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Selling Services in a Faltering Economy, Part 2

In Part I of “Selling Services in a Faltering Economy” (in the October 2012 issue of IDEA Trainer Success), I discussed five steps you can take to energize your business: target your expertise; differentiate your products, price and relationships; protect your current client base; develop multiple revenue streams; and give gifts that reward you, too. Here are five more steps you can take to boost sales in a weak economy.

Offer Multiple Purchase Options

One way to evaluate the success of your business is by calculating your sales closing ratio, which is the percentage of prospects who turn into paying customers (e.g., if you have 10 prospects, and seven of them ultimately purchase your services, you have a sales closing ratio of 70%). You can improve your closing ratio by offering multiple purchase options that give prospects distinct choices at different price points. For example, as a personal trainer you could offer a single training package that costs $60 per session and provides a specific set of features. This works well as long as you have enough prospects interested in those features at that price point. To increase your chances of success, you could offer three distinct packages; we’ll call them basic, deluxe and elite. The basic package might cost $45 and include standard, one-on-one personal training services. The $60 deluxe package would offer the features of the basic package and add nutritional counseling. The elite package, which might cost $75, could improve on the deluxe package by also offering, say, in-home training and sports competition coaching. Providing an array of options increases the likelihood that you will offer a program that suits a particular client.

Offer Product Discounts

Discounts provide at least four benefits:

  • They invite potential customers to try your products and services at a relatively low risk.
  • They can motivate potential customers to make an immediate purchase.
  • They encourage purchases during difficult economic times.
  • Perhaps most significantly, they offer you a way to lower your prices without really lowering your prices. That is, customers receive a price reduction for a specified period of time, but your prices return to their previous levels after the discount period. (Make sure you discuss this with clients at the beginning of the process, so they are not surprised later.)

Here are four ways you can use discounts successfully in your personal training business:

  • Offer clients a significant price reduction for purchasing your products or services within a given timeframe. I recently observed a great example of this: A cycling coaching group offered a 3-month coaching package, with a $150 discount for all clients who signed up during the 23 days of the Tour de France. A promotion like this has three important elements. First, it offers a significant yet temporary price reduction (prices return to normal after the 3-month package ends). Second, the offer is good for only a limited time, which motivates clients to purchase now. Third, the discount is connected to an event that is of great interest to the target market.
  • Give clients something of value for free when they purchase a specific training package. Some cycling and triathlon coaches provide new clients with free access to power measurement tools. Others offer free bike fitting services. A personal training studio could offer a new client free access to a group exercise class if the client purchases a personal training package. A personal trainer might provide a half-priced session for every paid session in a package of 10 workouts (e.g., five workouts at $60 each and five workouts at $30 each). If you’ve published a book, e-book, manual, CD or DVD, you could give a free copy to anyone who signs up within a specified timeframe.
  • Offer a group discount for new clients (with or without a timeframe). If your standard fee is $60 per session, you could offer to train a group of three for $90 per session ($30 per person). This cuts the client’s cost in half and adds $30 to your revenue each session.
  • Provide a price reduction or monetary reward for referral business (with or without a timeframe). This can motivate your current clients to help you engage new clients. For example, offer existing clients a package of three free training sessions for every person they refer who becomes a new client.

Offer Product Bundles

Product bundling, also referred to as a package deal, is a marketing strategy in which you offer sell several products or services at a single price point in a way that is attractive to potential clients. Technology companies will bundle a computer, a printer and select software to create a home-office computing solution. Likewise, car dealers frequently bundle specific automobiles with packages of select features such as leather seats, a moon roof and a navigation system. If you own a personal training studio, you could create a specialized weight loss program for clients by bundling a package of one-on-one training sessions with group exercise classes and nutritional products. If you provide athletic coaching, you could package virtual coaching sessions, one-on-one functional strength training workouts and access to athlete development webinars. In each case, the total cost of the package is significantly less than the cost if clients purchased the products or services separately.

Prospect, Prospect and Prospect Some More (Even if You Are Busy)

When business is slow, you should be prospecting. This makes obvious sense. When you have plenty of time and relatively little business, you will be motivated to seek new customers. However, you should also be prospecting when business is going great. Even if you are busy with billable work, take time to prospect, because business downtimes are often the result of a failure to prospect during thriving times. You may spend a great deal of time servicing your customers, but you may not be attracting new customers. If you lose a few clients and you haven’t taken steps to attract new ones, you may yourself back at square one with plenty of time and little billable business. Here’s how to keep this from happening:

  • Get in the habit of prospecting at least 5 days a week by taking specific steps to reach out to potential clients. This includes networking, exhibiting at trade shows, seeking referrals, making cold calls as well as warm calls, requesting testimonials, distributing press releases, seeking radio and television interviews, publishing newspaper and magazine articles, advertising, and sending out direct mail and email blasts.
  • Spend 50% of your time prospecting, even when business is booming. This may be easier said than done, but ask yourself this question: Would my time be better spent prospecting for new clients than simply performing my daily activities?

Make Good Use of Your Extra Time

As much as you want to avoid business downtime, one of the benefits of a slow period is that it gives you time to do the things you tend to neglect when you are really busy. Make good use of your extra time by engaging in activities that will help grow your business. These 10 activities are sure to have a long-term positive effect:

  • Refresh your website.
  • Expand your use of social media (e.g., develop a strategy for using Twitter™).
  • Publish an article or e-article.
  • Create a press list, and send out releases about your key activities.
  • Start a blog that provides useful information for potential customers (but make sure you will be able to maintain that blog when you get busy again).
  • Start a newsletter, and develop a distribution list.
  • Create a networking plan, and redouble your efforts to meet new people.
  • Seek speaking opportunities at local conferences and meetings.
  • Develop and record webinars you can add to your product list.
  • Get your financial records up-to-date.

Times may be tough for many personal training businesses, but there are abundant opportunities as well. Consider the tips described in this series, and identify one or two steps you can take to gain a competitive advantage and get your business rolling.

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