Episode 250

Should Trainers Do Sales? with Mark Fisher

In this episode, Mark Fisher joins me to answer our number one question recently: how do we incentivize trainers to help grow the gym?

[00:00:00] What’s up, fitness business nerds. Welcome to another episode of the Business v Accordance podcast. I wanna welcome to the stage Mark Fisher. Welcome to the podcast, sir. It’s been what, like a week since you’ve been on it last I. It has been a too long. Before we dive into today’s topic, which I’m excited about, cuz it’s one I don’t think we’ve covered on this podcast recently.

I just wanna give a quick shout out to a really great tool we have for free on our website right now. It’s called the Gym Owner Report Card and it’s a way for you dear gym owners to. Take inventory of what systems in your business you currently have that are working and what systems in your business you don’t have and are not working.

And use this tool to help prioritize where you spend your time, energy, and resources. It’s for free, it’s on our website right now, business unicorns.com. You should go grab it. Anything you would add to that? Fissure? No. You should go grab it. You can also go to jim owner report card.com. If you don’t want to go to the website, if that’s, you can also go to jim owner report card.com.

You can also [00:01:00] click in the show, grab it there as well. We’re making really easy, it’s a great tool for you to download. You can’t find it. You don’t deserve it immediately. Let slide into. What’d you say? Said, if you can’t find it, you don’t deserve it. You can’t find, not allowed. No, no report for you. If you can’t follow those instructions, you’ll have to figure everything out on your own.

Let’s dive in. We got this question actually multiple times in kind of multiple. Different iterations, but I’m gonna boil the question down to this. A lot of gym owners wanna know how they can leverage and incentivize their training team to help grow the business. And I’m gonna provide some color for what I think the context is here is that most training gym owners that at least we work with are the people that are primarily and maybe solely responsible at their gym for doing the marketing and the sales and the selling and the retention.

And typically when they build a training team, the training team just does the training. They might do some program design, they might do some light retention activities. But typically when people start building a [00:02:00] gym, their trainers have no relationship at all to marketing and selling. And so what I see a lot of gym owners over time doing is getting a little resentful.

We a little resentful that it’s all on their shoulders to do all of the lead generation, all of the sales and conversion and that the training team quote, just just. Gets business, they just get paid for just doing their training job. And I see tr business owners often say, okay, how I wish my trainers would participate.

I wish I could teach my trainers or incentivize my trainers to help me generate leads and grow the business and do sales. And we get this question a lot. So is that fair context? Is that kind of how you see things fisher? Yes. That’s precisely what we often see. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know, go first.

Take your swing at this, what are your thoughts when someone says, Hey, I wanna leverage my training team to help me generate leads and do more sales and grow the business. Where do you start? Yeah. Gosh. I think the hardest part is so often I think the part of [00:03:00] the source of this particular issue is quite often.

Train gym owners, hire trainers with no expectation about marketing and sales. In part, yes, because at the beginning, most gym owners do not know anything about marketing sales themselves. And then there’s exceptions. But on balance, if you’re the classic, trainer that opens up your own facility, you are not particularly comfortable with money or marketing sales after a while.

But then usually you realize that you have to learn how to do that cause that’s part of your job. So you start investing. Time, energy, and money investing in developing those skills, you begin to develop a deep intellectual appreciation of it. You’ve consumed tons of podcasts and maybe videos maybe worked with us in the Unicorn Society and now you’re bought in.

You see it. You understand, okay, wow, this is important. This takes a lot of energy and effort. But your trainers haven’t gone through any of that, and you didn’t hire them to be sales killer. There was no part in most situations in the application process, that was something you checked in about. You didn’t do a stress test to make them sell you this pen, and there’s nothing in your [00:04:00] existing operating procedures and the role and responsibility that stipulates any specific behaviors you wanna see that are gonna generate leads and or help facilitate the growth of the revenue.

I think it’s important to start with that understanding and realize in some situations this is just gonna be a real uphill battle. Now, can you change your mind? Yes. You own the business. You have every right to change your mind. You can re navigate what the expectations are for the role if you need to make a really big change.

Cause this has not been a thing that. Has all been a clear expectation and now you’ve decided it absolutely is going to be, it’s non-negotiable and you’re willing to let people go if they don’t get on board. I think you can do that, but that needs to be a real line in the sand change. You should expect, you’re gonna get a lot of both avert pushback and slow passive aggressive, dragging the feet pushback to people that don’t wanna do it.

