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Choosing the Right Equipment Manufacturer

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Equipment plays a major role in your health club. Having the right equipment helps with programming, member engagement and the overall atmosphere of your club. One way to establish if you are choosing the right equipment is by analyzing your relationship with the equipment manufacturer.

Aaron Moore, the director of operations at VIDA Fitness, located throughout Virginia and Washington D.C., said the most important factor for him when it comes to equipment manufacturers is the relationship he has with the sales representative.

“I essentially look for the same relationship I expect from my membership sales team in interacting with our members,” said Moore. “Do you usually answer the phone when I call you? Are you generally easy to reach? Are you an ambassador for your product? Do you own mistakes and do whatever it takes to resolve issues immediately?”

Moore said relationships matter even more to him when he isn’t in a buying cycle. There are times when choosing one manufacturer over another has come down to the relationship with the account manager. Essentially, whoever he trusts more gets his business.

Julianne Dods, the vice president and COO for Tilton Fitness, located throughout New Jersey, said when she’s looking for an equipment manufacturer, she looks for a solid product with the support appropriate to the level of investment. “For example, if the purchase is a large investment like new treadmills or a new functional training unit, I would expect more service and support than I would from a quick order of functional training bands,” said Dods.

One way you can tell if a manufacturer is going to foster a good relationship with you is through their support and customer service.

“I always tell my sales team they are relationship managers,” said Moore. “When you sell someone a good or service, expect they will hold you accountable for their expectations. That person will thank you when things are going well and hold you accountable when they are not going so well. Manufacturer account managers are the liaisons between the client and the manufacturer.”

For Moore, the highest level of customer service is when the account manager handles all client communications and takes on the legwork to get things done. He explained the best account managers do whatever it takes to manage the relationship. “They never make excuses and they never pass the blame to anyone else in their company, even when it’s obvious the account manager had nothing to do with a particular mistake,” said Moore. “And the best manufacturers empower their account managers to advocate for their clients.”

For Dods, the level of customer support she expects looks different. Her main concern is not constantly being sold. “A good partner will truly take the time to understand your goals, keep you up to date with new products, and help develop a plan that works for you and your business,” she explained.

Establishing what to expect from your equipment manufacturer partner is great, but you may be wondering how to begin finding the best one.

Moore said he likes visiting the company’s headquarters to help him get a better understanding of the manufacturer. “You really learn a lot about the company’s culture and the people behind the scenes,” explained Moore. “Personally, I always enjoy talking shop with the research and design folks, and learning where they think the industry is headed.”

Culture is a huge part of VIDA’s DNA. Moore said it’s important for him to do business with manufacturers that treat their employees right and give them the tools for success. Your club can learn a lot about a manufacturer or any company by observing them in their natural habitat.

Another way to find an equipment manufacturer to partner with is by investing in company travel to attend trade shows and buyer-supplier events. Moore has found speed dating events like SIBEC and FISA are particularly beneficial for the uninterrupted one-on-one time you get with various vendors. “I can always tell a good account manager by the type of follow-up I receive following an industry event,” explained Moore. “Was it personal? Did you follow-up in a timely fashion and with relevant information?”

For Dods, when it comes to finding a good partner, there is nothing like word of mouth. “If another industry colleague has had success with a partner, I would be more apt to use them,” she explained. “As is true in membership sales, once a partner is found, keeping them is just as important.”

Regardless of how you find your equipment manufacturer, having a partner who cares about building a relationship with you will make the overall process of buying equipment easy and enjoyable.  

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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