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Five sales tips to turbocharge gym and fitness club conversion rates

Five sales tips to turbocharge gym and fitness club conversion rates
March 13, 2022

As anyone who works in gym sales will tell you, there’s often something of a chasm between what prospects say they’re going to do and what they actually end up doing.

You’ve given them an incredible tour - maybe even a free taster with your trainers - the gym looks immaculate and you’ve smiled until your face hurts.

But then you go to close the sale and they tell you: “I’m definitely going to sign up. I just need to go away and think about it.” 

It’s crushing, isn’t it? Because most of the time, that translates as: “No thanks, but I’m not going to say it to your face.”

You begin to question yourself: Were you too pushy? Was the membership plan too expensive? Was the trainer not attentive enough? Have they been lured by a new competitor that’s opened just round the corner? 

In reality though, for the vast majority of cases, it isn’t actually anything you’ve done or not done. It’s simply down to the prospect themselves: they weren’t the right prospect in the first place. 

Increase gym membership sales by focusing on the right people
Let’s imagine each of your prospects has their intentions - not what they tell you, but their true intentions - tattooed on their foreheads. How useful would that be to your gym sales process, especially if more than one lead turns up at the same time and you need to prioritise?

The prospect in the previous example? Sorry to say, they have ‘time-waster’ tattooed on their forehead. But at least you know, because coming through the door with them is another prospect with ‘ready to go’ beaming at you from their forehead, and a third with ‘potential but needs more attention’.

Now we’re talking. Now we know who to be pleasant with but without investing any real time or resources. We know who we still need to convince to coax them over the line. And we know who - provided the front of house team greets them warmly, the sales team builds a good rapport, and enough intel is gathered to show them the facilities and a membership plan they will like - will sign up.

In short, we know exactly who to focus on - and how to approach them - if we want to maximize our gym sales conversions; the front of house team can even categorize leads when they’re booking them in. 

The sales team then knows how much effort to invest in each and every gym membership sales pitch; the trainers know how much time to spend with any given prospect; and monthly lead conversion projections become far more accurate.

Know which leads will convert to membership before they walk through your doors
And the good news is, all of this is possible now. Today. Not through physical tattoos, of course, but it is absolutely possible to know what a prospect’s intention is even before they walk into your gym. 

In fact, add AI to your gym sales process and every single lead that shows an interest in your gym can be given an accurate conversion score - immediately showing you the percentage likelihood they will sign up to become a member - before they ever walk through your doors. 

So, let’s say you’ve made the move to incorporate AI into your gym sales process. How does it then work? How do you take this new capability and turn it into a significantly higher lead conversion rate and, with it, increased gym revenue?

I’d like to share five gym sales tips that will help you harness the AI in your gym to increase your gym membership sales.

Tip #1 - Implement a scoring system for all your leads
All leads are not equal. An enquiry from someone aged under 16, for example, is not the same as an enquiry from a 25-year-old professional with the salary to match.

You therefore have to develop a scoring system for all your gym sales leads - a system that allows you to prioritize the high-value opportunities, by which we mean those with the strongest probability of becoming a member and the highest potential lifetime value. 

Tip #2 - Organise your gym sales funnel
You then need a defined process to deal with each different priority level, all the while appreciating that time kills deals; every lead should be contacted quickly to avoid losing them.

If your lead volume is high, gym lead automation can play a useful role here. While you might pick up the phone to prospects who fall in your sweet spot of high likelihood-high potential LTV, automation allows you to make initial contact with lower priority (lower potential LTV) leads digitally - and therefore at greater scale. 

This automated contact can include a suggested first action - e.g. book a trial - as a call to action. This provides further insight as to their intent; a positive response could change the lead score of a prospect and move them further up your priority list.

Tip #3 - Define your sales playbook
While your AI can draw invaluable insights from your data, and gym automation can help you channel them, it is only by turning insight into action that you will achieve the desired results. And that means a need for playbooks that outline how you want your team to use each and every insight.

