Sales: Prioritize Volume Over Closing Rates for Greater Success
“It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” —Mark Hunter
It’s shocking how often during a site evaluation I hear from a person in leadership: “Our close rates on tours/personal training orientations are around 80 to 90 percent. If we only had more prospects, all of our sales dreams would come true.”
This is half right actually. I have certainly never heard anyone say they simply had too many tours, which made them less successful. This mindset, however, spins a kind of false narrative that externalizes the problem, as opposed to allowing for an appropriate evaluation of the entire process.
Let’s take a deeper dive starting with that first part: “Our close rates on tours/personal training orientations are around 80 to 90 percent.” OK, let me just burst this bubble right now. Your facility’s close rates are likely not even close to this high. I have rarely seen a fitness business that is properly recording prospects that is even in the 80 percentile. The very few that legitimately were, more often than not was simply due to having almost no marketing and relying on only referrals or walk-ins. A little while back I was working with a personal training director who said, “I am proud to say we closed 12 of 15 personal training orientations last month.” Yes, but there were 120 new memberships sold last month.
Let’s be clear about what actually happened in that center last month. Just over 12 percent of your new members basically told the membership person, “I want to purchase personal training.” Then, you were only able to close 80 percent of them? How did we mess up the other three? We’re also just going to gloss over the fact there were only 15 orientations scheduled from 120 new members. That alone is a whole situation that requires its own article.
Let’s start by discussing why we should stop prioritizing closing percentages with your sales teams. Now I didn’t say we should stop tracking close percentages. Obviously being able to measure and monitor consultants’ performance is a key indicator to success. I am simply asking you to stop using that as the most important measure of success. Using this as your main KPI (key performance indicator) puts in motion a number of undesirable motivators for your staff that you may not even be aware of.
In my experience I have found that when pressure is put on a sales staff that prioritizes closing percentages, or deals sold, occasionally sales staffs will try to hide that failure from you by not recording it ever happened. Especially if it is his or her 2nd or 3rd sales “miss” of the day. In some of the worst, yet also not very rare cases, I found that at the times of the day when supervisors weren’t on duty, and/or didn’t know about the tour, they simply threw away the prospect’s information! The second most common undesirable action was for staff to disqualify a prospect for varying illegitimate reasons.
In this model, we as supervisors have conditioned our staff to hide those sales misses from us because they just do not want to have to deal with the pressure we are putting on them. For them, the easiest way to avoid that tough conversation is to pretend the sales attempt didn’t happen or that it was a waste of time.
Do you see how awful that is for our business? I almost always observe during a site evaluation that at least some of the staff is tossing away those hard-earned and expensive leads your facility is generating because they didn’t want you to see them failing. It’s not just front line staff doing this either. I know of general managers who toss prospects because they’re afraid of losing their jobs if the owner sees the actual numbers. Of course, because of this missing data, senior management or club owners have no idea this is happening. They look at the team’s high close rates and think to themselves, “The problem must be that we need to spend more money on generating more traffic.”
Let’s move onto why you should instead focus on volume. Have you ever seen those sales type movies like Boiler Room or Glengarry Glen Ross, where the top salesperson says, “These leads are all crap! I cannot waste my time on these leads! My time is too precious to waste on unqualified leads!”
Somehow this mindset has permeated into the fitness industry. Let’s stop and take a moment to realize that fitness is not the type of sales business where we have to work a lead for weeks and/or months to make a sale. It sure as heck feels like it sometimes. For the most part though, we are just tackling a call/email/interest form, taking them on a tour, and either selling them that day or plugging them into your CRM for follow-ups. That whole process shouldn’t be demanding more than an hour for even high-end, program-rich facilities.
If your tour/personal training orientation is taking much longer than an hour, your team is likely not messaging well or having trouble building value, which leads to even more objections to handle at the end. But that’s not what we’re talking about today.
Your team most likely has the capacity to be taking on a lot more leads, tours and personal training orientations. I would much rather see my facility close 50 percent of 200 leads than 80 percent of 50. By focusing your team’s efforts on securing more referrals, engagements and tours, you will be better setting your center up for success.
If you are now asking yourself, “Where do I start to improve my team’s performance?” Please consider checking out one of my other blogs here.
Jason R. Stowell is the division director of fitness and wellness for JCC of Greater Pittsburgh. He is an award-winning fitness leader with over 20 years of successful experience providing strategic planning, talent management, and expert-level sales training in the health and fitness industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.