You’ll need to be willing to, in some cases, or people just leaving. Or people just leaving. Yeah, exactly. And even at m f, the very first time we started [00:05:00] talking about this, I think it was like 2013, 2014. There were people that were ag, they were incensed. And just so deeply offended.

We were even gonna talk about marketing and sales. And of course, in our situation, even more inflamed because it was, we were dealing with a lot of artists and I would note here, this wasn’t so much the trainers, but even more Unforgivably people definitely were on the quote unquote business team.

They were like, we are not gonna sell things. But again, to our, to the defense of those individuals like we had, that made that clear, we didn’t hire them for that. I, I think maybe my final comment I’ll make on this before you can jump in with your thoughts, Kayla, is the other piece of this obviously is if you’re going to make this change, you just have to be very clear on specifically what kind of hourly, daily, weekly behaviors you wanna see, and if there are any specific outcomes you’re acquiring, what does that look like?

Is there any additional compensation for this? And a lot of that stuff can look very differently. But the, I think the thing that I’ve seen most useful, to really close the gap between what the owner wants and the trainer’s expectation is, what are the behaviors that reasonably you can ask them, that they’re willing to [00:06:00] do that can help support all of this?

But you’re not now asking frog to behave like a scorpion, so to speak. You’re not asking them to do things that are just. Deeply outside of their own interests and personality style and skill test and inclinations. So I think that’s my initial thoughts on that. Yeah. Yeah. 100% I’ll plus one. All of that, and what I was gonna say was something very similar, which is I think if you want to create a world in which your trainers are moving forward, going to be, have some responsibility for marketing and or sales, then there’s really two paths.

You can either start hiring for that moving forward. Or as Mark said, renegotiate the current roles, but it is a real, the Rene path, B the renegotiation is a real overhaul. If you hired me to just be a trainer and all of my experiences around that, and you never mentioned me needing to generate leads or have sales conversations or conversion conversation, then you know you’re gonna get, it’s gonna be an uphill battle.

I think the path I see of probably of lease resistance is just starting to hire for that. Moving [00:07:00] forward is probably the slightly easier path because you can, once a trainer leaves and you have some turnover, the next person you hire, you could develop a role that is 3, 5, 10 hours per week on marketing and sales with the rest of the time on training.

And then you’ll have, no pushback cuz that’s the expectation. From the onset that’s baked into the job description. That’s part of the hiring process. Part of the onboarding process. That’s someone who, from the get go, is gonna perform that role for you, which you know, is ideal. I think that’s probably, if I had a choice to do one or the other, I’d prefer that.

But if you are gonna go with path B, I’m calling and you wanna renegotiate the role that people are currently in. You have to be ready to really invest in building that new skillset set in them. It’s not enough to say, I want each of you to generate 10 leads per month. It’s not enough to say you’re gonna start doing sales conversations.

You have to teach them how to generate leads. You have to teach ’em how to have the sales conversations, how to overcome objections. There’s like a, a, a big [00:08:00] mountain to climb to teach someone who has zero experience in those things. How to be. Proficient at it. And so not only is it gonna require a lot of energy and effort and resources, but time, I don’t know anyone that we’ve ever worked with, even we’ve worked with some real bad asses who are fast learners and it’s still minimum takes months to go from very little or no experience to decent.

At sales we’re decent at any sort of lead generation marketing activities. It’s a it’s possible. I think I’ve seen a few people in unicorn society really start to incentivize new behavior. That’s maybe the next piece we can talk about. If you are gonna go track B and you’re gonna renegotiate people’s roles, what incentivize incentives to you provide to make that uphill learning worth it for them?

Yeah, I’ll kick off my own answer to my own question, which is, I think you have to, to Mark’s point, really identify the exact behaviors you want them to embody. If they’re gonna generate leads by offering a weekly free community class, cool. How are they gonna get people into that weekly free community class?[00:09:00]

And then, and how much are you gonna incentivize them for every body they get through the door? Is it a per person rate? Is it they only make money once they convert those people to members. But I think you need identify the exact behaviors you want them to exhibit and then incentivize those behaviors based on the val, their value to the business.

