In Part I we discussed your Identity. In Part II we discussed your response-ability. Now we’ll take a careful look at the operating system we’ve fallen into and we’ll come to understand the traps and pitfalls that prior to now have remained hidden.
In revisiting an issued I discussed in Part I, allow me to remind you of the motivational force behind what we do.
I often ask salespeople why they pursued the careers they currently call their own. The exclusive and consistent answer: “Money.”
I often ask trainers why they pursued their careers. The exclusive and consistent answer: “To help people.”
As a result of the motivational forces that unite them as a group, salespeople who are accomplished make money.
As a result of the consistent motivational forces that unite trainers, trainers who are accomplished help people.
So what’s wrong with that picture? Well, salespeople very often sell “a promise,” but have little control over the result, especially when they’re selling a goal oriented membership or a fitness related service. They live in a society (yes, the same one we live in) where it is quite possible to earn a significant income without ever delivering anything of value.
That doesn’t make salespeople bad. It just makes those who are ethical and driven by a genuine interest in helping others repulsed by the idea of selling, and that’s one of two reasons trainers, while they are exceptional at helping people, are limited in their revenue generating ability.
If you’re making the kind of money you hoped for, if you’re living comfortably, and you have financial security as a personal trainer, I applaud you, but I also want you to know you are in the minority. The average certified personal fitness trainer earns somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 per hour. That’s not a very exclusive neighborhood.
The first reason for the financial struggle is one I already alluded to. Trainers are opposed to the idea of being “salespeople,” and as a result, they allow others vying for the same market as they are to sell, influence, persuade, and market aggressively while they focus on helping people.
The second reason for the financial struggle among trainers prevents many well-intentioned fitness professionals from ever finding the ability to dive into their passion-driven avocation wholeheartedly. They must rely on “something else” for their primary income. The reason? The old “Paradigm.” Trainers have never shaped the ballpark in which they operate. They’ve simply entered it and started playing by the predetermined rules.
The health club industry, which is closely tied to nearly every personal fitness trainer’s beginning, is clearly (albeit unintentionally) positioned to downplay the value of the personal trainer. In this lengthy but revealing article, the third in a four-part series, I hope to help trainers and club owners recognize the flaws in the paradigm so that we can move ahead into a complete industry shift, one in which trainers can “help people,” and be paid precisely what they deserve!
It’s no secret that while health clubs may be exceptional exercise facilities, when it comes to delivering results, they fail people. Trainers view themselves as rescuers, as the element within the health club that can help members actually get what they paid for. When a trainer is asked to describe an approach or ideology that separates what he or she does from what other fitness offerings promise, the noble thing to say is, “it’s all about the client.” While running a customer oriented business is essential to long term success, the “all about the client” idea digs a deeper hole for trainers seeking career longevity.
Again, we need a dose of business reality. If it’s “all about the client,” the trainer loses. If we are placed in positions where it is a lopsided “win-lose,” the trainer is guaranteed to come up short. In other words, if clients succeed but the trainers responsible for client success cannot pay their bills, the trainers are left bankrupt or forced to make some new career choices. The “all about the client” idea is frankly too simplistic and short-sighted. The overview of our ideology might be better stated as, “It’s in great part about thrilling the client . . . so that we can thrive and prosper.”
My personal mission statement begins, “To use my fitness and influence skills and abilities to find great reward by consistently bettering the lives of others.” That positions me for a win-win. When I’m considering a relationship with a health club, I’ve become adept at creating a 3-way win (client, club, myself). My “reward” is emotional, professional, and yes . . . financial.
When considering career longevity as a personal trainer, the magic lies in committing to delivering results, to “helping people,” but positioning ourselves so we are fairly compensated, and “fairly” means “compensated as a professional.”
In the premier issue of Personal Fitness Professional magazine I wrote the cover story, “The Dawn of a New Era.” The article discussed “professionalism” and suggested that with the turn of the century, it’s time for qualified Personal Trainers to gain the respect and recognition they deserve.
