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The paradox of the sales approach

GoodLife's "services" mandate

My boyfriend and I recently both had independent experiences with a popular fitness chain in Toronto that left us bewildered and asking ourselves – do they really want our business? Doesn’t really seem like it.

The problem is that the gym is so focused on their formula for hard sales, they actually make it incredibly difficult for someone to sign up. All of the accommodation and effort required is left squarely on the shoulders of the client – which is unfortunate, because as with all things, the harder you make something, the less likely it is for someone to follow through. In the sales and service industry, this becomes another critical point to consider.

For my boyfriend, he wanted to sign up on a month-by-month contract. They have one. It’s more expensive, but it’s available. The alternative is a one-year contract that is less expensive on a monthly basis, but you have to lock-in for one year. In him selecting the month-by-month contract, the membership rep that assisted him was floored. “Why would you want to do that!? It’s more expensive… yes, but it makes no sense. But why? I don’t understand it. Just sign-up for a year. Everyone does.” She would not let it go. When the experience was relayed to me, I was similarly floored – but for different reasons. Why would you challenge a potential customer so hard on a choice they have made for themselves? A different customer would have walked out of the building. They would have lost the sale. No one should have to argue so hard to essentially buy a service that is available for sale. But they argue because they’re myopic – they want the one-year committed sale.

In my situation, I was considering signing up to a gym close to my home. I had previously had a membership at a wonderful gym close to my work, but between busy work and travel schedules, and my recent move to a different location in the city, I had decided to cancel it. I never went. However, the spring brought with it a new inspiration to get active again… maybe I should join another gym close by. Before I left the house, excited for a fresh workout, I decided to call the gym, in case that would be a problem. It was.

No customer can actually use the facilities unless they have met with and essentially been exposed to the hard sales pitch for the gym, as well as the full tour of the facilities first. Generally, this is a 1-1.5 hour session, which is normally, the time someone has alotted for their work-out. No one allots 2-3 hours just to go to sort out their gym membership and fit a workout in. You do that for your doctor, occasionally, dentist, maybe your accountant, or lawyer. You don’t do that for your fitness facility. Similarly, when people think new fitness routine, new gym membership, they think of it in the context of the end-state. The actual work-out. They don’t think of the meeting that must be set-up before they can get to their end-goal.

The facility was belligerent. No, I couldn’t come in for a work-out first. No, there was no free pass (I found out afterward that there actually is on the website, but you have to register for it). No, there was no one available to speak to me before 9am, or actually 11am because the membership rep was sick. That’s a lot of “no’s”. In the service industry, it should be all about the “yes”. Give your customers a reason to feel inspired, motivated, and excited to deal with you and to build an affinity and loyalty to your service, product and brand.

The result was that I would have to come at 6pm to meet someone. I worked out at home that morning instead, and in the process decided – I don’t need a full gym membership. I have everything I need for my functional training at home, and will join a specialized spin gym for my love of the cycle. I canceled the meeting, and struck the prospect of a membership from my mind. They lost a customer. And I would have signed up for a year.

Through both of these experiences, what surfaced was the paradox of the sales approach. When you focus too much on the sale and closing the sale and making a sale, you lose sight of the bigger picture that ironically will close the sale for you: meeting your customer’s needs.

It’s so simple. Customer first. The sales will follow.

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