Episode 350

Two Surprising Tips to Improve Your Sales Conversion with Ben Pickard

In this episode, Ben Pickard joins me to talk about two surprising tips to improve your sales conversion.

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Ben Pickard from the Business for Unicorns team. And we are talking about two very surprising tips for how to improve your sales conversion. And so if you’ve been working on improving your techniques as a salesperson, this is a great episode for you. So get your notepad ready and be ready to take some notes.

Let’s dive in.

Welcome to the business for unicorns podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice, expert insights, and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym. Get ready to unlock your potential and become a real unicorn in the fitness industry.

Let’s begin.

Hello fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another [00:01:00] episode of the Business for Unicorns podcast. Before we dive in today, I just want to let you all know that we have a fantastic retreat coming up. It’s a two day retreat in Boston and it’s September 14th and 15th, Saturday and a Sunday, and you all are invited.

The whole world is invited. The retreat is really for Unicorn Society members, but we open up just a few spots to who we lovingly refer to as muggles. So all the rest of you out in the world who are not yet Unicorn Society members, but maybe someday want to be or listen to this podcast and want to get some quality FaceTime with me and Mark and Ben and Pete and the rest of our team, retreats can be a great way to come just test the waters and get to spend a weekend with us.

Again, special Space is incredibly limited because this is really a retreat for our Unicorn Society members. But if you click the link down in the show notes, we’d get you all the information you need about when the retreat is and see if there’s space still available. We would love to see you and meet you.

And over the course of these two days, we’re going to be covering all kinds of people systems in your business, including systems for growing your team, systems for improving your [00:02:00] customer service. I’ll say more about it in the link down below, but go click that link and join us in Boston in September for a great two day retreat.

Anything you want to say about our retreats bed before we move on? Just that they’re amazing. When I was a unicorn, even as staff, they’re still one of the highlights of the year for me. That even if you feel like you have your people systems down pat, or maybe this is, uh, there’s some other reason that I may not be able to go.

I always leave those retreats incredibly inspired to do great work in my business for my community. And it always ends up growing my business because of that. Yeah. And we’ve talked so many times in this podcast is the value, uh, as a gym owner of getting out of your gym for a day or two, go talking to other gym owners, watch some great presentations about people who are already crushing it and just steal all their ideas, right?

That’s literally what it’s there for. And so come in September and steal all of ideas and level up your business much faster. Awesome. Welcome. Welcome, Ben. I didn’t even introduce you. I just started talking to you. How’s your day going? I don’t need an introduction [00:03:00] anymore at this point. I know. You’re, you belong here now.

I don’t need to even say your name. Everyone knows who you are. How’s your summer going so far? My summer’s going great. I’m glad that our very short Canadian summer has somehow got a little bit longer this year. And it feels like the middle of August right now and it’s not. Nice. Let’s dive into today’s topic.

Today we’re actually talking about really two, uh, I would call them somewhat surprising or counterintuitive tips for improving sales. As you all know, that even as gym owners, we’re always trying to level up our ability to sell. And as business unicorns, we’re always trying to level up our ability to sell.

And Ben really spearheads a lot of our sales efforts at business feeder courts, which means he’s always learning new ways to level up and improve our conversion. And so we want to share just a few things that we’ve learned recently, I’ve been successfully trying so you can all try it. Do the same at home.

So where do you want to start, Ben? Let’s start with, let’s start with the first one we talked about, which is like, it’s essentially you, whenever we go into a sales conversation. Usually, at least I did, I [00:04:00] don’t want to make any assumptions here. I have that energy of, Oh, I hope this person joins. I want to get them to join the gym.

I’m happy that I got a consultation. Maybe I didn’t have enough that week, but it was always like, I want new members. And my energy was that I want new members. And one of the most important parts of a sales conversation is like, they’re determining if your gym is a good fit for them, but you’re also determining if they’re a good fit for your gym.

