When it comes to inducting new clients into the gym, Jeremy Jones (JJ), Co-Founder of Diablo CrossFit in California and MadLab Group Director of Coach Development, has never been afraid to experiment with his intake process.
There was a time when he tried the ‘throw new people into group classes’ approach. And a time when he used group introductory classes. But neither worked very well. Instead, he has discovered that by far the most successful way to bring new clients into his system was through a one-on-one first day experience with one client and one coach.
Coach JJ – Skipphotography.com
“In the very beginning, we let people jump in (to classes) with us,” said JJ—the Programming Architect at Thrivesty. “During those busy days, we would get 10 to 20 new people twice a week for the free class twice a week. We didn’t see the need in getting to know everyone or finding out what they wanted,” he added. Back then (2008-2011), Jones—like many gym owners—assumed if new prospects saw the value in training at Diablo, they would sign up.
As CrossFit became more and more mainstream, JJ moved to the group class introductory session; there were so many people coming through the doors each week, he thought it was the only way to handle the masses.
“And if they didn’t (sign up), we wouldn’t worry too much since there would be another 20 to 40 (prospects) next week,” he added.
The reality, though, was most of the people who did the group intro didn’t translate into long-term, committed clients.
One: Because you can’t get to know someone in a group exercise class, Jones said emphatically.
Two: The moment the market stops bringing you 40 new prospects a week, you’re screwed, he added.
Today—in a more saturated functional fitness market than 2009—the flow of leads has slowed across the board. This means client retention—which JJ said stems from truly getting to know your clients and providing them individual attention—is one of the most important aspects of running a successful gym.
And developing this relationship all begins with the client’s first day experience, he added.
“The first day is about starting the relationship right and interviewing them to find out if you will be able to help them—and if you even want to help them,” JJ said, adding, “The key is to find out what they are really looking for. And this is nearly impossible with more than a couple people at a time. Even with two or three people at once, people are less likely to open up about their real desires and needs.”
To learn more about how to sell new clients, JJ went through Sandler Sales Training, hosted by sales guru Greg Mack, where he learned about the importance of finding a client’s ‘pain.’
Finding a person’s pain means discovering their real reason for being there. It means connecting with them as a human being.
As a coach, it’s pretty easy to know when you truly connect with someone: It’s the difference between a prospective client telling you she “wants to get fit” versus a woman, who opens up about how she is stuck in a deep depression, is embarrassed about the weight she has gained, and knows she needs to get her diet and fitness routine on track in order to pull herself out of the rut she’s been living in.
For JJ, the first day is all about getting a prospect to shed his or her walls, become vulnerable and open up about what truly pains them.
“Before you discuss money or value at all, you need to find their pain,” he said. If you do this and you find you can help them, then you can lay out the plan to help them resolve it, he added.
Jones explained overcoming any price objections is more likely to when you discover the person’s pain.
“Most price objections come from comparisons,” he said. If people are concerned about the price, usually it’s because the don’t understand the value of what you’re offering, Jones explained.
“They are probably comparing it to something they think is the same, or what they have experience with. Value is dependent on dollar value and need,” he added.
Coaches in the MadLab Group, who have become good at helping people find their pain have no problem charging $800 to $1,000 to begin a personal relationship with a client, a relationship that includes 10 personal training sessions, Jones said.
“The people these coaches are working with are not necessarily making more money than everyone else. They just see the value of what the coach is offering relative to their own needs.”
Unlocking the Pain Cave
First things first, you need to ask the client a lot of questions. And sometimes you have to repeat them. More than once, Jones said.
“You’ll need to ask ‘why’ 3 to 5 times,” he said.
If someone tells you they want to get fit, be fit, look fit, you have to ask why, you can’t just nod and tell them you can help them. And if they tell you they want to lose weight, you have to seek to discover why. Ask questions, such as:
‘”Why do you want to look better?”
“Why are your looks so important to you?”
“Why is getting more fit something you’re after?”
Unravelling the emotional onion will help you find out what the person is really after, Jones explained. And before you know it, you’ll know all about the prospect’s fears, insecurities, vulnerabilities, or childhood trauma. And when a prospect does open up, it’s your job as the coach to pay close attention to their answers, Jones said.
Once the prospect has verbalized their pain and reason for coming to see you, you’ll feel yourself bond to this person, trust will develop, a relationship starts to form, and at that point the prospect is most likely recognize the value of your coaching. To recognize they don’t have to censor who they are. To recognize that you can help them achieve their health and fitness goals.
On the flip side, not everyone will be looking for what you have to offer. Some people might be simply looking for a group exercise class.
“Not everyone will be a good fit,” he added. “And that’s ok, too.”
So the purpose of the first day is simply to get a yes or a no answer, Jones said. As uncomfortable as it might be for the coach at the start of the introductory session, it’s important to verbalize this concept to the prospect.
Ask them: “At the end of the day, all I need to know from you is yes or no. Can you do that for me?”
(There’s nothing worse than chasing people down via phone or e-mail after an intro session wondering if they’re going to sign-up or not).
But when they are a good fit, as a coach you can rest assured this person is the right person for you. This person is likely to stick around for life.