Don't Spend More Money - Maximize What You're Already Spending
Thomas insisted the marketing budget not be raised, but by recommending different vendors to do the layout and printing, Walker was able to save a lot of money on printing and channel that into more mail drops.
Most importantly, though the mailers in the past were "pretty" and grammatically correct, they weren't motivating prospects to come visit the club -- the turnstile wasn't turning.
With a little critical "wordsmithing," Thomas vastly increased the effectiveness of the mailer, and got far more prospects through the door and onto the member roster.
Turning Lemons Into Lemonade - Selling a Dry Club
The biggest challenge and Walker's self-acknowledged Achilles heal is that the club has no pool while most of his competitors do. Also, he competes with hospital wellness centers that purportedly give the appearance of being healthy establishments. With Thomas' help they were able to re-frame these conditions from negatives into positives.
Walker went on:
"So, we now talk about our cleanliness, lack of bacteria and organisms. Many people catch illnesses in hospitals and the wellness center is merely an extension of the hospital, sitting right next door to it.
Looking at things that aren't negative are the positive. Before I thought, every one else has about the same membership rate, but my competitors have pools and a couple of things we don't, so prospective members think they're getting more for their money.
Hey, now we go the other way, there's a reason why everyone's doing dry clubs and we explain why. In fact we bring it up early in the sales visit to get it on the table and address it. It's no longer a problem "
An Effective Thumb in the Dike, Use Existing Desk Staff to Sell (For Now)
It was evident to Thomas that it would take a while to set up the proper procedures to source an effective sales manager and key member of the team, much too long to impact the upcoming busy winter season. So, they knew they had to weather the prime season without one. But, membership sales are the lifeblood of the club business, and the owner and General Manager are busy teaching all those personal training classes. What to do?
The solution was to use existing resources: that is to upgrade the existing front desk personnel by teaching them how to sell properly. But it's also important to not just give them another task that they didn't originally sign up for. They have to truly 'buy into the program'.
Thomas designed an incentive formula to motivate the front desk staff to sell. The staff consisted mostly of college co-ed's, who had previously never sold anything in their lives. He installed sales systems and scripts. They rewrote the scripts and tweaked the club tour to be more successful.
Together, Walker and Thomas implemented an incentive plan to compensate the front desk personnel when they closed a sale. Now there are part-time college students at the club who are earning over $20 per hour in wages and commissions. The General Manager was also given training on how to continue training and monitoring the front desk personnel to keep them on track.
Outstanding First Quarter Results
From October 2005, to the first of the new year was basically an exercise in establishing new systems, on building a foundation for the first quarter of prime time selling. How did the new systems fare?
Walker gave a recap:
But besides the improved sales performance, another big factor is that with the new scripts and procedures, there are no "headache sales," no contractual problems. And that is a big plus to the owner and the GM," added Walker. "I need to make that point clear, it was a better season. Things flowed better."
"In January of this year, there was a 37% improvement in business. February was up close to 30%. Although we haven't closed out March yet, it's looking like 30% as well. The majority of that is based on Jim.
What's truly remarkable is that the membership sales were made not by a sales manager, but almost entirely by our college-aged front desk personnel.
Our front desk girls who, in the past were just 'hi-ing 'and 'bye-ing' and just checking people in, are now salespeople. In January alone, those girls sold 110 memberships--- which was even surprising to Jim. "
…Just 'Knowing' When Things are Good or Bad Is a Big Plus
It's really important to have checkpoints and measure performance against them. Other operators are in the dark.
As Walker explains:
"Now I'm not wondering, questioning and thinking all day and night, is this really right? Now I know. This is working, this is justifiable.
"I have an investor and he used to call me in the past and ask how we were doing, and I didn't really have an answer. Now I do and I can explain in empirical terms where we're at and what we're doing about it. That's a big plus. "
As Kevin Walker plans for next season, he's excited about the prospect of (with Jim Thomas' help) finally hiring a sales manager that will fit into the organization and make a valuable contribution. He also hopes to wean himself away from so much personal training and start to manage more. And this all started with but a single call for help.
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