And as we know, as coaches, there’s a certain element of, we need to care about our clients goals, just like a fraction of a percent less than they do. I’m not saying we shouldn’t give a shit. And we, it’s not that at all. It’s that we’re in an industry where we can’t change them. We can just give them the environment for change.

And when you’re having that sales conversation, the way we think of it is to have Simon Cowell energy. Now, not like total asshole Simon Cowell on whatever the shows he was on, I just blanked there for a second. But he’s got that energy of just like, he’s not super into it, but he asked, you’re asking good questions.

You’re still probing, but you’re not there. You’re not coming across as desperate. And I don’t, [00:05:00] again, don’t want to make any incorrect assumptions here, dear listeners. But if you’re someone who really wants more clients in your gym, your prospective clients are probably very easily picking up on that energy.

And if you’re like, Oh yeah, we can, we can do this for you. We can do that for you. We can do all the things for you. I don’t know if it’d be conscious or subconscious, but they’re picking up a little bit of that desperation. Oh yeah. Yeah, we can absolutely hope that we do this and that I think you, I think we can help you.

Do you think you can help us? Like it becomes this more adult qualified conversation where you’re also, your energy is such that it’s clear that if you don’t think they’re a good fit, you’re going to just tell them that. Yeah. Yeah. Please give me more members. I’ve got a quarterly goal that I need to hit.

Like just join my gym. I’ll give you the low barrier offer for cheaper. That’ll be fine. It sometimes isn’t. In fact, it often isn’t. Yeah, I think this is such a great tip because I think too often we do come across as a little too eager, a little too desperate, and willing to bend over backwards to do literally anything they need.

And we also need to push on the other side of the equation [00:06:00] to say, No, we really want you to be proving to us that you’re a good fit for us. I’ll just give an example of how I think we try and do this even at Business Unicorns. I think there’s a similar way that we do it at MFF. And business unicorns, we sometimes will try and talk people out of joining and say, we really need people who can, and this is true in our unicorn society, for example, when you treat people who can spend at least five, 10 hours off the floor every week, working on growing their business.

How are you going to do that if you become a member? And really asking people to prove to us that you’re ready to join this group. Right? Same thing at your gym. You can say, we really need people who are, if you’re looking for the transformation you tell me you’re looking for, as an example, we need you to be able to really work out at least two or three times per week.

Tell me, how are you going to fit this priority in your schedule? Right. And really coming at it with, with no judgment, but just real confidence that we can help you, but you need to let us prove to us that you’re really someone who’s ready for this kind of help. And I think that that kind of qualifying has to go both ways.[00:07:00]

Exactly. Particularly if they have tried and failed before, often in the gen pops circles, or if it’s in like the sports performance crowd, like maybe they’re coming for another, from another gym. Maybe they’ve been to three different gyms in the last three years. It seems you’ve gone to a few other gyms and didn’t work out for you.

Like how’s this time going to be different being willing to ask some of those more challenging questions that like, Might be like, they’re not a rude question, but they’re definitely, it’s definitely a direct question. You might be a little bit intimidated to ask. You’ve been trying this for a while. How is this kind of going to be different?

And if they can then start qualifying themselves to you, not only does it take a shift in the powers that be in that conversation, which is really useful, but it also means that just going with my example, let’s say they’re not coming two or three times a week. Like they need to, to make the transformation they do.

You can be like, Hey, we talked about this, Michael, and you said you were going to prioritize this. I understand that you’re not, don’t feel this is working for you right now, but. It’s actually because you’re not doing the thing that you told me you were going to be doing. We’re here to, we’re here to work with you on that.

Then you can address the real root cause of the issue rather than [00:08:00] the stuff that comes up. Then we hear all the time in unicorn society where we’re really trying to bend over backwards for our members. Because again, it’s not that we don’t care about them. We care immensely about them. That’s why we’re in fitness.

We just can’t, but there’s that element. Pardon me. We just can’t care more than them. They have to really want to do it and we can’t make them want it. Oh, and, and there’s also. From like a doing good in the universe perspective, it also gives us an open door to address the real issue that’s been going on with their fitness.

