The Exact Steps to Building a Sales Engine at Your Gym

Image of Chris Cooper with title text reading "The Exact Steps to Building a Sales Engine At Your Gym."

Andrew (00:00):

You got into the gym business to teach squats, not to sell. But here’s the truth. You will need to sell your services every single day to run a profitable gym. The good news? Chris Cooper will tell you how to do it without slimy sales tactics that can make you cringe. Now here’s Chris Cooper with the help first approach to selling without selling.

Chris (00:22):

We’ll get back to the show right after this.

Chris (00:25):

Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by Forever Fierce. Reach out to them to sell more apparel or retail items. Matt Albrizio and his team will save you time with templates. They’ll provide ideas and tell you what’s selling best. And they’ll supply marketing material and preorder sheets. If you want to get serious about apparel and retail, visit Selling without selling.

Chris (00:46):

What do the most successful fitness professionals do that others don’t? They sell their service really well. My biggest mistake and probably yours was believing that being the best fitness coach would make me the most successful fitness coach. So I studied planes of movement and energy metabolism. I drew graphs on the floor for my clients. I explained complex theories to them. Worst of all, I only read stuff that confirmed my faulty belief. Like, you remember these, right? If you just keep your bathroom clean, they’ll come. If you just love on your clients, they’ll bring your friends. Treat them well, build up an emotional bank account and they’ll tell everybody about you. And I wish those were true, but they’re not. You can’t be a successful business owner without selling your service. Maybe that made you kind of shiver a little bit. It used to make me uncomfortable until I realized this sales doesn’t mean trickery.

Chris (01:41):

It doesn’t mean slime and it doesn’t mean fooling people. It really just means helping people. There’s a lot of bait and switch in the fitness industry. There is a lot of slime. I hate that stuff, but that doesn’t mean I can avoid sales. So I wrote “Help First” to explain how I learned to sell without selling, how to help your clients by extending your care and how to feel great while you grow. So in the next few videos, I’ll tell you how to do the same, but for the first time, I’ll take it a step further and explain how to hire and train a sales person to replace you. That’s usually the final step in the process of moving from farmer phase to tinker phase. But first, what are we selling? We sell fitness. Coaching fitness is achieved through the optimization of nutrition and exercise.

Chris (02:30):

Coaching is the process of filtering information and prescribing the most elegant solution to a client. After filtering, some coaches choose CrossFit. Some coaches choose Pilates, some choose something else. We deliver our coaching one-on-one, in small group sessions or in large group sessions, depending on what the client needs today. And after filtering nutrition, some coaches choose paleo. Some choose the zone diet, some, choose something else. We deliver nutrition coaching one-on-one in small group sessions or in a shorter term, big group challenge, depending on what the client needs right now. We do not sell a method like barre or CrossFit or hit or bootcamp. Those are our tools. We sell results. We call this the prescriptive model and we teach you how to implement it in our incubator program. The next question is, how do we sell it? The prescriptive model means a one-on-one relationship with every client, whether they choose personal training or group training as their preference. Every client starts with a no sweat intro.

Chris (03:35):

Every client is given a nutrition prescription and an exercise prescription according to their needs. Then every client is reassessed every quarter, they get a new prescription based on their new needs. The real RX in your gym is the best plan for your client. Not what weight to use in today’s general group programming. We teach the prescriptive model step-by-step in the incubator program. And if you click the link below, you can read more of a goal review sessions, or you can listen to another podcast about the prescriptive model. The next question is, what tools do we need? So starting from a blank slate and selling fitness, let’s consider these questions. First, if 80% of our clients are seeking some sort of aesthetic goal, like weight loss, first and foremost, what’s the best way to get them there. What do they need? Second? What tools are available to us?

Chris (04:26):

How will we measure progress? What equipment will we need to deliver this service? How many clients can we help? What if some of them are in a group? What do our prices need to be to make a good living at this? So with these questions in mind, would your first purchase be a high spin barbell or a body fat scale? Would you focus on your flooring or on a nice quiet office to give you a client, some privacy? Now what about marketing? Marketing is how you talk to strangers. Sales is how you talk to your friends. Marketing can get you some attention, but sales will change their lives. There’s no sense pumping leads into your business until you can effectively sign them up for your service. You have to be good at sales and comfortable at selling in a non-slimy way before you should do any marketing.

