How to Hack Today’s Competitive Fitness Market

Two IHRSA European Congress speakers share their strategies to lead strong teams in a changing world and unlock the secrets of elite sellers.

Across the fitness industry, competition is becoming more fierce—both for employees and customers. Health club operators must navigate changing workplaces and employee expectations, while at the same time selling to increasingly sophisticated consumers.

The good news is there are strategies you can implement in your business to hack today’s competitive marketplace. At the 2019 IHRSA European Congress, October 14-17 in Dublin, our curated keynote speakers will share their expert advice on how to do just that.

On Monday, October 14, British adventurer and entrepreneur Caspar Craven will present “Team Dynamics in a Changing World”; on Tuesday, October 15, French sales specialist and author Michaël Aguilar will present “The Secret of Elite Sellers” (both sponsored by Technogym); and on Wednesday, October 16, British Innovation Futurist Shivvy Jervis will present “Survive Digital Disruption and Triumph” (sponsored by Les Mills International).

We spoke to Craven and Aguilar to learn more about today’s teams, sales strategies, and other ways health club businesses can get ahead—and stay ahead.

Learn what your team really needs when faced with turbulent times and there seems to be no answers—only questions. Discover how to create a team that can thrive in a world of change.

On Monday, October 14, adventurer and entrepreneur Caspar Craven will use his experiences and expertise to share how collaboration and teamwork can become the standard for your company. Empower your teams to make brave decisions, and learn why change can be the best thing for your business.

Your keynote presentation is titled “Team Dynamics in a Changing World.” How have team dynamics changed over the years?

The core of team dynamics is how we relate to and interact with other people. People haven’t changed, but the world that we operate in has changed and we need to recognise that fact.

Over the past few decades many shifts have happened which have had an impact on us as people. The use of technology, the shift in our culture with the use of smartphones, the gig economy, and that many more of us work remotely has changed the way we used to interact.

Good communication still sits at the heart of good team dynamics. We have little choice but to embrace the changes, and leaders and managers need to adapt to these shifts and work to ensure the team dynamics in your health clubs remain strong.

How have your experiences shaped your approach to collaboration and teamwork?

My early working life was in a period of management as opposed to leadership. It wasn’t collaborative and was driven by the ideas of the top person setting the agenda and a micro-management rigid approach.

This approach came unstuck for me as I pushed my business through a growth phase using this approach. It’s unsustainable to hire smart people and then tell them what to do as, firstly, you won’t get the best from them and, secondly, they won’t stick around long.

My turning point was realising that it was about “we” rather than “me.” My old approach wasn’t working and we had to really understand what was driving each individual person and get each team member doing things they loved doing and developing deep skills in each of those areas.

Sitting right at the heart of a team are individuals with feelings and emotions. Make them feel listened to, make them feel valued, and develop their skills to be the best that they can be. It’s the same in a family team as it is in a business team.

Is change good for business? How might change impact the fitness industry?

Whether you view change as good or bad, one thing we can’t avoid is that it’s inevitable. We are continually being disrupted by new technology and innovation the world over.

This change creates new opportunities. New opportunities for the fleet of foot to seize to gain a competitive advantage. These changes drives competition, which for me, is a good thing for delivering the best outcome for our customers.

“People haven’t changed, but the world that we operate in has changed and we need to recognise that fact.”

Caspar Craven, Adventurer & Entrepreneur

One specific thing I see applying this to the fitness industry is the data and insight that is becoming available through consumer devices and will increasingly come from tracking and analysing our bio-data. This will create real opportunities to add more value to customers.

I’ve noticed that in most sectors, it's often the company that makes best use of the data and insight is the one that wins. In the fitness industry, I don’t see [how] this will be any different—understanding how your customers use your services and how you can use technology to deliver better outcomes for them.

How can health club owners create a team that can thrive in a world of change?

There are several things. The first is to get really clear on what I call the “intent.” What’s the single most important message you want your team to own to guide their actions? What’s the driving force behind the mission of the organisation? Get clear on this so there is clarity for everyone in the team.

Shape the culture of the team (I like to use values for this) by talking about what you want to see more of. What are good behaviors that will let your health club thrive? Publicly talk about these and use fun micro rewards so everyone knows what they are aiming at.

