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What Comes First - The Chicken or the Egg?

Surely it must be the egg?  You need an egg to produce a chicken?  But wait... how can there be an egg until the chicken has laid it?

Hmmm ... confused?

We face a similar problem in some of our fitness centres... however, luckily this one has a more reasonable answer.

The problem is when deciding whether to employ a membership consultant (or someone focused solely on the sale of memberships).

So what is the dilemma?
Do I employ a membership consultant once business has picked up sufficiently to allow me to afford this new employee?
Do I employ a membership consultant and rely on the increased number of membership sales to pay for this new employee?

In short, do I improve my business performance and then employ a sales consultant, or do I employ a sales consultant which will improve my performance!

The answer... act NOW! 

What is the difference between the most successful fitness centres and all those that aspire to be the best?  A well designed and implemented sales system.  If you do not believe me view it for yourself.  Go to one of the larger, more recognised fitness centres in your area and try to enquire about a membership.  You will (hopefully) be taken through a well organised professional sales process to overcome all of your objections and encourage you to join.

I know... you "can't afford a salesperson", or "your centre is too small to dedicate someone purely to sales" ... I have heard it all before, and generally speaking you are wrong!

You can't afford NOT to have someone focused on sales at your centre.  If your consultant sells ONE more membership at your centre per week than you are already selling without him or her, then chances are they have paid for themselves (this is based on the theory that you are charging your members suitably for the service you are providing!).  If this consultant sells FIVE additional memberships per week then your centre is making a considerable amount of additional revenue.

The other familiar reply to this issue is "all of my staff are trained to handle the sales", or "I handle the membership sales myself".

Unless your staff member can take time out uninterrupted to sit down with a prospective member and go through a complete needs analysis, qualification, tour and the other aspects required in a good sales process, then you are going to 'close' a much lower portion of prospects that arrive at your centre.  Additionally, if your staff are constantly being interrupted during the discussion it is very unprofessional and often irritating and can convince the person NOT to join. 

Right, we know we need someone focused purely on sales.  However... do not head out tomorrow and immediately employ a sales consultant.  Before you even consider this it is imperative that you have a sales system in place to make the most of this new resource.

You must have a system for tracking incoming enquiries, whether via walk in or phone.  You must have a system for converting enquiries to appointments.  You require a process to encourage your prospects to join when they do arrive and finally you need a system for following up on those that do not join during their first visit.  Once the systems are in place you will get the best value for money out of your new employee.

For more information on sales systems see the Business Club section of our website.

The Local Gym - A Case Study

This month in ClubMarketer we profile one of the fitness chains in Ireland to assist you in gaining ideas for the development of your centre / business.

The centre in question is one of the Crunch fitness centres in the capital Dublin.  You are probably familiar with the chain Crunch.  They are famous for developing weird/unusual group fitness classes such as strip aerobics in the US.  Crunch fitness in Ireland is the largest chain of fitness centres in the country however they bare no resemblance to the American chain other than in name itself.

Lets start with appearance.  Outside, the signage looks clean, new, and is easy to find from the road.  The facility itself looks like a small underground dungeon, however on entry to the facility I am pleased to find that it is very modern and well set out.

As I approach the front desk I am amazed to see that the long front counter is also actually converted into a large aquarium with a multitude of fish of all colours.  On the wall beside the counter a projection of an old film plays which, in the dim setting, is very effective.  The front counter and surrounding areas are clean, tidy and free from cluttered paper etc.  In fact anything out of use is filed away out of view.

I sit down in what is referred to as the 'juice bar'.  To me it looks more like an up market nightclub with modern seating, low lighting, a bar in the corner and even a small fire.  Sky sport is playing on a large screen on the wall and there is a wide selection of papers available to browse which are neatly stapled and filed in a rack.

Moving down to the club we arrive on the mezzanine floor which overlooks the large cardio area.  There is a wide range of equipment which appears clean and well maintained.  The staff are all decked out in uniforms, in fact front desk and sales staff all wear shirt and tie, where as gym staff adorn a smart uniform more conducive to conducting fitness training.  As we move downstairs there is a glass wall that leads through to the group exercise room and another wall shows the smart looking swimming pool.  Each room has low lighting but is surrounded by candles which creates a lovely atmosphere to exercise in.
ClubMarketer Appearance Rating:  4/5

Customer Service
I try to get some information from the web before approaching Crunch, however their website is currently under construction.

A quick phone call and I am left slightly disgruntled with the way in which I am handled.  I am unable to have the questions that I have asked answered and my message left is never returned.  Hopefully not an indication of the typical service received but unfortunately all I have to judge on here.

On arrival I am greeted nicely and asked to take a seat in the juice bar upstairs.  Perhaps to be shown the seating area would have been a nice touch however probably not a necessity.  Now I proceed to wait a significant time for my appointment, what generally I would consider an unreasonable delay.  A couple of times I am told that I will be attended to shortly which eases my mind slightly.  Once greeted the meeting goes well and I am pleased with the way in which I am treated.
ClubMarketer Customer Service Rating:  2/5

Facilities, Services
All the equipment looks very new and is well set out.  Cardio equipment is well supplied, good quality and there is a large screen which acts as a cardio theatre.  However, up at the weight training area is where things get interesting.  Firstly at the programming area there is an touch screen where you can view your individual programme.  Simply key in your pin and view.  Print it if you wish.  What's more is when you arrive at the machines, you again key in your pin and it tells you - at the machine - the number of repetitions to do and how many sets.  It also advises if you are lifting too slowly, fast, too high or low.  Then it will advise the next machine to move to.  Now this may be simply a gimmick - but for a beginner I think a very useful tool.  However, for other more advanced members this is where the equipment may be lacking.  There are limited free weight areas, and the machines are perhaps not everyone's 'cup of tea'.  There is a spin room with 13 bikes, and a small group exercise room that may be limiting should the classes become extremely popular.  The classes offered however are reasonably standard, not too much of interest here.  The one notable omission in terms of services is the complete lack of personal training.  Fitness instructors complete initial training and then any re assessments 6 weekly, however there is no personal training at the chain.  Amazing considering the volume of personal training evident in NZ and Australia.  Also consider the fact that their equipment seems set up for the beginner, a group that would benefit most from the addition of a personal training service.
ClubMarketer Facilities Rating: 3/5
Payments / Sales
I enquire about the options when it comes to payment.  Apparently I can pay by direct debit or cash / card upfront but 'most people pay cash'.  If I want to pay by DD then I must pay on the 28th of the month - this is the only option.  The prices are presented to me on the yearly option, then broken down to the monthly option as a last resort.  Perhaps the weakest part of the facility for my part.  I hear other prospects presented only cash upfront options, and to my dismay even saw one person, while I was waiting, left to complete the paperwork themselves and take it down to reception.  Needs some work in this area!
ClubMarketer Payment / Sales Rating 1/5

Overall, a very nice facility in terms of the appearance, and facilities, perhaps needs some work on the development of systems.

Overall ClubMarketer Rating:  3/5