by Michael Keeler


For most brick-and-mortar fitness facilities, our greatest sales tool is the 1-hour personal consultation.

Whether you call it a Success Session, or tour, or some other clever thing, the goal is to get a prospect into your facility and have them buy something.

When it comes to the topic of sales, there is not much that everyone agrees with. Some companies swear by “hard sell” strategies, pushing to overcome every buyer’s objections until the prospect gives in from exhaustion — like a fisherman playing a 3-hour tug-of-war with a fish. Other companies rely heavily on long-term courting — drip feeding prospects bits of content over time hoping they will walk in the door one day and buy something.

There is value in approaches at both ends of the spectrum and this article isn’t about any one strategy. I believe there is a common thread in all of these sales tactics that can make them effective.

The one rule that you find at the heart of every sales approach is that people buy from people they like and trust. They don’t buy from businesses. They don’t buy exclusively because of price, or quality, or reputation. They won’t always buy because of urgency or need.

The one sales component with the strongest correlation to sales success is having a sales team that is laser-focused on building each prospect’s trust.

Researcher (and TED talk superstar) Brene Brown describes building trust like this…

“Whenever someone supports you, or is kind to you, or sticks up for you, or honors what you share with them as private, you put marbles in the jar. When people are mean, or disrespectful, or share your secrets, marbles come out… Trust is built one marble at a time.”

Ideally your sales process is an opportunity to fill up your prospect’s jar of marbles as much and as quickly as possible.

You do that by creating moments to acknowledge and support your prospect throughout the consultation, small gestures that quickly add up to mutual trust.

All too often I’ve seen sales consultations designed to break-em-down to build-em-up. We make the clients feel like crap, pushing all their pain points so that we can swoop in and be their hero by offering a solution to all the problems we just exacerbated. This approach will absolutely get results and, in a vacuum, there’s nothing “wrong” with it.

But for me, it just kinda feels icky. It doesn’t align with my integrity and has a high likelihood of not adding any trust marbles to the jar.

I’d rather build long-term relationships with my clients built on trust than have short-term sales built on (often well-intention-ed) manipulation.

Here are 5 ways to increase your sales conversation and build trust on a prospect’s first visit: 


1. Greet each prospect like he/she just arrived for their very own surprise birthday party.

Imagine if the first time Norm walked into Cheers (the bar in the TV show), they all yelled “Norm!” with a big warm smile. Wouldn’t that be a great first impression? Setting aside that I just dated myself by referencing a sitcom from the 80’s and that Norm might get a little creeped-out by a room full of strangers knowing his name, my point remains…

You have to make a killer first impression when your prospect first walks in the door. They should feel welcomed and appreciated starting with their first contact with your staff.

We have a rule at MFF that whenever someone walks in the front door they should be acknowledged (verbally or non-verbally) within 30 seconds. If it’s a prospect who has arrived for a consultation they should be offered a free drink, be engaged in conversation, and be asked to wait no more than 3 minutes before someone officially greets them to begin the consultation process.

Why all the fuss and high expectations?

We want to earn their trust. The prospect’s first impression should be, “Wow, these guys really give a shit about me!”

Setting the tone right off the bat that we care and that the prospect is important to us is… A. true, and B. a great foundation on which to build the rest of the sales consultation.

2. Ensure your sales team is ruthlessly authentic.

People can smell fake-ness a mile away. We all know when someone isn’t being authentic. If your sales team isn’t genuinely interested in meeting new people and inviting them into your fitness community, you need to find them a new job immediately.

Seriously, welcoming potential clients into your business is not a job for someone who doesn’t truly enjoy it.

You might be thinking, “Cool, but I can’t expect my sales staff and trainers to be in a good mood and ready to serve all the time, right?”

Sure, I get it. Your team might not be able to show up authentically excited to work with a new prospect every day. Here’s the thing though, emotions are contagious. So if your salesperson is in a crappy mood because they were running late and got a speeding ticket, your prospect is going to know. If your salesperson is resentful because he/she had to cover someone’s shift who called out at the last minute, your prospect is going to know. If your salesperson if stressed out about the threat of getting fired if they don’t hit their sales goals, your prospect is going to know. Emotions are contagious.