Chris (05:19):

When gym owners improve their sales conversations, now we call this their conversion rate, it improves their marketing spend exponentially. Then they can start running Facebook ads. Final question. How do you sell more? You sell more by caring enough to change a client’s lives. Then you sell more by caring enough to ask them their environment. So you ask their husband like, how can I help your husband? And how can I help your friend, Joanne? Then you sell more by caring enough to change their workplace. You ask, how can I help your coworkers? Then you sell more by caring enough to help their acquaintances. Then by the people who are on your email list. This type of selling requires emotional investment. It requires bravery. It requires being courageous enough to ask, instead of just waiting for something to happen, because waiting means death. In the next video, I’ll answer the question who sells.

Chris (06:15):

And then in the next I’ll help you to hire and train a salesperson. Finally, the last video of this series, I’ll share the process that we call affinity marketing and give you a downloadable guide with a step by step checklist. Who sells. I last wrote that you can’t be a successful business owner without selling your service. The next time you’re in a staff meeting, look at the faces around you and ask which of these people is in charge of sales. If you can’t name the person responsible for selling, I got some bad news for you. It’s you. There are between 12 and 15 roles in every gym, but there are three meta roles that really make the business run. There’s finance, there’s operations and there’s sales. Finance is done by your accountant. And whoever sets up your goals and targets. Operations is how you coach your clients and clean your bathrooms.

Chris (07:07):

Sales is how you keep your business alive.

Andrew (07:09):

Who handles sales at your gym? If you don’t know here’s what to do about it.

Chris (07:14):

Gino Wickman writes about these three chairs, which I call the meta roles, in his books “Traction” and “Get a Grip.” Other authors have said the same basic concept, and I wrote about it in “Farmer, Founder, Tinker, Thief.” So sales includes offering your services to past clients, current clients and future clients. It means offering your service to clients’ families, their work mates and their friends. In other words, sales means helping people with one degree of separation or less. When you’re selling to strangers, that’s called marketing. If selling though is everyone’s job, it’s no one’s job. Someone has to get good at this. Now that doesn’t mean they have to be dishonest or slimy or greedy. It means they have to do their client the ultimate service.

Chris (08:01):

They must discover how they can help first and then help most and then help forever. I certainly want someone to tell me what to do most of the time. I don’t want to figure out how to change the oil in my new truck. I don’t want to repair the roof of my cottage or change the chain on my chainsaw. I want somebody to say, I’ve got this. What’s your credit card number. If you own a gym, your clients don’t want to figure out nutrition on their own. They’ve probably already failed at it. They don’t want to figure out how to avoid an injury. They don’t want to figure out how to do a power clean correctly, or how to climb a rope. They want you to solve the problem and that my friend is selling. And it’s your job. You need to get comfortable at sales, but eventually you need to train someone else to be in charge of selling. The move from farmer phase to tinker phase depends on your ability to pass the sales hat to someone else on your team. But most business owners don’t hire salespeople.

Chris (09:06):

Most gym owners hire coaches. Most butchers hire assistant butchers. Most chefs hire prep cooks instead of hiring to fill the roles in their business. They try to duplicate themselves. And so they’re trapped in the farmer phase forever because no one else can sell clients. So their business can’t grow without their constant presence. Hiring a sales person is a critical step toward wealth. If you’re the only one who can sell your service, you’ll always be tied to your appointment calendar and your gym will never have a secure foundation. Next I’ll tell you how to find train, compensate, and manage a sales person in your gym.

Chris (09:47):

You need someone to sell. In the founder phase, that’s you and maybe in the farmer phase, you hire staff to fulfill your operations, but you keep the sales process to yourself. I get it. No one else is as passionate as you. No one else understands every little facet of your service and no one else should see the money, right? Well, all those are false. And if you believe any of them, you’re probably not great at sales. Here’s how to find, hire, train, and compensate a sales person in your business. First, you can download our done for you hiring plan and detailed job descriptions by clicking the link below. More on that topic in just a second. Two-Brain Radio is brought to you by AGuard, providing elite insurance for fitness and sport. AGuard offers coverage for functional fitness facilities, mixed martial arts gyms and even events and competitions. You can also get access to healthcare insurance, discounted AEDs and discounted background checks. AGuard’s coverage options are designed to keep you safe. To find out more, visit affiliat

Andrew (10:44):

You need a salesperson. Here’s how to find, train and compensate the perfect person.

