Several years ago, I decided to get in shape and took a one-week free trail at a then-popular gym chain. I’d never joined a gym before. After my week ended, I felt great having exercised and taken a step toward better fitness. I wanted to keep going.

I walked into the sales office with a representative. At the desk, the salesman presented me with contract options, each more unattractive than the last. I explained that I liked the gym okay, and I wanted to continue to work out, but locking in to a three-year contract with automatic bank drafting made me feel like I was purchasing a car, not a gym membership. I asked for something a little more lenient on the commitment scale.

His reaction? “Well, if you don’t think we’re worth it, or that your health isn’t worth it, you shouldn’t sign up.”

Surprised? Imagine how I felt sitting there, eager for advice and options, wanting to sign up for something so I could continue working out.

Our conversation spiraled down from there, and I left, never to return.

Oh, I kept working out. That very weekend I visited the gym down the street from them and explained to a salesman what had happened at the other place. He listened, told me about his gym, offered a tour, and then came up with the perfect plan for me: no auto-deductions, and at the end of my commitment, I wouldn’t be left feeling as if I should expect a title in the mail.

So, what went wrong at desk number one, anyway? And not just at that desk, but why do hot prospects walk away, never to be seen again, when the deal seems inevitable?

It will happen from time to time no matter what. It’s happened to me. Sometimes I can think back and see why I missed out, but other situations are plain mysteries. But, let’s take a look at a few of the sales-killing greatest hits.


Trying to Close the Sale Before Seeking to Understand What a Client Needs

There are many reasons this happens. How about really needing to secure new clients, or genuine excitement and passion about training, or sometimes (and this is one nobody wants to admit to) plain laziness?

One way to stand apart in your field is to truly listen and understand how/if you can help people meet their goals. After a consultation about their needs and what you can offer to help them, you’ll have a more effortless transition when it’s time to ask for the contract. You will already have sold them on your value.

Trying to Close the Sale Before Earning Business

Sales can be tiring. Perpetually hunting down new business is few people’s idea of a good time. If we aren’t careful, all that fun can reflect in our attitude when dealing with new potential clients. It leads to rushing through the process on autopilot. This is when people suddenly feel the need to “think about it.” They haven’t heard enough about the trainer’s specialties, his style, or how he can help them reach their goals. All they have is a price list and contract terms.

Think about how you can offer more. Will it be a free workout? A chat where you demonstrate your expertise in a fitness area and offer a couple of tips? Don’t be afraid to help in small ways up front before the contract. People appreciate genuine assistance, and here you have a perfect opportunity to put the “personal” back in personal training.

Trying to Close the Sale Thinking Everyone Wants What You’re Selling

If a trainer takes on the attitude that all trainers are the same, offer the same, know about the exact same things, etc., it can translate into less effort when trying to get new business. Sometimes it isn’t intentional; most of us fall into the occasional rut.

But, think of this way: How hard is it to sell an orange? Either the customer wants an orange or he doesn’t, and he can pick one up from any grocer. He walks into the store, gets an orange, pays, and leaves. He knows what to expect from the orange. Big deal. No one even talks to him.

It’s important to know what you bring to the table, what makes you stand out, and why someone should choose you over that gym or trainer down the street. But it’s not enough to know it. Be sure to take time to communicate it with your personality and your presentation. This is your time to shine! Even if you happen to sell an “orange” from time to time, just imagine how much more business could be had with a bit more effort!

Quick question! What is your best/worst sales encounter? We want to hear about it. Leave us a comment on facebook, and let’s start a conversation.

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Tanisha Rule

Tanisha Rule has a BA in English and is a former Mad Dogg-certified Spinning instructor. She taught indoor cycle and boot camp and has now combined her passions as a full-time writer for the health and fitness industries, check out her site at If she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found happily training for an endurance event, likely after having said, “This is my last one for a while,” because there is no finish line; there is only progress.