I’m not a sales person by nature. Most fitness professionals aren’t. In fact, if you are reading this then I’m guessing you are one of those in our industry who has a great deal of trouble asking people for money. In other words, you have trouble making sales.
Not to worry. If I can learn how to sell you can learn how to sell. All it takes is an open mind and some practice. And most of the fitness professionals that I know want to learn and they aren’t adverse to hard work. If that sounds like you then you’ve got it made.
First things first, I am going to refer to personal trainers as either fitness coaches or fitness professionals from here on out. Here’s why. When I hear the word personal trainer I conjure up images of a man or woman who is more concerned with how their own biceps look than their client’s form.
You know the ones I mean. They’re the ones who are giving you and me a bad reputation. I hear all the time about how someone’s previous “trainer” was always leaving during the middle of their workout to talk to someone of the opposite sex. I’m sure you’ve heard of similar incidents. And if you are reading this then I know that’s not you. This is for professionals. I only work with people who want to be the best.
I own a company called Achieve Total Fitness. We are the Tampa Bay area’s first high-end personal fitness coaching firm. Our clients workout in their own home. And because we are really good at what we do and we have to travel I decided to charge a premium for our services. We charge double what everyone does.
That’s not an easy thing to do. Not as a fitness professional anyway. Like many others in our industry I am used to helping people out of the goodness of my heart. So when it came time to ask for double what I know other fitness pros are charging, I felt funny about it. That’s not the case anymore.
Since our rates were set, and as the owner of the business I was responsible for making sales, I knew it was time to get help. So, I invested a small fortune in sales training. And to say it has paid off is an understatement. The thousands of dollars I have spent pale in comparison to the money I have made as a result of learning how to sell like a professional. Now I am going to teach you the things that I have learned. And trust me, I’ve learned from some really good sales people. Pros who make several hundred thousand dollars a year. And they aren’t high-pressure sales clowns who beat you over the head to buy stuff. No, far from it. The stuff that I’m going to teach you is going to change the way you sell forever.
Nowadays, I cringe when I hear of fitness professionals charging tiny amounts of money for their services. I know now that charging people a great deal of money actually benefits them too. Unless something costs a significant amount of money people won’t find it valuable. No matter how good you are, if you undersell yourself you, and the service you provide, will never be looked upon as being valuable.
Get ready to be able to ask for and get top-dollar as a fitness professional. Because you’re about to learn how to be a sales professional.
What is a Sale?
As a fitness professional you are for the most part in business for yourself. Even if you work for a club a lot of times you are responsible for getting your own clients. Clients are your bread and butter, right? Therefore, it’s important to realize as a business owner there are two categories of numbers you need to be very aware of. Sales and expenses.
Sales is the money coming into your business. It’s what generates revenues. Expenses equates to everything else. And that includes marketing. Making sales pays for marketing expenses. Without sales you go out of business, right? That’s why learning to sell is a make or break proposition. Without sales you have no money. No money, no business.
Again, sales and marketing are two very different things. Marketing is what brings a prospect to you. It is extremely important to be good at marketing. But that is not what this article is about. I’m going to teach you how to act when your marketing works and brings a customer in contact with you. Whether it be by phone, email or face-to-face, when you have a contact with a prospect your marketing worked and now it is time to sell!
There is a big difference between a prospect and a client. A sale turns a prospect into a paying customer. So, if you haven’t figured it out by now your primary role as a business owner is that of sales person. Like it or not, if you want to remain in business and make your business thrive you need to become a professional sales person.
Again, and I cannot possibly write this enough. Sales and marketing are not the same thing. Do not confuse the two. Just because you can get someone to call you doesn’t mean you will know how to sell them. The difference is enormous. When you come in contact with a prospect you are now a sales professional.
Sales, Marketing and Prospecting
I had never really realized it before. To me I was handling the situation like any rational person would. Someone noticed me carrying equipment out of a client’s office, figured I was a fitness professional and asked me for my business card. So, I gave it to her. Isn’t that what everyone does when asked for their card?
Well, it’s what I used to do. Today I understand the immediacy of the situation. Right in front of me was a live prospect, someone who may very well retain my company’s services. And I had better not let that person get away without knowing specifically why she wanted my card, if she is a qualified prospect and how I could get in touch with her if she is.
After all, when you have the chance to make a sale you had better make the most of it. Because if you haven’t figured it out already, most people who take your card because they’ve been thinking about hiring a fitness professional are going to continue to do just that, think about it.
Something that definitely needs to be clarified are the differences between marketing, prospecting and selling. The three are different phases of acquiring clients but are typically intertwined. Marketing is done to “get the word out” about who you are and what it is you offer. Prospecting is any action undertaken directly by you with the intention of either entering into a selling process or of eliminating a person as a prospect. Selling is an act of direct communication between you and a qualified prospect undertaken with the intention of obtaining a decision about doing business together.
To give you a better idea of what I’m writing about, let’s use as an example the brief story I mentioned when I started this section of the article. When the person saw me carrying my fitness equipment and saw my company logo on my shirt, that was marketing. When she asked me for a business card and I gave it to her hoping she would call me, I was still marketing.
However, now, and I should have then, I jump immediately into prospecting mode. Who is this person? Why is she interested in my services? Is she a good candidate for my services? Meaning, does she have the time? Is she willing to put forth the effort? Can I travel to her home? Can she afford my services? All those are questions that immediately qualify, or even better disqualify, that prospect.
