Do you remember learning to drive a manual transmission car? Your instructor told you to push in the clutch, put it in first gear, ease the clutch out and push on the gas. Simple, right? Simple but certainly not always smooth. Practice in the parking lot may have gone well, but when you got on the streets, that first uphill pullout may have been so challenging that you tried a new way home for a while to avoid hills.

The sales process for new and experienced sales professionals is simple, too: meet, greet, needs analysis, present the price, close. However, the process does not always go smoothly, and difficulties that arise could cause your staff to avoid the sales challenge rather than to try to master it.

Manual is more difficult than automatic, so why not spend more time on automatic? An automated email system can help your sales team follow up with prospects and new members, plus it can secure referrals from those new members. In today’s club sales environment, competition abounds, so prospects want to learn quickly and without a lot of effort that you can deliver their desired results. Using automated emails along with your website, you can get this information to prospects in a timely manner and reduce your dependence on your sales team. Your salespeople will be happier and more energized, too, because the leads will be recent, which will speed up closes.

The system should not replace your salespeople’s follow-up efforts, but a series of automated emails can ensure that no prospect falls through the cracks. If your salespeople fail to contact them, the automated email system will at least ensure they receive information that might entice them to join. You can even see if the email was received and read, which limits frustrations and makes personal follow-up easier for your salespeople.

To put this system in place, talk with your webmaster and have him or her set up an automatic responder process in which you can enter prospects into a database. You also could contact one of the industry software companies that offers this type of system. The advantage of going with a software company is that you can set up to-do lists for your salespeople and produce daily reports that hold them accountable.

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On the day of their inquiry or visit, all prospects should automatically receive an email that communicates the most valuable points about your club for them. This email can be loaded with links to your website and even include second visit offers, such as passes or free T-shirts. If you want to get a little savvier, you could offer a free e-book or article on a hot topic, such as weight loss or functional training. You could also make one of the emails a brief survey asking about their experience. Doing so holds the sales system accountable and creates another contact with prospects that helps you determine if they had a good or bad experience.

These emails will set you apart from your competition and ensure that contact was made by your club.

One of the biggest challenges in the sales department is point-of-sales referrals. Honestly, salespeople are afraid to ask for referrals or simply forget to ask for them, even though referrals are the easiest close available to them.

Automation of the referral process can help. Send an email to new members within a day of their joining, offering a few free bring-a-friend passes or another appealing offer. Do not count solely on your sales staff’s follow-up calls or the members’ first orientation appointment (since many do not show for these) to get these referrals.

The first six weeks of a membership are key to ensuring the retention of a member. It is important to have salespeople make calls on days three, seven and 14 of the membership, but it also is key to automate a series of keep-in-touch emails. Based on what the new members told your salespeople they were interested in, plan a pathway for them that will make their journey with you successful, then automate it.

This process will increase your sales results and retain members longer. Eliminate any stalling by your team and instead offer them the automated support they need to bring in happy and satisfied new members.

BIO

Thomas Kulp, formerly the chief motivational officer at Universal Athletic Club, Lancaster, PA, is the director of Solution Consultants. He can be reached at 717-799-5155.