Listen to each team member and what they want in their role. Figure out how you can help them achieve their goals and you’ll have a team that will be committed and capable of thriving in a world of change.

How can health club owners empower their teams to make brave decisions?

Empower your teams to make brave decisions by being super clear on the intent of the club. What’s our purpose and why are we here for our customers?

Have a really clear set of values talking about the behaviors you want to see more of. Be specific and concrete with the values by talking about specific examples of that value in action. For example, when one person was struggling to complete a specific project, another team member stayed late to help them figure it out, we demonstrated the value of teamwork at its very best.

Let teams know that if they operate in accordance with the intent and the values they are empowered to make their own brave decisions. If they make mistakes don’t vilify them—ask them what have they learnt and what are they going to do differently next time.

The single best way to disempower people is to micro-manage them! It leaves a clear message “I don’t trust you” and in that environment its hard to make brave decisions.

What will IHRSA European Congress attendees take away from your presentation?

I’ll share powerful messages around how to build a winning team that can thrive in times of uncertainty and that can rapidly adapt.

I’ll draw on unforgettable stories from both the world of business, family, and adventure to talk about the power of a bold story, how to develop a culture of we, not me, and how to build and shape a winning team. We’ll talk about the role that curiosity plays, how to focus on the things that have the biggest impact, and how to create resilience and the belief that you can achieve your goals.

Some sellers achieve an extraordinary level of commercial performance. These are the “elite sellers.”

On Tuesday, October 15, sales specialist and author Michaël Aguilar will deliver an animated session in which you will learn who these sellers are, what they do and why they succeed even among other vendors with the same services and products. Learn to apply the best techniques for your sales situation. Aguilar brings real examples to light, as you can learn to compare and improve your best practices.

Your IHRSA European Congress session is called “The Secret of Elite Sellers.” What makes a company an “elite seller”?

It’s definitely the real focus on the customer satisfaction. One hundred percent of companies pretend to be focused on the client satisfaction, but very few are really dedicated to it. Just call your bank or your telephone company and you’ll have to deal with an answering machine or be sent to [the] internet where you are supposed to find your answer in a list of FAQ where your case is never mentioned.

Moreover, it’s a company where all the employees have the feeling that the customer is their boss and that they work for him/her and not only for the sales department or the customer relations department! For me, Apple is the perfect example of an elite seller company.

What are some common traits that elite sellers have that help them stand out from the competition?

An elite salesman is first and foremost someone who has a good mindset and strong mental qualities. The most important problem is that you cannot recognize these qualities throughout a conversation. Indeed, self-confidence, optimism, self-esteem, and courage are not qualities that you can assess during an interaction.

“One hundred percent of companies pretend to be focused on the client satisfaction, but very few are really dedicated to it.”

Michaël Aguilar, Sales Specialist & Author

This is why so many recruiters make mistakes when they try to evaluate the sales capacities of a sales person. So many people are considered to have poor potential and finally reveal themselves as elite sales people. However, other qualities matter very much, like enthusiasm, passion, willingness to help, knowledge of the product, know-how (selling skills), and of course the most important ones: listening skills and curiosity.

What can health club owners learn from elite sellers?

What they’ll learn for sure is that selling is above all a matter of trust and confidence, as the top sellers are those who believe the most in their product/service and company. That is why the goal of the owner, with his sales team, is to make them believe that they sell the best product/service or give the best value for money. They have to provide their teams with evidence of the quality of the service or their great positioning.

What techniques can health club owners use to improve their sales?

The sales techniques are very simple to understand but quite hard to implement. Asking better questions is not so easy because sales people are always [in a] hurry to pitch their products. Understanding the needs and real motives of the client is from far the most important skill. Then comes the ability to argue and to create the desire for buying.

Lastly, the ability to close the sale is key. But beware, the client hates to feel that we try to force their hand, therefore, the closing technique has to be really soft and subtle to be successful; however, not so many people know how to achieve it.

What will attendees take away from your presentation?

Inspiration, impactful content, and some very powerful ideas to improve their ability to sell more and more often. But the most important benefit is that they will leave the conference with a desire to sell tenfold.

Author avatar

Marianne Aiello

Marianne Aiello previously served as IHRSA's Senior Digital Content Manager—a position focused on crafting and monitoring IHRSA’s digital strategy and covering IHRSA events.