Should Your Gym Pay Sales Commissions?

Gym staff member giving a tour -Should Your Gym Pay Sales Commissions?

Most gym owners hate sales and marketing. I did, too—until my perspective changed.

I wrote my book “Help First” to talk about that change. But until you’ve experienced the same epiphany, you might do the same things that I did to avoid being the “salesperson”:

  • Running free trials so people can “experience” your coaching, then hoping they whip out their credit cards.
  • Telling people how to sign up online instead of calling them when they inquire.
  • Telling coaches it’s their responsibility to fill their own classes.
  • “Incentivizing” coaches to get their own clients by paying them a higher revenue split.
  • Trying to outsource sales.
  • Advertising “No sales pitch ever!”
  • Literally telling people, “I’m bad at sales. Just come and see for yourself.”
  • And, worst of all, I tried to hire someone else to sell my service for me. I offered salaries and commissions. And it didn’t work.

Who Sells?

If you have fewer than 150 clients, sales is your job. Don’t hire someone else to try and do it better than you.

Coaching means telling people the answer. And “you should sign up!” is the first right answer you provide your clients.

If you’re not good at sales, you should work to improve. You should learn how to help people get started in fitness. In this post, I tell you how to get clear on what you’re selling, how to sell without feeling like a salesperson, what tools you need and how to sell more.

But eventually, you’re going to replace yourself in the “sales” role. This means someone else should be trained to perform your No Sweat Intros with your future clients and Goal Reviews with your current clients.

Here are the steps:

1. Train your staff to close sales as well as you do. If your staff members are closing at lower rates than you are, they should be trained before being put into sales roles.

2. The staff person’s primary incentive is that he or she gets a new client. If you’re following an Intrapreneurial model, every new client starts with a 1:1 coaching program. If your sales staff is made up of your coaches, then that’s reason enough to sign people up. (Get our “Intrapreneurialism 101” guide here.)

3. If you have a staff person dedicated to sales, then give him or her control of the full sales process—from lead generation to lead nurture to appointment setting to follow-up. Only then would you pay a commission, and that commission should be less than 10 percent. Here’s how to hire and train a dedicated sales person: “Building a Sales Engine.”

“If you’re not spending 40 hours serving your clients every week, you need to spend 40 hours getting clients every week.”

Why Do Some Salespeople Get Commissions?

Remember: You’re not selling a product but a service. Commissioned salespeople usually sell products.

When selling a car or a refrigerator, the salespeople are dealing with cold traffic. The most aggressive salesperson is going to win—and will probably never see the client again. Those salespeople are being rewarded for risking their time in people who are unlikely to buy. They’re the people who usually make a commission.

In contrast, your “sales force” is dealing with a very warm audience who can greatly benefit from a long-term relationship with your service. Sales-force turnover is really high for products—either you become good at it really quickly or you’re gone. But that’s not what we’re dealing with here.

Until you reach 150 clients, sales is really the owner’s job. Bonuses and commissions won’t create a big difference in your close rate unless you’re dealing with super-cold leads that won’t ask for a refund later.

But if you’re ready to hire someone else to manage your sales, remember this: Gym owners should always replace themselves in each role with people who are better at that role if they want to get time back.

Other Media in This Series

“What Are You Incentivizing?”
“Should Your Gym Pay a Salary?”
“How to Give Your Staff a Raise”


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.