Keys to Motivating Your Health Club’s Sales Team

Staff and members face a new, post-pandemic reality. Here’s how to take the changing club sales environment into account and lead your team to success.

The landscape for health club sales has changed immensely during the past year. When leading a sales team, it’s important to consider how circumstances have shifted for your prospects and your employees.

In guiding your team, there are several steps you can take to acknowledge that approaches need to shift and that doing so can help ensure their success, notes Nick Thornton, vice president of sales at Club Automation.

Empathy Is Essential

Perhaps the core challenge facing everyone these days is simply understanding how much the playing field has changed and communicating that to others.

“Recognizing what your team and members are up against may seem subtle, but it’s critical,” says Thornton. “First and foremost, you need to treat your people with empathy; empathy not only for the environment that they’re in, but also for the struggles they may experience in selling memberships to prospects whose priorities have changed.”

What your team is likely dealing with is a balancing act for prospects. While the pandemic has made personal health and fitness a bigger priority, with many people buying home equipment and fitness memberships, prospects are dealing with other purchasing issues.

McKinsey & Company data shows, for example, that while American optimism regarding an economic recovery continues, more than half of U.S. consumers do not expect their routines to return until the latter half of 2021. In addition, up to 40% of consumers plan to decrease discretionary spending and only about 24% feel safe about engaging in “normal,” out-of-home activities.

“Given those obstacles, you can’t be in a place where you just pound sales numbers into people and make it happen,” Thornton says. “Leaders need to pull their teams into the emotion of the sale and into the vision of the club. Salespeople need to understand that prospects have these issues, but that they should never be apologetic about what they’re selling. What the health and fitness industry is doing —and what they’re doing—on behalf of our society and their community is more relevant now than it’s ever been.”

Offer Information, Make the Transaction Easier

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Given the current climate, we know that most sales don’t take place in brick-and-mortar environments, and that includes clubs. In fact, barely a month after COVID-19 hit, ecommerce orders increased by 50% compared to 2019. In addition, purchases have had a decided small-business tilt. Spending during Small Business Saturday and Sunday in December 2020 saw a year-over-year growth of 30.2% and 23.7%, respectively.

“Prospects are clearly spending more time online—people are not going to just show up at your club and sign up—so your sales process and team need to take that into account,” says Thornton. “Your website represents an excellent opportunity to educate prospects and ensure them the kind of ‘frictionless’ experience they’re looking for now.”

In short, your website needs to offer the best-presented and best-positioned information possible, while giving prospects easy avenues by which to sign up.

“On the content side, make sure your website isn’t confusing,” he advises. “If you have five different service offerings, make sure you provide clear, concise details about them. Include messaging about the steps you’re taking to keep members safe. In terms of signup, make the online process simple and make it easy for them to communicate with you prior to coming in.”

Using Touchpoints, Data, and Urgency

The key to leading, says Thornton, is doing so by example and ensuring that everyone is on the same page.

“Don’t just tell them what you expect, show them,” he says. “Give them a tour as though they were prospects and walk them through every part of the process. Then ask them for feedback. You’ll learn a lot from their insights.”

As far as the process goes, Thornton outlines a few more important areas on which to focus:

  • Establish touchpoints. Every aspect of your process—updating classes, establishing cleaning protocols, member communication, etc.—should have a touchpoint, a documented time at which reviews will occur. Those need to be adjusted week-to-week and quarter-to-quarter to ensure that goals are consistently met. “That might feel like too much, but your people need that feedback in order to succeed,” Thornton says. “It’s affirmation.”
  • Use your data. Among the benefits of an integrated CMS is the opportunity to communicate with, upsell or reengage current members. The software allows you to track certain trends. Have they ever participated in a program? Have they lapsed out of certain activities? Have they paid for personal training? Looking at the profile can help you find additional programming or activities and communicate those opportunities to them.
  • Communicate urgency. “Urgency matters,” states Thornton. “Having the prospect understand the importance of what they’re doing for their own health and ensuring them that they’re in the right environment—and that they’re making the right decision—with urgency is critical. And your whole team needs to be engaged in the process.”

Benefits of the Right Platform

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The right member management system, Thornton says, is the foundation on which to optimize the entire sales process.

“In order to get a comprehensive view of each prospect and member, you need a platform that follows them for their full lifecycle, and that’s what Club Automation has been focused on for the past two years,” he says. “When you have a clear idea of where they are in their membership—whether they’ve just joined or are later in their journey and interested in additional programs—you can target them with meaningful information that helps them make the most of their membership.”

Within that system, Club Automation has focused on creating a streamlined user interface that makes interactions as seamless as possible for a club’s members and, importantly, for their guests.

“To boost membership sales, it’s crucial that the experience you provide to your guests is the same as you provide to your members. That’s why, with Club Automation’s flexible pricing and membership options, you can set both guests and members up to have the same privileges,” says Thornton. “We have seen clubs use this tool as a great way to generate organic referrals. For example, a current member shares a Group Fitness class over social media with one of their friends. That friend easily registers online using the club’s Member Portal, joins the class, and has a great time!”

Based on the experiences the guest has had, the system can then help further the sales process through the right communication.

“It’s designed to be intuitive and to break down any barriers holding prospects back from joining,” says Thornton. “For example, when an interested prospect or guest visits your club, your team can easily send them an email with more information on memberships and a link to sign up whenever they are ready. These are key elements that make the process seamless and convenient for your staff and potential members. The system offers consistent, targeted communication—text, email, push notification, etc.—to meet any prospect or member need.”

In the current environment, among the system’s best features is the data that can be mined from the member’s journey.

“I would argue that in the post-pandemic world, your cancelled members are your best prospects,” he asserts. “You have a lot of data on them and, using the information at hand on their previous activity and interests, you can reach out and retarget them moving into the future.

“Between the unified view of each prospect or member, having the data you need to effectively target people, and the right communications, Club Automation's system is all about streamlining the process and making it easy to both bring people in and have them join.”

To learn more about Club Automation, visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to