Monday, August 2, 2010

The Perfect Sales Pitch


After a four-month break from the gym, it was time for me to regain the lost health. And so, keeping my options open, I went to a fitness centre close to my workplace to see what it could offer me. “Good evening, sir,” said a young and cheerful attendant, Mohit, ushering me into the lobby. “Please have a seat,” he said, sitting opposite me on the sofa. “Can I get you something to drink – tea, coffee or soft drinks?” he enquired. And while my tea arrived, he fetched his notepad and pen. “Have you visited our centre before, sir?” he asked politely. “No, this is my first visit,” I replied. “Then, please allow me to show you around,” he suggested, getting up from his seat and guiding me in the direction of the cardio section.

It was indeed a pleasant and genuine greeting. I kept registering in my mind and couldn’t help relate to what we train retailers in – a good opening line and a quick tour. I found the mannerisms of the attendant impressive and began to feel at home. Perhaps, my long search for a fitness centre had ended.

There were many other factors that could go wrong, and so I chose not to decide so quickly. “We are a UK- based fitness centre, operating over 500 fitness centres in 20 countries. In India, we have four centres – two in Delhi and one each in Bangalore and Mumbai,” he said as we embarked on the quick tour. “We have the best of equipment, sir,” he pointed as we passed the cross-training section, which looked like an assembly of stationary robots with handles and pedals at odd angles.

As I walked past, I couldn’t help but admire a few determined souls who were wrestling with those equipment with their hands pulling bars, their complaining legs pushing pedals, their foreheads filled with beads of sweat and almost all of them panting for breath.

“To our right is the lounge where members can relax,” he said. Some, who had finished their workout for the day, were watching TV or flipping through magazines.

When we reached the cardio section, all I saw was another assembly of equipment – treadmills, cross-trainers, cycles, steppers and other equipment. They were all facing a glass wall at the far end, which gave a rather unsightly view of the road below. Suspended from the ceiling against the glass wall were half-a- dozen 48-inch LCD TVs. After returning from the cardio floor, Mohit took me into the inner recesses of the centre. On the right we passed other equipment. They were all facing a glass wall at the far end, which gave a rather unsightly view of the road below. Suspended from the ceiling against the glass wall were half-a- dozen 48-inch LCD TVs.

After returning from the cardio floor, Mohit took me into the inner recesses of the centre. On the right we passed a small room, whose floor, walls and ceiling resembled that of a dance floor in a discotheque. It had several stationary cycles and an elevated platform at the far end. “This is our RPM studio,” he introduced.

To the left we passed the weights area, which had a sound-proof soft flooring, as against the wooden flooring in the rest of the centre. In front of us was a larger studio. On the stage at the far end was an instructor with a microphone, who was making 20-odd enthusiasts move their bodies to her instructions. “This is where we conduct aerobics, kick-boxing, pilates and yoga sessions, sir,” said Mohit, as I stood admiring their synchronised steps. He then pointed to a wall behind us that had a huge display of the schedule for the month, featuring various sessions at the large studio. Our next few stops included the locker room, sauna and washrooms – all very clean and hygienic.

The fitness centre was indeed well- equipped, a main criterion for making the ‘buying’ decision. But many times, a good product is not enough to make people buy it, understanding the customer’s needs is equally important, if not more.

As we returned to the consulting table, Mohit began to know me and my needs better. “Sir, do you live close by?” he had begun to probe amiably. “No, I work close by,” I replied and added “I’d like to work out after office.” Trying to help me in suggesting the right fitness solution, he made me provide him more information. “You see, I have a long drive back home,” I felt encouraged to say, “and it does not help one bit that I end up very late at the gym near home where I used to work out earlier.”

“As a result, I’ve been very irregular, and I’d like to fix it,” I said, feeling rather guilty about the hiatus from the gym. “I can see that you are very determined to keep yourself fit. That’s very good, sir,” he said, half complimenting and half reassuring me that I was being clever about wanting to choose a gym close to office. All this was only making me more convinced that this could indeed be the right place for me. However, I still didn’t want to jump to any conclusion.

“What is your motive for working out, sir?” he asked. “I’d like to keep myself generally fit and it would also help if my fitness helps me play better golf,” I said. “That’s very interesting. We have some golfers as our members and you would love to work out here,” he said, letting me know that I would be making the right choice if I enrolled at their centre. He was not just reassuring me, but was also preempting my “post-purchase dissonance” if I decided to enroll there.

“Sir, now that I understand your requirements, let me explain how we help people with their fitness needs,” Mohit said, slipping into demonstrating various options. “I’d like to offer you a two-day no- obligation trial that lets you use our club and all the services. You can then decide which membership plan you’d like to enroll into,” he said.

Although it sounded like a bait, it was equivalent to a test-drive and so I accepted it. “What are the different membership plans that you offer?” I asked. And he explained the four, six and 12-month membership plans and how much they were priced. I told him that I felt the joining fee was unnecessary, but the administration charges were understandable. I had begun to raise objections and it was his turn and really his last opportunity to save all the good work he’d done so far by overcoming my objections.

“I’d like you to use our facilities today and decide for yourself, sir,” he repeated and continued to highlight the benefits of their membership that he’d shared with me during the quick tour – unlimited access to using the gym at any time during working hours, renting DVDs, using sauna and the lounge, etc at no additional costs.

And, as if showing me around the fitness centre and highlighting the benefits of the membership weren’t enough, he enticed me with free personal training sessions. “If you enroll today, in addition to all the benefits that I have just mentioned, I can offer you five sessions of personal training for free,” he said, adding, “personal training is a charged service in which we assign you a fitness expert, who assesses your fitness levels and designs a personal training programme to meet your fitness needs.” Now, that was a clincher.

I had been evaluating Mohit for his behavior and salesmanship. He had been very cordial to me from the word go, and had made me feel comfortable. He had taken me on a quick tour of the centre, explaining all the different services and their benefits to me. I was convinced by now that this was meeting my needs and I was seriously considering enrolling the same day, although I had the two-day free trial available. As I got lost mentally weighing the pros and cons and calculating the ‘value’ I was deriving for the ‘price’ I had to pay to access the benefits…Mohit timed his ‘closing the sale’ appropriately. ‘I think this is one of the best deals you will get and I think you should enroll today to avail the offer Sir’ he said, persuading me gently to make the purchase. ‘Why don’t I introduce you to a personal trainer, who will assist you in using our facilities for today and I will wait for your decision after you are done with your workout’ he said with his charming smile.

Mohit indeed had put up an excellent sales presentation by connecting with me more like a consultant who’d help me make the right decision on the choice of a fitness centre. He knew about their services well (product knowledge) and kept continuously probing to uncover my needs and arrive at the right solution for me. He had demonstrated the value both, in his behavior and the physical tour of the centre. He had handled my objections well and I believed he had offered me a good deal, although the price I was willing to pay was quite significant for a six-month membership...of course, I didn’t need too long thereafter to sign on the dotted line.