Your sales staff has to practice being ruthlessly authentic in order to give your prospects the exciting, rewarding experience they deserve (and is going to result in a sale!).

How do they do that?

In one word, practice. Like all things, practice makes permanent.

I’ll use myself as an example. When I was young I was intensely afraid of public speaking. I grew up taking dance class and had no problem being on stage to dance. But the minute I had to open my mouth I was horrified — sweating, stumbling, and uncomfortable.

I wanted to choose to be confident and articulate, but the experience of fear and self-doubt was the only path I could see.

Like most stories of youthful triumph, I learned to lean into the discomfort and fake it until I made it. Over time and with practice, the butterflies and cold sweats started to diminish. They haven’t gone away completely – I still get some light butterflies and have to pee 20 times before doing any public speaking.

What changed is that I got really good at choosing confidence over fear. I learned that I get to choose how I show up in every moment — and not let my circumstances choose for me.

The same strategy can work for your sales team. With practice they can choose to show up for your clients in a way that is positive, warm, welcoming, and energized.

Call it a Jedi mind trick. Call it mastering your mindset. All I know is that when your team can show up authentically and build trust with your prospects, you can call it money in the bank.

3. Tell the truth about your motivation.

Your prospects know that you’re going to try to sell them something – don’t hide it. Explain to them upfront what your agenda is for the consultation. One of the fastest ways to lose trust is to make people feel like you’re doing a bait-and-switch. If your prospect is expecting the session to help them build a plan for losing 10 pounds and you spent half the session trying to convince them to buy something, you are bound to lose some trust marbles.

Getting clear about your intentions from the beginning will help you avoid any missed expectations between you and your prospect.

At MFF we start every Strategy Session with an explanation that sounds something like this…

“We’re going to spend about 1 hour together today, which is broken into 20 minute chunks. For the first 20 minutes, I’m going to ask you a ton of questions to learn more about you and your goals. We will spend the next 20 minutes moving around a little so I can see your body in action. We’ll also discuss any past injuries and take your measurements. For the last 20 minutes, I’m going to help you design a plan to achieve your goals and suggest a few membership options that are right for you. If I can create a membership that works for your goals and budget are you ready to get started today?”

Our motivation is super clear. It’s transparent about trying to sell them something, and it’s FULL of exercises that build value for the prospect. Plus it ends with a concise way to qualify your prospect and potentially earn a small “yes” — a winning combination!

4. Spend 80% of your time learning about your prospect.

Nerd alert!

Researchers from the Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab utilized functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore whether talking about the self would correspond with increased activity in areas of the brain associated with motivation and reward — and it did.

The areas of the brain activated when participants were asked to talk about themselves are “generally associated with reward, and have been linked to the pleasurable feelings and motivational states associated with stimuli such as sex, cocaine, and good food.”

“Disclosing private information to others can increase interpersonal liking and aid in the formation of new social bonds—outcomes that influence everything from physical survival to subjective happiness.” (source)

In short, it feels good to talk about ourselves. It increases our ability to connect with others, and can even affect our overall happiness.

Isn’t that exactly how you want your prospects to experience their first visit to your business?

How much more likely are your prospects to buy something from you if they feel good, connected to you, and happy?

Seems like a pretty great recipe for success, right?

Give it a try. Structure your sales consultation to spend 80% of your time listening to your prospect. Ask about their fitness history, their goals, their professional and personal life. Ask about their dreams and frustrations. Explore their fitness and nutrition habits. Help your prospect articulate a vision for what they want to accomplish by coming to your facility.

Be genuinely curious and get to know each prospect personally.

Let them talk, actually listen, and watch that jar fill up with marbles!

5. Spend 20% of your time giving your prospect value.

For the 20% of the time you are not listening to your prospect, you are connecting your expertise and services to their needs. You are educating them on the work you do, and creating a clear path for them to achieve their goals.

The unique selling advantage you have when doing an in-person consultation is that you have the prospect in your facility where you can create an experience that has REAL VALUE.

Don’t just tell them. Show your prospect what it would be like to work with you…

  • Take them through a movement screen to begin a conversation about their unique movement patterns.
  • Coach them through a few basic exercises so they can feel what it’s like to work with you.
  • Educate them with some of your best nutrition tips.
  • Take time to dispel some common myths about fat loss or muscle gain.

