Sell by Chat for Gyms: Does It Work?

A fitness coach in a purple top uses a mobile phone to sell by chat.

Sell by chat for gyms and fitness businesses: Will it bring in more clients?


The answer is important. Consumers are chatting all the time by text and on apps like SnapChat, Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct Messenger, TikTok, WeChat, Telegram, Slack, Signal and so on. Businesses use their media to connect with consumers on their platforms of choice, so sell by chat might be considered an extension of your sales and media plan.

But the tactic involves time and money—whether you do it personally or use a service to contact prospective clients. We believe every expense should generate a return.

We tested this new marketing tactic, and we’ll give you the complete results below so you know if sell by chat will work for your gym, fitness studio or nutrition business.

Sell by Chat for Gyms: What Is It Exactly?

For those who want a primer, sell by chat for gyms is part of a proactive multi-channel marketing strategy. In some cases, sell by chat is employed via a pop-up chat window that appears when someone visits your site. You’ve probably seen these widgets, which often double up as “customer service”: “Hi, I’m Sam. How can I help you today?”

We didn’t use that version of the strategy because people have to get to your site to see that chat box appear. Sell by chat is Step 2 if you’re doing it on your website. Step 1 would be getting people to the site, which is a completely different problem altogether. (Check out this Neil Patel article for more general insight into on-site live chat sales.)

We went further upstream to test with active engagement of prospective clients:

Sell by chat for gym owners is a direct conversion strategy to get leads from social media channels to book a free consultation at your gym or even sign up over a text discussion. You start a conversation with a prospect in a chat thread, ask some questions and then pivot toward a sale or—more commonly—a free consultation.

The strategy can work on any platform with messaging capability—but Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct Messenger are are the most common. Sell by chat is a bit like cold calling because the recipient isn’t expecting to hear from you, but that feeling is generally offset by the sense of “closeness” created on a social-media platform.

Read on to see what sets gyms up for success with sell by chat and when you can skip the strategy to focus on other ideas.

Why We Tested Sell by Chat for Gym Owners

“There is always somewhere else I can put my money,” Warren Buffett said.

The most important asset a gym owner or trainer has is time. And time is a finite resource. So when we test an idea for gym owners at Two-Brain, we don’t limit ourselves to the question “does it work?” Instead, we ask the more important question: “Does this work better than the alternatives?”

In other words, “If I had only one hour to build my business today, should I spend it on sell by chat?”

Our Sell by Chat Comparison for Fitness Businesses

Across all industries, sell by chat has a 3-5 percent close rate.

This means if you start 100 direct message—DM—chats with leads, numbers suggest three to five people will actually sign up for your service. If the chat strategy is to get people to book a free consultation, the number rises to around 12-15 percent. But not all of those consultations will result in closed sales. Booking is a two steps removed from buying: Prospective clients who book have to actually show up to appointments and then purchase before they become clients.

In order for us to recommend sell by chat for fitness entrepreneurs, we knew that gyms testing the strategy would have to close at least five clients per month. With a 5 percent cross-industry close rate for sell by chat, the average gym owner would have to start 100 chats per month and nurture each conversation toward a sale. That’s doable in some cases—but only if the gym owner has a place to collect a ton of leads for chatting.

Testing Sell by Chat for Fitness Entrepreneurs

Beginning in May, our Two-Brain marketing and sales experts employed two sell by chat teams to engage qualified leads. The teams initiated 40 chats per day with qualified leads, and we measured how many leads booked calls, then how many of those who booked calls converted into sales.

Our sell by chat goals:

  1. Get new potential clients to book free consultations.
  2. As a backup plan, we wanted to get those clients on an email list as a bare minimum.
  3. Convert at least 5 percent of all chats started to sales.

Our strategy: We tested the strategy using a professional sell by chat team in a public Facebook group. This was a high-affinity group with thousands of potential clients. It was also a very high-affinity pool: Most people in the group had received something for free in the past, and many turned out to be super fans.

The result: Six new clients over three months (two per month) for a close rate of around 2 percent.

What does this mean for you? It depends on the stage of business you’re in.

Which Gym Owners Should Use Sell by Chat?

A graphic showing sell by chat is recommended for upper-level gym owners but not gym owners who still coach a lot.

Stage 1: Founder Phase

This is the first stage of gym ownership: You’re making $18,000 per year or less and coaching most of your clients yourself.

No—We do not recommend gym owners at this stage use sell by chat. They could invest their time in other strategies with greater rates of return.

Stage 2: Farmer Phase

This is the second stage of gym ownership: You’re making $100,000 per year or less and managing your gym full time.

Maybe—Sell by chat might be a viable strategy, depending on your next business plan.

Stage 3: Tinker Phase

In the third phase of entrepreneurship in the fitness world, you’re making over $100,000 per year and your gym runs itself.

Yes—The sell by chat strategy will probably be an effective use of your time. But only if you have a solid lead-generation system that produces at least 30 leads per day (especially if they’re qualified leads).

Click here to find out what stage of entrepreneurship you’re in.

Sell by Chat for Gym Owners: The Summary

Sell by chat has some potential for pushing qualified leads to sign up for your coaching services. But you need a solid infrastructure first, including:

  • A public group (like a Facebook group).
  • A solid lead magnet people can request via chat.
  • A good local reputation.

Sell by Chat Pros

  • If you already have a public Facebook group and a decent bank of content, sell by chat can definitely get qualified leads to take action.
  • Sell by chat works faster than an email nurture sequence.
  • Selling by chat feels more natural than auto-text or bots.

Sell by Chat Cons

  • It’s getting harder and harder to start sell by chat. For example, if you start messaging people who aren’t your friends on Facebook, your account could get locked down.
  • If you don’t have a way to generate a lot of daily leads (like a public Facebook group), you won’t get enough volume to make the strategy worthwhile.
  • There’s a big up-front investment: You have to build a public group, create assets to give away and then invest a lot of time in the group by asking questions or individually messaging people.

Protip: Do not use a bot, and don’t use a virtual assistant (VA) until you’ve mastered the process yourself. Asking someone else to log in to your social media account and act as you is begging for trouble.

Side Benefits of Direct Message Selling

You’re going to unearth some fans.

Overall: Our Sell by Chat Recommendation

We only recommend sell by chat for gym owners who have extra time to spend on social media. If you’re great with emojis, have a fast response time and can follow a template (which we provide for Two-Brain Gyms in our Tinker program), you can get some new clients from sell by chat.

If that’s not you, other marketing strategies will work much better.


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.