The prospect enters your club. Smiling, your salesperson shakes his hand. Now, he or she launches into a sales routine with hopeful anticipation. Maybe there have not been too many tours lately, maybe there have. Up and down the sales presentation goes and to everyone's delight, he joins. Your congratulations to him are in order. Ah, but one more thing. Each member of your staff knows they are supposed to get a referral — and then stay in touch with the members to help keep them coming back for more, bringing friends along.

Move the clock forward a month or two. Ringing through your head (and hopefully your staff's) is the ever-present thought, “How do I get more sales?” Then across the exercise floor that salesperson sees the member they signed up a while ago. Maybe, just maybe he has a referral. But, wait a minute; he has been approached time and again. “How is your workout going?” “Oh, you haven't been here in awhile.” “We have a special promotion going on, and if you know of anybody…”

So it goes, a referral here, a referral there, but so often it seems the well is dry. How do you fill the well, and keep it abundantly full of satisfied members supporting the club with new prospects? As we all know, if members love the club they share the club. So what can you do that is different this time?

JUST INCREASE YOUR F.I.T. TALK

First, don't make the mistake of calling the person who enrolls new members a “salesperson.” Because they are selling fitness, why not call them “fitness consultants” — trained professionals who help people make the decision to take one of the most important steps in reaching their goals — getting started.

Second, don't have your staff make the mistake of not exercising regularly while working in the capacity as a fitness consultant. Just as it is foolish for someone to think they “don't have the time” to be healthier, feel more confident, decrease their risk of disease and stress, look younger, have more energy, and a better sex life (when put this way, the time excuse sounds crazy), it is equally foolish for a fitness consultant not to exercise while trying to sell others on the idea.

Third, think F.I.T. talk. F.I.T. stands for Fitness Information Topics. These are items of information on fitness, wellness, nutrition, beauty and motivation. Every month, every major fitness, health, fashion, men's and women's magazines have informative topics that your members would love to know about but don't have the time to review to find the real gems. These Fitness Information Topics appear either in short pieces of regular monthly columns or in articles. Information can also be found regularly in newspapers and on the news.

Take for example the results of a study that appeared on the CBS and ABC Evening News that reviewed the fat, calorie and carbohydrate content of sandwiches. Which do you think is the worst for you was the question asked of people in restaurants. To most everyone's surprise the tuna salad with all that mayonnaise was at the top of the list. Or how about the Harvard Medical School study that showed women who exercise regularly reduce their risk of breast cancer by 50 percent. Wow, what woman wouldn't want to know that while doing cardio?

A regular part of the job of fitness consultants should be to serve the members (and thereby get more retention and referrals) by having more F.I.T talk. Create a library of F.I.T. talk for your staff. Keep a carbohydrate and calorie counter booklet in your pocket and just go up to a member and say, “pick a food.” Who doesn't have some food they want to know the “truth” about?

Now, does the fitness consultant give fitness or nutrition advice? No, that is the fitness trainer's job. The consultant gives information that is available to the public. They just do the legwork, search it out and pass it on. The more they become a source of valuable information to the members, the easier and more plentiful are the referrals.

Bruce Carter is a 38-year veteran of the fitness industry. He owns and operates Optimal Design Systems International, a design firm specializing in profitable health club designs and GetCYCED!, a company that provides motivation systems for trainers to help members reach their goals.