Now you’re probably asking yourself, “why would I hope to disqualify the prospect?” Simple. As a salesperson, which we’ve already established is our primary role, we waste too much time chasing unqualified prospects. I certainly used to be guilty of it. These are the people who tell you they want to think about it. Some say they need to wait until they have the money. Others will tell you something wishy-washy such as they’ll start after the New Year. How much time have you wasted calling these people with hopes they’d become a client? Plenty, I’m sure. All salespeople do it.
That is until they learn this little phrase: “Some will. Some won’t. So what? So who’s next?” When I learned that, there was a huge guerrilla lifted off my back. No longer did I feel the need to worry about these people. I simply went out and looked for more prospects, better prospects. And when I did find one, I qualified or disqualified him or her immediately. It’s so simple too. You just need to ask them questions to find out whether or not they’re worth engaging in a selling situation.
And remember, you’re the expert. They came to you.
People who ask me a million questions about what I do and how I do it, are not serious about investing in my company’s services. Besides my explaining briefly that I’m not selling a miracle in a bottle, or some other quick and easy solution, what is there for me to say? I spent the better part of my life obtaining the knowledge that makes me an expert. I’m not giving it to anyone for free. Prospects who are digging around for free information need to be disqualified immediately. It’s okay to very politely say you don’t think you’d be a good fit for one another.
The only thing worse than chasing an unqualified prospect is being afraid to go from the marketing phase to the prospecting phase. By giving my business card to that person without asking how to get in touch with her I “wimped” out and stayed in the marketing phase. I didn’t want to ask the uncomfortable questions that are a part of the prospecting phase. It’s much easier to just give someone a card and hope that they’ll call, right? We’ve all been there at one time or another.
Let me reiterate this point, when you have a live human being in front of you inquiring about your services you are now in the prospecting phase. Don’t wimp out! If you or they don’t have time to go through a series of prospecting questions then all you have to do is get their contact information and find out when you should call them so that you can.
While marketing is certainly important, I’ve found nothing to be as effective as putting myself in prospecting situations. What I mean is anytime I’m in front of another person that I don’t know, I can prospect.
Here are three great forms of prospecting:
The three foot rule. To me, this is the toughest. I still have trouble doing it because I’m naturally introverted. The rule is anytime you are within three feet of a person, you should start a conversation with them. You don’t want to start rambling about what it is that you do, you just make small talk, and see where it leads. You could say something along the lines of “The weather is great outside. Did you go for a walk/run today?” Or “The weather is terrible today; I guess you won’t be able to go for your walk/run today, huh?”
They may sound corny, but each is effective. The person will either ignore or start talking to you. If they don’t answer, then you’ve disqualified them already. The people that do answer, and most will, will immediately start to qualify or disqualify themselves.
If they say I hate to exercise and could care less that it’s nice out side… I think you see my point. On the other hand, if the person says, “I don’t walk, but I need to start”, you’ve now got a decent prospect on your hands and you need to dig a little further. Another person might say they’re going for their walk later. Again, you’ve got a shot so don’t wimp out, see where the conversation leads. Don’t jump backwards into the marketing phase. Meaning, don’t hand them a business card and walk away! You’ve successfully bypassed that phase. Which by the way, has just saved you the expense of marketing.
I’m not suggesting you become an annoyance to people. Just be friendly and see what happens. You never know. I’ve set sales appointments by prospecting in elevators, at my bank, and even at parties and receptions. As a salesperson your antennae needs to always be up. You never know from where the next client will come.
- Networking events, particularly events where your prototypical clients can usually be found. Most of my company’s clients are women, so I tend to seek networking opportunities with professional women, working mothers and women’s groups.
I’m not a woman, but that’s where my prospects are. So, that’s where I go. It is a bit uncomfortable at first being the only male there, yet I’m always welcomed in once they get to know me. Not going to these events would be a different form of “wimping out” as a sales person. And that’s not good for business. Whatever groups you should be going to, make sure you apply the three foot rule at all times.
- Public speaking. Strange, but while I am typically an introvert, I love to get up and talk about fitness, and I have no problem doing it. Good thing too, because it is by far and away the best form of prospecting that I know of. It’s much easier to sell dozens, if not hundreds, if not thousands of people at one time. The odds are in your favor that someone there is buying what you are selling.
Most people don’t know how to speak for the purpose of prospecting. Many either make the mistake of doing a commercial and telling their audience how wonderful their business is. That merely agitates the audience and the person who booked you as a speaker. Others get too technical and bore the audience with too much information.
Good speakers are story tellers. They make the subject interesting by connecting to the audience emotionally. Doing so creates a bond between the speaker that qualifies and disqualifies prospects during the talk. Either way the listener learns a great deal. However, it’s the ones who are deeply stirred by the emotion of the subject that will move them to seek out further information about whatever it is you are selling.
All three of the above prospecting techniques require confidence and strong people skills. Two skills that most fitness professionals currently possess. If you don’t then you might be in the wrong profession to start with.
If you’re a fitness professional you wear many hats. And if you’re going to stay in business your sales hat had better be the biggest. By identifying and knowing how to qualify and disqualify prospects you’ll have a much more efficient process for acquiring clients.