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Entries in membership sales (20)


‘Master the Sales Process’ with IHRSA’s December 3 Webinar

Join Jeff Houghtaling, membership director for VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa, as he presents IHRSA’s latest webinar, "Master the Sales Process," on Thursday, December 3 at 2 p.m. EST.

"I believe that seasoned and new sales advisors continue to struggle with knowing when to ask for the sale," Houghtaling says. "I also believe that sales advisors fear stepping outside their comfort zones and become stuck on current business practices while ignoring new opportunities to increase their sales efforts."

He will address those barriers and more during the hour-long presentation. Houghtaling will also draw on his 20-plus years of industry experience to advise health club operators on how to:

  • Build rapport with your prospects and members.
  • Review your current sales process and discover what’s not working.
  • Acquire new ideas to integrate and improve your sales process.
  • Discover the benefit of adding NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) into your sales presentation.
  • Obtain basic communication tools that will empower your sales force and their relationships with members; and learn how to determine what your prospects are in search of.
  • Negotiate and close the sale.

Attendees will come away with "new ideas and strategies to make them better communicators," Houghtaling says. "My hope is that the presentation will introduce easily integrative concepts that will improve the attendees relationships inside and outside their clubs."

IHRSA 2016 Register Now


Can Your Staff Improve Your Membership Retention?

Did you know that, on average, 16% of club members who don’t interact with health club staff will drop their membership every month?

But when club staff speak to members just once a month, only 7% will cancel their membership.

Is your club trying to improve its Member Retention?  If so, here is a free copy of the IHRSA Member Retention Report:  Are Your Fitness Staff Actually Your Best Sales People? Read it and learn how your staff can improve your retention rates and increase your bottom line.



New Year's is the Time You See IHRSA, Local Clubs in the News

Clubs can get quite crowded in January, due to New Year's resolutions.The New Year’s season is a great time for health and fitness clubs.

Membership numbers generally are up across the board, club staff are given more opportunities to do what they love best - helping clients get on the right path to a healthier and happier lifestyle - and both membership dues and non-membership revenues climb.

It is also a time for IHRSA to shine by providing the media with research information and quotes for the plethora of New Year’s resolutions and new memberships stories.

Here are just a few we have come across.

The Tennessean newspaper used what is probably the most popular bit of research information from IHRSA these days - that 12% of memberships are signed during January - for its story on the New Year’s rush at gyms.

WYFF news, an NBC affiliate in South Carolina, also emphasized that 12% of memberships are sold in the first month of the year. And as an added bonus the story on busy gyms was done on location at one of IHRSA member Sportsclub’s locations, with an interview of Erin Carlisle, Membership director at the Greenville gym. used an ABC News Radio story that contacted IHRSA Spokesperson Meredith Poppler for a quote, in addition to the using the 12% numbers, for its how to get the most out of crowded gyms story.

Full Time Whistle, a media outlet in the San Diego area, told readers that most members join a club for group classes. Its piece was on finding the right club.


Making the Most of New Year’s

It’s December, and the New Year’s rush is about to begin. How can you make the most of it?

You’ll want to reassess your staffing, sales training, sales process, and incentive programs, counsel several leading club operators. 

Last month, for example, the Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers (GHFC), in Gainesville, Florida, got started by ensuring that the necessary new staff members had been hired and fully trained, recounts General Manager Shawn Stewart. “Having the right staff is critical to handling the January rush,” he points out. The club will keep these extra employees until mid-February.

You’ll also want to give your staff a clear heads-up about what to expect, suggests Paula Neubert, the president and general manager of the Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club, in Denver. “The club will be crowded,” she warns, “so they should be prepared to handle the lines of people checking in, addressing current members by name with a smile, and, in general, providing as much TLC as possible.”

Thoroughly preparing your sales team is critical, insists Amanda Konigsberg, the Active Sports Clubs general manager at the 92nd Street Y, in New York City. “It’s essential, for instance, that your team be well educated about exactly how your club compares to and is distinguished from the competition.” She advises that you arm them with competitive information, on matters such as pricing and class schedules, so they can detail the ways in which your club might be a better match.

Konigsberg also suggests you can increase the team’s efficiency by making wise use of mobile technology. “It’s an excellent time to assess your club management system, and, then, make changes that will ensure the enrollment process is seamless for the prospect, and simple for your team. How? By using iPads or tablets instead of multiple paper forms.”

