With a recession looming, most facilities are feeling the crunch of lower revenue or profit margins and retention. Now is a good time to make sure that all systems are maximized in any organization, including your corporate sales.

The traditional model of corporate sales works well for the market because the corporate member receives a discount for no reason other than for working out at a specific location. It can also work well for membership sales staff if they are well-trained, take the lead in the sales process, can create substantive urgency (other than discounts) and are patient enough not to give up on the process.

However, the traditional corporate sales model does not work well for most clubs. Depending on how systematic your organization is with the process and depending on the caliber of the sales staff, the process can take anywhere from 30 days to two years. At most corporations, one person is in charge of deciding whether everyone at the company will participate in a corporate fitness program, and that person is often removed from or not motivated to use our product and services.

Although I agree that our industry has made major strides in political, educational and social awareness about the importance of regular exercise, we still sell something (a membership) that requires users to be highly motivated and self directed in getting results for themselves, as well as justifying their financial investment. Most people are just not that motivated. This is where the flaw in the way we approach corporate sales exists.

If we want to create more traffic that creates more sales and higher retention, then we need to change the model. Rather than selling memberships, we need to sell corporate programs.

Look at the success the YMCAs and the community recreation centers have with selling leagues and short-term programs. If you have not visited your local Y or rec center, pay a visit, and go during a time when there is a fee-for-program that is available to members and nonmembers.

You will find that those programs are full. They are successful because they have a defined period of participation, usually four to six weeks. The programs have a defined outcome. Participants get a specific result from the programs, which are structured. Participants meet two to three times per week, and the curriculum is planned for them. All that participants need to do is show up, follow instructions and get a result. To the general public, that type of program sounds more attractive than purchasing a club membership that they may never use.

If club owners approached businesses in their communities to enroll their employees in a five- or six-week accelerated results program that started on the 15th of each month, charged an appropriate and full-price fee, limited the program to 30 to 50 participants (depending on the capacity of the facility) and offered accurate results, wouldn't we create a steady stream of traffic, revenue and a regular group of users who would then see that they can be successful in a club?

That success might then lead them to stay at your club not only as a program participant but also as a member. At that point, we would have a better chance of selling memberships to people who could be successful for themselves, which would equal success for us, too.

Many clubs have gone about the process of corporate sales in a way that puts the cart before the horse. If we are willing to approach this process differently, we will get different results.

Karen Woodard-Chavez is president of Premium Performance Training, Boulder, CO, and Ixtapa, Mexico. Woodard consults and trains clubs throughout the world. She can be reached at 303-417-0653 or at karen@karenwoodard.com.