We’ve moved past the dawn, and I’m thankful that many trainers have found professional respect far less elusive than it was just four short years ago. As our population descends further into the pit of physical distress, those among us with proven expertise stand as members of the ground army, prepared in our own microcosms to lift people up and help them realize their true potential.
Before I begin explaining my personal ideologies related to “a new Paradigm,” I’d like to help bring an oft-ignored issue to light. Personal Trainers are not the creators of the present paradigm, the set of rules existent in the great majority of health clubs and fitness centers today. We are, in fact, victims of decisions made by an industry that has never fully recognized our value or potential.
This article will serve not only trainers, but also health club operators who might have missed a view of the true potential of a personal training team. The “old paradigm” grew out of health clubs. It’s only fitting that the new paradigm infiltrates the health club industry to create a massive win across the board. Club owners win. Personal Trainers win. Most of all, members win . . . and they win big!
Let’s start at the beginning . . . at a foundational level most health club operators have skipped over years ago, but one that might never have been included in any personal training curriculum. Let’s start with the question, “How do we make money?”
The simple answer is, we create a product or service that people want, and we sell it at a price that allows us to keep our just portion in exchange for customer satisfaction. Build a clean health club, keep the equipment in working order, and charge a reasonable membership fee and you’re at square one.
Once a business is operational, evaluation is an essential part of growing beyond the initial stage founded in Chaos, into the far more relaxed “Organization” stage, and in evaluating the success of the business, profitability is a prominent factor. The question is asked in any business, “How can we increase profitability?” or if you want to be blunt, “How can we make more money?”
In an operational fitness facility, there are three ways to make more money.
- Enroll More Members so enrollment exceeds attrition
- Generate More $$ Per Member Visit
- Generate More “Paid” Visits Per Member
The “More Members” idea is the simplest to grasp, but unfortunately, due to a lack of focus on member satisfaction, members expire and leave at a rate that rivals new enrollment in far too many clubs.
The “More $$ Per Member Visit” idea is compelling, but is usually limited to profit centers requiring little daily management. For example, if the regional supplement distributor sticks a fridge behind your front desk and stocks it with product, all you do is have your front desk person hand someone a post workout recovery drink and ring up the register. Simple. This is an example of a profit center that can increase the number of dollars spent per member visit, but the extra $1 a drink may generate is not likely to contribute more than a couple of thousand dollars at best to monthly revenues.
Stimulating More Paid Visits Per Member is extremely appealing, and is the result of the implementation of “for fee” programs such as martial arts, specialty group exercise, or . . . personal fitness training!
It would appear blatantly obvious, even with that simple assessment of profit potential, that massaging the potential for personal training profitability can be a powerful contributor to overall business growth, but there’s a catch. The catch is in the paradigm. The current operating system that drives most health club personal training programs is plagued by a huge drain and a very low ceiling. Even while money is generated, dollars can flow quickly through the drain, and the inherent limitations in the system greatly stifle profit potential.
I’ve used the word “paradigm” a few times already. Before I spell out the present operating paradigm, or the one I’m suggesting we aggressively work to change, allow me to define precisely what I mean by paradigm. It comes from the Greek word paradeigma which means "pattern." In psychology a paradigm relates to a belief system or thought process. Paradigm, as it’s used in business, refers to a systematic set of rules that come to be established as the “norm” in a given arena.
For example, if you watch an infomercial on TV, you’ll first hear a voice-over announce “the problem,” then a host will introduce “a solution,” and a pitch person will reveal a “special offer” and a “call to action.” Watch enough infomercials and you’ll notice they’re all built upon the same skeleton, the same “pattern,” the same systematic set of rules. If you walk into a doctor’s office, you walk into a waiting room, you sign your name on a sign in sheet, ultimately someone slides open a glass partition in a little window and hands you a clipboard with papers to fill out. That has become the “paradigm” of the doctor’s office.