There are so many ways to build value for your prospects. The key is to make sure the value you are offering is relevant to each person. If your prospect wants to pack on muscle, you wouldn’t want to spend 10 minutes discussing nutrition tips for fat loss. If your prospect tells you that they’ve never touched a kettlebell before, you may not be setting them up for success if you start by teaching them kettlebell swings during the consultation.

You want your prospect to finish the experiential part of the consultation feeling good about themselves, like they learned something valuable, and that they trust you to take care of them.

A Final Thought

There are 1 zillion ways to structure your sales consultation, and the five strategies I’ve listed leave plenty of room for your facility to be creative and add your own special touch.

To review…

  1. Greet each prospect like he/she just arrived for their very own surprise birthday party.
  2. Ensure your sales team is ruthlessly authentic.
  3. Tell the truth about your motivation.
  4. Spend 80% of your time learning about your prospect.
  5. Spend 20% of your time giving your prospect value.

The one rule I encourage you to take to heart is that that people buy from people they like and trust. So, find ways to fill up your prospect’s jar with marbles and watch your conversion numbers climb!

Share Your Thoughts

I’d love to hear about your sales consultation process. How does your team build trust and rapport with your prospects? What does your team do to stay in the right mindset to provide a great customer experience? Let’s all learn from each other!

Want to learn more?

If you want more help? Business for Unicorns is offering our first ever deep dive working on sales and marketing. Details HERE.


Speaker Images_MichaelB4U Signature (MK)



  1. Mark Mogavero

    Great stuff here Mike! I love the language that is used during the intro, and I am going to start using my own version of it. I had been doing a brief one, but I know it didn’t sound as natural or as clear as your version.

    Prospects know that there will eventually be an attempt at a sale, so to address it early on relaxes the prospect and begins the process of earning their trust.

  2. Michael Keeler

    Hey Mark – Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Please keep me posted on your new consultation intro goes. I’d love to hear how it changes things for your ([email protected]). Have a kick-ass day!

  3. Jeff Blair

    #3 is awesome Michael..thank you!

    “Keeping value relevant to the client” is a huge and sometimes overlooked issue….

    1. What is the client’s goal?
    2. What are we doing to help the client reach their goal?
    3. And does the client understand the connection between #1 and #2 (thus increasing perceived value and improving retention)? And can we communicate this to the client in a way that “sticks” for them (rather than long, boring (to the client, that is) anatomy lectures)?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

How Can I Sell Without Feeling Sleezy?

Today we’re going to cover how to sell your services without feeling sleezy. First point: if you’re concerned about this, you probably don’t need to worry. At the end of the day, those of us that are concerned about turning people off or being too pushy usually don’t...

Should You Bill Weekly or Monthly?

You know, it’s very rare that I speak in absolutes when it comes to success as a training gym owner.  But this is one of those moments. Virtually all members of the Unicorn Society have made or are making this change. I promise you, this is a move you need to make...

Best Market for a Training Gym? (NOT What You Think)

And it’s totally upside down from conventional wisdom. (I’d sincerely love for you to give this a read and respond one way or the other ESPECIALLY IF YOU WANT TO CONFIRM I’M CORRECT jkjkjk.) Ya ready? “The easiest market to build a sustainable and high-margin...

Why Your Marketing Sucks (And How to Fix It)

It’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up! Not all of us had the good fortune to receive a BFA in musical theater, the widely accepted gold standard for education in fitness business excellence. *Mark humbly bows to you with a flourish of his top hat* Furthermore, the confusion...

Should You Offer a Free Trial?

Let’s dive head first into this hornet’s nest and answer another of the most common questions in all of Training Gymdom… Should you offer a free trial? Here’s how I suggest thinking about this… First off, we need to appreciate that unless you have some low barrier way...

Should You Have Your Prices on Your Website?

Let’s talk about prices and websites. The Fitness Business Thought Leader Industrial Complex has many strong — and conflicting — opinions on this topic. Here's my personal take. In a vacuum, your best bet is often something like this: “Prices start at X, but depend on...