Leslie Nolen leads The Radial Group, which provides sales, marketing and business planning know-how for health and wellness businesses. Subscribe to free weekly business tips.

Planning to go beyond corporate memberships to full-fledged corporate wellness programs?

It’s a terrific business opportunity—if you avoid the obstacles that many health club owners encounter when they tackle this market.

Club sales directors are frequently baffled when they promptly send a proposal following their first conversation with a potential customer—and absolutely nothing comes of it.

Yet, just as it’s not realistic to propose marriage on the first date, it’s not realistic to expect to close a sale to a corporate prospect you’ve only met once.

Successful corporate wellness providers treat their sales process like a courtship, advancing one step at a time to build trust and shared objectives.

Re-energize your sales to employers with these five steps of corporate customer courtship:

1) How about a cup of coffee?

Begin with a no-pressure invitation to get to know your business that makes it easy and appealing to say “yes.”

For example: using online press releases, direct mail and e-mail marketing, offer a free downloadable white paper on a topic like “Best Practices: Five Ways Retailers Lower Their Disability Costs” or “Buyers Guide: Choosing a Workplace Wellness Provider.” Include useful tools, such as self-assessments (Estimate ROI For Your Workplace) or checklists (How To Introduce Wellness To Your Workplace).

2) Could we double-date with friends?

After your prospect downloads the white paper in Step 1, follow up within one to two weeks with a low-pressure e-mail or phone invitation to a Webinar or live event. Offer one lead-generating seminar monthly by rotating through three to five topics that consistently interest prospects.

Emphasize the expertise and experience of the presenters, the quality of the attendees, and the highly useful nature of the content.

For example, panel discussions with multiple experts are a great draw. Invite human resource directors from several clients to discuss the challenges they overcame in introducing workplace wellness programs at their companies.

Spend 30 percent to 50 percent of the time at the event in interaction, including questions and answers. Note which attendees seem most serious about implementing a wellness program.

3) Dinner with the parents?

Use Webinar attendance as the trigger for a sales call. For example, once a prospect has downloaded the white paper and attended at least two Webinars, reach out with a “Can we help?” e-mail or telephone call.

Elicit their concerns and goals while looking for opportunities to share your clients’ successes. Focus on their hot buttons: productivity, employee satisfaction and the bottom line. Don’t lecture on public health issues, such as the problem of obesity in America.

Ask questions about the cost and pain points they’re currently experiencing as a result of health care claims, disability costs and claims, “presenteeism” and/or absenteeism.

4) Do you want kids, too?

When your prospect is ready to talk details, sketch out verbally and informally on paper what they want and what your company will do.

Informally on paper means that as you discuss the key elements of an agreement with the prospective client, you jot down the details as you both agree to them and leave a copy with your prospect.

Don’t fall into the trap of creating a proposal in a vacuum. Instead, use the above process to collaboratively develop what in essence is a draft contract.

This step often uncovers an important reality: that your main contact is merely a go-between—neither an influencer nor a decision-maker—or that he or she hasn’t thought much about what their wellness program should look like.

You’ll know you’re done when you’ve resolved and jotted down everything that would normally be spelled out in a customer contract and your prospect has added his or her detailed next steps as well.

Then, and only then, draft the formal contract.

5) Let’s set a date.

While you’re waiting for the final signed agreement, keep moving on implementation. That helps create impending events, which reduce the likelihood that your agreement gets lost on someone’s desk.

In addition, schedule executive-level results reviews with your staff and your customer’s key contacts at least 30, 60 and 90 days out.

This technique keeps the project highly visible and reduces delays caused by dithering or internal customer arguments over resources.

Once the initial implementation is behind you, shift to a quarterly schedule of client meetings.

Focus on measurable results that tie back to their original goals and expectations for the project. Each quarter, revisit the original assumptions about participation, average cost, etc. Update the numbers based on actual experience and provide modified projections based on that information.

Patiently building trust and shared ownership of corporate wellness projects with your corporate prospects will lead to strong and profitable employer relationships for your health club.