The health club paradigm, from an operational standpoint, as it’s existed for the past decade could be defined as follows:
Increase Profits by selling more memberships, connect members with training via a free trial, and position trainers to sell their services.
Remember, I suggested trainers have fallen victim to this paradigm and I further suggested they had absolutely nothing to do with creating it. Even at first glance a trainer in viewing the paradigm laid out in words can find some weaknesses, but interestingly, it weakens the club owner even more than it weakens the trainer. Allow me to identify some of the weaknesses in the “old” paradigm:
- The “more memberships” strategy starts each month at zero, back at the starting line. With a primary focus placed on new enrollment, attrition increases relative to new sales. Many clubs attempt to remedy this by implementing “retention departments,” but the retention department becomes an operating expense attempting to excuse the club’s limited ability to satisfy members enough to keep them coming.
- The “free trial” devalues the training offering. In other words, by setting the trainer up as a “throw in,” the perception of the trainer’s value is zero.
- When you offer “Free Sessions,” there is a cost involved in fulfilling that obligation. That cost immediately decreases the profitability of the membership sale and the promised return in personal training revenue is uncertain.
- Trainers are not typically strong salespeople and they rarely receive any sales training at all so there’s a relatively low number of “average sessions per personal training client.”
It’s time for the trainers to help club operators see their value, and to, rather than backing off and blaming the industry for their own failure to find career longevity, jump in with both feet and implement a new paradigm, one that promises to stand as a cornerstone of the future of fitness. In order for the New Paradigm to prove its value in any given health club, the club must have a Personal Training leader in place.
Many clubs have “Head Trainers,” or “Directors of Personal Training,” but these are simply titles typically awarded to the most reliable or the most productive trainer. Rarely do these “Department Heads,” get any actual management training. The position usually has a mercenary element to it since the head trainer is paid in part for his or her own sessions, and rather than learning to develop a team, the head trainer finds frustration in lack of productivity and trainer turnover. Most training “teams” operate with a revolving door. One gets hired, another leaves.
The club operating under a New Paradigm needs a true leader, someone with the raw material, but also trained in leading a team. The leader must become adept at recruiting, training, and replicating his or her abilities and performance potential. That’s part one of the equation. Without the second part, the leader will fail.
The second part is, a system that ensures continuous growth.
Let’s take a break and summarize:
The New Paradigm Must Involve a Personal Training Leader who can recruit, train, and replicate . . . and a system that ensures continuous growth.
When we refer to a “leader,” of course we’re referring to an individual who can act as a role model of professionalism, and can recruit, train, and create other professionals. Yes, the training team must become far more than an ever changing group of hopeful mercenaries. It must become a true TEAM, where each component of the team contributes to the success of the whole. It must become an interdependent team of professionals.
That all sounds great. The idea of a team of professionals. With this idea comes yet a new quandary. The term “professional” remains undefined in our field. Years ago I came up with a list of attributes that I felt were necessary in order to call someone a fitness professional, and that list still serves me today. I’ve replicated the list in seminars, in newsletters, and in articles I’ve had published, but today I’ve gone a step further. Beyond the attributes I identified on that original list, “Extraordinary People Skills, An Acceptable Level of Exercise Knowledge, An Exceptional Knack for Using That Knowledge To Help People Achieve Physical Change, Reliability, Creativity, etc.” I’ve now identified the behavior of a professional. I’ve come to recognize a fitness professional who will be effective in the 21st century as an individual who must see his or her scope of action as far more than simply “taking people through workouts.” A true professional is someone who can help clients see through misinformation, get on a course with the groundwork of legitimate science, and learn to ignore the ads and promises for quick, easy magic. A true professional is someone who can professionally “ADVISE.”
Our society is plagued not only by a sense of fitness failure, and a public willingness to abandon responsibility and hope that the medical, pharmaceutical, or supplement field will come up with a rescue plan, but it’s also infiltrated by unscrupulous marketers selling the 21st century version of snake oil. The door is wide open for a true hero to emerge, or better yet, an entire army of heroes in the form of fitness professionals. In order for trainers to emerge as recognized experts, they have to adapt a mindset that allows them to educate as they instruct. In case you didn’t read the first part of this four-part series, I’ll review my use of the word ADVISE as a near-perfect acronym to describe “what a 21st century personal trainer should do.”