During the January and, hopefully, February crush, when prospects, tire kickers, and current members all converge on the club, you’ll want to devise ways to handle the heavy traffic, especially during peak hours. One way to do this, offers Neubert, is to schedule classes so as to channel people toward slower periods. And, she adds, “The club should be in perfect condition.”

Another way to make the crowds easier and more agreeable to contend with, says Stewart, is to link your initiation and fitness assessment process to some attractive perks. “With so many people embarking on an exercise program, it’s important to have everyone exercising safely and appropriately,” he explains. “So we offer a free Face2Face initiation program. Every new member is scheduled for five assessment and training sessions over the course of the first six weeks of their membership.”

Finally, Konigsberg observes, you’ll need to protect staff morale during this high-stress time. “You can facilitate that,” she says, “by including them in the decision-making process. … Treat the members of your team as though they were business owners, ones with an active role in many aspects of the operation. Keeping them informed, invested, and incentivized will go a long way toward attracting, and keeping, your new members.” 


How has membership sales changed?

When it comes to health clubs, what’s one of the most important, indeed critical, aspects of the operation?

The answer is: membership sales.

The most important aspect of the business, of course, is member service, but the sale comes first - you can’t serve a client until you have one.

That’s why, during IHRSA’s 33rd Annual International Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, no less than eight sessions were devoted to the topic. That’s also why, this month, CBI turns to the participants in one panel discussion, “Generating Leads and Positioning Your Sales Team for Success,” for their best thoughts on the subject.

The four - moderator Chuck Hall, Jason Reinhardt, Amanda Konigsberg, and Shawn Stewart - emphasize the importance of well-defined sales systems, the need to monitor key performance indicators, the critical role of referrals, the use of strategically sophisticated promotions, the seminal impact of social media, the centrality of community involvement, and the need to remain alert to changes in the greater membership sales environment.

See the entire story on new ways to sell gym memberships here.


IHRSA Index shows a strong 2013

The findings contained in the newest edition of the IHRSA Index indicate that 2013 was another good year for the health and fitness industry. Total revenue for 2013 increased by 4.0% over 2012, membership revenue increased by 2.7%, and non-dues revenue increased by 4.3%.

The results are based on figures provided by 14 major U.S. health and sport club companies, representing 353 facilities that have been in operation for at least two years.

“For four consecutive years, the IHRSA Index has documented improved year-over-year performance,” said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of Global Products. 

Index data for the third and fourth quarters of 2013 also showed positive results.

In the third quarter, total revenue increased 4.1% over the same quarter in 2012, membership revenue increased 2.4%, and nondues revenue increased 4%.

In the fourth quarter, total revenue and membership revenue increased 3.7% and 3.1%, respectively, quarter-to-quarter. There also was a surprise in the fourth quarter, when non-dues revenue grew by a robust 5.6%, reflecting strong growth in ancillary fitness programming, including personal and small group training, explains Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager. “Interest in such programming has been the primary driver.” 

Check out CBI for more and accompanying charts.


IHRSA 2014 Membership Sales Track: get to know the client

In most cases, the sales staff of a health club does not carry the ugly stigma of how most people view sales people – greasy, money-grabbers who don’t care about the person they are supposedly helping. Of course sales departments in the health and fitness industry want to feed their family, but it is more important to match clients with appropriate programs and membership options that best suits them.

Elias Scarr, membership director at Results Fitness and a sales consultant, will be leading Upgrading, Upselling and Cross-Selling: Steps to Increasing Membership Sales, on Thursday, March 13, at IHRSA 2014 33rd Annual Convention & Trade Show. During the session, in the Membership Sales track, Scarr will help with the latter – getting the best for the client. His tactic is to have a set, systemized strategy in place that allows you to take time with the clients to really get to know them, their needs and wants, and, ultimately, what they really need.

Read on to learn more about Scarr's Membership Sales session.


Don't get burned this summer with low membership sales

Christine Thalwitz, Scott Lewandowski and Jim Worthington tackle the issue many gyms and clubs face: the summer membership slump.

Q. The inevitable summer slump: what are best practices to attract new members during the slow summer months?  What are some alternative revenue opportunities to make up for this decline in new membership sales?"

A. The summer season is an opportunity for our sales and fitness teams to be prospecting outdoors for new members. The best opportunities include neighborhood festivals, endurance events, and outdoor classes for both members and non-members.

