I am the person who outlines services available at Cressey Sports Performance here in Massachusetts. Be it in an email, telephone, or in-person format, the responsibility is mine. With over 3,500 athletes currently in our client database, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to fine-tune my pitch.
I take a great deal of pride in being able to effectively overcome the most common hurdles encountered during the selling process. What makes this particularly challenging for me is that fact that I am selling fitness instruction without a history of actually having instructed fitness. The success of our business is largely dependent on my skill-set in this realm, so I am continuously modifying and improving my approach.
Here is a look at five of the most useful tools currently sitting in my “selling toolbox”. Hopefully other fitness facility owners will find one or two of these tips to be of assistance as they work to increase their conversion rates during the sales process.
1. Ask a bunch of questions…and then ask some more
If there is one lesson I’ve learned during 8+ years of customer service here at CSP, it is that people enjoy talking about themselves. What they appear to enjoy even more is talking about their kids.
How’d you hear about us? What inspired you to get in touch? How old is your son? What sports does he play? Does he have any type of unique injury history we should be aware of? Has he been exposed to any strength training up until this point? Is he planning on playing a fall sport? How’s his diet? Does he typically do a good job of balancing academics and athletics? Is he hoping to play sports in college? Have you put any thought into possibly training with us while your son is here?
There really is no such thing as too many questions during the initial stages of a phone call with a prospective client. At CSP, we embrace the idea that they don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, and this mentality kicks in beginning as early as an initial phone call.
2. Identify your key words and use them often
I often joke that I could step on to the CSP training floor and be perceived as a competent coach by simply screaming the most common cues at arbitrary moments. If you’ve spent any time training under the supervision of a decent strength coach, you know exactly what I am talking about.
“Tuck your chin! Chest tall! Hips through! Drive through your heels! Get your air!”
Much like these cues can serve as a crutch during the coaching process, I have a handful of “go-to terms” which I use in each and every sales pitch. Parents can’t get enough of terms such as: suggested corrective exercise, faulty movement patterns, and flexibility limitations. Every time I say to a dad that we’re going to “place a heavy emphasis on the importance of adhering to our arm-care protocols”, I can almost hear him taking out his wallet to find his credit card on the other end of the telephone.
Parents want to know that their kids are in the hands of professionals whose primary focus is injury prevention first, and performance enhancement second. Each and every one of the descriptive terms I’ve outlined above helps me to convey this message effectively.
3. Establish areas of expertise to differentiate staff members
Whenever asked the “what would you do differently if you could start over” question, I am quick to say that we wouldn’t have put Eric’s name on the business. The biggest problem that comes with the name “Cressey” being on our tee shirts and business cards is that every other staff member is perceived to be wildly inferior by comparison to Eric. This presents a serious problem since Eric can’t handle assessment, programming, and coaching responsibilities for every athlete to step through our door (spread over 2 facilities).
The most effective adjustment I’ve made to counter this problem is to focus on individual areas of expertise for each staff member. If you come to us with a history of low back or hip-related injury issues, you can expect to be evaluated by Greg Robins. If you inform us that you’ve been dealing with lower-extremity ailments, you should prepare for a consultation with Tony Gentilcore. Are you fresh off of a Tommy-John procedure? You get to meet with Eric Cressey or Chris Howard.
If you employ multiple coaches at your fitness facility, I’d encourage you to identify their interests and unique skill-sets in an effort to differentiate their areas of expertise. Your coaches will instantaneously receive a bump in perceived credibility beginning the moment you begin to label them “your shoulder guy”, or something along these lines.
4. Consider publishing the answers to your most commonly asked questions
I am regularly asked what kind of agility work or foot-speed drills we integrate into our programming to ensure that a young athlete gets faster by working with us. Rather than respond with a diatribe on our programming philosophy and declare that “ladder drills are stupid”, I let Eric do so for me.
“My business partner Eric has actually published some great information relating to this subject. Could I possibly have your email address so that I can send you a link to a relevant blog post? He does a great job of articulating our training philosophy on this front.”
There are a couple of reasons why I find this approach to be effective. For starters, Eric has taken the time to thoughtfully outline the answer to a question that is actually fairly complex, and is considerably better prepared to provide a concise answer. Secondly, by capturing an email address and forwarding a link to an article, I am in complete control of the message. I can easily incorporate links to other relevant blog posts, draw attention to Eric’s baseball-specific content archive, and more.
Whether it is justified or not, material that has been published on the internet is extremely effective in positioning yourself as an industry leader. Parents of clients are often put at ease when they can see your comprehensive knowledge base laid out in front of them in an electronic format.
5. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you are not a good fit
Anyone who has had the opportunity to pitch their fitness instruction services for an extended period of time has likely encountered the type of potential client who would rather dictate their programming needs than listen to your informed opinion. It is surprising to see how many people seek your services only to tell you exactly how they’d like you to train them. I know better than to compromise our training philosophy and allow an athlete or client to decide on their exact programming needs simply so that I can collect their money. Instead, I’ve unintentionally stumbled upon my most effective selling technique yet: politely declining business.
As it turns out, the people who are convinced they already know how to do our job do not take too kindly to me telling them we are probably not a right fit for what they’re seeking. Maybe they’re testing me to see if I have the wherewithal to stand by our training model and philosophies. Maybe they’re not used to being told “no”. Either way, they all seem to change their tune and suddenly open their minds to embracing our system by booking an initial assessment.
My dad always told me that I shouldn’t lend money that I can’t afford to lose permanently. I’d apply this logic to applying the “we’re probably not a good fit” response. Never tell someone you’re not what he or she is looking for if you can’t come to terms with the idea that they’ll agree and walk away. This being said, based on my experience, they rarely will.
As I mentioned earlier, I am constantly revising my approach to the selling process to improve effectiveness. I’d be eager to learn more about my reader’s “can’t fail” selling strategies. Feel free to post a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org in the future!