- Activate – a professional will “Activate” motion and momentum
Direct – a professional will “Direct” clients when they veer off course
Value – a professional deliver more “Value” than anyone expects
Integrity – a professional will walk the talk, maintaining “Integrity” and being consistent in advice and offerings
Sincerity – a professional will be “Sincere” and operate with the client’s best interest in mind
Empower – a professional will “Empower” clients so they can find ongoing and consistent results, regardless of the trainer’s future involvement
Now the health club operator has to see the value in “fitness professionals behaving as Advisors. Trainers are easily sold on the concept for one primary reason. Acting as “Advisors” allows them to help people change their lives in very positive ways, and improving lives is the juice that gets the trainer excited. Club owners and operators march to the beat of a slightly different drum. They of course welcome the idea of helping people, but their drum doesn’t beat without dollar signs ringing in the background.
In a moment I’ll lay out the financial flaws in the currently held paradigm, but first I’ll identify three of the biggest mistakes inherent in conventional training.
- The “F” Word – no, not that “F-word.” I’m talking about the word FREE! By now you understand, when you give away a valuable service . . . for nothing . . . you’ve set the bar on that service’s perceived value. Give away training and your members need a whole lot of prodding and convincing if they’re going to shell out additional dollars for what was granted to them as a freebie.
- Personal Training Revenue is Limited to Workouts – Professionals are paid for their time. Lawyers are not only paid for their time in the courtroom, but they charge for consults, for depositions, for phone calls, and even for faxes! No, I’m not suggesting we mirror the practices of lawyers, as their ethics may certainly be questionable, but they have established a paradigm and as a result, people pay. I’m not suggesting we charge for phone calls and faxes, but I am suggesting that an hour of the trainer’s time is valuable, whether that time is spent sitting in an office discussing lifestyle changes, conducting an assessment, or taking a client through a workout. If the members of a professional training team are going to find success as “advisors,” they must be able to generate revenue for the advice they provide. Many trainers are limited in their ability to help clients change in the long run, as they just don’t have “time” to do anything other than the workout for which they’re paid. The simple reality is, that many of their workouts are nothing more than repetitive instructional sessions. Once we teach a client to perform a squat, that client knows how to perform a squat. If we are going to be of life-altering benefit to clients, we should be paid for our client interaction time and have the freedom and ability to counsel clients and be compensated.
- Trainers Sell Packages – If you’ve ever attended any of my seminars or read a few of my articles, you know how I feel about the practice of discounting fees in exchange for client commitment. The “paradigm” works something like this:
|1 Session =
|3 Sessions =
|6 Sessions =
|10 Sessions =
That means that a trainer who is, at least in discussion, capable of generating $50 per session, and providing more value than clients expect for that investment (remember the “V” in the ADVISE acronym) is going to only be compensated $30 per session, simply because the client is willing to commit to 10 sessions. Think about that. Whose benefit is the commitment for? Doesn’t the client NEED to commit if he or she is going to see a significant result? Why, if the trainer’s time is valued at $50 per session, should the trainer be robbed of $20 for each and every session? There are other challenges, beyond devaluing the trainer’s time, inherent with the sale of packages. The trainer, or club, collects money that was not yet earned. You can argue that membership money, collected in advance, has not yet been earned, but the membership is not reliant upon any individual’s time commitment. With $300 in the bank, the trainer or club sees a healthy deposit, but now 10 hours are owed, and if the client cancels, travels, or becomes ill, after the money is spent you still have to make good on those sessions. Trainer are not typically exceptional money handlers or bookkeepers (again, simply because their career path doesn’t provide much training in this regard) and I’ve seen many trainers dig themselves deeper and deeper financial holes by selling “packages” and paying bills using money that they hadn’t yet earned. Finally, let’s remember that trainers are not usually exceptional salespeople, and clients who pay for packages keep a countdown awareness. They know how many sessions they have left and they want to get their money’s worth. After the last session of the package, the client is inclined to say, “thanks” and conclude with a handshake. The trainer, who may not be all that comfortable placed in a “sales” position, must now “sell” another package with a relatively high price tag.