Search for neighborhood festivals that allow vendors to host a booth during the event. Conduct demonstrations utilizing your fitness teams to attract people to your booth.  Activities may include body fat testing, push up contests, self-defense demonstrations, or face painting for children.  Have your sales team present to discuss membership. 

Contact event directors of charity walks and 5K/10K races in your area and offer your services to lead their participants in a warm-up. 

If your club is near a park, organize a yoga class for members and non-members for the summer. Obtain contact information on all non-members and hand to the sales team.

Summer revenue-generating programs include contests to keep members using the club and endurance training programs.

Keep your members active in your club by offering a 4–6 week contest. Charge a nominal fee to participate, provide a shirt, and reward participants with prizes for reaching goals. Convert exercise activity during the program into mileage or points and set benchmarks to earn prizes. Last year, we generated $24,000 on a program called Team Trek that ran for 6 weeks. 

Summer is also a great opportunity to increase club revenues with endurance running and triathlon programs.  Offer 1–3 coached sessions per week that concludes with a local race in your area. 

Use the summer season to showcase your club’s member experience outdoors to attract new members indoors.

Contact me directly if you have further questions.

Scott Lewandowski
Regional director
Fitness Formula Corporate


AConventional wisdom says that a summer sales slowdown is unavoidable. School breaks, travel plans and opportunities for outdoor recreation may lead potential members to postpone joining a gym - but it does not have to be a foregone conclusion. To help flatten negative seasonal trends, plan ahead to maintain a steady stream of guest traffic and tailor your club’s activities and promotions to meet the summertime needs and wants of your prospects.

1. Offer special memberships. Prospects who fear that their erratic summer schedules will keep them from getting their money’s worth may find it easier to invest in a lower-priced, short-term membership. Then, at the end of the season, offer an incentive for conversion to a regular membership. Targeting niche markets, such as teachers or families with school-aged children, may make your messaging and delivery more effective and keep from cannibalizing regular membership sales.

2. Plan member/guest activities. We are a referral business! Whether you offer a one-time B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Buddy) pass or a 30-day member/guest “Change Your Life” Challenge, encouraging members to bring guests to the club will help them stay engaged while keeping prospect traffic flowing. Continue the fun off the fitness floor, too, with ice cream socials or barbecues.

1. Create exercise incentives. Attract new members and help them commit to get fit by offering a special joining reward. Our “pay you to exercise” incentive called Healthy Rewards has been extremely successful. Members earn money for completing different activities around the club within the first 30 days of membership. Upon completion, they can opt to receive cash back or a club gift card that can be applied to dues, training or any other club product or service.

4. Boost peripheral profits. Summer camp, for example, is a huge opportunity. If facility space is an issue, put together a series of off-site field trips for campers. Consider offering special excursions or retreats for adults, too. If you have outdoor pool amenities, rent them out as a special after-hours venue for corporate events.

5. Choose a charity. Hold a 30-day membership drive in which your club donates a portion of every new member’s enrollment fee or first month’s dues to a local charity or non-profit organization. A successful partnership will have both organizations working hard to get the word out.

With some forethought and creativity, your club can steer clear of the dreaded summer slump!

Christine Thalwitz
Director of Communications & Research
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers


A. To drive summer membership sales we usually run a strong promotion in May which entices people to join, such as the summer for free with a 15-month commitment, or free Group training all summer (with restrictions, of course). This helps boost joins early in the season to get us through the summer. Luckily, since we are a family oriented club, we experience an upsurge in membership sales in August as that is when new families must join in order to register their children for programs, such as gymnastics, dance and Taekwondo. We also create revenue in the summer through programming such as summer camps and summer swim lesson intensives (short 4 week sessions) to get kids ready for their summer swim activities. To maintain excitement in our group exercise program and create revenue we run a Summer Sassy Series of 3–4 events which include fun classes such as Zumba combined with refreshments served in our Salon and Spa. Members pay a fee for the experience and can bring guests. Finally, we try to keep a steady flow of events going in the summer. These are generally geared around community events that we take a lead role in. There are 3-4 community days where businesses participate in carnival type street fairs and we provide games entertainment and prizes as well as a July 4th local parade and fireworks display that we sponsor. All of this allows us to remain visible throughout the summer.

Jim Worthington
Owner & President
Newtown Athletic & Aquatic Club


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.

