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5 Tips to Selling Memberships during a Recession

Recession graph on computer screen

We have read the headlines and listened to newscasts of the global economic crisis. Consumers are fearful and are not spending their hard-earned dollars as freely as they did in better times.

Traditionally, the health and fitness industry has not been adversely affected by economic downturns. Consumers spend money on necessities and good valued essentials. What can be more important than one’s health?

Listed below are five tips to selling fitness memberships during a recession. See if you can add more, and share this article with your staff.

1) Sell yourself.
The first person that needs to be sold on investing in one’s health, especially during downturns — be it financial, emotional or physical—is you, the membership advisor (I would go as far to say that every employee must feel the same way).

Believing in the value of exercise is not an option. Everyone knows the value of exercise, and now more than ever, must believe that exercise helps one’s physical and mental well-being. This helps overcome the emotional and physical challenges that we currently face and that lie ahead. Once you embrace the fact that living a healthy lifestyle is a 24/7 attitude in good times and in bad, you will close more sales.

2) Sell with passion.
Questions membership advisers must ask themselves are:

1. Are you exercising?
2. Do you believe in the product that you are selling?
3. Do you practice what you preach?

The biggest component to selling anything is emotion. People buy on emotion. They can sense whether the representative is sincere or just putting it on to make the sale. Today’s consumer is very savvy. Do not underestimate their ability to see right through false emotion and excitement. Membership advisors must have a burning passion for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. That passion must flow through their presentation and engulf their prospect.

2) Ignore the negativity.
Membership advisors should not get caught up reading doomsayer headlines and watching stock market results or chaos around the world. Yes, they must know what is going on, but, should not dwell on it. They should stay away from negative people. Everyone knows who they are. Have them run, not walk, away from them. Being distracted from their daily “success cycle” will only make matters worse.

Membership advisors must keep their PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) in check every day, no matter what is going on around them or in their own personal lives for that matter. They must stay focused.

3) Provide value.
Consumers are evaluating where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Membership advisors must make the value proposition relate to their goals and fitness needs. Showing prospects the value of starting an exercise program, and that starting now, makes more sense than ever. They must explain how spending less than $2 per day for a fitness membership (some may be as little as $0.50 and others as much as $5 per day) is a great value, especially when you determine what their daily spending habits are.

Check out these stats. According to the National Coffee Association, the average yearly coffee consumption per person in the United States is close to 4.4 Kg. Among coffee drinkers, the average coffee consumption in the United States is 3.1 cups of coffee per day. That adds up very quickly when you talk about two to four cups of coffee per day.

You probably don’t know that Americans spent 2 million on cosmetics last year alone and that cutting out cigarettes—whether you light up once or more than a dozen times a day—can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year. A pack of cigarettes now costs more than $5 on average— with some states tacking on additional taxes that raise the price even more.

In New York City, local taxes have pushed the cost of a pack to about $10. I can add to this list, but you get the point. Members can join your program for a low fixed cost and enjoy the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Prepare your team by having membership advisors list as many cost benefit savings as they can.

4) Empathy versus sympathy.
Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another’s state of mind or emotion. It is often characterized as the ability to put oneself into another’s shoes, or to in some way, experience the outlook or emotions of another being within oneself.

Sympathy is a social affinity in which one person stands with another person, closely understanding his or her feelings.

Membership advisers should not sympathize but empathize with prospects. They must understand their situation but not get caught up in their story. Bring the conversation back to results and benefits of joining your program. Turn each negative into a positive.

People on a tight budget usually don’t have much to do other than watch TV, read, and surf the web. That gets boring quickly and only encourages a less than healthy lifestyle. They can be at the gym, exercising, socializing, networking, and making new friends all for a low monthly fixed fee. They can read, surf the web, and watch TV while working out.

Selling memberships is not just giving a “Vanna White Tour,” as my partner and senior vice president, Deana Valente, calls it. Or as my good friend and colleague Casey Conrad calls it, the “Disney Tour,” and asking the all-too-familiar closing statement, “So what do you think?”

Selling is a profession and selling memberships is no different. Remember there is always a sale made during a tour of your facility. The consumer sells you or you sell the consumer. Which do you prefer?

Author: Tony Santomauro