Thomas Plummer

The business of fitness

If You Are A Hammer, Everything is a Nail

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We often fail in sales because we end up attempting to sell something to the client that he really doesn’t care about buying. What we sell is what we do and how we do it; but what the client really wants to buy is a solution to a problem. This solution is defined as the expected outcome of doing business with you over time.

For example, one of the oldest examples used in so many sales workshops is the drill. Very few people go to Lowes to buy a drill because they need a drill. You go to Lowes and buy a drill because you need a hole somewhere.  We have all heard this old story, but very few people take the time to understand what it really means and how the relationship between the buyer and seller can break down.

The sales guy is excited to talk about the features of the drill including the power, attachments, case, cord and battery. The buyer just wants to know if this is the right drill to hang 20 pictures in his house. The buyer and seller have a hard time connecting, and the sale might be lost, because each one has a different expectation in the encounter.

The same is true in the fitness world. We lose potential clients because what we attempt to sell is not what the client came into your gym to buy. Clients come to a gym for one reason, and one reason only, and that is to buy a solution to a problem.

My pants don’t fit I join a gym. I am getting divorced I join a gym. I am going to be in a wedding so I join a gym. In the first example, the problem is the pants and the solution he wants to buy is getting rid of a few pounds. In the divorced example, someone is now single and has to get back out in the dating world and needs the self-confidence to do it and in the wedding scenario, the problem is looking good for the woman in a sleeveless dress. They all have a problem and all are looking to you for the solution.

Do any of these people really care how you get this done? If I hire you to build custom cabinets in my house, do I care if you use a Black and Decker drill or a Makita or do I just really care about you being a master cabinetmaker that does good work for a fair price?

Inefficient salespeople, and the fitness industry is full of them, spend all their time in a sales encounter talking about the tools they will use to get you in shape. In the mainstream boxes, we talk about the number of classes, the number of trainers, the total amount of cardio and weight equipment we have. These sales people spend all their time telling you what the gym owns and very little time on how the gym will deliver results.

Training gyms are in many ways worse because the people doing sales there spend so much time talking about how they train, their training theories and belief systems, the initials they have collected behind their names and the latest certifications they have amassed. In other words, we talk about drills, doors and tools and very little about the expected outcome of the application of these tools, which are beautiful cabinets in my kitchen.

The worse offenders in the training world are the new weekend wonders that get those new certifications in one or two days and are now masters of their training methodology. Remember that when you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail and after one weekend with good instructors and 60 other converts, everything come Monday is going to get nailed because you, and only you, now know the only right way to train.

Becoming a master coach is more about having a full toolbox (not referring to the many trainers who are considered by their friends and family as one tool short in their tool box) and being able to use the right tool to solve the problem at hand rather than forcing everyone to fit into your narrowly defined window of expertise.

If you want to sell effectively, which means nothing more than helping the people who came to see you get what they really want, then you have to change your mindset. We have to move from selling what we do and how we do it to selling what we can do for you.

Spend time really talking to your clients about these three points. This does, by the way, work in almost any business where there is a client and a salesperson trying to sell something to that client.

1) Where is the client today? What is his starting point? Why is he here? What is working for him and what isn’t working? Assess what he is doing and acknowledge that even walking the dog is more than most of America does on a daily basis.

2.  2) Where does he want to go and when does he want to get there? In other words, what is his expected outcome of working with you? Is it reasonable and is it something he can commit at least two days a week chasing. Purists, need to walk it back a little. Unless you are a professional fitness person, or in that hardcore group that represents such a small portion of the people in this country, you cannot expect someone to commit to a gym more than 2-3 days a week. Two times is a lot for someone who has family, a tough career and any type of life. Yes, I agree that fitness should be the centerpiece of his life, but maybe two times a week is just all he has and maybe all he will every have so live with it.

3.  3) Project him out for 30/60/90 days. Show him what he can achieve during these time frames and help him see that the effort he will put in can get him to these points. You don’t have to be crazy accurate, but at least build a plan showing where he is now, where he wants to be, how he is going to get there and the benchmarks along the way.

You have noticed that the tools we use just aren’t that important to him. What is important is that you have spent time with him, understood his goals, know what his expected outcome is and most importantly, have laid out a 90 plan of attack to get it done.

Be proud of what you have learned and be proud of whatever organization you support, but be aware that the client is less concerned where you spent last weekend getting down and dirty and cares much more about what you can do for him and if you are the one he can trust to help him reach his goal.

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