High-pressure sales tactics can fall flat

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 March, 2007, 12:00am

THE EMPLOYEES OF fitness clubs know all about human psychology. They realise that most of us believe it is better to wait for the New Year or until we find a new job or a new partner, before joining a gym and starting a regular exercise programme.

Therefore, clubs have a range of incentives to get people to sign up during their first visit. They have also developed a reputation for using assertive sales tactics and not letting you 'escape' once you have stepped through the door.

Andrew Phillips, managing director of Fitness First, is well aware of the criticism of pushy salespeople pressing for a firm financial commitment, but said it was a matter of perspective.

He said Hong Kong was a highly competitive market and that fitness clubs had to attract new members if they wanted to survive. Part of this involved persuading people to sign up without delay.

'Sometimes their first reaction is 'no',' he said. 'But we know that some people procrastinate, and we also know that everybody benefits from a health club membership.

'We want to feel comfortable that if the person has said no, they are not going to regret their decision.'

Randy Dobson, vice-president of sales at California Fitness, acknowledged that overbearing sales techniques could be off-putting, but said that only bad salespeople came across as pushy or used what seemed like high-pressure tactics.

He said these individuals could give companies a bad reputation, and therefore had to be 'weeded out'. In addition, California Fitness had recently invested more than US$1million on training to prevent staff from employing the wrong tactics.

'It's a full month of training to teach how professional fitness consultants behave and how to create good guest experiences,' Mr Dobson said. 'People are able to make a buying decision in a comfortable atmosphere, not a high pressure one.'

He said if someone purchased a membership they didn't really want, they would not use it, and wouldn't refer their friends.

'Our business is so reliant upon members enjoying the experience and referring their friends, that you end up just cutting your own throat if you allow those high-pressure tactics to continue.'