The Rules of Selling – Redefined

If there is one area that most personal trainers struggle, it has got to be selling.

My “formal” sales training began in 2007 when I started working for a big box gym where we were quickly expected to “sink or swim” after a 3-day long sales training workshop. You had 90 days after to become a producer or move on.

Naturally, I did what any other person committed to being a trainer did, I produced.

While I can appreciate some of the qualities that working in that environment gave me, I am here to tell you that there are much better and more ethical ways to produce sales. Here are my rules of traditional sales, redefined.

Rule #1 – Don’t talk price over the phone or via email.

This was probably one of the rules that was emphasized the most during my big box gym days. Instead, we were advised to get the potential client in the door as soon as possible explaining that there were a lot of variables to pricing (there weren’t) and that a consultation was necessary to give a proper estimate. If the potential client kept forcing the issue the next step we took was to give a wide price range (maybe $30-$90 per session) instead of a direct price in an effort not to scare the lead away and give us leeway when it was time to negotiate. The reasoning behind this rule was that it was imperative to demonstrate your value as a trainer and discover the client’s underlying motivation prior to closing them in a sale.

Rule #1 Redefined – Be as transparent as possible and gladly give pricing over the phone or via email.

The truth of the matter is that the old way comes off very shady (because it is!) and it is likely that the potential lead will not want to deal with someone that gives them the run around. Clients appreciate honesty and being upfront with them has some big benefits.

One such benefit is that it pre-screens clients for you so that when you do schedule them for a consultation, there will be no need to stress about making the sale because the client is already aware of what you charge and you simply have to prove your value. It will now be a matter of conveying your recommendations for training frequency and finding what fits their budget. This pre-screening will also ensure less wasted time by keeping you from scheduling people that can’t afford your services.

A second benefit of this practice is that it will often help you stand out over your competition. Many trainers still follow the old rule and beat around the bush when it comes to giving pricing. I cannot tell you how many people tell me that they appreciate me being upfront with then when so many other people they contact can’t give them a straight answer.

Rule #2 – Start high so you can negotiate.

There was an old saying at the big box gym I used to work at, “you can only drop your pants once.” This was in reference to negotiating pricing and basically meant that you only have 1 opportunity to lower your price after pitching it initially without losing complete credibility. The goal was to try to figure out what the client could afford and pick a number that was at the top of that range and then if you overshot, drop it just a little bit to get commitment and a sale. After all the mental gymnastics the now new client walked away feeling like they got a good deal because they talked you down.

These were used car salesman tactics at best. Imagine if that client spoke with another client later on only to find out that they were paying $10 more per session.

Rule #2 Redefined – Pitch the rate that matches your value and avoid negotiation.

In my experience, most personal trainers are nervous about asking for money in their early years. This is usually due to the fear of rejection, a lack of confidence, and even more so, fear of losing the sale.  You have to ask yourself what you feel your time and energy is worth and set your rates accordingly. If you do not believe you’re worth it, then the client certainly won’t either.

Many clients will attempt to negotiate after you pitch your price, but I recommend you respond by saying “I’m sorry, but I don’t offer discounts. I charge everyone the same rates to be fair and I believe the cost is very reasonable.”  Nine times out of ten the client will respect your business practice and will have no qualms about paying your rates. If they walk, you are most likely better off. I have found that the most troublesome clients tend to be the ones I have bent the rules for.

Spend more time and effort demonstrating your value to your potential clients and negotiation will become a thing of the past.

Rule #3 – Create a false sense of urgency.

One of the key principles you learn in traditional sales training is understanding “fear of loss”. You see, if there is one thing that tends to motivate people to act it is the thought that if they don’t they may lose something valuable to them. It has been said that the fear of loss is even more powerful than the desire to gain.

When pitching a prospect, the worst response you could get was not “no”, but rather “let me think about it.” When this popped up we were trained to lean a little harder then follow up with the classic “Well, this price is only good for today…” reply. I bet you’ve heard that one before.

Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t, but I guarantee there was never a time it didn’t make us look sleazy.

Rule #3 Redefined – Spend more time understanding the hesitation and don’t be afraid to let the sale go.

It is of critical importance to refrain from using lines like “this deal is only good for today” because that’s quite patronizing to your potential client. Everyone has heard that line before, and they damn well know it’s not true. You just shattered your character. Not to mention, if you have to force someone to buy then their consistency probably won’t be that great and we know how important consistency is to results.

If a prospect says that they have to think about it then take the time to make sure they have all the right information. One of the most common reasons people don’t buy is because they haven’t been informed properly. Ask them if they have any questions or if there is something that you didn’t explain well about your program. If they still want to think about it, then let them. Should they choose to not train with you, it’s ok. By being professional and non-pressuring there is a good chance that they will come back to you when they are ready or even refer a friend your way.