As the headlines about the global economic crisis continue to be in every newspaper and on every newscast, and as consumers continue to hold onto their hard-earned dollars, club operators continue to see how difficult it has been for their sales departments to bring in new members. That’s why establishing a good sales team today is even more important than ever before. It’s not impossible to have sales during times of economic hardship.

Here are a few tips that can help:

  • Staff buy-in. The first people that need to be sold on investing in health is each of your membership advisors. They must believe in the value of exercise. Everyone knows the value of exercise and now everyone must believe that exercise helps one’s physical and mental well-being. Once your membership advisors embrace the fact that living a healthy lifestyle is a 24/7 attitude, they will make sales.
  • Sell with passion. Questions that membership advisors need to ask themselves are: Are they exercising? Do they believe in the product? Do they practice what they preach? The biggest component to selling anything is emotion. People buy based on emotion. They can sense whether the club representative is sincere or just trying to make a sale. Today’s consumer is savvy. Do not underestimate their ability to see right through false emotion and excitement. Membership advisors must have a burning passion for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle that must flow through their presentation.
  • Ignore the negativity. Membership advisors should not get caught up reading doomsayer headlines and watching stock market results. It is important to know what’s going on, but it should not consume their every thought, leading to desperation. Being distracted from a daily success cycle will only make matters worse. Membership advisors must keep a positive mental attitude every day and disregard what is going on around them or in their own personal lives. They must stay focused.
  • Value proposition. Consumers are evaluating where to spend their hard-earned money these days. Membership advisors must make a value proposition relatable to their goals and fitness needs. They must show prospects the value of starting an exercise program and how starting now makes more sense than ever. They should help prospects determine their daily spending habits and explain how spending less per day is a great value. Prospects can join the club for a low fixed cost and enjoy the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.
  • Empathy vs. sympathy. Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another’s state of mind. It is often characterized as the ability to put yourself in their shoes. Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings. Membership advisors should not sympathize but empathize with prospects. They must understand their situation but be careful not to get caught up in their story. Bring the conversation back to results and benefits of joining the club. Turn each negative into a positive. People on a tight budget usually don’t have much to do other than read, watch TV or surf the Internet. That gets boring quickly and encourages an unhealthy lifestyle. They could be at the gym, exercising, socializing, networking and making new friends all for a low monthly fixed cost. And they can read, watch TV or surf the Internet while doing it.

Selling is a profession, and selling memberships at a health club is no different. A sale is always made during a tour of the club, but there is more to selling than just giving a really great tour. Either the consumer sells your membership advisor or your membership advisor sells the consumer. Which would you prefer?

Tony Santomauro is owner and president of The Santomauro Group, a health, fitness, martial arts and sports consulting and management company. Santomauro, a 35-year health and fitness veteran, was co-founder and former president of Can Do Fitness Clubs in New Jersey for the past 12 years. He has extensive direct/corporate sales and marketing experience as well as expertise in advertising, public relations, martial arts and kids programming, equipment layout and design, class and fitness programming and all operational aspects in the field. He is an internationally certified Kukkiwon black belt. He can be contacted at tonysantomauro@thesantomaurogroup.com or 973-396-2100.