First day with a prospect versus a first date

In the old days, an intro day or “first day” with a prospect involved setting up by the  whiteboard and giving them the “What is fitness” speech. I would do most of the talking as I went through the 10 general physical skills and told them about how doing constantly varied functional movements at a high intensity would get them more fit than ever before.

Then we’d put them through a max effort pull-up test, a push-up test, 400-meter ball run test and finish with Tabata squats. And then, when the person looked somewhat nauseous and green in the face, I’d ask them for $750 for 10 personal training sessions.

It’s weird to me now that that actually worked. There was a time that my close rate was around 80 percent…

In fact, that worked for many years. Until one day when it didn’t. (I’m not 100 percent sure why it used to work and doesn’t now, but I definitely think most people who come to us shop around more than they did in the past. There are way more options out there than 10 years ago, and people are more discerning, perhaps).

When our close rates started decreasing under our old system, we started adapting. We did some sales training and learned about the importance of finding a person’s pain (finding out the real reason they showed up). 

We started turning the first day into a get to know the person day, where we asked more questions and let the prospect do more of the talking than we did. Up until last year, I would still put the prospect through a workout and I definitely still relied on the whiteboard. But today, what I’m having success with (meaning I’m currently at a 85 percent close rate in the last six months) is as follows:

A first day is like a first date.

Although the purpose of a first date can CLEARLY vary from person to person, for me a first date is generally about accumulating information about the person to ultimately decide whether I connect with him and want to see him again. And on the flipside, I have to make a good impression on him so he wants to see me again.

As for a first day with a prospect, I had a successful one recently that felt oddly like a first date. And in general, I think you’ll be successful if you follow these 5 Dating Tips:

5. Ask questions/Show interest

Nobody likes the person who drones on about himself/herself and their super important life on a first date, showing no actual interest in their date. The same is true of the first day with a prospect: Do less talking, ask more questions and listen. Show genuine interest in learning about the person.

4. Be Honest about who you really are

Don’t just try to make a sale: Be honest about who you are to discover if you have an actual connection with this prospect. Is he/she a good fit for your gym, and are you a good fit for this person as a coach?

I start every first day by saying up front, “We are a coaching service. If you’re interested in coming in, putting your headphones on and and doing your own thing in the corner, then we’re probably not for you.”

Similarly, “If you’re looking to do Fran one day and Murph the next, we’re probably not for you. If you can’t put your shoulders over your head without extending your spine, you won’t snatch or jerk here here, nor will you likely kip. If you’re not down with that, then we’re not the place for you.” 

Though it feels in the moment like I might be shooting myself in the foot, especially if the prospect has “CrossFit” experience and wants to do all the sexy CrossFit movements regardless of how his body moves, what I have found is being very clear and honest about who we are are and what we stand for just makes the prospect respect me more.

Like dating, nothing is more attractive than confidence and an understanding of who you are, and then being honest about it. In my opinion, the guy with herpes has the best chance if he reveals this in an upfront, straightforward way on date 1…Seems like a better bet than revealing his herpes on Date 3 as you’re getting naked together.

3. Keep it informal

Though the idea of a romantic, over the top first date looks appealing in movies, in real life it tends to be more awkward than anything. It’s way more comfortable to go for a casual coffee or lunch date than it is to go to someone’s house and be greeted with roses and candles and a five course meal.

The same is true of an Intro session with a prospect. The best way to connect with the person, in my experience, is through casual, but real conversation. This doesn’t meant small talk. Ask the hard questions, but keep it informal and natural.

Lately, I have even been ditching the whiteboard. I used to rely on it heavily, but now I just sit down and chat, no whiteboards, no note-taking, just a casual, but usually revealing conversation. `

2. Wait for a connection and commitment before you go all in

Who wants to pay $300 for a dinner date with a stranger you don’t even know if you’re into yet, let alone if they’re into you?
Similarly, why should I invest an hour of my coaching services before there’s a commitment from the prospect?

We used to put people through a workout on the First Day, but now we just talk and if the person is game and we seem like a good fit, then they pay for a 3-personal training session assessment (to get at least some skin in the game) before doing their first training session. 

1. Don’t judge a book by its cover

It’s easy to make assumptions about people based on appearance, their jobs etc, both in a dating capacity and in a sales capacity. But it’s important to keep an open mind and let the person tell you and show you who they are, as opposed to assuming things about their financial situation or their fitness goals. 

I had a prospect show up once who looked homeless to me. He smelled like he hadn’t showered in a while, and certainly hadn’t washed his hair all summer. Then I discovered he was a student, which didn’t exactly change my assumptions about his financial situation. I assumed I’d be wasting an hour, as he was probably looking for a cheap place to get moderately fit, I thought. Turns out, he had just come back from tree planting with $20,000 in his pocket. He paid for a year up front shortly thereafter and became an incredibly loyal and hard working client for the next 4 years as he finished school and then moved away. (We also managed to get his hygiene on point during this time).

That’s it for now. Would love to hear your best turning prospects into clients tips, too.

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