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3 Skills to Strengthen Membership Sales, Part 3: Asking for Referrals

Posted by Kevin Talley on Jan 9, 2020 7:00:00 AM

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This three-part blog series is based on “The Power of the Human Connection” webinar hosted by Jeff Wild, Director of Sales. In his presentation, Jeff explored the critical skills you and your sales staff need in your fitness business. If you haven’t yet, read part one and part two then finish the series with this final blog. 


The third critical sales skill Jeff covers in the webinar is how to ask members for referrals. Customer referrals are incredibly valuable not only in the fitness industry but across markets. The Harvard Business Review has found referred customers are on average more profitable for a business and have higher rates of retention. 

To start, Jeff pulled data from a Club OS survey of fitness professionals about how they ask their members for customer referrals. 

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Over 60% of respondents indicated they ask for referrals during the sale, when the prospect joins, and continuously during their membership lifetime. While this isn’t necessarily a “bad” strategy, you run the risk of creating too much noise around referrals causing your members to tune out referral requests altogether. Instead of employing a bombardment-style strategy, follow these seven tips to create a referral workflow that generates results. 

1.) Be consistent 

Swap out constant referral requests for consistent referral requests. Choose specific points in the membership journey that are optimal times to make the request. By reducing the overall number of requests, your remaining touchpoints will hold more weight and stand out to your members. Plus, you reduce your risk of “overfishing your pond” by not constantly asking members to identify more and more friends or family members who they can refer. 

2.) Be specific 

Once you’ve narrowed the number of touchpoints, define why you’re asking for referrals at this specific time. For example, offering a free guest pass to members who haven’t visited in months to help them rediscover their love of fitness with a friend, or asking members who have completed six months of membership to refer a friend now that they have become “experts” about your club and services. 

3.) Measure the impact

As you move through your referral request workflow, measure the results of each touchpoint. Use this data to eliminate low-impact touchpoints to avoid adding too much noise to your referral request cycle. For example, if you ask new members to provide referrals at the point of sale, but you only see one referral for every 50 new members, you can discern this is potentially a low-impact touchpoint. Other factors may contribute to the low referral rate, so be sure to investigate further before eliminating the touchpoint from your workflow. 

4.) Incentivize referrals

Make referrals a win-win for you and the referring member by incentivizing them. The ancillary products your fitness center sells are perfect incentives, like rewarding referring members with discounted workout gear or free nutritional supplements. However, avoid offering discounted monthly rates as you don’t want to devalue your memberships. 

5.) Know your fanatics

You already know who we’re talking about. The members who walk through your front door every day like clockwork. They’re the best advocates of your facility, your brand, and the community you’ve built. They can refer family and friends with genuine enthusiasm and mentor them through the early months of their membership. It’s a win-win as the member gets a great opportunity to share the facilities and services they love, and you get the valuable referrals you need. 

6.) Turn mistakes into opportunities

Mistakes happen, so work them to your advantage. Create a standing protocol that members who experience mistakes, such as broken equipment, dirty facilities, or canceled classes, are given a free guest pass. This shows the member that their experience in your fitness center is a priority and that you want to work to alleviate their frustration. Of course, your staff must immediately correct the mistake to ensure that the member’s guest, a potential new member for your club, doesn’t experience the same mistake that sparked the free guest pass. 

7.) Milestone referrals

Leverage your CRM software to establish automatic email campaigns around membership milestones, such as 50th club check-ins, one-year anniversaries, or birthday. Your messaging should congratulate the member on their achievement and frame the referral request as a perk. For example, “Happy birthday, David! We wish you another year of health and happiness. And as our gift, we’ve credited your account with one free guest pass. We’ve always believed workouts are like birthdays, better with friends!” 

Thank you for reading the 3 Critical Skills for Fitness Sales blog series. Looking for more insights? Watch the complete webinar: The Power of the Human Connection!

Topics: Sales


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