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Mistakes to avoid when making the membership phone sale

This is an excerpt from Health Fitness Management-2nd Edition by Mike Bates.

Let's review some of the mistakes that cause us to sound as if we are selling the club over the phone. After listing some of the mistakes, we'll provide simple, proven solutions.

Mistake 1: Asking for the Appointment Too Soon

As you read this, you may be thinking, "Wait a minute-isn't the purpose of the phone call to schedule an appointment?" That's correct, but the point is that getting the appointment and getting the prospective member to show up for it are a strategic process. For example, the vice president of sales for one of the largest club chains in the United States revealed that the organization has a measly 30% show ratio for telephone appointments-70% of appointments don't show. He explained that this happens because they train their membership representatives to go for the appointment within the first 45 seconds of the phone conversation.

If you are pushing hard for the appointment on the phone, one of two things will happen-either callers will hang up or they will agree to an appointment because they don't know how to say no to you. However, even if they agree to an appointment, the odds are unlikely that they will actually show up.

Mistake 2: Asking for the Caller's Name and Phone Number Too Early

It is crucial to get the caller's name and phone number, but if we do it too early, it will feel pushy. How many times have you answered a telephone inquiry with a cheerful voice, asked for the caller's name, and then felt the caller's voice drop to a flat, defensive note? How about when you've asked for a phone number and the caller didn't want to give it to you or made up a number instead? When you ask too soon, it tends to destroy rapport. This connection with the prospect is critical, and it must be earned.

Mistake 3: Laundry Listing the Club

When you laundry list the club, you are listing all of its features and programs. The phone rings, and the ensuing conversation sounds like this:

Membership representative: "Hello, this is Membership."

Caller: "Hi, I'd like some information about what you offer. Do you have yoga?"

Membership representative: "Oh yeah, we've got a great yoga program. We also offer several other classes like stretching, dance, sculpting, step, high impact, low impact, spinning-all the stuff you'd expect, plus we have a pool, eight tennis courts, full-court basketball, sand volleyball, free weights, techno gym machines, and a full cardio area with 10 treadmills, 6 recumbent bikes, 6 upright bikes, rowing machines . . ."

We think that if we tell the caller enough about our facility, it will sound as though we have a lot to offer and thus build value in the caller's mind. The problems with this reasoning are as follows:

1. Most callers have something specific in mind that made them call. Part of our job is to find out what that is and build desire around it. In laundry listing, we completely ignore that basic tenet of selling and blast them with general information rather than telling them what they want to know.

2. Many callers will have no idea what spinning classes or recumbent bikes are, so when we use these kinds of terms, we merely add confusion and discomfort rather than build rapport.

Mistake 4: Price Quoting

This is one of the most controversial sales issues in the industry. The way we handle it separates the successful appointment setters from the unsuccessful.

The predictable opening statement on 90% of incoming calls is "Hi, I'd like some information about your rates." Most membership representatives believe that because rates were the first details requested from the caller, they must be the most important concern. The reality is that most callers are not sure what questions they should ask and price happens to be the easiest one for them-not always the most important one. Instead of either detailing the membership prices or defending why you can't give prices, acknowledge what they are looking for (which results in the caller being less defensive), determine their true concerns, and then give the appropriate information and schedule an appointment. If necessary, you can give a range of prices, as we'll discuss later.

Mistake 5: Lack of Preparation

Lack of preparation on the phone refers to the

• Not having a goal for the number of appointments you want to get from calls

• Not knowing how many calls you need to make in order to schedule your desired number

• Not having a system for tracking call data

• Not taking notes on calls

• Not scheduling specific times to ensure that calls are made daily

• Not using a guideline for calls

Lack of preparation is a costly mistake that can set the stage for failure. We will address the solutions to this problem in the section Setting the Stage for Your Success.

Mistake 6: Lack of Calling Frequency

This is one of the most costly call mistakes, and it is also the one that happens the most. Even the best salespeople cannot hit or exceed their goals if they are not talking to enough people. Often membership sales staff sit down to make calls, get in touch with some of their leads, and schedule a few appointments, but the ones they don't get in touch with during that call time get moved to the next day rather than called again the same day. Lack of frequency in calling slows the appointment-setting process, which ultimately creates more work for you and less financial reward.


This is an excerpt from Health Fitness Management, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Health Fitness Management 2nd Edition