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Slow Down the First Hour

Slow Down the First Experience, But Not This Slow

Fitness has changed during the last several years but how we sell it commercially hasn’t really evolved that much.

Today’s potential clients walk through the door better read and more inspired than they have in the past. In the easy days, they arrived seeking fitness but mostly having no idea of how to chase it, except for the guy who still wanted to do his high school weight routine because it worked so well for him about 20 years, and 30 pounds, ago.

Potential members today have resources past guests never had access to when they began their fitness pursuit. Type fitness, running, kettle bell or any other industry related term into YouTube and you will pull up literally thousands of videos and clips.

Go online to Amazon and you can order Durkin’s bestseller, "The Impact Body Plan,” Rachel Cosgrove’s masterpiece, "Female Body Breakthrough” or Alwyn’s "New Rules of Lifting” series. These books are so far superior to the old bodybuilding books we had access to in the past that it is like comparing a 62 Volkswagen to a new Porsche. They all might be books but what’s under the hood is mindboggling.

Not everyone coming through the door is well read and ready to rumble of course, but even those who haven’t been doing their research know that a couple of workouts with a bored trainer and then starting a fitness routine based upon a 1995 circuit is both stupid and ineffective.

The current method of selling in commercial fitness is to start with a salesperson, who often doesn’t know a lot about fitness beyond his own workout style, who then turns the client over to a trainer, who has no sales training, no interest in sales and who just wants to train clients, eat a lot, train more and get a check. Trainers can’t, won’t and are by the nature of who is attracted to the job, incapable of selling anybody anything.

The trainer takes one look at the person’s car keys, sees Hyundai, and then loses interest because this client is obviously not a potential one-on-one victim. He sets the person up on a circuit, sets a few seats, counts backwards from 10 a couple of times and then hands the client a big card with a workout on it that will fail the client in about six weeks.

The trainer then hands the client back to the salesperson, who now has to overcome the bad job and attitude the trainer brought to the process. This is a stupid, inefficient and a leftover legacy from the 90’s when you could get away with this nonsense.

Non-profits are even more inefficient. Luckily, the days where everyone just handed them money so they could waste it are gone and now there is the start of accountability within many of the organizations. They still, however, use the sales system based upon fear of being thought of as a mainstream club. So instead of helping the person get some information that might help them make a decision by using a trained sales team, the young counter staff at most non-profits simply points toward the back and the guest gets a self-guided tour. The fear of the "sales” word makes the Y’s and their friends a hard place to get help and guidance because no one wants to ask the guest to get started.

The last category is the trainer club, who wants to so impress the guests with their knowledge that they take the person through every test they can buy and then they spend an hour taking the person through a complicated and overdone routine that does indeed make the potential member come to a hard realization: that yes, I am fat, and yes, this is a crazy bastard because if this is the first workout for a deconditioned guy I have no chance of surviving a regular workout.

The guy is there because he is fat and can’t move well. You do not need to pull up his shirt, pinch a huge handful of fat and call out a number nor do you need him to step over a string with a stick on his back to prove he has the moves of a 100-year-old meth addict. This is baseline stuff you use once he becomes a member not something to try and impress a scared and nervous guy who knows he sucks.

The point of all this is that we can change the initial perception by using a different tool. Here is the overview:

·     Slow down. You should spend at least an hour to an hour and half with a person teaching him how to workout. If he doesn’t have his workout stuff, present the club but your best chance of getting new folks into your business is to get him working out using a positive experience. Sweat sells and a workout with a motivating coach that is actually teaching the how instead of just do this will increase your success

·     Use two sales teams. Use a regular sales person and also use a second person that is a trainer who is not afraid of money. The trainer/sales person should try and upgrade the person into a training program and should feed the other trainers, who as I mentioned earlier, are the last people on planet Earth that should be asking for money.

·     Use an anally structured assessment tool. I have referred to this tool as an induction tool in past blogs. Induction means this is a tool to introduce, or induct, the person into your system.

·     Your goal is to demonstrate expertise, professionalism and a caring attitude by spending an hour teaching someone to workout

If you have been in one of the workshops in the last year you know that I recommend using a format that applies to almost everything we do in the clubs these days. If you start the guest in the same format you use elsewhere, he or she will fit in more quickly and can participate more easily in other club offering building up their confidence even more.

The format is:

·     Meet and greet for one minute. This is where all the clients get to meet each other, shake hands and make new friends before you begin.

·     12 minute dynamic warm up. This is classic these days and we vary this using 7-12 for the assessment since the condition of the client varies.

·     20 minute strength

·     3-5 big finish

·     The group hug at the end. This is where everyone is thanked for being a member of the club and supporting the business.

