Club Insider

Putting the Service Back Into Sales

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Casey ConradCasey Conrad

It's no secret that the retail landscape has forever changed as Amazon (and other online options) makes it ridiculously easy to buy online. We have all seen some of our favorite, local stores close their doors. Many larger chains have consolidated, and in some cases (Toys-R-Us most recently), bankrupted. One would think that, in an effort to keep more customers, retail stores would work harder at customer service; sadly, this doesn't appear to be the case. Although a gross generalization, today's employees appear to have more interest in checking their phone than in on a customer. Add technology to the equation and what you often get is a very impersonal customer experience. I may sound old fashioned, but I find that getting good service is more the exception than the norm. It's frustrating and sad.

A sub-par service market may not be fun when you are a consumer, but the situation provides club operators with a wonderful opportunity to stand out in an over-crowded fitness market. Unless you are a low-cost provider, having a strong point of differentiation when it comes to customer service will positively impact your bottom line. For prospect sales, as well as referrals, re-incorporating some good, old-fashioned sales elements is something your club should consider. Let's look at some service-based sales strategies that you may no longer be utilizing that make significantly positive customer impressions:

1. Full-time sales people who give comprehensive tours.

Over the past decade, with the increase in the number of low-price providers, many clubs cut back on or eliminated full-time salespeople. Some of this was driven by cost control, but much of it was due to the vilification of the sales position. "Don't get pressured into long-term, expensive contracts; come join us for $10 a month with no commitment." Add to the equation a savvier consumer who became more frugal with spending, and we witnessed a lot of independent club operators begin to utilize part-time salespeople, front-desk staff or training full-time staff to handle multiple roles, including sales.

Although this may have trimmed expenses in the short-term, without full-time salespeople, prospects fall through the cracks and closing rates drop. For a number of reasons, now is a great time to bring back the full-time sales position at your club. First, the "Wow" factor of a $10 club no longer exists, so it's not necessarily the hottest new thing in a market. Second, consumers who joined a low-price provider but really needed more support are more likely now to realize that, for them, it's worth paying more to have the support. Third, if you haven't had a full-time salesperson, it's time to go back and really work your missed guest and former member lists! Bi-annual postcards or email campaigns alone rarely maximize response rates.

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