manager’s secret weapon because, unlike a P&L (profit & loss) statement, the ROI allows you to include nonmonetary gains that are hard to quantify (e.g., staff morale, member retention, increased visibility) to offset the hard costs. Keep in mind that it is always best to underpromise what your gains will be and to overdeliver!

Track Stats to Prove Your Point. To support your position, it may also be wise to provide an overview of your program’s stats and how this investment will enhance current numbers. Will it increase average class size (by how much)? Decrease the cost per head? Increase penetration by adding a new type of participant?

Present Your Request

It’s showtime! You’ve researched and prepared a compelling presentation, and you are ready to go. Arrive for the meeting a few minutes early, and have your speaking points well outlined. Double-check that you also have written materials (professionally presented) and any brochures, marketing materials or additional collateral that will help your case. Dress professionally and wear a watch to stay on schedule.

The hardest aspect of your meeting will be staying on task and not adding superfluous information. Be professional, prepared, well researched and well rehearsed. You are a solid businessperson with a keen understanding of how your request affects the bottom line, and you respect the decision the GM makes on behalf of the company.

Allow time for your GM to ask questions, and avoid pressing for an answer. Suggest a time to reconvene to discuss any further questions or to provide additional support material. Seek your GM’s input on the decision-making timeline, but settle on a date prior to leaving the meeting so you may politely persist without being obnoxious. If the answer is no, suggest a time for review in the future, or ask if there is a better quarter in which this item might fit into the budget and make plans to follow up.

The outcome is unpredictable, but if you’ve done your homework and are prepared, it’s guaranteed you will be much closer to your desired outcome. Good luck!

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About the Author

Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable IDEA Author/Presenter

Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is the VP of Fitness Programming for the FIT4MOM® franchise. For more than two decades, she has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, Silver Sneakers, and BOSU® as a fitness business and programming consultant. An experienced educator, freelance writer, and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable serves as Vice Chair of the ACE Board of Directors and is the founder and co-owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool.