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The Gym, a Great Place for a Mental Workout? LA Fitness Diminishes Value with Poor Sales Tactics

Posted on March 4, 2009 by Vanessa

I am an LA Fitness customer, but I am pretty good about dealing with salesman so I either didn’t have the problem I am about to explain to you, or LA Fitness taught far different sales tactics when I signed up as opposed to when I recommended that a friend of mine join.  Herein lies the problem, I recommended my gym to my friend so we could go together, not realizing that I was going to put her through an hour of misery in doing so.  I was given a free pass from LA Fitness so I decided to give it to a friend that was interested in joining a gym.  Little did I know that when someone walks into an LA Fitness with one of these free passes they are treated like a piece of meat in a piranha filled fish tank!  Don’t get me wrong, I understand sales, sales tactics, promotional materials, etc., but what I don’t understand is how a company can completely diminish their value proposition, by treating potential customers as nothing more than the next commission.

The Sales Pitch

Enter my friend and I, we are going to a class, we explain that we will be happy to sit down with one of their salesman as soon as it is over so we can get the spaces we want.  After, convincing them that we wouldn’t leave prior to doing so (they held my friends drivers license to insure it) we moved on and went to our class.  My friend really enjoyed the class as well as other amenities that were offered there as well, and it looked like she was seriously considering joining their gym.  We did what we said we would do and met with the salesman before we left.  Before I go further in the story I want to mention that as soon as the salesman sat down I thought of this quiz from BNET, and wished I had a copy to give to this guy who was clearly a peddler.  I didn’t, so I endured the borderline torturous sales pitch with my friend.

He starts his pitch, acting sympathetic and understanding, by asking my friend her height, weight, dress size, and how many pounds she wanted to lose.  I understand that these questions may be relevant at some point, but it didn’t make any sense to me to start with this opening remark unless he was deliberately trying to belittle my friend, almost like a warm up.  A warm up that’s purpose is to make someone feel as vulnerable as possible so that you can pounce on them in your next move.  Don’t get me wrong, my friend is not fat, but what girl wants to give out that information unless they are 5’10”, and 130 lbs?  Most girls I know don’t.  I asked him why he started with such questions instead of offering their value proposition, because regardless of which gym she joins she is still going to be the same height, weight, etc. so that doesn’t really make a difference when deciding between competitors, at least not in this case.  He, obviously very irritated with me, proceeded with a story about a woman who had just started going there a few months ago and had lost forty pounds in one month, as if that was a good thing.  I let him know that not only was that unhealthy, but dangerous and an obvious load of nonsense, and proceeded to tell him we were interested in being healthy, not emaciated.  So he changes his strategy, I am assuming that he went the vanity route because we were female, and starts talking about health.  He honestly asked what kind of price she was willing to put on her health, as if joining their gym meant the difference between life and death!  Needless to say we went on like this for more than an hour where he proceeded to make analogies between the value of life and money, told us stories about how he felt it was so important that he bought all of his family members gym memberships, reminded us of his “Associate Manager” status as if we cared, and so on.  Although he disregarded the fact that she said she wasn’t going to do anything without talking to her husband we were finally able to get out of there.

The Moral

So what is the moral to the story?  Don’t ever recommend LA Fitness?  No, well maybe, but the moral is that people aren’t morons, don’t want to be treated like they are, and really aren’t interested in dealing with pushy salesman types, so don’t act like one!

I know that there are persuasion tactics and a lot of them are probably useful, but there were some obvious bad moves on the part of this, associate manager.  There are reasons that customers return to companies that treat them well, and I doubt this is an example of what a consumer would consider a positive experience.  I for one will never recommend them again, but maybe if he had approached the sale differently I wouldn’t have such a sour taste in my mouth.

Here are sales tactics that were used as opposed to the actual value he could have shared:

Tactic

Fear-then-relief (FTR) – The general idea behind this concept is to invoke fear in the person and then when they respond with reactions that are seeking a solution the salesperson can then lead them in the direction of their choosing.  He slightly tweaked this one and invoked discomfort and lack of self-confidence when going over weight, dress size, etc. and then offered their gym as a source of relief to these feelings.

Tactic

Bait-and-switch – This sales concept refers to the offer that is too good to be true, and too good to pass up.  Well, usually when something is too good to be true, it really is too good to be true.  This was his approach when trying to convince us that we would be super skinny after one month, just like one of their other members.

Tactic

All prospects are liars – The idea behind this approach is the thought process that all of the excuses that are being given to not sign up for the salesman’s product are a lie.  So when my friend said she wouldn’t sign up without speaking to her husband he assumed that he just needed to convince her a bit further.

Tactic

Time is money – By reinforcing his position at the company he was attempting to make the potential prospect feel like he had other clients he could be working with at the time, and therefore she should be thankful for the time he was spending with her.  This also reinforces his importance at the company so that we didn’t try to take the control or lead the conversation.

Notice that he didn’t reveal any actual real value that could be gained by signing up for their gym over the other gyms that she was reviewing at the time?

There were probably many more sales tactics used, but these are the ones that stood out, and if this is what works for their industry then more power to them, but I don’t know how many of their customers actually feel a positive mutual relationship with companies that sell in this way.  Look for recommended sales approaches in a follow up post, who knows, maybe the associate manager will have changed his ways, but I doubt it.



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