Life has a funny way of having the pendulum swing. We go from Republican to Democrat-led Administrations and Congress, and more times than not, when things are running most smoothly (optimally), we land somewhere more in the middle. In today’s political climate, the polarization is causing “shut downs,” where little productive legislation (production) gets accomplished.
This natural phenomenon is not just isolated to politics. Think about most of our social issues and business approaches. There is constant tension to optimal. Supply and Demand are always in flux. Price and Volume are always in flux. Sales and Service also tend to be in flux.
While most of you who have read my perspectives, or know me, realize I am a firm believer in an “AND” philosophy, not an “Either/Or” approach. I believe that, with regard to Sales and Service, they are indeed two sides to the same coin. Optimization should always be the goal.
In our industry Sales and Service seem to have their own natural tension. How much “service” can we afford at “commodity” pricing? What is optimal for member benefit and organizational sustainability? While we could dedicate a lengthy discussion on this point alone, today, I’d like to discuss the pendulum with regard to Fitness Delivery.
When the industry was in its infancy, salespeople and service people were the same people. We sold the membership, did the fitness assessment, on-boarded the new member and did the same for their family and friends (referrals). It was all about the relationship with the member and delivering on what we said we would deliver on, albeit at times, not very scientific.
Then, the pendulum kicked in, and we bifurcated the roles. Salespeople “sold.” Fitness people “fitnessed.” We had professionalized the industry, but attrition soared. It was hard to understand as we had focus on roles and responsibilities. We also had more supply. Everyone knew what they were charged with doing… except the member! The salesperson (now called the membership representative) sold the “story.” The member “bought” it… Then, the fitness professional (highly trained in exercise physiology) was to “clinically” deliver fitness. Salespeople got frustrated because the member wasn’t happy, negatively affecting referrals (the life blood of sales): Operators got frustrated because the attrition rates were high; Fitness Professionals got frustrated because realistic expectations weren’t set with clients and client adherence was less than needed for true long-term results.
Whose fault? No One/Everyone/General Managers/Ownership/Industry Paradigm? One of my favorite quotes is: “Every Organization Is Perfectly Designed To Get The Results They Are Getting.” But, I never believe in the blame game. I’ve made as many mistakes, if not more, than anyone in this wonderful industry.
Some of our industry’s maturation explains this well, though. The pendulum at work… We needed to professionalize fitness delivery. It was ad hoc before. Organizations like the American Council on Exercise (ACE) made this industry more authentic and respected through science and later through behavioral science and business practices. Now, here we are. We want and need our Fitness Professionals to sell fitness, live the lifestyle, know exercise physiology, understand nutrition and be able to “coach” members in behavioral change, while driving revenue. This is no small task.
It starts with the cliché of hiring the right people, but if you believe in the quote I cited above about perfect design, time must be spent on hiring perfectly suited fitness professionals, training them on club culture and “social” coaching with exercise expertise. This is why I believe the optimization of fitness is now here in some cases and nearly here in many more. Where it is missing, we need to adjust and correct. Clubs being clear on design optimization; Fitness Professionals being clear on their true role; organizations like ACE supporting the optimization with clubs and professionals to deliver on scientific/clinical outcomes with a psychological coaching plan, along with business skills that lend themselves to the highest degree of success.
While we want and need Fitness Professionals to sell fitness, we don’t necessarily need trainers to be “salespeople.” We need them to be extremely confident and inspire everyone to enjoy the highest level of wellness through the least resistant path, which is professional support. Floor training for no fee, one-on-one personal training, small group training, group fitness classes, specific and engaging programming… an approach I call Team Service. The best salespeople are authentic and know their product. Our modern day fitness professionals are indeed authentic and know their product. We can, however, expand their skill set and break down the silos among the various fitness disciplines to grow the pie for all patrons and professionals. “And,” not “Either/Or.”
I want to acknowledge the fitness professionals that are “Social Scientists.” Now, let us design their role within our clubs to optimize results for our members, our teams… and ourselves.
Personal Note: I have participated in ACE’s Industry Advisory Panel in the past, and I cite ACE as an organization based on my personal knowledge, experience and understanding of their content, mission and vision. I mean no disrespect or demerit to the other fine NCCA certified accrediting fitness organizations that have moved our industry forward.
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Tagged: ACE, American Council On Exercise, Bill McBride, BMC3, Club Insider, Health Club Consultant, Health Club Consultants, Health Club Consulting, Health Club Retention, Personal Trainers, Personal Training