Chris (10:53):

The type of salesperson you hire and their compensation will depend on which phase of the entrepreneurial journey you’re in. Founder, farmer, tinker thief. And if you’re not sure which phase you’re in, you can take our test at If you’re in the founder phase, you are it. When you launch your gym, you have to do everything. The key is to keep time available for sales and to master the mindset of helping first. You need a lot of reps when you’re learning how to sell, and opening a gym is a great way to get them. You’ll attract people in your area who are already interested, just because you’re new.

Chris (11:30):

We call these warm leads and your conversion rate should be very close to a hundred percent. So here are the keys to selling in the founder phase. First practice your sales practice, like a no sweat intro, on friends and family, because you can’t afford to blow it on a real customer. Second, doing a free demo or trial isn’t selling, selling is accepting their payment method. Third ask for referalls. Don’t just wait and hope that they magically happen. Compensation in the founder phase, you eat what you kill. In the farmer phase, your goal is to train others to sell. As your team expands, you should have more time for sales and marketing. We call this process climbing the value ladder. And at the top of that ladder are the sales and marketing roles. As you move from affinity marketing to paid lead generation, you should be the one with enough time to talk with potential new clients.

Chris (12:20):

That means you should educate yourself on sales the way you educate yourself on programming. Practice role playing the way you practice the snatch and spend 20 minutes on sales for every one minute you spend on marketing. But your coaches will also need to learn how to sell because they’ll be growing their income onto your brand. They’ll need to sell personal training nutrition or whatever their specialty program might be. So training them to sell will also help them increase their income. Every month you should track your sales and marketing metrics on the Two-Brain dashboard. Track your set rate, show rate, and close rate for your leads. Work to improve the close rate before you increase ad spend. Here are the keys to sales in the farmer phase. First, time spent roleplaying means you won’t make expensive mistakes on real clients. Second, learn the prescriptive model and read “Help First.”

Chris (13:12):

Third, track your metrics and your staff’s metrics compensation. The farmer phase, you don’t get paid directly for selling, but as your arm and leg increase, you’ll earn more through profit. Staffing. If your leads are organic, nearly every intro appointment booked should sign up. Your close rate should be close to a hundred percent. So other coaches should do these appointments to get new clients for personal training. Their sales reward, their compensation is a new client. Your greatest aid to them will be more sales training. But keep a close eye on the close rate. If it dips below 80%, either your staff needs help or your leads aren’t really warm anymore. Also for staff compensation, if you’re using paid lead generation like Facebook ads, you might need to pay your coaches to take appointments. Start by getting them a solid sales training foundation in our incubator program.

Chris (14:04):

Then role play with them a lot. Then pay them a nominal rate, like $10 per appointment to take intros if your schedule is filled. Keep a very close eye on everyone’s close rate. You can’t afford to put paid leads into leaky buckets. Over time, optimize to guide most paid leads toward the staff person with the highest close rate. If your close rate is highest among the staff, double their training and practice. You must replace yourself in this role or your gym will never be independent of your time. In the tinker phase, you need to replace yourself completely at sales. Tinkers build a wealth platform. You can read my series on wealth if you click the link below. That means tinkers must have freedom of income and time. And if you’re the only one in the company who can sell, you don’t have the time to move on to the next stage.

Chris (14:52):

Worse, your company can’t grow without your constant hand on the pump. When your gym reaches this size, it might be worth bringing in a specialist. Good salespeople should more than pay for themselves. Here are the keys to selling in the tinker phase. Your sales team must report their KPIs. Every month. Your sales team should work very closely with your marketing plan. Your sales teams should be proactive. Instead of blaming seasonality or poor ad targeting, they should seek opportunities to increase sales using the affinity marketing plan. Compensation for your sales team, up to $30 per closed sale. And you can download our part time sales manager position by clicking the link below. In the thief phase, of sales, you should be too busy to grab coffee. When you’re focused on giving money away, you shouldn’t have time for sales. Here’s an example. I regularly get requests on LinkedIn from software companies.

Chris (15:46):

They want to talk about partnerships. So I send them to our partnership coordinator. Sometimes they don’t like the answer they hear from them because we say no to most partners, especially when they don’t meet the Two-Brain standard of excellence. So then they come back to me and they say, if I could just get 30 minutes to show you the platform, I know you’d love it. But the best possible outcome of that 30 minutes for them is that I say, OK, let me get involved and override my partnership coordinator’s decision. That’s a horrible outcome for the partnership coordinator and a horrible outcome for me because I’ll be back doing his job again. When gym owners write me back after reading a love letter, it makes my day. But if they want to get more information about mentorship, I send them to my sales experts because I don’t want to waste their time.

