Club Insider

Selling Amid Crisis

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Casey ConradCasey Conrad

No matter what state in which your facility is located, and regardless of what "Phase" of re-opening you may be operating in, it's fair to say that "Back to normal" does not yet exist for health and fitness operators worldwide. Even for clubs or training centers that may be allowed to have a higher capacity, the public mindset of crisis is still amuck for many consumers. Of course, the population is very split, with some feeling that masks and social distancing is absolutely ridiculous while others look at you with disgust if you are walking your dog without a mask and gloves on. Regardless of your beliefs, as a business owner/operator, you must be sensitive and professional to all customers and prospects. Most importantly, you must abide by Federal, State and local guidelines so as to avoid any legal issues.

Your Sales Team

Selling during these times of crisis can be challenging. Not just because a percentage of the population won't feel comfortable being in such an interactive environment, but also because you will have employees who may have unspoken concerns that unconsciously, and negatively, impact their effectiveness.

Therefore, the first step in getting your sales numbers back on track is to meet with each staff member responsible for sales. Check in with how they are feeling and if they have any concerns about performing their job. If yes, how can you collectively come up with a strategy to move forward? This step is imperative, because without sales revenue, no facility will succeed.

Unless you are the one responsible for sales, take the time to have these meetings one-on-one, be genuine, be honest with one another and be willing to accept that the outcome may be that you will have some positions that need filling.

Mindset Training

With the right sales staff in place, it's time to incorporate some training. An important element of re-launch training is acknowledging and openly discussing the amazing opportunity the crisis has brought to our industry. Specifically, at no other time in our lives has the awareness about wellness been so pronounced. Specifically, you would have to be living under a rock to not now know:

"Those individuals who have co-morbidities, such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, are many more times likely to die of COVID-19 than healthy individuals."

Think of how many people during this crisis began some kind of exercise program at home. Not just those of us who already exercised and simply needed to find a way to get our workouts in without a gym. Specifically, hundreds of thousands of people made a conscious decision to start exercising. People couldn't go out to eat, so many began to learn how to cook healthier meals. Millions of people were stuck at home and had time to go online and watch webinars and YouTube videos about health and wellness in general. The bottom line is that there are literally millions of people who are primed and ready to now join a commercial fitness facility.

Every person on your sales staff needs to realize what an opportune time this is for selling memberships. Yes, of course there will be some people that aren't ready to come into the club, but we only had about a 19% penetration rate to begin with! If you don't keep your staff focused on the positive aspects, they will get pulled down by all the negativity in the media. Find online articles and resources that support this shift towards wellness as a way to reinforce their opportunities to prospect.

Sales Skills

Although mindset is a huge part of sales success amid crisis, skills are also necessary. Of course, the basic sales process is still fundamental: meet & greet, qualify, touring, price presentation and overcome objections. However, there are some additional skills that are highly effective and necessary to incorporate into today's sales presentation.

The first is weaving current health education into the tour. Specifically, I would suggest having a "Learning Center" for members that highlights the articles that support why exercising during this crisis is one of the best decisions an individual can make. Having this information is great for members and seconds as a touring spot for guests. Most importantly, presenting information in this format allows for the discussion to be one of education and not some kind of scare tactic. This is critical. The prospect must feel good about starting an exercise program, not feel guilty or scared because they haven't been. An added benefit is that with printed articles comes an element of credibility and social proof, which all help to support a positive buying decision by the prospect.

Once the prospect has been exposed to the learning center area and a conversation has been had, it is very important for the salesperson to affirm the prospect's decision to get started on a new exercise program. By literally congratulating the prospect for starting, you utilize the psychological concept of "commitment and consistency." This unconscious law of persuasion relies on the fact that most human beings want to do what they say they will. Saying to a prospect, "You know, you should be proud of yourself for starting a program," sends a powerful message.

Backing that message up with what is called a "validating story" helps to further the effect. Put together, it might sound like this: "You know, you should be proud of yourself for starting a program. I say that because, even though we know exercise is one of the best things someone can do to stay healthy during this pandemic, you would be shocked at how many people come in, have a chat and look around but don't get started. I had a gentleman the other day who was overweight, had pre-diabetes and his doctor told him to come see us, but for whatever reason, he continued to procrastinate. Kind of sad. Anyway, good for you." Incorporating stories takes all the pressure off the situation because you are not just telling the prospect what they should do but reinforcing their decision by way of a third-party story. Stories are powerful.

Finally, be proactive about outlining the facility's policy regarding cleaning, social distancing and any other regulation that you are required to follow for Federal, State or county laws. Not every prospect is going to admit that they are having concerns about utilizing a gym environment. By bringing up the guidelines and how the staff is taking every precaution necessary, you will help to put the prospect's questions and/or concerns at ease. Personally, I would add a tie-down question at the end of that discussion. One such example would be, "Knowing that we are doing all those things to keep you safe while working out, do you feel more comfortable?" People who aren't concerned will usually tell you, while people who may have had concerns will express their level of comfort or ask additional questions. Either way, you will have pre-handled any safety objections before moving to the price presentation.

At the end of the day, "Sales is sales," but by taking a few extra steps with a prospect, you will have them create more desire to start, reduce resistance to buying and simply feel more comfortable with exercising at your facility despite the current crisis.

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JLR Associates