“Close” is a worrisome word in sales, often evoking cringe-worthy images of high-pressure boiler-room selling tactics, used-car lots and plaid suits. Canned one-liners aside, the “close” is simply the final part of a conversation when you ask the big question, “Yes or no?” As this involves securing both a decision and money, it can be the most stressful part of selling for both fitness pro and customer.
It doesn’t have to be so stressful—there are ways to ask customers to buy a personalized program that are comfortable for trainer and client alike. To help create a higher comfort level, industry leaders recommend the exact words to lock in personal training sales.
Don’t “Close” Anyone
To start, trainers should lose the “salesman” idea, says Nicki Anderson, 2008 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of the award-winning personal training studio Reality Fitness in Naperville, Illinois. “Old-school sales tactics don’t work anymore,” agrees Rachel Cosgrove of Santa Clarita, California, owner of Results Fitness and a mentor to fitness entrepreneurs.
Remember, the purpose of “closing” is to help clients decide—it may be a yes, it may be a no. Ultimately you need to know whether someone is really interested in your services. A firm no lets you move forward with your precious energy and time.
So what is the right way to ask a customer to decide? Focus on “opening relationships, not closing sales,” says Sherri McMillan, MS, two-time IDEA award winner and owner of Northwest Personal Training and Fitness Education in Vancouver, Washington, and Northwest Women’s Fitness Club in Portland, Oregon. To be most effective, think of the “close” as an invitation—to take action and to choose lifelong health.
Let’s start over with a whole new concept and look at the words top trainers use to invite customers to invest in their services.
The Top 5
Closes Invitations for Personal Trainers
1. The Assumptive Invitation
This option presumes the client will, of course, answer yes.
Anderson’s example: “ ‘I hope I’ve been able to answer all of your questions today. When it comes to personal training, it’s so important to make sure the location you choose fits you and your needs. I’m hopeful you feel that our studio is what you’ve been looking for.’ (Obviously the client answers in the affirmative.) A positive response opens the door for the trainer to say, ‘I would love the opportunity to help you reach your fitness goals, and I think we’d be a great team. What do you feel most comfortable starting with today? Honestly, I would suggest going with our 50-minute sessions to get you started, and we can go from there. How many sessions would you like to purchase today?’ ”
2. The Alternate (Either-Or) Invitation
Alternate invitations give potential clients two positive choices: “Would you prefer X or Y?”
Cosgrove’s take: “Always give customers a choice of two options. Potential clients have a question running through their head (‘Should I sign up or not?’). You want to change that question to ‘Should I sign up for one time a week or twice a week?’ We ask clients, ‘Would you like to work out with a trainer once a week or twice a week?’ They answer. Then we say, ‘Great! Once a week. And did you want to sign up for our annual commitment or the short-term 3-month commitment?’ When the client answers, we go get the agreement and get the person signed up.”
3. The Recommendation (and Be Quiet) Invitation
It is tempting to think more talking and a plethora of choices will be more persuasive, but the opposite is usually true, McMillan says. Her advice: Once you have made a firm recommendation to the client, stop speaking and wait for a response. “Research suggests that people need 3-4 seconds before they can respond,” McMillan says. “Sometimes clients are just considering how they would like to pay.”
McMillan’s example: “Based on what I’ve read in your questionnaire, what you’ve told me and the assessment I’ve performed, I suggest you train with me once a week privately and participate in our group training program for the remainder of your workouts.”
Then, just be quiet, smile and wait for a decision.
4. The Try-It-Out Invitation
Cosgrove suggests giving clients the chance to use your services on a trial basis if they aren’t ready to sign up right away. “We offer a 30-day trial for [a special promotional price], which includes a trainer and everything we offer. This is because we know that once they hang out with us for 30 days, they’ll love us. Something like this takes that hard-sales approach out of the equation.”
The “try-it-out” invitation is especially effective for clients on the cusp of saying no. Giving them a smaller, less-risky customer choice maintains momentum.
5. The “At-Least-Say-Something” Invitation
“Closing” means inviting the client to make an informed decision about your services. The most basic form is to simply ask, “So, do you want to sign up to train with me?” This may seem obvious, yet half of all personal trainers never use this or any other close. Instead, they conclude sales presentations with wishy-washy nonendings such as, “Okay, so think about it then. Thanks for coming in,” or “Okay, well, I’m here every day if you have other questions or anything.” Remember, a direct and simple invitation to action is far better than leaving a client’s decision dangling.
One Step Closer to Success
Above all, focus on servicing, not closing the would-be client, McMillan says. “If you enter communications with the ‘close’ as your primary goal, you will not succeed and will likely lose the client.” A truly effective conversation-ender is not a trick or a magic bullet that will make up for a weak presentation or for failing to ask clients the right questions. Rather, it is the critical finishing touch on a well-organized and caring customer consultation.
Open your mind to customer invitations. Use them as guidelines, not as a strict formula. Consider them, practice them and then make them your own.
You want to make the sale, right? And your customers want to buy in to exercise—or they wouldn’t be there. Always, always, ask for a client’s decision and open the door to your own fiscal fitness.
SIDEBAR: Invitation Inventory
Developing selling skills allows you to change more people’s lives, Sherri McMillan says. Here are some of her recommended invitations to action:
- “Most of our clients see their trainer twice per week. How does that sound for you?”
- “We should get started right away so we can start working toward your goals. How’s Monday morning at 7:00 for you?”
- “Let’s book for tomorrow morning!”
- “I’ll schedule you in every Tuesday at 9:00 am.”
- “Based on your goals, I think we should try a 15-session package.”
SIDEBAR: The Truth About Closing
Your ease in asking for money at the end of a client conversation is a good barometer of how successfully you completed all other selling steps. These include asking useful and probing questions, uncovering your potential client’s true goals and needs, creating interest in the benefits you offer and effectively presenting solutions relevant to each individual. If you don’t practice and deliver on all other selling skills, any sales “close” you use will feel awkward and forced.
As a trainer you know how hard it can be for clients to take action (i.e., make a lasting decision to change an unhealthy lifestyle). Helping a would-be client act in a beneficial way is one of the greatest gifts you can give. This is what effective “closing” really means—helping the client close the door on an unhealthy past and open the door to a healthy fitness future.
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