Inject a little excitement into the lives of your reps.

Keeping your sales force pumped in an industry that isn't known for its generous paychecks can be very challenging. But it's critical to your success. "Sales consultants are revenue-producing," says Charles Damiano, executive vice president for the New York Health & Racquet Club, in New York City. "If their morale is low or if they're not into their job, they affect the entire company. That's why it's to your advantage to keep salespeople motivated, sharp and focused." Here are some guidelines for doing just that:

* Give your salespeople the skills they need. "Salespeople need to know everything about the club," says Karen Woodard, president of Premium Performance Training, Boulder, Colo. "The best salespeople I have trained or hired are those who have trained or taught a few classes. They were tied to the whole process of health and fitness, and so they had credibility."

Woodard also recommends a two-week training period. The first week should deal with the club's mission and marketing strategy and how it works; the roster of classes (that means taking classes); and what each department does (that means spending time with every department head). The second week should focus on the sales process, including time management, telephone skills, lead generation and closing a sale. "You want to give your staff the skills to be successful from the get-go," says Woodard.

* Keep your staff informed. Weekly staff meetings are a must. "The goal of that meeting should be to inform, educate and motivate," says Woodard.

In addition, meet with sales reps individually each week. "Sit down with each rep for 20 to 25 minutes and work on whatever needs to be worked on," advises Woodard. "It could be: `How can I help you with this new corporate lead?' Or `You're a little behind. How can we shore you up a little bit?'"

Damiano also holds monthly sales meetings to review the previous month's results and rank the club's sales reps. A sales topic may be covered, such as how to prospect for new members or take an informational call. Twice a year, Damiano's sales consultants attend sales or motivational seminars (the club picks up the tab). Because Damiano believes learning should be ongoing, he recommends books or audiotapes to his reps and asks what they thought.

* Give your sales force monthly quotas. "This keeps our consultants focused and goal-oriented," explains Damiano.

At the New York Health & Racquet Club, the monthly quota depends upon the season. "We set higher quotas in January when membership increases," says Damiano. "During the summer, the quota may be lower. We try to keep it realistic for each month."

* Design an effective compensation plan. "It should have built-in incentives that will keep your staff motivated," says Damiano. His staff receives a base salary and a direct commission on memberships and renewals they sell. The reps also receive a monthly bonus for hitting their quota and an extra 10 percent bonus if they go over quota.

* Throw in rewards. To make things a little more exciting, Damiano offers prizes in addition to the cash incentives. Recently, sales consultants who went over quota received a DVD player in addition to their 10 percent bonus. Consultants who went 25 percent over quota also received a $500 bonus. Those who went 50 percent over received even more. Another prize that went over big: razor scooters. "The reps loved it," says Damiano. "They thanked us for weeks after."

If your budget isn't as generous as Damiano's, tell your sales force what your monthly budget is - say $500 - and ask what kinds of perks they'd like. Keep it simple and immediate.

"A lot of clubs do complicated incentives, and the staff tends to lose interest and lose track," says Woodard. "Most salespeople are immediate-gratification animals."

* Be willing to let a prospective member walk away. "What's good about this is that you're not trying to convince someone against his will," says Woodard. During the pre-tour interview, you should find out what the prospect's goals are. During the tour, you should show him how he can meet those goals in your club. You should also address his concerns. By the end of the tour, you and the prospect should already know if he is going to join. If he still has concerns, schedule a time for him to come back for a workout, so he can get a feel for the club. "At that point, we'll sit to talk about membership," says Woodard.


Meeting Guidelines

Here's what to discuss at your weekly and monthly sales meetings.

WEEKLY - Educate. Cover a different topic at each meeting, such as how to take an information call. Or discuss an inspirational audiotape you asked your staff to listen to.

- Motivate. "Get the staff jazzed up," advises Karen Woodard, president of Premium Performance Training. Discuss new incentives for the month. Praise staff for a job well done.

- Inform. Discuss the current promotion and anything new in the club.

- Troubleshoot. Ask if any reps are having problems, such as not closing as many appointments as they could, and make suggestions for surmounting the problem.

- Review prospecting for new clients. "I give my reps lists from the clubs, such as former member and guest lists," says Charles Damiano, executive vice president for the New York Health & Racquet Club.

MONTHLY MEETING - Review the success of the previous month's promotion.

- Review the current promotion.

- Review the marketing strategy.

- Review the club's monthly sales quota.

- Award bonus checks and prizes.

- Brainstorm.