Let’s take a look now at how the current paradigm places a ceiling on personal training profits in a club environment. I’ll use some numbers based on real-life in a random surveying of clubs. As a matter of fact, the numbers I’ll use border on generous.
There is a cost to providing “free sessions.” Most clubs pay their trainers between $9 and $12 per hour for the freebies. Let’s be conservative and use the $9 number. If “3 Free Sessions” are offered with membership, each membership has a $27 personal training cost attached to it. That would mean for every 100 members recruited, the club must shell out $2700 in payroll. Of course, this is viewed as an investment. We’re hoping the trainers flip the freebies into paying clients . . . but now we better understand the flaws in the paradigm.
If a club were to actually convert 15% of members who accept the free sessions into paying clients, that means for that same 100 members recruited, 15 would become active clients.
Let’s assume, generously, that the average number of sessions a paying client stays with the trainer for is 10. Let’s also assume that for every training session, which might be priced anywhere from $30 - $50, the club cleanly nets $15.
100 members enroll. 15 members commit to an average of 10 sessions each for which the club nets $15 per session. That means 150 sessions generate $15 each to throw off a club net of $2250.
Not bad, right? At least the club made some extra money (more paid visits per member). $2250 isn’t a million dollars, but it’s something right? Wrong! It’s nothing. In fact, it’s less than nothing! Remember, it cost $2700 in payroll to generate that $2250. With 100 members recruited, the club will lose $450 in personal training!
If we extrapolate that forward, and consider the outcome of 200 members accepting free sessions, the club would lose $900! 300 members? Say goodbye to $1,350.
Is it any wonder the owners fail to see the value in the trainers? The paradigm is structured to fail.
How can the club turn things around and at the very least generate some profit? How about increasing the closing percentage. Rather than 15% of the free session members flipping over to become paying clients, let’s do the math with a 20% conversion rate.
100 members enroll. $2700 is paid out in personal training payroll. 20 members commit to an average of 10 sessions each for which the club nets $15 per session. That means 200 sessions generate $15 each to throw off a club net of $3000. Are we now profitable? Well, yes . . . but is $300 extra generated for every 100 members going to send any club owner to the Caymans to deposit planeloads of cash?
With 200 members and a 20% closing rate the club could net $600 in training revenue, with 300 members $900. This isn’t the ideal business model.
Is it possible to generate $5,000 per month in personal training profits? Let’s see.
Suppose we brought things up to a 30% closing ratio, double what might be considered anywhere near “realistic.”
100 members enroll. $2700 is paid out in personal training payroll. 30 members commit to an average of 10 sessions each for which the club nets $15 per session. That means 200 sessions generate $15 each to throw off a club net of $4500. The club would net $1800. In order to get that number up over $5,000, you’d need to attract 300 members going through free sessions.
Let’s now compare this scenario to reality. Are there many clubs recruiting 300 members a month? If you’re one of the few that might be doing extreme in the membership department, do you have anywhere near a 30% closing ratio in converting free sessions to paid sessions? If the answer is yes . . . then you can count on $5,000 extra each month. For the great majority of clubs (if not all), the answer is “no.” Most clubs, despite a significant number of man hours (and woman hours) devoted to training barely squeak out a few extra dollars when all is said and done.
This is harmful on two levels. One, it doesn’t justify the effort. Two, it fails to allow the trainers to ever see their own potential since the owner isn’t inclined to invest the time and energy into making a floundering profit center profitable. That is . . . unless a new paradigm came to exist that made the personal training profit center rival membership sales in its power to generate revenue.
