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Opening or Closing? Making A Good First Impression


Today’s consumers are well-informed. Every consumer has the ability to look at your website, follow your club on Facebook or Twitter and as a result — gather positive or negative information through these technological and social media avenues. Consumers know everything they need to know about your club before they’ve even stepped foot through the front door. Because a customer already knows everything they need to know about your club, in turn, you have to get to know the consumer. If you take this step, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting the “good sales closing skills” that have always been a topic of discussion when it comes to sales operations.

Customers understand that you have treadmills, bikes, strength training equipment and group fitness classes. What they don’t know is who you are, as an individual. This is where things start to change, and you gain the upper hand. The initial contact that you have with a prospect is the beginning of a long-term relationship. The combination of your personality, your knowledge and a solution to their challenges will get people excited and ready to see your club. Whether or not a prospect decides to join your club is made in the first five minutes, and often that decision is based upon you, the salesperson — not the club.

In fitness sales there is a need for great “openers.” The first five minutes is not only critical for rapport building, but for fact-finding as well. Every person who enters your club is looking for something. For many it’s weight loss, toning, stress reduction or social needs. Our job is to find out what people are seeking and also to find what they are running from. Members want to be heard. Your job is to listen and ask questions. After you determine a person’s needs, I always recommend reviewing what you just heard. For example: “Mr. Jones, based upon what I just heard, you are looking to lose weight, tone and tighten, work out three days a week and in the mornings. Is that correct?” When Mr. Jones nods in agreement you are now ready for the next step of the club tour, as you have identified Mr. Jones’ needs.

Although the first five minutes are critical, the first minute may be even more so. In the first 60 seconds you should do the following: Make sure you have a solid handshake, ask the prospect what brings them to your club, make sure they have signed in and explain that you would like to ask them some questions to learn more about them.

After gathering that initial information, explain that you would be glad to give them a tour, tell them about club pricing and be sure to let them know it will take 15 to 20 minutes. These are things the consumer is looking for. When a customer sees this process they feel relief — you have just set yourself apart from your competition. They now know they are dealing in a professional environment.

I shop clubs all the time and I guarantee that 80 percent of clubs do not take the simple steps I just mentioned. Consumers don’t want to be sold, but they do want to be informed. When you show them there is a process and that information will be coming their way, a wall goes down and they are ready to listen.

As you can see, the opening is far more important than the “closing.” If you don’t do a good job at the beginning you will never get to the ending. Customers simply won’t be interested.

I recommend creating a list of questions for each sales rep, creating continuity at the beginning of each sale and making sure each customer gets the same service. This will allow your staff to become uniform. If you don’t have a system, you won’t get the results you desire. No system just allows superstars to perform — a good system at the beginning allows everyone to excel. Train hard on your first five minutes and you will see every sales statistic in your club increase and members will simply have a better experience.


By Chuck Hall, Executive Director, Big Vanilla Athletic Clubs

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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