I’ve already touched on these - the decision over whether to call or digitally contact your leads - but playbooks are vital to the in-person experience too. AI is hugely powerful and removes the guesswork around leads’ intentions, but it is only as powerful as the people who use this information.

For the prospect who’s yet to be convinced, what might be their barriers and/or uncertainties, and what can you have up your sleeve ready to address these? What questions should you ask them to uncover their hesitancies, and what should be the balance between selling and listening? (Clue: Do lots and lots of listening.) How can you give them an experience that makes them feel hugely positive about your club, so you get them over the line with a smile on their faces? 

For the time-waster, how will you politely do enough that they don’t come away feeling negative about you - you don’t want them bad-mouthing you to their friends and family, as the knock-on effect on other potential leads could be devastating, plus in the end, well, you just never know - but at the same time not overly invest your valuable time and resources?

And then for the prospect who’s ready to go, as we mentioned earlier, you’ll still need to greet them warmly, build a good rapport, ask enough questions to know exactly what facilities to show them, and if appropriate deliver a great taster class or training session. 

You’ll also need to pitch the right membership package to them.

Tip #4 - Pitch the right package
By profiling all your leads before they even come in for a tour, and mapping them against the profiles - and habits - of your existing members, your AI will be able to offer insights not only into which leads are most likely to convert, but also which gym membership package they’re most likely to purchase.

This helps you maximize revenue as well as likelihood of conversion: after all, why sell a six-month package to a prospect who’s ready to go if all the data says they’ll be just as likely to purchase a 12-month membership? 

The key here is not to see the gym sales process as totally separate from your gym retention strategies: cement the new member’s commitment to you from the word go by encouraging them to mentally commit to still being with you in 12 months’ time.

Tip #5 - Get the right leads in the first place
Finally, but absolutely critically, is an opportunity to turbocharge your conversion rates by pitching your gym marketing just right, ensuring your gym sales funnel is filled with the right people in the first place - individuals who are most likely both to convert to membership and to stay with you. 

So, how does this work? Well, it starts by attracting leads that look exactly like your best customers.

From your database of existing members, your AI builds up a picture of your ideal customer: the customer who stays with you the longest, with the highest lifetime value. 

Underpinning this, your AI will know the precise factors that characterize your ideal customer - everything from their age, to the classes they do, to the source through which they first came to you. It can then use this insight to create an avatar of that perfect customer. A ‘lookalike’ that can be used to improve gym sales. 

Let’s take Facebook advertising as an example. Your AI will use the avatar it’s developed to create what Facebook calls a custom audience. In turn, this ensures your ad is served only to those who look very similar to your best customers, helping you attract high potential LTV prospects. 

Your cost of acquisition will be reduced, because you only pay Facebook for a very specific type of person; in our experience, you might get fewer clicks, but your conversion rate will be higher and your conversion cost lower. 

You might also place more emphasis on your gym referral program, encouraging your high LTV members to bring their friends with them - people who may well be ‘like them’ and who will also instantly have a human, personal connection to your club (as well as someone to work out with, which is proven to drive loyalty).

The flip-side, of course, is a scattergun approach which may get you more leads, but where a large proportion of those leads will be time-wasters. You’ll then squander your resources pursuing and trying to charm them but ultimately find yourself back to square one, permanently working to refill your gym sales funnel. 

My advice: focus on quality, not quantity. Follow these gym sales tips and you’ll be well on your way.

Ian Mullane writes on 'The new Fitness Ecosystem' in Australasian Leisure Management issue 148. 

Images courtesy of Shutterstock (above and below) and Ian Mulanne (middle).

About the author

Ian Mullane

Chief Executive, Keepme

Ian Mullane is the Founder and Chief Executive of Keepme, a revenue acceleration platform dedicated to increasing operator revenue through AI-powered insights and tools. He is also a respected thought leader, white paper author, regular keynote speaker at industry events globally, GymNation Board member and member of the ukactive Digital Futures Council.

With a career that has seen him work with some of the biggest players in FinTech including his position as Chief Operating Office at Sungard, Ian was also the owner/operator of the fitness business Vanda in Singapore for more than a decade.

Read more from this author

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