They don’t need another meal plan. They don’t need another trainer. They don’t need another whole mobility thing or whatever other value stack you offer at your gym. They need someone to be like, sounds like you’re not prioritizing the ways that you promised you would. Can we talk about that? Yeah. 100%. I think it’s also the, for those of you listening who are like, well, what kind of questions should I ask?

What’s the right kind of approach for you? I would, the place maybe I would start with this and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too, Ben. I would start with what are all the [00:09:00] ways you see your clients struggle in the first few months of trying to get results and then really ask your, ask your prospects during your sales conversation to, to prove to you essentially that they’re ready for that.

Right. So for example, something I see all the time at MFF is people struggle to make, make, make it a priority on their schedule. People struggle to push through being a little sore and tired. People struggle to adjust their, their approach to eating. If they’re really looking for transformation. So I would talk about those things in a sales conversation, say, Hey, we know the people who are most successful here are people who are really able to show up here for their workouts, but are also willing to take a look at how they’re eating when they’re not here in this building.

Are you ready? Are you willing to do that? And I think just having a little bit of that, we’re qualifying both sides of the equation here. We know you’re testing us out. We’re also testing you out like a good job interview, right? It has to go both ways. And I think this whole tip is too often. It’s not.

tipped too far in [00:10:00] one direction in a sales conversation where we just come across as like desperate and willing to do anything for anyone who’s willing to pay us attention. Any other thoughts for people who are maybe going to just get started doing this, the kinds of questions they might ask? Anything that they give you as an objection, I would turn the tables on them to probe even further.

So if they’re like, what are the obstacles getting in your way? And they’re like, one of them is I just need somebody to hold me accountable. So I’m like, what does accountability look like to you? And then if you’re like, Hey, here’s how we hold our clients accountable here. Is that going to fit your needs?

Does he think that’ll fit your needs for accountability when they say, Oh, I don’t know. We have a hard time eating right or go off the rails on the weekend. They’re like, okay, it sounds like you’re pretty committed to making a change this time. Can we talk now? But what types of things you could change on the weekend, you’re just digging a couple of layers deeper into it in a sense where you’re just, Again, you’re not afraid to be direct with that question because there’s that small piece of you that is like, Oh, if we seem accommodating and we say, we’ll do all the things that’s going to work.

Yeah. More often than not, people need to see that. Oh, okay. Like I’m [00:11:00] not, my coach isn’t going to text me literally all the time. Yeah. I think that’s fantastic. I think that’s a great point. First tip, which is it’s okay to qualify our people on these sales calls and ask them to prove to us that they’re going to be a good fit for us.

I think some of that confidence goes a long way. And in some cases, the psychology of that is the ones that even more, if they think it’s harder to get. I think there’s a multiple factors at play here that I think make this a really useful tip. You mentioned objections, which I think is a good segue to the second thing we wanted to talk about.

So the second, I think somewhat surprising tip is around handling objections. See this one up for us, Ben. Yeah. So I’ve been reading a wonderful book called, you can’t teach a kid to ride a bicycle at a seminar from a company called Sandler sales training, which is a large organization that does great work in sales.

And the, I won’t give the whole story of the book, but the book is really well written from like the founder’s perspective as he’s learning how he built the systems that he’s doing. So he’s sharing stories, which is always my kind of book where I’m like, Ooh, here’s a story. And there’s a lesson with it.

It’s way more engaging than reading something else. [00:12:00] Anyways, he, one of the points he was making was. His kind of point was like, don’t be afraid to play dumb. And this aligns with motivational interviewing. This aligns with coaching, like curiosity before judgment. But when somebody gives you an objection, let’s for instance, install, we’re not really sure right now is the time to join the gym because like, we’re going away for a couple of weeks on vacation next month.

