With the biggest month of the year only weeks away, most smart club operators have already planned how to ensure January is not just a good month but a great month. They have found that December is the time to re-energize their staff, evaluate the past year and prepare for the January rush.

Although January's influx of new members may seem automatic, it is crucial that club owners prepare themselves to make it happen, not just watch it happen. The difference between an average month and a great month in January can determine how profitable you will be for the entire year. The secrets are preparation, planning and being proactive.

Unfortunately, guest traffic in most clubs has dwindled in the past few months compared to previous years. What has caused the drop in traffic? Is a higher volume of competition causing the low response to marketing? Are people too stressed by the pressure-cooker that we live in today to even think about joining a club? Or is it the fact that at least 50 percent of health club members fail to achieve their desired goals let alone stick with a regular exercise program?

Your salespeople rely a lot on face-to-face contacts with people. That's why proper training is important. You should ensure that every time they meet someone, they are sincerely interested in learning who they are, what they do and whether or not they can be of service to them. That's especially important in January when the high number of new members can make each of them feel insignificant and unimportant.

The people who join your club at the beginning of the new year often are people who have not been comfortable with the thought of exercising. It is crucial to your business' success that you and your staff make every prospective member feel welcome and comfortable, and that you show you are more interested in their health than in getting their money. Potential members are too intelligent to fall for manipulative tricks, but they will respond to a sincere desire to find out how your club and its services can benefit them.

Take the month of December to re-evaluate your last 12 months. What did you accomplish? Did you achieve your sales goals each month? For the months you did achieve your goals, what did you do right? For the months that you felt the club should have or could have achieved more, what would you change, and what would you like to remain the same?

In 2007, most clubs relied on a few traditional marketing ideas that just don't seem to work the way they used to. Do you have a list of 100 prospecting ideas? Make lists for sales, fitness retention and budgets. Remember, if you keep on doing the same things, you are going to get the same results. Read some articles, and get some fresh ideas. Don't be afraid to try some different strategies.

Don't forget about your team. Most successful organizations, not just clubs, re-invest in their employees. They take the time to see where their staff members are and what paths they want them to take in the coming year.

Most of all, be committed. Commitment can lead you to remarkable results. One of the great myths of top performance and big success is that it's all about motivation. While motivation is important, motivation is temporary. Success in anything demands the constant of commitment. Commitment is stronger than motivation. But before you can commit to anyone or anything, you must believe. Walt Disney once said, “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.” I couldn't agree more.

Ed Tock is a partner in Sales Makers, a marketing and sales training consulting firm that has worked with more than 1,000 clubs and won the IHRSA Associate of the Year award. He can be reached at 800-428-3334 or eddie@sales-makers.com.