Chris (16:29):

They shouldn’t have to tell their story twice. They should just get themselves onto the right path. Now, I also get requests from locals who want to talk about their fitness. So I sent them to our gym sales department. If I grab a coffee with them first, I take 30 minutes of their time. And then I send them to the gym to repeat the process anyway. So why not get them started on the path to fitness and happiness a day sooner. To move forward as an entrepreneur, your business must run itself. That means completely replacing yourself in all roles, including operations and growth. And that means hiring somebody to do sales for you.

Andrew (17:05):

Marketing. Here’s why you should use affinity marketing before paid advertising to grow your gym.

Chris (17:12):

From affinity marketing to infinity. Every business needs marketing. We all agree on that. But what is marketing? Is that a team of 13 Facebook experts, tweaking landing page scripts and generating click funnels reports? Or is it one mom saying, come with me to her best friend at the book club? Well, it’s both of course. And while everyone agrees that word of mouth marketing is a powerful force. It’s too passive for most businesses in the founder or farmer phases. We can’t afford to wait. At Two-Brain, we split our marketing into two parts, affinity marketing and digital marketing. First, we train entrepreneurs to be good at sales. If you’ve read “Help First,” you know that you don’t have to feel like a slimy salesman, but you do have to sell removing barriers to entry, learning how to ask people to pay and simply coaching people to the best result are all skills that can be mastered with practice. But few spend time practicing their sales skills.

Chris (18:07):

You should hone your sales skills because they are a marketing multiplier. For example, let’s say two personal trainers. Each spend a hundred dollars on a Facebook ad. They use one of our templates. So they have pictures and texts ready to go. Let’s say each of those ads generates 10 leads for each trainer. Now, if trainer number one is trained in sales, he knows how to call a potential client. After they fill out the form, he makes sure they booked an appointment and tells them what to expect. He helps ease their transition into the gym. This means 7 out of 10 leads show up and talk to him. And since he’s good at the help first model, he knows how to actually recommend the service they need. Instead of selling another six week revolving door challenge, four out of those seven convert purchasing a high value entry point for $499.

Chris (18:55):

His ROI on a Facebook ad is $1,996 with a hundred dollars in ad spend or nearly 20 X. If trainer two isn’t trained in sales, she doesn’t call potential clients after they fill out a form, even though they’ve indicated their interest, she doesn’t want to seem pushy. So she doesn’t help them over their fear threshold. Three out of 10 leads show up for their appointment. And because the trainer can’t clearly lay out their best path, only one signs up for her intro package of five sessions for 199. Her ROI on the Facebook ads is 199 with a hundred dollars in ad spend or nearly two X. A two X return on any marketing investment is still great, but sales training makes it far more rewarding. It’s a multiplier. Second, we teach affinity marketing. Imagine a bulls eye with your best clients in the center dot. Surrounding the dot are the people closest to your best clients.

Chris (19:46):

Moving out from center, the next circle represents your best clients’ coworkers. And the third circle represents their friends. As the circles grow in size, they move farther away from center. The people closest to the center dot are just like your best clients. They can afford your service. They already understand its value and they know a person they care about is in love with your service. They know like, and trust you already. It’s your responsibility to help them. The affinity marketing process helps entrepreneurs identify those high affinity clients, create a proposal to help them and then convert them into clients. These people don’t need filtering. They need someone to say, come with me, I’ll show you. They don’t need an ad. They just need a hand. And affinity marketing is also our multiplier for the digital marketing to come later because every new client is in the center ring of a new bullseye. Affinity marketing is also an easy, natural offshoot of regular goal reviews, which is a critical part of your retention plan anyway. Third, we teach lead nurture when someone indicates interest in your service, but isn’t ready to sign up right away, what do you do then? You write them love letters. You make them podcasts and YouTube videos and other presents to show them you care. You tell them how you’re going to solve their problem. And you prove your skill by telling stories about others. Two-Brain entrepreneurs produce a lot of content in a caring, engaging way because no one gets married on a first date. And then finally, after all of that, we teach digital marketing. When an entrepreneur enters the farmer phase, they must begin selling to strangers. The power of storytelling platforms like Facebook and Instagram are incredible. Consider them the top of your marketing funnel. They’re the way you meet strangers and start a conversation.

Andrew (21:30):

This has been another episode of Two-Brain Radio with Chris Cooper. Please subscribe for more episodes, wherever you get your podcasts.


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