So what’s the lead worth to you? $20, $30, $50, what’s a new member worth to you? Couple hundred bucks. And then really providing some real financial incentive to help push them along that giant learning curve. Yeah. What would you say about incentives there? For sure. Yeah, I agree with all that.

I think in addition to incentivizing some outcomes, it’s also important to note. Particularly if this is a thing just was not part of the original. And again, we’re, listen, we’re making an assumption cause we don’t have the context of this question. My assumption is that’s what’s going on here. Only because it would be a much more pedestrian issue of.

I’m not trying to manage these individuals. I’ve trained these people on my team and they’re not doing the things that I’ve hired for. They train them for when do I let them go. [00:10:00] This, I think, almost implicit in this question is, and whether this is true or not for this person, I’m sure it’s for many of our listeners that there is a change of expectations they have and they’re not seeing what they need.

So in addition to incentivizing with in some cases, bonuses, commissions, things for the outcomes you’re looking for, you also in some cases will need to pay. For the new behaviors, right? So let’s say for example a great use of trainers often to help contribute to the marketing of your business is having them create content of some kind, right?

It could be potentially contributing your email marketing or creating content for organic social media usually, but not always. Instagram. This stuff takes time and for them to actually be good at it, they’ve got a practice ad. They’ve also gotta learn. So again, we come back to this investing where you might have to pay them.

Maybe it’s not the full hourly training rate. And that’s a whole other conversation we have about compensation for trainers in general, because unfortunately, you’re oftentimes juicy between a number of not [00:11:00] great options, but if you’re only paying them, let’s say, to be on the floor, or even if you are paying them for a salary, if they now have this new role.

They just have to be getting paid for whatever is you’re asking ’em to do. And again, I think this is always the case, but particularly if it’s something they don’t feel comfortable with, I think it’s even more important to say, Hey, we value this and we value your time and we’re gonna give you extra money for it, but you’re gonna have to do this.

So when it comes to the creation of content, which again can make a lot of sense in theory, they’re experts, you want to some extent develop their brand as celebrities within your community. But you also need the content to be good and them just writing emails or them just creating Instagram posts isn’t necessarily gonna scratch the itch that you’re looking for.

Cuz I would do it one pro tip, one way for a lot of trainers, they can support what you’re doing. This is a great move, is have them collaborate with you on posts. What’s so powerful about this is your trainers are. Maybe they [00:12:00] post about your facility, maybe they don’t. But if they are posting and collaborating with your facility, you now have the access to get reach and impressions among people that are already following your trainers, right?

So you can decide for yourself what sort of, again, specific expectations you have around how much content, what is the ch, the channel of the content you’re looking for. What kind of content are you looking for? Teach ’em about the importance of having a clear call to action. All of that stuff, but that’s how I would think about not, oh, in addition to compensating them with perks and bonuses for outcomes also remembering to compensate them in the first place for the training and the time and the process.

Which is also gonna mean getting good at the thing because just like any skill and particularly, so if this is not they’re not taking like a fish to water. They’re not gonna be great at it for a while. Kay had mentioned months. I hope you can do it faster. I hope you can do it in weeks, but like to be really great.

That’s it’s not gonna happen overnight. It’s not gonna happen [00:13:00] overnight. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, 100%. I think that becomes a real calculation for people to make, and I mean like an actual get outta spreadsheet calculation is that if I think it’s gonna take me three to six months to turn someone who has no experience or interest in training, to be both interested in it and decent at it and generating some results from it.

I do the math of how much time, energy, and money I need to spend over the next three, six months to make that happen versus the money I would spend on hiring someone with some real sales experience, paying them a low hourly rate or salary, incentivizing them with bonuses and commissions, right? I think there’s a real.

There’s real comparison to be made there, decide, which path is actually a better path. And and they all, they come with different pros and cons more than we probably have time to cover on this podcast. Cuz as you mentioned Fisher, there’s real benefits to having the trainers be the salespeople.

They become the Yeah. The celebrities and the experts in your community. They often understand the product and the service better than any salesperson ever would, who’s not a trainer. With all [00:14:00] due respect to people who are salesperson, even m f, who are not trainers, they also will tell us on a regular basis that you know, That there’d be some benefit to trainers being salespeople.

And whenever we’ve had trainers be salespeople, it is different. So there’s some benefits to that. There’s also benefits to hiring people who just have the experience and want to be a salesperson or not begrudgingly doing it with a few hours per week when they really wanna be on the training floor and designing programs.