For past Best Practices questions, go



Past Best Practices, IHRSA Store help with membership questions

Anyone in the sports and health club industry knows that there are really two things that deem whether their business is a success: membership levels and member success. 

As far as membership is concerned, there are many aspects that can be looked at to gauge whether the former is achieved. 

Looking back at past Best Practices will show you that there are answers to many questions:

  • Selling memberships online: Bill McBride is all for it as long as the process is seamless.
  • Seasonal memberships - timely with summer right around the corner: Michael Minton suggests you plan months ahead for the influx of vacationers and youth, and that he prefers not to give shortened memberships.
  • Long-term contracts: Paul Brown suggests that members may have “buyer’s remorse” with two- or three-year contracts.

For more membership issues in Best Practices, or other subjects, click here

Another resource IHRSA can provide is a DVD, “Selling Club Memberships,” by popular speaker Karen Woodward. You can purchase it at the IHRSA Store or view a preview.

This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


Selling Online

Bill McBride and Chris Gallo give advice to a club operator that is debating whether or not to sell memberships online:

Q: “We're in the process of overhauling our website and are wondering: is it now an industry standard (or at least an accepted practice) to sell memberships online? And how much does it cost to implement an e-commerce tool that will do the job?”

A: I once learned about Creating Value and it was described this way – it’s the intersection of Useful – Usable – Desirable. So in serving consumers, I try to think about everything within these parameters.

Do consumers want to join online and not have to deal with a sales person? I think some do. If you agree, then online enrollment would be Useful.

How easy is the process to do for the consumer once you have it set up? The more basic and easy to use, the better your results will be. Make it easy to use – Usable. The location and graphic presentation as well as ensuring that the online enrollment options are not priced higher than your in-club memberships will lead to the Desirability of the function. This can be done through a variety of ways. Working with a web designer who knows PCI compliance (credit card / credit card information) and basic e-commerce would be the next step after you have identified your strategy around online enrollments.

Are you going to sell Trial Memberships as well as your normal full memberships? Do you have an easy to use printable guest pass option on your website? Once you have outlined your objectives – talk to some web designers. There may be a very cost effective solution for your needs.

Good luck with this more consumer centric direction.

Bill McBride, Chief Operating Officer
Club One, Inc.

A: Selling membership “options” online is something we would recommend every club setup and execute. The process is so efficient that it can more than double your ROI on certain options and certainly satisfies a sector of the population looking for a convenient, “hassle-free” sign-up process.

The more important question is: “what are the best membership options for your club to sell online?” As part of our 2009 IHRSA-LMI-HCD Member Survey Research, we learned that a club can only “present” the value proposition inside the club – most effectively with an outstanding and professional staff and secondly with a high quality and a “variety” of services offered in a “motivating” environment. This requires a face to face presentation. Hence, if you are selling “value” and are priced at over $40 per month, posting your membership prices online for your regular membership options is a poor idea. You are better served to use your website to capture leads so you can sell your true value and services at the club level where the focus is placed on features and/or solutions that excite the customer.

In this case, if you are a value driven club with a higher price point, your standard membership options (One Year, Month to Month) will always be “sold” at the club. However, using your website to capture leads AND to sell “short-term” & “goal driven” membership plans is a great idea. Selling temporary memberships, such as 3 month fitness challenge can be a nice way to get someone to “partially” commit to the club while breaking the barrier of “fear of failure and commitment”.

Clubs that are based in larger Metropolitan markets will fare better with online signups to satisfy their busy, computer savvy, professional crowd then those in rural markets. More importantly, clubs offering low price points ($10-20 per month) with no commitments can absolutely excel with online signups. It is now a staple of the “low-price” model.

As far as the cost and ability to plug this into your website, it is not costly. Your webmaster or billing company can help you out easily. It is more important to focus on the legality of the online membership and if the customer’s agreement is truly “finalized” online or if they need to fill out paperwork at the club level to authorize billing. This should be researched on a state to state basis.

Brad Denton, Co-Founder of the International Web-Based Club Management Solution, ClubReady, Inc. states, “It is so cool what we can now do as a management solution to make things more functional for our customers – scheduling classes & sessions; re-signing for PT agreements, supplements and programs. However, 95% of our clubs maximize the use of our solution to drive, attract and manage their online leads while still converting them by presenting their club’s true value at the door.”

Chris Gallo, President
Health Club Development Company

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