All hail . . . the new paradigm.
There are two vital shifts that I’ve innovated that have made what I’m calling the New Paradigm such a far cry in potential from the system that presently holds the industry at bay. Two strategies that have helped me to consistently turn lukewarm profits upward until they sizzled.
One is “The Small Group Orientation"
The Second is “The Series”
Because I’ve covered these concepts at such length in previous writings, I’ll simply outline the premise behind each for those of you who may be introduced to them for the first time here.
The Small Group Orientation replaces “The Free Consultation.” It is not a workout session and doesn’t even take place on the workout floor. Instead it takes place in a classroom setting where a trainer presents ideally to between 4 and 8 participants. In a health club Orientation, most of the participants will be new members. The Orientation is not free. There is a $20 per person fee, yet the fee is backed by an unconditional money back guarantee. If for any reason anyone in attendance feels as if the session was not worth $20, they will immediately be offered a refund. This makes the Orientation “risk-free,” which is why, for the most part, trainers feel obliged to conduct the initial sessions in the first place. The want prospective clients to “get to know them” before they commit to training. Here the same end is achieved, but we skip the need for the trainer to in any way compromise fees. In a club setting, the $20 is split 50%-50% between the club and the trainer conducting the session.
The trainer can generate $10 per person in attendance, and with the potential to accommodate 8 people, the trainer (and club) can earn $80 free and clear for a single hour. Even more importantly, the Orientation allows the trainer to invest 60 minutes in generating up to 8 new clients rather than the maximum potential of “1” created by the free session approach.
The Series replaces the concept of “packages.” Instead of bundling together multitudes of sessions, with a series the client simply commits to “more than one on a recurring basis.” It’s “every” something. It can be every Monday at 8, every Wednesday and Saturday at 9, or the first Thursday of every month at noon. The fee per session is precisely the “value” the trainer opts to collect. In other words, if a trainer’s fees are $50 per session, the series price is $50 per session. If anyone wants to schedule “a single session,” rather than commit to a recurring schedule, a premium is charged. The “short menu” therefore might look like this:
Single Session $75
Series Session $50
If a client opts for a series, as most clients will when presented the options above, he or she is required to sign a “retainer form” and submit a “retainer.” The retainer is the equivalent of one session paid in advance and the retainer form states that if the client ever fails to show or provide adequate notice for a cancellation, the retainer is forfeited. Each session, from that point forward, is “billed” at its onset. In other words, the client pays for one session prior to each session. Retainer aside, money collected is money earned.
Now let’s take a new look at the potential using some numbers.
Because everyone who signs up for the Orientation, which in most clubs if it’s handled optimally should be at least 60% of new enrolls, is investing $20, there is no out of pocket money required of the club. As a matter of fact, the Orientation generates money! $10 per person. That means if 100 members opt for the Orientation, rather than going $2700 in a hole as in the last scenario, the club, after paying the trainer, clears $1,000, even if a personal training session is never scheduled!
The “audience” in the Orientation is pre-qualified. By investing $20 to be there, they’ve expressed, simply by virtue of the fact that they paid something, that they see value in the trainer. If someone isn’t willing to pay $20, are they likely to pay the $50 for training? Of course not. The paid Orientation, therefore, acts as a filter so the “never in a million years would I sign up for training people” are never placed before the trainer.
In working with the trainers I employ, we get to the point at which 80% of those who sit through an Orientation sign up on a series at the Orientation conclusion, and because the “series” doesn’t expire until the client opts to discontinue, we find little challenge in keeping clients for at least 20 sessions on average.
100 members sign up for the Orientation. The club nets $1,000. 80% of the 100 sign up for sessions. That means 80 people sign up for an average of 20 sessions each amounting to 1600 sessions. Because we do a clean 50-50 split with the trainers, we can net at least $20 per training session. 1600 sessions at $20 net each generates $32,000! Add in the $1,000 made in Orientation revenue and 100 members can generate $33,000 in net training revenue! Quite a contrast from the old paradigm where we needed 300 members just to net $5,000!
