That Time When Saying No Sold A New Gym Membership

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  • That Time When Saying No Sold A New Gym Membership

New gym memberships make owners and managers feel great, no doubt! But it’s even better if you can hold on to the old memberships longer. Reducing your rate of club turnover and increasing the customer lifecycle are critical practices in building successful fitness businesses.

Here on the Gym Insight Blog, I have made the point many times before that retention matters as much as sales. But getting these numbers right is so important that it doesn’t hurt to dive into retention and selling gym memberships once again. If you structure your sales and onboarding process well, saying "no" at the right time can be powerful and confident in closing sales and retaining members.

A Process That Begins As You Wish To Go On

OK, so saying "no" to new membership prospects might seem counter-intuitive and you certainly don’t want to refuse anything you can offer. This unexpected retort to inquiries was a point made as part of a discussion on improving retention.

This idea is that the most critical time in a gym membership is the first six weeks. The point came up as I was listening to a recent episode of the Fitness Business Podcast. There were three points that I think are most relevant to how fitness clubs handle new members.

First, structure your new membership incentives to encourage engagement. At the same time, train your staff to sell the value of these perks. Finally, use your gym management software to implement a program of constant and never-ending improvement based on the measurable changes in gym membership retention.

The experiences that new members have with you in the first few weeks determine whether they make your facility a habit or just some forgotten trial run before they chose one of your competitors, for example, members that hit targets and fitness goals. The target might be attending the gym a certain number of times in the first month.

You can monitor the results and improve upon them over time. You will see the patterns and red flags in the data captured by your gym management system. All gym owners and managers want to hold on to members longer and to have a more committed relationship with them. The best policy to extend retention is a written plan that encourages and nurtures engagement with the new members.

Measure Everything The Way You Do For Your Members

Your staff, managers, and coaches should know the plan and work to it. Teaching your trainers and front desk staff to sell is a notoriously difficult task. However, small improvements add up. If your people know they are responsible for selling memberships and premium services and what incentives you offer.

  • Incentives should relate directly to your goals for the business
  • They should also be measurable with the systems you have in place.
  • The numbers you measure must represent real growth for the value of customers to the business

Whether you use dedicated gym management software or not might be the difference between success and failure with retentions. If you track your memberships on a spreadsheet, keep your customer account information on three-by-five cards or use a battered old notebook that you use as a sign-log at the front desk, you automatically loose the most critical data that your members give freely.

The metrics that alert you which members are most likely to cancel their memberships are the same ones that will help you to respond and bring them back in. However, you can use the same metrics to step back and look at the big picture. Watching how your metrics change over time will show you how well your procedures for onboarding and motivating customers are working.

If you want to determine more subtle responses to new policies, you will need to apply statistical analyses. There are numerous mathematical strategies that you can use to estimate the probability that the changes work or not. So, if you can face brushing up on your college level statistics, you will be able to dig up even deeper insights.

The Secret Of Saying No Strategically

So in review, this is what I suggest you gym business owners who want to improve member retention should do:

  • Develop a policy that incentivizes new members to build healthy workout habits
  • Train your staff to listen for interest and close sales using the incentives
  • Measure the changes and keep updating your practices until you get the results you want

There are as many creative ways to make retention a part of your marketing plan as you can dream up. Offer a program where members earn rewards by attaining goals that you can measure. What I am getting at with saying "no" is to listen for all the opportunities that customers give you to sell to them.

Planning and practicing your sales techniques can be fun as well as productive. At the end of the day, whatever you can do to grow your gym memberships is a good thing. Growing faster and make attrition lower are the things that will help you achieve a more prosperous business in the long-term.


Brodrick, Chantal. 110 Chris Stevenson Keep Your Members Longer With High Net Promoter Scores. July 7, 2017. (accessed July 12, 2017).

Fagan, Lawrence. 7 Ways to Overcome Price Objections when Selling Health Club Memberships. June 5, 2013. (accessed September 7, 2016).

Lang, Peter. With Better Customer Service – How To Guide. (accessed July 12, 2017).

Wikipedia Contributors. Statistical hypothesis testing. June 19, 2017. (accessed July 12, 2017).