How to Achieve Higher Sales Through a Well-Developed Sales Training Effort

By Ed Tock
February 10, 2006

Ed Tock is a partner in Sales Makers, a marketing and sales training consulting firm. He has spoken at more than 60 Club Industry Shows, IHRSA Conventions and IHRSA’s Institute for Professional Club Management. He recently sponsored and authored the latest IHRSA video on sales. Tock also has a M.S. in exercise physiology and in education from Queens College in New York City. He can be reached at 800-428-3334 or at eddie@sales-makers.com.



Prospecting is usually the most neglected and the most avoided sales skill that is critical to the success of every sales team at a health club. Too many sales teams rely on their club’s marketing efforts to provide their leads rather than creating their own opportunities. If a sales team wants to be more than average, it should adopt a referral selling methodology. Referrals result in a new member more than 40 percent of the time. No other marketing strategy can come close to achieving these results. And, a referred new member spends more, is more loyal and will refer you to more new members.

Most so-called sales training doesn’t work because it doesn’t cause behavior change. Much of today’s sales training even causes sales staff to sell less because the hard-sell skills, the outdated sales techniques and the scripts often conflict with the personal values of the sales team members.

The art and science of selling is going through a perceived change because what people have been taught for years was wrong. People think that teaching such sales skills as closing, negotiation, overcoming objections, “tie downs” and all other gimmicks, help people sell. These techniques actually keep people from selling. Most salespeople focus on closing the sale. By contrast, great salespeople are solutions-focused or customer-focused. Remember, people do not buy products or services; they buy solutions and end-result benefits. Salespeople need to develop the skill sets needed to expand relationships. Sales leaders have the ability to probe, ask more questions and uncover the customer’s needs and turn them into wants.

The importance of ongoing training is often overlooked and underestimated. Sales managers often believe that if they hire only experienced salespeople, they will come fully prepared to perform. Wrong. Others believe that product knowledge training is enough. Wrong. Some believe that sales people will learn, study and eventually master their craft on their own. Wrong again. The real key to a successful training program is that it must be ongoing. It cannot be a one-time event.

When owners, club managers and sales managers hire an expert sales training company to improve their sales and retention, what they are really purchasing is the potential to drive better results. They have decided that this sales training has the potential to help the sales team achieve those results. How can most clubs effectively select, measure and improve those results?

Sales success is based on achieving a set of predetermined sales goals or objectives within a prescribed time frame. To get the best estimate and to achieve and measure a positive return on investment (ROI) on the sales training, you must set clear, measurable objectives and assess the results. The clearer and more quantifiable the objectives (i.e. new sales, referrals, efficiency rating), the easier it is to show the effect of training. Real ROI measurement is difficult, and even the best measurement isn’t always conclusive. It was once said that the purpose of measurement is not to prove but to improve. That’s great wisdom. If you start out not to improve ROI but to improve performance, you’ll get much further.

Measurable accountability starts with establishing objectives—easy-to-monitor performance standards that ensure successful achievement of predetermined sales objectives. Some of these objectives may be: completion of measurable activities over time (calls, contacts, referrals or presentations); completion of training programs, activities or sequences with measurable outcomes that show a level of understanding; or sales results with a careful eye toward volume, referrals or leads. Although sales volume is important, successful completion of other tasks ensures that the results will happen.

There is a stronger tendency to talk about holding people accountable than there is a willingness to actually do it. Whatever the reason, the results are the same. In the final analysis, many people will achieve sub-par results and only a few will obtain superior results. This all demands much more than just showing people videos or online training, and then hoping they will sell something. It is the capacity and the willingness to measure their level of understanding and knowledge. It is determining the level of commitment they have made to expend the effort required to be successful and then holding them accountable for the actual learning, retention and demonstrated performance of what they have been expected to master and deliver.

Accountability simply means being held answerable for your own actions and results. When sales managers or club owners wait until performance results are in, it is too late. Instead, it is better to create the most effective environment for success. First, you must create a sales culture that says that people must be willing to accept that they alone are answerable for their own successes and failures. Second, you must have a system in place for holding people accountable. If you don’t have a system for accountability and a performance management system that evaluates factors other than pure sales results, you will never hold someone accountable for issues that ultimately determine a person’s success or failure.