by Matt Weik
Gyms are in business to make money just like any other business across all industries. Their purpose though is to give individuals a place to exercise safely and to help promote overall health and fitness. They can provide many different services including classes, personal training, a pool, and many other amenities. However, some gyms out there are forcing their training staff to go out and sell to make the gym more profitable outside of the normal membership fees and amenities. Below are two examples showcasing how trainers are putting on their selling hats to bring the gym extra revenue.
1.) Sell training packages
When you sign up at a gym you are paying a membership fee—this is normal. You generally have the option to pay month to month or you can pay for a full year upfront if you wish. Along with your membership, many gyms offer 1-2 free sessions with a personal trainer to get you started and familiar with the equipment and ensure you have the proper form when using the equipment. Most of the time, the trainers begin a new member on pieces of equipment, rather than exposing them to free weights before they are ready. After those sessions are completed, you’re on your own unless you wished to hire a personal trainer. Some members sign up right away, others may down the road, and some may never work with a trainer following the free sessions.
Some gyms allow their personal training staff to run their individual piece of the training business how they wish. If they get clients, great. If they don’t, then that’s on the trainer. Generally, a gym will not go out of its way to get training clients for their trainers—that’s the responsibility of the trainer to go sell themselves. Some gyms hire trainers to walk the floor and help members with form, showing them how to use a piece of equipment they’ve never used, or to give a piece of advice. But you also can’t forget that many gyms use their training staff to clean the equipment throughout the day because we still have people who frequent gyms who can’t seem to understand the concept that they need to wipe their equipment down after using it so the next person isn’t covered their your sweat.
In some gyms, the management expects the trainers to hit a certain amount of training clients each week. Why? Because they get a cut of their training fee. Some gyms pay the trainers their normal hourly rate to train, others make them punch out and then charge the client whatever their individual training rate is, but regardless, the gym is making a cut. If a trainer is on the clock when training, whatever the training fee is generally goes into the gyms cash register. In some cases, that money is split with the trainer.
On the other side of the equation when trainers punch out, one of two things generally happen. Either the trainer pays a fee to the gym per client so the gym gets a cut, or some gyms even have a monthly plan where the trainer is forced to pay a certain rate (dollar amount) to the gym each month to be able to train clients there, regardless if they train one client all month or one-hundred clients that month. Obviously if a trainer is paying a monthly fee, it would be ideal to train as many clients as he or she can in that given month.
Another thing that some gyms push on trainers are packaged deals. This is a discounted rate for clients who sign up for a dedicated number of sessions with a trainer. Many put packages together around the summer or holidays to entice people to get in shape for the beach or for family gatherings/holiday parties. This is another quota or sales goal that gyms can put on their training staff to go out and make money for the gym.
Trainers for the most part are able to charge whatever they want for personal training sessions. Some gyms mandate these rates and for example might have their entire training staff charging $30 for a 30-minute session and then something like $50 for a 60-minute session. If you are in New York City or Los Angeles, you can expect to see those rates go through the roof. And if you are training with someone who works with celebrities, be prepared to shell out some serious cash.
2.) Sell supplements… but not just any
There are thousands of gyms across the nation that sell supplements to bring in an extra revenue stream—and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s a great way to provide an added service and benefit to their members. Rather than driving down the street to get a protein shake, they can get one right at the gym from the cooler or vending machine following their workout. Maybe they are all out of protein powder at home, they can purchase a tub on the way out of the gym to take with them. It’s an added convenience that is appreciated by many members. The mark-up on such products are anywhere from 30-50% on average.
The issue with supplements arises when a gym gets in bed with a MLM (multi-level marketing) brand. I’ve actually seen and experienced this first hand at a gym I worked for in the past. They brought in reps from a MLM company and had them peddling their products to all the training staff trying to convince everyone that their products are the best on the market. They had brochures, PowerPoint presentations, everything (that was created for them to simply read). As one might expect from such a company, these “reps” had no idea about supplements or proper nutrition—and no clue about the ingredients in their own products they were selling. They are simply goons who wanted a get rich plan through a basic pyramid-scheme that will never come to fruition. To put it politely, the reps were some of the most unintelligent people I’ve ever met when it came to health, fitness, nutrition, and supplementation. They were programmed robots that regurgitated information that was spoon-fed to them during their training process or they simply memorized sell sheets. If you asked them a question not on the sell sheet, forget about it. You might as well ask a 3-year-old child. They would dance around the question like they were doing the jig and you’d never get an answer which further left you unsettled when someone is trying to pitch their snake oil, I mean products to you to sell.
In my experience with this situation, I actually refused to sell the product because I didn’t believe in it and it wasn’t something I felt comfortable promoting and putting my name and reputation to. So, what happened? Ownership told me, as well as others who followed in my footsteps, that if we didn’t promote the products and sell them, we’d be fired. Ain’t that some, sh*t? Needless to say, that was just one of the reasons I left that gym for greener pastures a few months later.
This experience isn’t unusual. Many gyms will stronghold their employees to sell products through MLM companies because they see the dollar signs. Yet in actuality, they would be better off stocking reputable brands from the supplement industry instead of a MLM business’s products. MLM brands will pull in the gym and have them thinking they will make so much money, but in the end, no one knows the brand, no one cares about the brand, and the members will drive down the street to get their supplements of choice from the nutrition or supplement store. Now the gym is sitting on inventory they need to move.
To stay employed and give in to the wishes of the gym, many trainers will begrudgingly start selling the products to the members—yet they are never thrilled to truly do so. The trainers might get a cut of a sale and make a little commission, but it’s nothing to write home about. Now if a gym allows the trainers to sell products that are generally found on supplement store shelves, that’s something they would be more willing to get behind, especially if the trainer uses the products themselves. If a trainer is drinking a protein shake and a member sees him doing so, they might ask what type of powder they are using in which they can walk over to the shelf and show them. Boom! Instant sale many times. Again, if the trainer gets a cut of it, great. The big bucks go into the pockets of the gym ownership and for that reason and the others mentioned above, it’s my opinion that gyms should be thanking their personal training staff more often. They are the trained professionals in the business who can give their members the results they desire to keep them coming back and paying those monthly dues. A little appreciation for your staff can go a long way.