As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the Martial Arts SuperShow a few weeks ago was chockfull of useful and educational content. Although the content was designed for Martial Arts business owners, it is really applicable for any fitness business owner.
“You Had Me At Hello: Phone Skills That Work” was presented by Aaron Hensley. Aaron is the owner of three premier martial arts schools in South Carolina and Georgia. He has has been in the Martial Arts industry for 32 years and is a 6th degree master black belt under Chuck Norris.
You may be wondering, “why are phone skills so important?” The answer is that a phone call is usually the first interaction a prospective student or parent has with your fitness business. And, your success depends upon booking that person for an appointment to come in. As Aaron notes, “The number one purpose on an incoming information call is to make the appointment.” Every phone call can make or break your long-term business success.
Here are Aaron’s other tips:
It’s often hard to stay calm when you deal with the public on a daily basis. Visitors and callers are constantly coming to you with questions and concerns and it can be understandably overwhelming. The key is to take the time to truly figure out what the caller wants. The more empowered you are to provide competent service; the better the phone interaction will be for both you and the caller.
Smile (with your voice)
I was a telemarketer early in my career and I remember my old boss telling me to place a mirror in my cubicle and smile into that mirror while I dialed. I thought he was crazy, but eager to achieve my monthly quota, I tried it. As you might have guessed, it made a huge difference. Since all you have is your voice to pull a prospect in, you have to sound enthusiastic, genuine and authentic. As Aaron notes, “You’re a small business owner, not a huge company. Bring it to a personal level.” Your authenticity is what differentiates your fitness business from the big box gyms that you may compete against.
You don’t want you or your staff to get caught off-guard with a question. Make sure everyone knows your processes, pricing and any promotions that are happening. Aaron suggests that you role play with your staff so that everyone is prepared to handle anything that may come their way. As nine-time Olympic winner Mark Spitz said, “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” Train, train and then train again.
I’m originally from Boston and I can talk faster than most people I know, particularly when I’m irked about the weather or the Red Sox. When I was in sales years ago I had to remind myself to slow down constantly, especially on the phone where the person on the other end can’t get any of your visual queues. You need to speak at a pace that your caller can easily follow. Aaron notes that you need to “take your time, but be excited about what you have to offer.”
The caller is always right
Even when you disagree with the caller, you really don’t want to get into a debate with him or her. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, has said, “you can either practice being right or practice being kind.” I’ve been spreading the kindness message to my work colleagues, my family and my friends. When you come from a place of kindness and understanding, I promise that your interactions will be better than they might be now. And, if you’re trying to convince the caller that he or she is wrong, you’re getting away from your original goal to make an appointment.
Lastly, when someone does call make sure that everyone who answers the phone is trained on what information he or she needs to gather from the caller. Name, what they are calling about, who they originally asked for, how they heard about you, benefits they are hoping to gain, phone number, previous training and age of child (if relevant) are all super useful to get before you hang up the phone. Since getting an appointment is your primary objective, you should also make sure that you let the caller know exactly where you are by mentioning a specific landmark. Yes, in the age of Google Maps and Waze this may not seem necessary, but smaller fitness businesses can often be in out-of-the-way locations. So make sure the caller knows how to find you.
Ultimately, the success of your fitness depends upon you and your staff’s ability to get people in the door. As Aaron notes, the average value of a student or member is $1,200 per year. If you lose four members a month due to poor phone experiences, that’s $60,000 per year!
Try some of the tips above and let us know what you think. Or, feel free to suggest a few ideas that have worked for you. Send your feedback to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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