The research is clear, there is no other factor that effects member retention at a fitness center as much as interacting with them during the critical first month. Properly onboarding a member — getting them oriented to your facility, discovering their goals, and giving them a practical plan to reach those goals — has been proven to increase member retention by about 75%. Imagine what that type of increase would look at your facility! Imagine it in terms of the number of people whom you have helped to reach their goals; or the total membership of your fitness center! But, how can you get there? What does it look like to properly onboard members? Over the next few blog posts, we are going to break it down, step-by-step, from the moment a new prospect walks in your front door, until they are happy, life-long members who are meeting their goals and promoting your facility to their friends.
Tours are a vital part of new member onboarding and member retention
Let’s start at the beginning: giving a great tour. Imagine a prospective member walking in the front door of your facility. What happens next? The answer to that question is essential in determining both whether or not they will join your fitness center and whether they will stay for the long haul. Yet it’s at this critical junction — the initial interaction and tour — that far too many fitness centers struggle. Staff lack training or processes have not been perfected and as a result, prospects who could have been life-long members slip through the cracks. So let’s take a look at a few simple steps for mastering that first interaction and giving a tour that converts clients to members.
- Be prepared. When someone calls and asks “What is your monthly membership fee?” what does your front desk staff say? What about when someone walks in and says, “I’m interested in getting in shape, can someone tell me more about your facility?” At MobileFiT, we have a lot of interactions with potential customers and we have scripts for everything. Say this if someone answers the phone, or this if you leave a voicemail. We know our customers well enough to know 90% of the questions and potential objections that they might have and we have prepared a response in advance. The goal is not to parrot answers back like a robot, but to give customers the best answer possible and give employees the confidence to know what to say to move the conversation forward in the right direction. So sit down together as a team, think of the various scenarios, questions, and objections you commonly face. Write out the responses that you would like to give and have everyone learn them, so when someone walks in the front door, asks a question, or raises an objection, every member of your staff will know exactly what to say.
- Practice. World champion skier, Jean Claude Killy, once said, “The best and fastest way to learn a sport is to watch and imitate a champion.” Who are the “champions” at giving tours at your facility? Who is the most experienced? Who is the most comfortable? Who has the best tour conversion rate? Have the less experienced staff members shadow these “champions.” Notice how they interact with the prospective member — what questions they ask, how they make them feel at ease, how they close with pricing and membership information? And don’t just observe. Role-play. Go on mock tours over and over until staff members excel in their knowledge of the facility, the questions they need to ask, and how to interact with potential members.
- Ask great questions. Staff members need to know that the purpose of giving a tour is notto show off your facility’s features and equipment. To give a tour that properly begins the onboarding process your goals need to be two-fold: to start to develop a relational connection with the prospect and to discover their goals so that you can show them how your facility meets those goals. Both of these can be accomplished by asking great questions. Where are they from? Are they married? Kids? What do they like to do in their spare time? These, and a litany of other such questions, help you get to know the person’s story as you walk and talk.But, perhaps your most important questions are the ones that allow you to hone in on the goals and motivations that are driving the prospect to check out your facility. Questions such as “What brought you into the club today?” and “What are your fitness goals?” certainly fall into this category. But it is important to go deeper. Questions such as “Why is this so important to you?” help you discover motivations that are the true emotional drivers of their fitness goals. For instance, someone may say their goal is to lose 15 pounds. But further questions may uncover the fact that they want to lose 15 pounds because they have a high school reunion coming up, they are getting married in three months, or that they want to look fabulous in their bathing suit next summer. You now understand the emotional drivers behind their goals. Once you have found these true drivers, you can help them visualize what achieving those goals would feel like. Ask questions like, “How do you think your life will be different after you lose those 15 pounds?” or “What do you think it will feel like to walk into that reunion after your have reached your goals?” In doing so, you are helping them tap into the emotions that are going to encourage them to join your facility and help them reach their goals.
- Listen. As the potential member is answering your amazing questions, don’t forget to listen! With their answers, they are giving you the information you need to sell them on your facility and help them reach their goals. Ask follow-up questions to deepen your understanding of their goals and what they are looking for in a fitness facility. Then, be sure to tailor your tour to what you have learned. If someone is interested in strength training, don’t start their tour in the aquatic center. If they are interested in connecting with others while they workout, be sure to start in the group fitness room. No two tours should be exactly the same, but customized based on what the prospect is tells you about their goals and desires.
- Connect the Dots. The prospective member has goals that they want to achieve. You have a product (your staff and facility) that can help them reach those goals. Don’t force the prospect to connect the dots to see how that can happen. After listening carefully to their goals, describe to them as you are touring how your staff and your facility will help them reach their goals. Remember, prospective members are not sold on the features of your facility, or even the qualifications of your trainers and coaches, they are sold on finding a solution that will allow them to reach their objective. You might say something like this: “Joe, you said you wanted to wanted to lose 15 pounds, the cardio machines that you see here will allow you to burn the calories you need to shed those pounds so you’ll look great at that high school reunion. And let me introduce you to Jane, our wellness coach who will give you the plan you need to do it.”Drive this home further by sharing success stories. Most people come into your facility with doubts. They have goals they really want to accomplish, but most have tried before and failed. Give them reason to believe this time will be different, “We just celebrated with Bob last week because he reached his goal of losing 40 pounds.” This helps your prospective member believe that they can do the same and to visualize it happening in your facility.
- Close. A recent survey done by the manager of a fitness facility found that 40% of the people who were given a tour at his facility were not even asked if they would like to join at the end of the tour. That’s huge! Remember, the people taking the tour are there because they are interested in your facility. You will never have a better opportunity to discuss membership with them than after you have spent time getting to know their goals and showing them how your facility can help them reach their goals. You do not need to use high pressure sales techniques. There is no need to press them until you hear a no from them three times. But, it is essential to ask, “Would you like to join our facility today?”
After the tour is done, it is imperative to schedule the first appointment with a coach or trainer for those that decide to join and to follow up with those that don’t. More on that in our next post.