Just for impact:
|The Old Paradigm
||100 members, 3 Free Sessions
|The New Paradigm
||100 members, Paid Orientation
Another shift in the paradigm must ask the training “team” to be at least in part responsible for generating revenue. Sure, personal training, as a profit center generates revenue if the proper system is in place, but if trainers wait for salespeople to fill their Orientations their income is left to the mercy of the salespeople . . . and while salespeople can sell . . . we are far stronger both individually and collectively if we don’t NEED to rely on them. If trainers become a part of the force that attracts both Orientation registrations and new memberships, the “team” is truly interdependent and the trainers have little holding them back from generating their maximum capacity in income.
The catch? Trainers hate to sell. That’s why, when I’m dealing with trainers, I don’t call it “selling.”
While they despise the concept of selling, trainers love the following concepts:
Positively influence people
The “meet people” concept must be converted into a specific. I’m suggesting the trainers, who typically have exceptional rapport skills, commit to meeting over 1,000 people this year. Yes, I’m suggesting each trainer personally “meet” 1,000 people over a 12-month period.
Present the idea of meeting 1,000 people to your trainers and while they may agree it’s a great idea . . . to your face . . . behind your back they’ll swear you’ve lost your marbles. That’s why you shouldn’t present the idea of meeting 1,000 people. That sounds overwhelming. Instead, connect them with “The Power of Five!”
I teach trainers to make it a point to “meet” five people per day. Where do they meet them? In three different universes which I’ll outline in a moment. “Five-a-day” sounds so simple, and so achievable.
- 5 people per day = 25 people in a 5-day working week
- 25 people x 50 working weeks (let’s allow 2 weeks for vacation) = 1,000 people!
So one way to make trainers in part responsible for growing revenue is to introduce them to “The Power of Five!”
There’s another way, and that is to create a 2-way bridge that runs from the training department to the sales department . . . and back again.
It took me awhile to figure out this part of the equation . . . how can we get trainers to impact and influence people who respond to our marketing, without relying on the salespeople. Conventionally, clubs offer “3 days free,” or a “14 day trial,” and since no actual commitment is made until the point of membership sale, the salespeople, historically, have been an essential step in the “enroll people” process. Trainers are not good at “closing,” and in situations I’ve seen where clubs have attempted to unify the staff by having trainers sell . . . the system went belly up in a matter of weeks.
I decided in order to use the trainers as “influencers” that can generate membership, we had to find a way to connect the “trial member” with the trainer . . . and have that trainer get paid. I also decided we had to prevent the trainer from feeling any connection to a “sales pitch.” I sought after a way to have the trainers do what they do best, get them compensated for their efforts, and still create a “no risk” offer that ultimately leads to membership. Here’s the best news of all. I’ve found it!
Forget free trials. Sell a short-term membership for at least $20, promote it via direct mail and standard advertising, and include the Orientation. That way the $20 covers the cost of the trainer (remember, the trainer gets $10 per person per Orientation group) and pre-qualifies the “member prospect” audience. Remember, if they’re not willing to part with $20, they aren’t likely to commit to an annual membership.
The “magic” that “worked” was to run a direct mail promo offering $21 for 21 days. It eliminates the need for the sales presentation. The front desk staff is trained to explain (although it’s already noted in the direct mail piece) that the $21 includes one-hour with a Personal Fitness Trainer. Of course, that hour is the Orientation. The first contact prospective members have with a staff member after enrolling (for $21 at the front desk) is with a trainer, and of course in an Orientation that trainer blows them away.
Because a high number of people who attend the Orientation sign up for training on the spot, the promotion creates “Personal Training clients” and all of these new clients have a 21-day membership that must be extended if they are to continue to train. This led me to find a comfort level with a new type of marketing, New Paradigm Marketing that minimizes or virtually eliminates the “need” for a salesperson. I can now market saying “no sales pitch, no sales pressure,” and never lose a bit of sleep worrying that I’ve in any way misled anyone.
