If you're in any way like the typical health club owner or operator, you'd probably give almost anything to learn the secret to better member retention. Believe it or not, how you sell your club's memberships and services does in fact impact your club's retention rate.

The difference between what customers expect to experience from a product or service, and what they actually experience, is what determines their level of satisfaction with that particular product or service. The same holds true for the brand new health club members with their membership. The larger the gap between what new members expect to get from their club experience and what they actually experience, the more dissatisfied they are with you and your club. Plain and simple…when people are promised one thing and receive another, it ticks them off. I know that seems like common sense, and it is, but it's really important that you train your sales staff on how to not set new members up for having unmet expectations. This is where your sales presentation, process and staff training come into play.

Motivating sales people to sell for the sheer purpose of just getting the new membership — just getting the sale and commission — it quickly leads to salespeople and even personal trainers to make unrealistic promises to prospects and members that your club just can't fulfill. It leads to staff saying and doing certain things they shouldn't be saying or doing, just to “make the sale.” It leads to members being let down by unmet expectations.

Once that happens, you'll constantly have dissatisfied members on your hands and your retention rate will suffer. For this reason and this reason alone, it's critical that we motivate and teach our staff how to sell memberships and personal training in a manner that sets our members up to have an experience that's better than what they expected.

So, how do we balance our goal of selling tons of new memberships and personal training with making sure that our staff members are setting up appropriate member expectations? By teaching the sales staff to sell with purpose.

SELL WITH PURPOSE

Selling with purpose is an approach to sales that gets salespeople and personal trainers focused on the needs, wants and desires of your prospects and members first when presenting, and not just thinking about getting the membership, making the sale, or getting the commission.

Selling with purpose in the health club business is about teaching staff to recognize that prospects and members can truly benefit from what we're offering, and that it's our obligation to help them see that. It's important that we never allow our staff members to forget what business we're in.

We're in the business of helping people. We're in the business of assisting people in having fun with their fitness and reaching their personal health, wellness and fitness goals. We're in the health club business — a business about other people. And the way we approach every selling situation needs to be with a focus on that other person.

We need to teach our staffs that they can easily reach all of their sales and personal finance goals if they adopt the mindset that famous speaker and sales trainer Zig Ziglar popularized: You can have anything in life you want, if you can only help enough other people get what they want. That's the key to selling with purpose and that's certainly the key to immediately impacting member retention.

Motivating and teaching your staff to sell your club's products and services with an attitude of doing it just to generate revenue will ultimately lead to many dissatisfied members, a staff like a “pack of wolves,” and a member retention rate that will have you pulling your hair out.

On the other hand, teaching your staff to sell with purpose leads to an exercise floor filled with happy members who've had their expectations exceeded, a service focused staff, and a member retention rate that gets higher and higher everyday. Try it. You'll be pleasantly shocked at how well this little change can impact your entire club.

Todd Brown, CCN, CSCS is the director of personal training for the New Jersey WOW! Work Out World facilities, and can be reached via tbrown@workoutworld.com or 732-390-7390 ext. 19.