Maybe I’ll just join when I come back. What we know that person is saying is like, Oh, I don’t want to get started. And then pause for a little bit and come back. Like they’re just delaying it even further. And. From the Sandler side of things, like playing Don and be like, Oh, but you’re not going for a month.

Like you could work out before your vacation. And it’s just, you’re not trying to take that deeper meaning of what they’re saying and you’re not afraid to ask again. They’re not actually dumb questions, but you’re not afraid to ask what comes across as dumb in air quotes questions and be truly curious.

Yeah. Oh, I got this thing coming up, so I can’t do it. Or I haven’t always, sometimes I have things on Saturdays. Oh, do you have, are you fully booked on every Saturday? Oh, only some of them. Okay. Why don’t you come on some of the Saturdays? [00:13:00] Like you’re. There’s an element, to put it bluntly, of like, you’re not buying into their BS.

Yeah, I get that that feels like an obstacle to you. And we both, we all know deep down that if that person starts showing up on a few Saturday mornings and then they get in routine, they’re going to do it. That person who starts at your gym before they go on vacation is more likely to stay active and eat better when they’re on vacation.

Like we know all this is true, but more often than not, they enroll us into their energy. Yeah. And then we’re trying to be like, Oh, let’s strategize how we could do that. Right. Rather than just being like, Oh. Tell me more about that. That won’t work. Why? I’m not sure I understand. Yeah. I love this one so much.

Banks. You’re right. This so aligns with often what we do in coaching and motivational interviewing. The idea that when we, as someone on the other side of the conversation from a person we’re selling or coaching, when we see that they have a limiting belief or an obstacle or a barrier that maybe they don’t see themselves.

As a limiting belief or an obstacle or a barrier. One of the things that we want to try and do is help them get curious about it. And one of the ways we do that is getting curious about it ourselves. [00:14:00] And so pausing and saying, Hey, I’m not sure I really understand. What that what’s holding you back, right?

I’m not sure I really understand how your vacation is getting your way. Say more about that. Like, why is your vacation stopping you from saying yes today? And I think just you getting curious about that. And I say this all the time, frankly, in coaching conversations, when I hear people share things that I’m like, that is, uh, uh, an interesting belief.

I, but one, I don’t think is serving you, but that’s what I say. What I actually say is. Is, Oh, wait, Ben, I think I might be a little confused. What I heard you say is X, Y, and Z. I’m not sure I get how that applies to your problem. So can you help me connect those dots? And what I’ll do is I’ll model for them what it gets, what getting curious about their ideas even looks like.

And that’s, I think exactly what you’re explaining here in a sales conversation is like, when you hear an objection, that’s just like. That doesn’t really even make any sense or like that. There’s lots of other ways you can get around that. Your job is to get curious about it in a really transparent way that hopefully rubs off on them.

And they’ll also start second guessing or poking holes [00:15:00] in their own assumptions. Cause it’s usually not that hard to do. It’s usually a wall or something they’ve put up because they’re trying to protect themselves. And in the case of joining a gym, it’s, they’re not maybe emotionally ready to walk in those doors again and see themselves in that mirror.

And so they’ll come up with. Any excuse to not say yes to the membership today. Exactly. So when they’re talking about, Oh, I’m already pretty active in life. I do lots of walking and biking. The example would be like, okay, that’s awesome. What’s your strength training look like? Yup. We’re like, Oh, I’m working at a little bit of home.

Like amazing. What program are you following? He gave the example in the book where he went to some meeting to sell his sales system. This is again, this is like 30 or 40 years ago. And the person’s like, Oh, we just hired, we just bought a sales training program, so we don’t need yours anymore. And his very next question was like, Oh, what’s the, what’s this element like in that program?

And it’s an element that he knew the other program didn’t have that he does. And then the person was like, that doesn’t exist in that program. He’s like, Oh, like in my experience, this is one of the most important parts of it. Like, [00:16:00] how are you going to handle that? And then fast forward, lo and behold, the guy bunch bought a whole bunch of sales training.