Here is an overview of “New Paradigm Marketing:”
Sell a short-term affordable membership to pre-qualify an audience, and position the value of the offering in the Personal Training Orientation.
The short-term membership, with a link directly to training brings people across the bridge from “training land” to “salesperson.” The salespeople have laydown deals, people already “influenced” by the trainers. This in itself creates a new respect for the trainers . . . at least in the eyes of salespeople.
The “bridge” is open both ways. When salespeople enroll new members, being that they are in fact “master influencers,” they “sell” the $20 Orientation and leave it to the trainers to then sell the “personal training series.” Why should the salesperson “sell” the Orientation? Well, there’s the simple technique of salesperson bribery where the salesperson received $5 out of the $20. The trainer still gets paid $10 and the club nets an additional $5. There’s also the fact that when salespeople connect new members with trainers, attrition is reduced, referral is enhanced.
The bridge must be reinforced. Trainers feed sales, sales feed trainers. Again, a win-win-win.
Now I’ll identify the “marketing universes” trainers can set their sites on in order to contribute to revenue generation:
The Active Member Universe – This is the marketing universe most accessible to trainers, the members who actually show up but haven’t yet committed to training. With “The Power of Five” in motion among active members, with the proper influence strategy and a unified boasting of the virtues of the Orientation, the percentage of members connected to training can only increase.
The Inactive Member Universe – This is a marketing universe often neglected. Club managers “target” the inactives when their memberships are up for renewal, and at that point, in all honesty, it’s too late! They’ve been disappointed and jaded and will not see the value in re-connecting with a club that has let them down. Trainers can call way before the situation becomes hopeless, and best of all, they can position themselves as life preservers . . . rescuers. The inactive members obviously aren’t getting results, and with some training in telephone technique, trainers can offer the Orientation as the missing element. This not only increases training revenue, but can also have a dramatically positive impact upon retention and renewal.
The Outside Universe – This includes neighbors, local businesses, corporations, and anyone who lives or works anywhere in or near the immediately club vicinity. By implementing a structured “outreach” program, where trainers (and salespeople) can go out into the community to attract new interest, every profit avenue is richly enhanced. Unlike aggressive salespeople, trainers will not respond to the command, “go out there and get some people.” They will, however, welcome with open arms structured promotions that allow them to “help people” outside of the four walls of the club.
We Can Now Make Training Affordable for Everyone!
The old paradigm, even with “packages” offering per-session price reduction, is limited in its potential audience. Affordability is an issue, and even if a session is as low as $30 with the purchase of “a 20-pack,” many people still can’t afford to fork over $600, especially after they’ve just paid for a membership.
With the “Series” approach in place, we can make personal training affordable for anyone by simply distancing the sessions apart based both on need and affordability.
Remember, we are positioning trainers, not as necessary workout supervisors, but as ADVISORS. That means a trainer can meet with a client as infrequently as once a month, and since the trainer is paid for his or her time, the one-hour consult can serve as an educational and empowering session that carries the client forward until the next meeting 30-days later.
I’m going to stop here . . . to allow you to digest, re-read, and grasp the power of the New Paradigm. In the next and final segment I’ll address the “Acquired Traits” trainers must have in order for the system to become a self-driving machine. In order to operate within the parameters of the New Paradigm, trainers require a new type of training, which I’ll outline step by step.
Finally, I’ll help to complete the series by providing an overview that allows you to take all of the pieces of the personal training success puzzle and link them together. Then, there aren’t any excuses. You will rise to the level of a true professional!!!
For now, in closing this section out, let’s revisit the question, “Isn’t it all about the client?” The answer? No. It’s about the client, the outcome, the trainer, the club, the business, and the ability to generate fair compensation. In order for our business to mature, we must recognize that there’s nothing wrong with positioning ourselves to be rewarded for the good we deliver. Keep delivering more value . . . and prosper!