Teaching Trainers the Art of Self-Promotion

How to help your staff sell their own services to increase your club’s bottom line.Debra Atkinson,

If you are a director or manager operating on a tight budget, chances are you have spent at least some of your dwindling financial resources promoting your studio’s personal fitness training services. But no matter how much of the budget pie has been allotted to marketing those services in newsprint, radio or television ads, you’ll never succeed if your personal fitness trainers don’t know how to promote, market and sell their own services. That’s why it’s up to you to teach your training staff how to use their greatest asset: the art of self-promotion.

You may have a crack team of trainers who stay sharp by honing innovative techniques that make it possible to bench-press more weight, work effectively with clients and perform exacting fitness assessments. But the very step that would take your business to the next level—teaching trainers the skill of confidence when selling their services—tends to fall through the cracks. The solution can be quite simple: Learning the right sales technique, like perfecting any other skill, takes practice, practice and more practice.

Here are some practical ways for managers and directors to make sales training and marketing more fun—and more profitable—for all concerned.

Setting the Stage for Successful Sales

Set marketing goals for your training staff by using what is known as a contact contract. Have every trainer sign an agreement designed to keep track of his or her goals. Base each agreement on a combination of the trainer’s own goals coupled with the goals you have set for your program. Agreements should be extremely clear in terms of expectations and should clearly define what is expected of a part-time versus a full-time trainer.

During the first 90 days of any trainer’s employment, agree with the individual on a goal, such as phoning three new contacts each day (this can also be done with trainers who have been with you for a while but are not performing up to your expectations). The trainer should record the name and phone number of each prospect contacted, along with pertinent details of the conversation. By the end of the 3-week period, most trainers will already be stretching outside their comfort zone and creating their own successful marketing habits.

By the time you conduct your 90-day review for these new hires, it will be far more obvious to you which trainers will be assets for your organization and which will not. Why, you ask? Because if an individual has taken the proper steps to market and sell the agreed-on number of services, it will be readily apparent, since the trainer will have amassed a list of up to 270 potential new clients!

Take the Lead

Another way to increase sales among your trainers is to use what is known as a lead box. The lead box serves as a risk-free way for new clients to try personal training and gives your trainers what they need to best service these prospects.

Place a box at the front desk, along with a sign that says you are currently offering a complimentary session to members new to training. To expedite matters, provide blank forms on which interested members can give their name, age and phone number, plus the best time they can be reached. This allows you to choose suitable trainers. Using the qualified leads, your trainers can then make appointments for the complimentary sessions.

To help novice trainers learn the ropes, you might want to create a script they can refer to when calling leads to book these sessions. See “How to Confidently Book a Complimentary Session” on page 41 for a sample cheat sheet that trainers can refer to when they get nervous or tongue-tied. For some trainers, learning how to sound energetic and enthusiastic when booking client appointments is the first step in developing their marketing skills.

Follow With Flare

You might also want to try monthly personal training specials designed to help your trainers attract new clients. This type of special promotion gives trainers a reason and an opportunity to engage potential clients in conversation about getting started. Most trainers will feel somewhat bolder knowing that the prospects want to learn more about training, and the promotion gives the trainers a special reason to encourage individuals to start immediately.

To effectively maximize this sense of urgency in both clients and trainers, consider occasionally offering a “very special special promotion, such as a half-yearly sale—exclusively for new clients—that boasts a “1-day only” low introductory rate on a set number of sessions. For example, tell your trainers that on November 1 they have from start of business to end of the business day to promote and collect fees for this special package deal. This will not only create a sense of urgency to close the deal in the prospective clients; it will also appeal to the competitive nature of your trainers, who will want to see who can sell the most in that single day.

One way your trainers can inform prospective clients about special packages is to make follow-up phone calls. For a script on what to say, see “Alerting Prospects About Special Promotions,” below.

Take That First Step

New members at most fitness facilities go through orientation appointments. Why not have your personal trainers perform these baseline assessments and introduction-to-equipment appointments? This way, trainers are exposed to the new members who most need their services; they build rapport with these members right from the start; and they can easily identify someone who is “an ideal candidate for personal training.”

Before their first orientation session with a new member, encourage your trainers to practice effective and powerful statements, such as “I’d love to work with you on your fitness goals!” or “Our members who have a personal trainer get better results right from the start. We can cut out the guesswork and get right down to the real work. Does that make sense to you?”

Here are some other statements your staff can practice and perfect for use during those important first meetings with new members:

  • “You’re a perfect candidate for personal training.”
  • “You’re going to see so much more progress from the start, without wasting time or risking injury.”
  • “I am so excited you are embarking on this new journey to a healthier life!”

Stay in Step

Getting a list of names and phone numbers of new training prospects is just laying the foundation for better sales. Successful trainers don’t take no answer for an answer. They call and continue to call, until they have either been told no or enlisted a new client.

A good time to have trainers share their tales of persistence paying off is during regularly scheduled staff sales meetings. A trainer can share a (true) tale of having made 20 phone calls to a prospect who demurred and then finally clinched the deal—or tell the story of an 80-year-old who eventually bought a training session package and profusely thanked the membership department for its “persistence” because she knew, “It’s something I just need to do.” Let these testimonials reinforce the need to document each phone call to a prospective member until the sale is finally closed.

Dance with the Stars

Use some of the time at your weekly trainer sales “success meetings” to act out the scripts provided in this article. These dry runs can help trainers learn how to react during potential sales scenarios and give them a chance to rehearse their delivery and scripts during phone calls and orientations. Then set your staff free with their phones for 25 minutes. Track the number of calls made, messages left, appointments set up and packages sold during this time.

After the 25-minute session has ended, post each trainer’s stats on a bulletin or chalk board. Be sure to acknowledge effort as well as sales. When a potential client says no to a package but still thanks the trainer for letting them know, consider this a positive reaction. Most members are glad to be kept aware of their choices and opportunities.

Focus on the number of contacts made within a short time when the staff was all working on the same goal. Have your trainers share their phone conversations and give feedback, so they learn not only from their own experiences but from each other. Emphasize the importance of dedicating time to make follow-up calls. The message you want to send is that persistence and consistency ultimately pay off.

Reward Persistence

After the meeting, when trainers call in to report sales, provide immediate gratification in the form of team praise. Use a weekly e-mail to staff to acknowledge someone’s extraordinary effort and to let everyone know where they stand in terms of their respective monthly and annual goals, as well as the status of leads generated during special promotions.

Build excitement by holding different kinds of incentive contests from time to time. One month, for example, graph each trainer’s target number of sessions per week against the actual number of sessions conducted. Set a reward for the team based on all of the trainers reaching 80% of their sales goals, then 90% and ultimately 100%. You may give a monetary reward or a party for the staff, but make sure you follow through with celebrating their individual successes. Remember that what gets praised gets repeated.

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Debra Atkinson, MS

IDEA Author/Presenter
Speaker and author Debra Atkinson, MS, CSCS, is a prior Senior Lecturer at Iowa State University,... more
October 2006

© 2006 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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