Posted by: Sales Makers | July 18, 2017

Addendum to X-Selling at Membership Sales Page 4

The Beginning of Memberships and the method of payment for all of these wonderful programmes (read memberships) was cash and carry.

These were called:

Pay and Play – describes the basic Racquetball membership, where you paid a set fee ($75-100) and could pay to play the game for a fixed period of one year.

Session – describes the Jazzercise or Aerobics membership, where you paid for one or two classes in a fixed time; which was normally six-weeks session.

Fixed – this would be what a gym would use, which was a day pass, monthly term, three months, six months or annual.

Lifetime – a few dodgy operators would sell ‘Lifetime’ memberships.

This was the big ticket option that could make you a lot of money.

I remember hearing a story about one of the bigger chains that used this option to “launder” massive quantities of cash by selling these during their ‘pre-sales’ to both fund the build and also clean up some dirty money.

The salespeople used to struggle to come up with the members – so, they found themselves going to cemeteries to get names and birth dates of new members

(NOTE: They all had the same address.)

BTW This story was told to me by one of the salespeople.

PS. It is now illegal to sell Lifetime memberships in America or any membership longer that three years. (Which is also a requirement to join IHRSA.)

Although a very few still sell Lifetime with a $1 renewal annually – or equally ridiculous continuation fee.

Clip Cards – this was the beginning of memberships in northern Europe and some Mediterranean Countries.

Basically, you bought one of the categories (IE Aerobics Classes) and you could buy 10, 20 or 50 visits with a deeper discount the more you bought.

This was the predominant method of selling until the 90’s until I started working in the region.

My first European client in 1989, had 34 different types of users (I don’t have the heart to call them members) and thousands of them – but no data; they didn’t have applications.

My second Scandic client in 1998 had 36 different types of users, with 10,000+ people, with 34 annual members – they did have data.

There were very few Clubs in the States that had salespeople; with the exception of the “Hard-pressure”, ‘beat them bloody and take whatever loose change you can get’ from the punters.

Those few clubs historically were the gym chains and the few independents normally started by ex-employees of these clubs.

Sales were conducted by the staff at reception or the instructors.

When customers came in they were told the prices, maybe offered a session free and “always” offered a “first-time incentive” of a price reduction if they joined TODAY!

That was the typical approach to selling memberships in America.

In X-Selling at Membership Sales I outline how Sales Makers differed from this approach and to what I attribute our success by using our “Aggressive Hospitality” approach to sales of memberships in our first Club and ALL of our ensuing clients throughout the world.

The first type of memberships that I sold in 1979 were three types and two different terms. They were the Social, the Fitness (which didn’t include Aerobics in the beginning – until the Owners hired the Jazzercise instructors themselves and incorporated it into the membership) and finally and Unlimited membership offering: no fees for anything in the Club.

One quick aside: IN 1979…

The prices for these were; Social = $99, Fitness = $350 and Unlimited = $600.


Where did we go wrong? 

A gallon of gas was under a dollar – with inflation; 


Sorry, this is just something that bugs me.

I ask: Why have we not been able to convince the public that we are something that they should be willing to pay a fair price for our product; called a membership?

Back to the topic…

The Term of the memberships that I sold were either 5 months (a SnowBird) membership or Annual.

Yes, we had a day pass (guest fee) that sometimes would be waived by a Salesperson to induce a customer to commit to an appointment.

But, normally we charged this fee – to establish our pricing model.

NOTE: A Snowbird membership of five months catered to the clientele that our Club was selling to – the people that flew south (Fort Lauderdale) for the winter and normally would live there from Thanksgiving until Easter.

We were unusual, almost all of our competition was still selling whatever they could get. Our philosophy was, from the beginning; sell them and take care of them.

This meant we would get more people to renew their membership.

Unknowingly, we were addressing Retention long before it became the issue that it is today.

Ironically, the solution to Attrition still is: TAKE CARE OF YOUR MEMBERS!

You won’t make money by trying to sell someone 12 times a year, by selling them monthly.

You won’t make money by trying to sell them four times a year.

And you won’t make money by trying to sell them twice a year.

You’re only giving them more chances to say NO, thus reducing your potential income.

NOTE: Obviously, you will make some money – just not what you could…

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