So there’s some, there’s a real balance to be had there, and I think that this is a decision no matter which path you take to your listener, if you’re. Planning to do this, that this is a decision, I think, to make slowly this decision. I would really, get out some models, do some math, think about the people involved before I before I make before I go down neither one of these paths quickly.

Yeah. I think one of the most important things, if I can offer one maybe final thought here that you do wanna leverage is if you have individuals on your team with some interest in aptitude for this. I think, yeah. One realistic scenario is, If there’s a, maybe one or two people [00:15:00] that are interested in this, and you can make it clear that they’re being compensated appropriately and take care of them and fan the flames of their intrinsic interest in this.

And also in maybe with another two or three trainers, you just. Let them train and then maybe you have some base things you’re gonna ask them to do. I don’t think that’s inappropriate. Perhaps it’s lower bar things like creating some content. Maybe ask them to engage and asking for referrals if you’re doing referral contests, some lighter stuff like that.

But if you really want them out there driving leads and or closing sales it’s just gonna be a different skillset because in practice for many of you, You probably just won’t have enough lead flow, frankly, to warrant the requirement of a full-time salesperson. It’s very rare. We’re probably one of the only, particularly in our corner of independent gyms now, if you’re talking about the larger group-based studios that are, in some cases getting, 300 leads per month and they’re, half the sell a hundred members per month just to stay where they are and not go backward.

Okay yeah. Then you need a fleet of salespeople. But in practice, [00:16:00] Even if you, as the owner are doing a lot of the sales and for like smaller, moderate sized gyms, it’s not uncommon for you to continue to own most of that. Yeah, of course. You, the way you get help, I think in most situations is to cherry pick some individuals.

Cuz I also wanna qualify here as we start to wrap up this conversation. I don’t I hope we’re not sounding like we’re coming. I hope we’re not sounding nihilist about this. We’re like, wow, there’s nothing you can do. Trainers will hate sales. You hire the wrong people. I think we’re just trying to make it clear.

Clear. I feel like I’m being, I feel like I’m being cheery compared to my real opinion about this. Yeah. Yeah. And I, I think I’m. I may be, 10% more optimistic than you are about this, which is maybe not saying a whole lot, but to be clear, it is not, you’re doing the right thing, right?

If you become aware oh gosh, I do actually have to make my team understand. I can’t pay you if we don’t make some revenue. And yes, you’re my employee, so I can ask of you to do things. I’m giving you money. And here’s a new thing that I’m asking you to do and maybe you don’t feel [00:17:00] entirely comfortable with it, but for all of our long-term wellbeing financially to say nothing of servicing our mission and actually making impact on this community, I’m gonna need your help.

Getting the world at, yeah. Building relationships and driving some people in there. So I guess the only thing we’re really saying is you just wanna be realistic about how far you’re gonna get and how fast you’re gonna get there. But by all means, a mature training gym. Can and should invite everybody on your team to understand that we all have at least some role and some responsibility in the business being successful, and it is appropriate for that to extend beyond merely delivering great service into the realm of actually doing specific behaviors that you have both identified, trained on, and made very clear that are supporting the growth of the business via marketing and the sales.

Yeah, I think it’s a great note to end on because I think you’re right that the impulse of, we want the everyone to be in sales, we want everyone to be in marketing, we want everyone to be great ambassadors of this business. We want everyone to care about its growth cuz you all have a collective [00:18:00] interest in the business growing.

I think that, whether, no matter how you get there, I think that is, Absolutely the right direction to be pointed in. So yeah, I think that’s really well said for sure. Alright, let’s leave it there. I don’t know if we were if we were inspiring or demotivating in this conversation Oh, for good.

But I think that there are some actionable things we put out there and I think that there are several paths to. We, we outlined that I hope are useful to you dear listeners. So thanks for the great question. And if you want us to follow up on this topic and say a little bit more, we can circle back to this one.

There’s a lot to say here. And so shoot us an email, michael lips unicorns.dot com, and please leave us a review everywhere you listen to the podcast. Leave us a five star review. Tell us how awesome this podcast is, you is for you. If you ever gotten an evalue out of it we’d love to hear from you by leaving that review.

Thanks for a great conversation Fisher. See you on the next one. Bye.