When we do the assessment sale with a new guest, we vary this slightly. The meet and greet is altered for 10 minutes with the goal of determining the guest’s goal, time frame and commitment. Spend 10 minutes finding out who the person is, what do they want from you and fitness, how many days a week do they have to commit and any relative time frame, such as wanting to be in a wedding or training for a 5k.

I also recommend using these exercises exactly in this order for the strength session. By using a set format, I can use different trainer/sales people and gauge their effectiveness since each one will be doing exactly the same sequence.

The strength portion looks like this:

·     Kettle bell swing

·     Push movement overhead, even if it is a one-pound medicine ball

·     Goblet squat

·     Pull movement, preferably with a kettle

·     Lunge movement

·     Dead lift movement

This sequence allows the trainer/sales person to demonstrate a high level of coaching and professionalism. The swing, for example, looks so easy but takes some time to build up through the teaching sequence. Remember that your competitors aren’t doing this and are using some version of stupid, so by slowing down and spending time here teaching you are changing the mindset of the client.

The big finish might be 30 seconds for a totally deconditioned old guy or five minutes for the young female soccer player looking to stay in shape after her baby.

We then take the guest back to a high table, coach cardio and then place them where they need to be in the system to reach their goals. We coach cardio because many folks will come to the club thinking that all they will do is walk on the tread for an hour or two a day, watch some TV and lose weight. We take this away from them early be talking about intensity and giving them a 20 minute HIIT program.

The final question to ask the guest is: Are you the type of person who prefers working with a personal coach or are you the type that would rather be part of a group and share the cost of the trainer? This question allows the person to place himself into the type of activity he prefers but also allows him to place himself financially without being embarrassed that he can’t afford expensive one-on-one training.

This is probably the most important thing we teach this year and will have the biggest impact on your business in the shortest period of time. Simply slowing down and spending time teaching and educating instead of merely getting the person started on a set routine will change your numbers. If the person is truly deconditioned, you can offer what we call "Fundamentals” 4-6 times a week in groups where the person repeats the same sequence and can learn the basic movements before moving on in the club.

Important note: We will be in Louisville this month, Baltimore in August and off to San Francisco in September. There is also one Perform Better Summit left this year and that is in Long Beach in August. Every owner and manager should be there and do the workouts and sit in on the lectures. Fitness is our product and there is no better source of new information.

I have also started using Facebook more often starting a Late Night Edition as sort of a mini-blog. Take a look and let us know what you think.



Frank Kole 3 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
Thom so well and detailed written out for us allmost like you are here setting it up for us!
Thomas Plummer 3 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
Hi Frank, This comes up often now. The idea of a one hour experience with a trainer who can sell works extremely well and should be a simple idea but we are so far removed from the concept in mainstream fitness that this seems kind of revolutionary. It is no longer the big eating the small, it is the fast guys like you that will change how we do business in this industry.
Frank Kole 3 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
I Love this business! Love it everyday I am in it! Allways loved helping! There is only one other time I felt this much love to this business. Its was when I started back in 1982. I was the cleaning guy hired for my first job in a gym. It was cleaning the gym after school and on the weekends. With in two weeks of being there I was helping people workout and just loving it. The same feeling I have today. It was a small gym called Tony Harlins Gym in stony point new york. He was the first guy who write my first workout for me. Tony was a shot putter on the USA Team in the 70s and early 80s and still throws that 16 pound shot today. Thats was his claim to fame and that alone filled the gym up with alot of people who loved to workout and help each other. It was a gym we are all looking for today in our workouts. But the big boxes cant give us that feel. That type of gym is making a come back. Tony harlin was a fast guy for his time with his gym and I was lucky enough to workout there and work there. And the vaule of helping people i learned that there too. A good protion of stuff I learned early on in that gym I still use today in this gym. The funny thing about that gym is that is where I think I first meet you Thom. It was a summer day and I think Mark and you drove up from NJ to sell your services. I am pretty sure it was you and Mark. Tony filled his gym with all Ferrigno gym equipment. He had every peice they made. But you are so right Thom a trainer who can sell works extremely well should be a simple idea.
Thomas Plummer 3 years ago
Poor Comment Good Comment
There is an ongoing dialogue on Lou Schuler's blog that is worth looking at. The participants are all talking about how much more effective, and how much more enjoyable, a small club can be. change starts at the bottom and works up in today's market and seldom if ever comes from an enlightened management and goes the other way. Change is happening and there is nothing the box clubs can do about it. Most fight the rising storm but a few are trying to convert their clubs to workout clubs and probably will make it. I have said it too many times this year to anyone that will listen but the future of fitness is not the box, it will be the smaller training-centric workout facilities. Good box players, such as Todd Levine and his Gold's in Rochester, is an example of a talented owner and team willing to evolve their business into something never seen in that market.
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