Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: http://www.fmconsulting.net.

Time for a story: A new health club salesperson was ambitious and eager to learn all he could about the health club business and the technique of selling in the club industry. However, despite all of his efforts, new membership sales were few and far between. Sales effectiveness eluded him. Finally, after many futile months of working, coaching, prodding and guiding, his club manager confronted him with the bad news, “I don’t think you are cut out to be a health club salesperson,” the manager said.

The salesperson responded, “That’s just not true. I’m selling all right. It’s just that our membership prices are too high. People need to think about buying a membership. It’s important that they talk to their spouse. I’m not getting any walk-ins, and these prospects aren’t buying.”

It sounds childish and absurd, but there are health club salespeople out there who would do anything -- or blame anyone -- to avoid personal responsibility.

“If it is to be, it’s up to me.” These words should be permanently engraved on every salesperson in every health club across the country. “If it is to be, it’s up to me” is the attitude that epitomizes the most professional health club salespeople I have ever met.

It’s that attitude that shows up when a sales rep takes personal responsibility for everything that happens in his or her club. The real health club professional immediately acknowledges and deals with every adversity that comes his or her way.

So, what is it that causes good health club salespeople to struggle or even fail? What causes the “death of a salesperson?” Here are six thoughts:

1. Prejudging. Thinking we know what the outcome will be before we even start is a huge problem. When we take a club guest, when we pick up the phone or do any outside prospecting, we can’t cut corners assuming that we know how things will turn out. Whether you think you can -- or think you can’t -- you’ll always be right.

2. Believing in “be-backs.” I was speaking with a chiropractor friend of mine recently. He had retained the services of a consulting firm to help his business. I asked him was what the No. 1 thing that he has learned from his consultant. He paused and then said, “If I don’t get them committed to being a patient when they first walk in my clinic, I’ll likely never get them.” Here’s what you want to remember when your prospect has walked in your door: Their enthusiasm is at its peak. If they leave without getting started, their enthusiasm has nowhere to go but down.

3. Not following a proven system. Too many health club salespeople will cut corners or determine that certain parts of a script are not necessary. By following a proven system, you will get results, be able to take specific action when you’re slumping, and you’ll have something you can use to train and teach others.

4. Not asking for the sale. The key here is decent boldness. If you want something, you must ask. Don’t become confused and think you’re asking when you’re not. Such weak phrases as, “How does this sound,” “What do you think” or “Do you have any questions?” will not qualify as asking for the sale with decent boldness.

5. Failure to plan. If you want to stay in control of your sales career, you have to plan. Otherwise you’ll find yourself the victim of crisis management and have to react to your particular set of circumstances. Be proactive and set your own course.

6. Be honest with yourself. Take a look again at the previous five tips. Were you really honest with yourself? It’s not always easy, but it’s necessary.

Can you control every possible problem in the sales department before it occurs? Of course not. Can you be responsible for every problem that occurs in your membership sales department? You don’t have a choice.

I remember many years ago listening to a health club sales manager talking to a salesperson about a raise. He said, “Your raise will become effective when you are.” Being a salesperson in a health club is like your own personal business, and if it is to grow, it is up to you and no one else.