So when you’ve got those people coming in and again, I’m Jen pop. So a lot of it is like, it’s busy this summer. I think I’m just going to walk more. Okay. What are you going to do for strength training? What are you going to do for mobility? What are you going to do for programming? If you leave our gym and work out on your own, what’s your nutrition going to look like?

All of our gyms offer way more than just, Observing exercise and coaching and cuing. Like there’s, it’s an experience and it’s a community. Oh, how are you going to, you told me it’s really important to stay accountable. Like, how are you going to stay accountable if you’re doing this on your own? Yep. And it’s that just true curiosity.

Cause to your point there, they see it as an obstacle, but what’s really going on is they’ve got a limiting belief around exercise that you won’t be able to win that battle every time, but if you can help them see that money and sales aside, like that’s now going to be someone who is. Doing better on their health and fitness journey, which is the reason we’re all here.

100%. Yeah. I love this conversation so much. And I, here’s what I want to be like. I want to represent the devil’s advocate perspective here for a second. So I think some of these [00:17:00] sales tactics, especially when it comes to overcoming objections, I can imagine some people listening to the podcast being right now being like, I don’t want to do that.

If they have an objection, I just want to, I want to believe them. I don’t want to manipulate them into changing their mind. And, and I think there’s a lot of people who have that perspective, that any sort of pushback that we give to objections in a sales conversation is somehow manipulative, or I’ll put in air quotes you can’t see on a podcast, like overly salesy, or too pushy.

And I want to just acknowledge that I think that’s a very common perspective. Uh, when handling objections or really sales at all, is that any sort of, it’s a lot of these tactics feel icky to some people. And I want to just push back and say that these are people who raised their hands and said, I want your help.

Right? These are people who opted into your website or DMG on social media or came to our friend as referral and what they’re sharing with you in the form of objections are all the ways that they’re getting in the way. Of the thing they said they want. So our job here is to help [00:18:00] them get out of their own way, right?

To help them stop self sabotaging themselves and saying, I said, I want to work out and I want to get fit and healthy and not right now, not for the next few weeks, or I not want to say yes today. Or, and those are all ways that I think people most of the time. 99 percent of the time in conversations I’ve been part of, where they’re just protecting themselves from the discomfort of change.

They’re protecting themselves from the discomfort of trying something new, of walking into a space where they’re a stranger, of maybe spending money on something they haven’t spent before, and that’s scary and risky to them. And so I think part of our job here as helping professionals is to help them Work their way through that discomfort.

And part of how we do that is conversations like this sales conversations that are borderline therapy, borderline coaching conversations to help them process their own shit and their negative self talk and their excuses. And to help them get the thing they said they want, which is to go to a gym and work out and be healthier.

So anyway, that was maybe me standing on a soapbox for the [00:19:00] last two minutes, but that was important. Yeah. I just want to acknowledge that’s, I think going through a lot of listeners heads right now. Absolutely. I believe again, as the BFU salesperson did, I don’t know, a million consultations at my own gym.

Like I believe in meeting people where they’re at and I believe in unconditional regard. And I also believe that what seems easy to you might be more challenging to someone else or vice versa. We don’t always know. Yeah. But the perceived weight that person is carrying. Yeah. But all we’re actually doing here is holding up a mirror.

We’re not manipulating anyone into anything. If like from a 10, 000 foot view, if everybody truly did what was actually best for them. Our businesses wouldn’t exist like service business as a whole wouldn’t exist. We’d be, we wouldn’t be getting massages because we doing be doing our own soft tissue release every day.

We wouldn’t be like every, everything would be sorted and the reality is they’re going to come to us and have versions of, I’m not sure if I believe I can do this or not. And it’s possible that like, if they’re truly not sure, or you don’t think you’re the right fit, I [00:20:00] do think it’s manipulative to lie to them and then set them up for failure.

Yeah. When someone says I need extra accountability. And you ask them what that looks like, and then you suggest your systems with it, or you ask if they could work out on vacation, or you could, if you buy into everybody’s objection for everything, you’re never going to have any clients. It’s always easier to not do the thing than it is to do the thing.

