Posted by: Sales Makers | July 18, 2017

You’re left out – if they’re not right…

I thought I’d share an essay that I wrote today for my altMBA programme that I’m participating in.

This is the original premise… why people who buy from your competitors are right

It’s not gonna be in the Addendum – but, you might find it interesting and then again – maybe not. Curious to get some feedback.

You’re left out – if they’re not right…


My Industry is the Fitness Industry, which realistically began to grow in the 1980’s in North America.In the 1990’s it began to grow Internationally and I moved to Europe in 1994 to teach what I had been teaching for 15 years already to a rapidly expanding market.


Since the outset of Clubs selling their memberships to the consumers in the 1980s – they (the Clubs’) had the upper hand. There were limited numbers of Clubs, especially with a Full Service capability (racquet sports, swimming, exercise, classes, etc.) Primarily because of the exorbitant prices of construction, staffing and maintenance.As such, they could more or less charge whatever they wanted and attract the clientele that had arrived – that could afford the premium fees ($75+ a month.)The middle market attracted the want to be’s, who were willing to forego the whole enchilada and settle for a bean burrito, maybe with some guac and rice on the side.

Due to the status (I’m a gym goer [maybe once a month]) and design of these Clubs (now mostly chains due to consolidation) they attracted the the middle market – the yuppies that were getting established, buying houses, leasing BMW’s, raising children. They couldn’t afford the Premium offering (certainly not for their entire family). They were willing to pay the $75 for the family however.

The bottom market was the mom and pop clubs or the muscle-head gyms that were small, friendly, not too much money spent on rents, prime locations, equipment and this would be reflected in a much lower price (under $30 a month and often $99 or only $199 A YEAR.)


Now we start getting to the question at hand – why are our competitors clients customers right in becoming members (or USERS) of that other Club?

Nobody can please all of the people all of the time and you certainly can’t be All things to All people – the Industry either forgot that or they never admitted it to themselves. They had a good thing going for them and they didn’t change the way they sold and in many cases they still haven’t.

People don’t want to be sold – they may want to buy what you’re selling – it’s now got to be on their terms.

They’re not willing to buy frivolities that they know the won’t use – so they now go to the middle market (which is rapidly shrinking) These are different consumers.

In the old days, we had focus groups, member interest surveys – so we had a good idea of the type of consumers that we were selling.

The best sales person is the one who listens the best. God gave you two ears and one mouth so that you can listen twice as hard as you talk. This gives you the ability to learn more about your potential sale and to try to empathise with his or her needs (and desires.) But sometimes in a real life market environment that always isn’t enough.

Let me give you an example: 

I was working in a Club in Fort Lee, NJ one night when a mature man and woman entered the Club.      I showed them the club, asked the right questions and got all the right answers. He recently had a check up with his Physician who told him that he had high blood pressure, he needed to lose weight, exercise and get into better shape.

I thought he was a sure sale.

So, I gave him the price and assumed he was going to join and put the membership agreement in front of him to proceed. Meanwhile, his wife spoke up and said: “If you think I’m going to let you join this Club for one minute – you’re out of your mind.”

This shocked me and I asked: “Why?” Her reply: “Theres’ so many young, good-looking women here – there’s no way, I’m going to leave him alone here.”

Looking back – I probably should have tried to sell HER a membership (to keep and eye on him) – but I wasn’t thinking. I didn’t have a way to address her objection. I hadn’t empathised with her – I left her out of the sales process, until it was too late.

Lesson learned – and I hope he did find a Club with people she would accept.

Now, let me give you another example of when it worked:

I was working in a Club in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

A young man came in the Club interested in membership and I showed him the Club and discovered that he was in town for four months while he was waiting for the ship he was going to work on was outfitted and reconditioned for a long trip. He was very much into free weights and unfortunately, we didn’t have enough. We also didn’t sell four month memberships.

So, I told him about the name of a Competitor that would sell him what he wanted to buy.

However; I told him that I was taking a diving class and would be done work soon and asked if I could buy him a beer and have a chat about diving. He agreed; he bought me one and then he left.

I figured the competitor had a member, because of me.

The next day the same guy came into the Club with another more mature individual. He asked if I could show him around the Club, I agreed. It turns out that he was the Captain of the ship. As Captain, it was his responsibility to ensure the safety of his crew (numbering 42 men and women.) He felt that by having his crew in the best, most complete facility would ensure that they would be in the best shape for the expedition that they were embarking upon (it turns out this was the vessel that discovered the remains of the Titanic.)

He bought 13 full memberships (4 months x 13 = 42 crew.)

I earned a pretty good commission by empathising with the initial Diver, being honest and not trying to just make one sale. And maybe, just maybe I contributed to a successful mission. We’ll never know – but, I learned a valuable lesson about empathy that night.


The Leisure Market is now everywhere – competing for those leisure dollars…

The Competition is:

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Apple Music, your two-week adventure holiday hiking in Peru, the iBook, the Gym, the Studio, the Fitness App on your wrist, the Personal Trainer who lives in your Computer, the bicycle that costs thousands that you take out once a month, the home exercise equipment that is now a coat rack, the diet coach app, the food delivery service that you pay monthly, the list goes on and on…anything that gives someone some time to themselves – we’re competing with not just other Clubs.

There is NO Club in the world that can deliver what the consumer actually wants – for the Boomer (it’s their youth) – for the Millennial (it’s their future, improved self)

Ken Dychtwald wrote Age Wave over thirty years ago warning the world about who would be the people that would become the primary consumers in the coming years – and did the Industry change? (Or even listen?) No, they continued to sell the same old way thinking that it would work forever. Meanwhile, a few smart players; McFit in Germany and Planet Fitness in the US, started offering large multi-fitness facilities for the price of the small, friendly clubs and even less (some as low as $9.99 a month.) Now they are attracting 7-9,000 people in their clubs and bankrupting the competition.

Are their members wrong in choosing the cheapest option? Or have they simply chosen what’s best for them – the most options for the least amount of money.

On the other side of the coin you’ve got people who don’t join the Club, but just hire Personal Trainers at even more cost than the original high-end Clubs – $75 per workout at four to 6 times a month.        Are these people insane to pay these exorbitant prices? Or, have they decided to only pay for results?

We actually now have another side of our multi-sided coin with the fastest growing segment in the fitness industry, which is the cottage industry called; Boutique Clubs – basically small, local studios. This is where people go just to cycle, enjoy Yoga or Pilates, climb virtual mountains (in an Oxygen deprivation tank) take virtual classes (via an online streaming portal), even (I kid you not) nap classes = napercise []

Are these Users insane? (Well, the napercise users are 😉

Research in the United States from the AFS (Association of Fitness Studios) shows that there are over 100,000 Studios offering what the Millennials and Boomers want – which is: what THEY want and only what they want. 

Check out:  The New Language of Leisure: A Boomer/Millennial Smackdown                                      (

Consumers are changing – you can blame the Internet, Computers, iPhones, iPads, Samsung, you can blame Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Twitter, Facebook – but, if you really want someone to blame –          you really should be looking in a mirror.

The simple truth (I think) is something I’ve been teaching in my lectures at conferences, speaking about to my clients, writing in my blog and my book: There are three questions that you need to allow your customers to answer YES to;        (in their minds), if you want them to buy whatever you’re selling.

1. Am I going to enjoy the Products and/or Services?

2. Are they (YOU) going to take a personal interest in ME?

3. AM I going to get the results I WANT?


This is MY comment to the statement:

Why people who buy from your competitors are right…

YOU didn’t answer THEIR questions correctly, but your competition did!

YOU didn’t empathise or try to understand what their DESIRES are…

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