Retention Begins With Your Sales Force

The retention process begins as soon as a prospect becomes a member! When people join your club, it's usually because they are undergoing behavior modification in their life. Studies show that most new club members are non-exercisers when they first join your club and 30 percent of them stop using your club in only three weeks.

To create a new habit of exercising, new members need 21 days of positively reinforced behavior. Your sales team is a crucial part of helping you retain these new members.

The secret to retention is that the sale actually begins after the customer has given his money and signed the membership agreement. It is then the job of the sales team to “sell” the new member on the idea of coming to the club on a regular basis, getting some results, and most importantly, telling all of his friends how great he now feels since he has been exercising.

Therefore, the focus of each salesperson first is to motivate a prospect on the tour by sharing the customer's vision of what results and benefits he desires. After he becomes a member, it's the responsibility of the sales force to help keep him motivated.

To do this, you must develop strategies to increase member referrals, as well as increase member retention. Sales Makers has such a system in place that has delivered consistent positive results. It starts with a handwritten “thank you” note from the sales reps sent to all new members the same day they join. Reps also send out birthday cards, as well as “thank you” notes for members referring friends who join the club.

New members need positive reinforcement, even when they're not at your club! They need to feel they're getting more than just expected service. We need to remember we're also in the entertainment/hospitality business, and need to give all of our members noticeably superior service. This service should happen both in the club and in other ways through the sales teams and retention staff.

With all of our clubs, our sales teams are required to contact new members at least three times in the first 30 days of their membership. Most of these calls are made to the new member during the day. These calls are very positive and a great way for membership consultants to start their day. These motivational calls have effectively increased both retention and referrals.

The new member should be contacted seven days after joining with a call that is 100 percent motivational. Tell the member who you are and where you are calling from. Ask, “How was your first visit to the club? How did you enjoy your [workout, intro lesson, game etc.]? Did you run into anyone you know?”

The second call should be 14 days after joining, and be 80 percent motivational and 20 percent referral driven. Ask, “How is everything going? Can I get you started in another program or class? Would you like to schedule a personal training session? Be sure to call me if you have any questions, problems or need any help.”

The third call should be 30 days after joining, and should be 60 percent motivational and 40 percent referral. Ask, “Do you have any friends who might like to come into the club with you? Would you like a complimentary guest pass? When would you like to bring them in? I'll fill out the necessary papers and it will be waiting for you at the front desk. If you need any assistance of any kind, just let me know.”

After the initial three calls within the first month, the members are contacted monthly. Key comments from your previous notes will help you to recall what was discussed at that time. Be sure to follow up on problems or requests for help.

Monthly calls are an ideal way to inform members of any upcoming events, new equipment, modifications within the club, new schedules, etc. Occasionally ask for referrals. Happy members are your best source for new leads.

We've found that only calling low users or nonusers has not been very effective. Once someone has stopped using your club, it's very challenging to get him back. We've also found that calling annual, paid-in-full members every month, starting three months prior to their anniversary date, to encourage more regular participation will only increase renewal percentage slightly. Your time and money are much better spent developing new and better lifestyle habits with your new members.

Ed Tock is a partner in Sales Makers, a marketing and sales training consulting firm specializing in substantially increasing sales and club-owner profitability by delivering the highest quality of staff training, proven systems and innovative marketing programs. He can be contacted at (845) 736-0307.


Retention = Referrals = Profit

  • Members who exercise with someone who makes them feel comfortable are more likely to stay with their program and with the club.
  • Exercising for most people is a new habit and needs at least 21 days of positive reinforcement.
  • Most referrals need to be “earned” through service excellence, not through prizes and trips.
  • Referral gifts are “thank you” gifts, not the reason you get a referral.
  • More than 93 percent of Americans believe in the benefits of exercise, but only 10 to 12 percent actually belong to our clubs. Once they join, don't “give” them an excuse to stop coming!
  • It costs a lot less to keep a customer than to get new ones to replace them.
  • All employees need to give noticeably superior service all the time!
  • More than 60 percent of your new members are referrals from happy members. Do you spend 60 percent of your time or money in this area?