Is sales a dirty word to you? Do you picture a snaky used-car salesman? Or do you think of the ability to sell as a skill you were either born with or not? Hopefully you’re an enlightened fitness entrepreneur and you think of sales as a system you can teach to your staff.

This article focuses on the importance of including a formal sales system in your operations manual—the backbone of your operation. Your ability to sell determines your ability to keep your business alive. Read on to discover the 5 steps needed for successful sales.

1. Be Prepared

First impressions mean a lot. Do you want to appear too busy for prospects, or do you want to make them feel important? At Journey Fitness, we greet each prospect by writing “Welcome [insert customer’s name] to Journey Fitness” on a highly visible board at the front desk. It’s the first thing people see when walking in for that introductory appointment. We also take the time (at least 10 minutes prior) to prepare folders with customers’ names written on them. These two things alone convey that these people are important to us and that we value their time. Lastly, we always offer fresh coffee and/or a bottle of cold water. Basically, we treat prospective clients the same way we would welcome houseguests.

2. Get Prospects to Say Yes Immediately

The minute potential clients walk in the door, find ways to get them to say yes. We greet each prospective client with a warm smile, a handshake and closed-ended, affirmative questions: “You must be [insert customer’s name]?” “You must be my [insert time] appointment?” “And you found the place okay?” These questions confirm that we’re with the right person, but more importantly they get prospects to say yes three times. The more yes answers you get in the beginning, the more likely you are to get a yes in the end!

3. Build Rapport

This is where you start the tour, right? Wrong! You don’t want to be a salesperson; you want to be the assistant buyer—that trusted friend people take shopping with them. However, you can’t be the assistant buyer until you build rapport. So relax. Prospects are there because they want to be. After the warm welcome, it’s time to build VALUE, an acronym we use to remember how to build rapport. VALUE stands for Victory Achieved by Listening, Understanding and Empathizing.

Listening is so important, especially in these days of easy digital distraction. Don’t look at the clock, answer the phone or do anything to lose focus on the person in front of you. Understanding is also key. Remember, everyone struggles, even if not with the same issues. When prospects mention their struggles, use the Feel/Felt/Found method: “I know how you feel. When other members started, they felt the same way. This is what they found . . .”

Empathizing may be the most important piece here. You must put yourself in your clients’ shoes. If you are able to do this well and authentically, then most of your prospects will become members. This step is about creating relationships, so ask rapport-building questions like these: “Are you from around here?” “What do you do for fun?” “Do you work locally?” “So what are you looking for in a gym?”

The last question is the sales hot button that guides the tour. If prospects have trouble answering, assist them by sharing that, in your experience, there are four reasons why people join a gym: to look better, to move better, to feel better or to perform better. Ask which one fits. The goal is to find some common ground by the time you start the tour. Maybe you like the same foods, enjoy similar activities or have an acquaintance in common. More importantly, you want to get a better idea of what the prospect is looking for in a fitness studio. You have now changed your status from salesperson to assistant buyer.

4. Give a Tour

Now is the time to introduce your facility and services. You’ll want to address two client needs during the tour. The first is to find a solution. If a prospect’s main stated desire is “I want toned triceps,” then you need to show how you will make that happen. Second, even if prospects believe you have the solution, they still have to believe that they’ll be able to do the program you give them. Let’s pause here, take a step back and explain.

Each gym is different, and each customer is different. Some people like to work out early and may want to see your showers. Cardio fiends will want to see your cardio area; this is a given. Do not rush, because this process helps people feel important and orientates them to your space. There is one stopping point that cannot be missed—the one that shows them the solution to their problem and helps them believe they can achieve it. You will do this with the Feature/Benefit/Feedback approach.

Here’s the approach in action: You would say to clients who want toned triceps, “This equipment is terrific for toning the triceps. You’ll use it to do triceps extensions like these.” You tell them, show them and let them try it, while ensuring they feel the muscle working and are confident that they can do it. Confirm this with a question: “[Insert customer’s name], I’m sure you can see how that exercise will help you tone your triceps?”

Congratulations, you just got another yes.

Remember that these tours are not about the gym or the equipment. They’re about the prospects and their goals. They’re about offering a solution to a problem.

5. Close the Deal

Sealing the sale is best done with an A or B close. Remember, you aren’t a salesperson; you’re the assistant buyer. If you’ve done a good job building rapport and connecting, then it really will feel like shopping with a friend. Here’s a sample script: “So [insert customer’s name], based on what I’ve learned about you, I recommend our 12-month training program. This membership option will allow us to achieve your goals, maintain those results and save you money. Or, if you want to start with a shorter commitment, we have a 3-month option that costs $30 more per month.”

At this point, you are an assistant buyer directing a prospect to the right choice between A and B. Do not say, “Do you want to sign up?” That is a yes or no question, which leaves no on the table. An A or B close takes no off the table. Offer only two options—if you offer more, the odds of hearing a no increase. Be quiet after you present the options. The saying “The first one to speak loses” has merit. This means you’re going to have to learn how to be comfortable with uncomfortable silence.

If you’ve done all the right things, it’s likely that you will hear a yes. Close with a handshake, and roll out the new-member gifts. We offer gifts first because we like to give before we receive. After you’ve presented your welcome gift, which may be anything from a gift card to a basket full of workout gear, start the paperwork. It will be more difficult for new members to change their mind with all the gifts in hand.

This suggested sales system can easily be inserted into your operations manual and taught to your staff. Make sure everyone is on board and understands the process, and then sit back and watch your profits increase.

Travis Barnes

"Travis Barnes is a certified personal trainer who grew his multimillion-dollar fitness company, Journey 333, to five locations in less than 4 years. He started at less than zero, building his future with an unemployment check while living in a FEMA trailer. Now, his company is known for its exemplary customer service and business systems, and he is franchising it across the globe. Travis is a co-author of two books, 52 Amazing Journeys and Journey Fitness."

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