Yeah. There’s going to be discomfort with that change. Yeah, there’s just so comfort in the status quo, right? There’s that, like the activation energy required to do a new thing. And we often will push so hard against it, you know, us included in all kinds of areas of our lives. Yeah. Yeah. I think this is a great second tip here, which I think to summarize it is really to really get curious about people’s objections and don’t take anything they share with you at face value.

Right. And you can quote, play dumb and really be super curious about anything they say, and it’s only going to be helpful. It’s about them and you for you to ask more questions. Dive a little deeper question assumptions. I think this is a really important part of the sales process that people don’t do enough of.[00:21:00]

Exactly. Can I give a real life example of that shop here? Yeah, I actually know that it’s more of a retention conversation to sales conversation, but it’s the same thing about getting curious. We had a husband and wife at our gym who trained for ages and they were great. And they’d typical people who can afford personal training can also afford lots of vacations and stuff.

And the wife had a, Lots of complicated things going on with her body, but her background 30 or 40 years ago was also health. So she had a good understanding of it, but also I think felt like she had a better understanding than she did, because I’m a big believer in there’s a lot that we don’t know, so don’t assume that you know exactly what the problem is.

No, they ended up being like, hey, we need to quit the gym because I need to actually focus on my rehab exercises. And this is her saying me and my husband need to quit the gym because I need to focus on my rehab exercise. This was a, already an obstacle in there that we didn’t address. And I remember coming back to them and being like, Oh, okay.

Like how are your rehab exercises? What are your exercises? And I probed about that and I ended up getting to the point of like, I wasn’t doing all those rehab exercises at home going. She’s like, Oh, I haven’t done any of them. Cause the physio gives the sheet of paper. And yes, And it’s like, [00:22:00] what if, would you be open to us just adjusting your program to include all the rehab exercises in there?

And now you’re actually going to stay accountable to do it because if these are important to you, most important things to do it. And that conversation was like a turning point. They’re like, Holy shit, we need to stay here to do our rehab exercise. Yeah. They’re going to have this perception, the prospect or a client or whoever is going to perception that they’re coming to you for X thing of value.

But depending on your business, you might offer many different things of value. Like for some people, the value is, I’m just. Part of a like minded community because all my friends drink and smoke. So having friends that don’t just drink and smoke are really good to get healthy. Like people are going to have different perception, but by willing to get truly curious on that, rather than know how you have, it would be easy to be like, that makes sense.

Like she’s hurt, like the physio, like that’s outside our scope. That’s what they do. Absolutely. Go do your thing. Like they wouldn’t have done it. So by them coming to us and continuing to spend that money, was actually the best thing for that person’s health. Great story. I love that, Ben. I think it really illustrates the power of getting curious about all the [00:23:00] assumptions, all the stories they tell.

And you found a really beautiful new path to helping them in ways they didn’t even know they wanted to be helped. Which I think is so, such a great example of like the best possible outcome here. All right, well let’s wrap it up here. Um, anything else you want, how do you want to summarize these two tips here?

Yeah, the first one is don’t forget that you’re qualifying them. They’re not disqualifying you. You both want to make sure it’s a good fit. You don’t want to be too eager, too desperate to bring more people into your gym because they’re going to tell. And option two is when in doubt, play dumb and be curious.

Yeah, love it. I love it. Awesome. Thank you so much, Ben. I think these are really fantastic tips. I think they’re immediately actionable. I encourage all of you who do sales conversations listening to this or even retention conversations to Ben’s point, start trying these things out right away because I think you’ll get better and better at using these approaches the more you practice.

And certainly if you want to come check with, check us out and spend a whole weekend with us in Boston, click the link in the show notes and learn more about our Boston retreat and come join us. We’d love to see you. Thanks so much, Ben. I’ll see you on the next one. Thank [00:24:00] you.