Building a Better Sales Team

How to gain buy-in for success, find unicorns, and create an optimal employee experience.

Membership sales may be somewhat of an art form—selling something relatively intangible is never an easy job. However, developing a clear understanding around goals and the value of what’s being sold, notes Nick Thornton, vice president of sales at Club Automation, can be the foundation for building a successful team.

“It starts with context,” he says. “Does your comp plan achieve both the goals of the salesperson and the goals of the organization? You really need to do both. Second, your people need to have a good grasp on the total lifetime value of a member.

“Sometimes, we get distracted by it being a $30 membership, an $80 membership, or wherever you fall into that spectrum. The reality is, over the member’s lifetime you must ask: what is the real value?”

Nick continues, “It can be easy to under- or overvalue what you’re selling. Here’s the math: If, within your compensation model, you sell a $300 membership, that’s $30 a month over 10 months, but if you end up spending $250 in commission to get it, it’s not a good economic situation.

“You need to know what those long-term values are before you decide how much you’ll spend to get those memberships and how quickly they’ll need to be sold. It’s really backing into the numbers and building a plan specifically for that. In developing that plan, you also need to build in the ability to adjust on the fly.”

Once you have a plan in place, share the economics and your goals with your sales team to let them know what success looks like.

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“Don’t leave your salespeople in the dark, so they don’t understand why they got paid $30 versus $45. Explain to them what they’re getting paid and why,” he adds. “That’s part of how you get them to buy into the success of the club. That’s something we often miss in sales leadership. We think, ‘I’m going to pay you this because that’s what I told you I’m going to pay you,’ But the Millennial Generation wants to know why—they want to be a in position to hold us accountable—and that’s something we can tap into to tie them more closely to the club’s goals and their own success.”

Finding Your Unicorns

Once you’ve put your plan in place and know how to help motivate your team, how do you build and grow that team with top performers, especially in the current job market?

“Post-pandemic, that has been a concern for businesses across the world, not just in our industry,” Nick says. “What it really comes down to is creating unicorns—those people that you wish you had more of.”

When you’re looking for people, you’re not considering so much who they are, but what they do well—the tasks at which they excel—and finding a means to measure prospective employees during an interview.

“At Club Automation, we have an assessment for any candidate—a test that helps us find our best performers,” he says. “It helps us identify their strengths and weaknesses, and we can use those as a baseline for judging potential fit for the job and the organization.

“The irony of good salespeople is that they’re not very collaborative people. They basically don’t take no for an answer. They could be considered somewhat argumentative. They may put some people off, but the reality is they’re self-driven, they’re motivated, and they’re succeeding because of that. The assessment helps us put some science behind identifying those metrics and using them to judge potential candidates.”

Building a Better Employee Experience

Once you have the right sales plan and salespeople in place, what’s next?

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“We often talk about the importance of creating the optimum member experience,” Nick says. “The member experience is critical, but how are you building a similar experience for your team to be able to convert on what you’re doing for your members? We know that members are increasingly demanding frictionless experiences. Is your team member experience also frictionless?”

By that, Nick means giving your people the tools they need to fuel an easier, more seamless experience for themselves.

“Our salespeople know what a good sale is, they know what a good member is, and they know how to get them into the club,” he says. “Do they have an iPad at the front desk that has a simple form that new members can quickly complete? Or are you still having them write information down on a piece of paper, and having them type it all into the computer later? That’s just one example of something that limits an optimal employee experience. Anything you do to make the member experience better should be in alignment with what you do for your staff.”

Another aspect of creating a better staff experience—and retention—is ensuring that your people have paths to growth.

And that starts with the interview.

“You should have a plan for that person you hired because you posted the job,” Nick explains. “You should know that, if they’re a high-quality candidate, they can progress through series of more senior-level positions. If you're building that opportunity out in the interview and letting the candidate know that you have a vision for them within your organization, that changes their perspective of coming to work for you. They’re already looking forward to doing well for you and getting to that next slot.”

“If someone knows where they might potentially go as soon as they come in the door, they’re more likely to stay.”

Nick Thornton, Vice President of Sales

Club Automation

This content was developed based on a recent episode of The Experience Podcast, which is co-hosted by Nick Thornton, vice president of sales at Club Automation, and Daron Allen, vice president of Enterprise CRM at Club Automation. The Experience Series Podcast is a health and wellness industry resource for learning and sharing strategies for member, staff, facility, and lead experiences. Find it on the Club Automation website, YouTube, Spotify, and on Apple Podcasts.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to Club Business International.