Rick and Gabe address club membership sales topics, such as the most important reports a Membership Sales Director can run on a weekly and monthly basis.

Our very own Rick Coffey and Private Club Radio's Gabriel Aluisy reunited to field questions submitted by private club professionals on another edition of The Inbox.

During this segment, Rick and Gabriel answered questions submitted by club professionals seeking advice on how to solve the various challenges of membership marketing and sales. Rick and Gabe also discussed how technology, such as CRMs, can help streamline the workflow of club professionals as they seek to recruit new members and retain existing ones. 

To listen to the podcast, click the link below. The Inbox starts at 4:25 and ends at 21:30.

Podcast Transcription

And now, it’s time to open up The Inbox. Join your hosts, Gabriel Aluisy and Rick Coffey, as they tackle the most important questions in the private club industry.

Rick Coffey (RC): Well welcome everybody to the fifth edition of The Inbox. I know it’s been a while.

Gabriel Aluisy (GA): It’s good to be with you man.

RC: Oh man, I tell you I’m so jazzed up about this. I think this is like if Hall & Oates were to get together for one night at Madison Square Garden. This is the energy there.

GA: The crowd has been dying for it. It’s like the encore - the crowd is going wild waiting for us to come back on stage.

RC: At this moment, everybody listening under thirty-five is asking their Amazon Echo, “who is Hall and Oates?”

GA: Right! Exactly!

RC: Glad to have you back. I think this is going to be an exciting show. We’ve got some unbelievable call-ins. So if you don’t mind let’s get going with the first call here. It’s from one of the top professionals in the industry.

Question Number One

Danielle Hopper: Hi Gabe and Rick, Danielle Hopper here with Billy Casper Signature Club Management. As you know, I utilize your CRM tool in all of our Signature properties, and I cannot stress enough to our teams the importance of reporting. With that being said, I would love to know what you both think are the most important reports that a membership sales director can run on a weekly and monthly basis?

GA: Alright, great question, Danielle. For me, it’s all about your sales pipeline because that’s what you’re in business to do, right? Who is in that pipeline, what stage are they in, and what’s the next step you need to take? So every customer is going to be on a journey - or potential member, in our case - is going to be on a journey, what stage of your pipeline are they in? Are they a cold lead? Are they a prospect? Have they been taken on a tour? Where are they at? I think you should have that built into a CRM or some sort of system and know what your next action is going to take. That way, you’re going to be prepared when your General Manager or your board member asks you where you’re at and you’ll have an answer right away for them.

What do you think, Rick?

RC: Yeah, I agree with you. On a recent webinar I did I put that as my number one sales process - to make sure everybody is ranked so you know where they’re at. Speaking specifically about reports, there are two that come to mind for me. One is called a ‘Date of Last Activity’ report, and the other one is the ‘Prospect Age in the Sales Pipeline’. So the Date of Last Activity tells you when you last had a touch with this person. So many times people get a little unorganized in our industry, and people slip through the cracks because they think they’ve talked to them recently, but it ended up being three or four weeks ago. So this Date of Last Activity is a way that you can sort your prospects and see who haven’t you touched in a while, who should you get back with.

And the Prospect Age report is awesome. It’s a way where, if the system can tell you when that person was first put into the system, and then can count up the days since that date. And so we can have reports sent out that might tell us everybody who’s three months old. As sales people, it’s not our goal to close every sale. I think it’s our goal to get a decision - a real decision, whether it’s yes or no. And unfortunately too many of our prospects always go without a real decision.

GA: Well said, well said.

Question Number Two

GA: Well, our next question comes from Silvia Lalinde. She’s the Director of Membership and Marketing at Gaston Country Club. “Our club has been offering some sort of discount since 2001. I’ve been here for almost five years, and get the question 'what special is going on now?' all the time. No one joins unless there is some sort of a promotion. Trust me, we tried not to offer something in the spring of 2014, and it hurt us terribly that year. Is there anyway to break the cycle, yet still bring on new members?

RC: Well, this could be an entire episode of Private Club Radio, unfortunately. This is probably the biggest question in the industry. I appreciate her asking. You know it’s a question that she’s asking that thousands across the country ought to know. My biggest disclaimer here is that it really comes down to the financial situation at the club. There’s some clubs out there who can’t take a one, two year period to try to figure out everything. But if you have the possibility, that’s the only way to really get out of this.

What’s happening here is something that’s happened to Macy’s - you know Kohls, and those discount areas, they’re used to that - that’s the perception, that they’re always going to have sales, so that works. But unfortunately private clubs are much like Macy’s, where the customers aren’t used to that. And so once we start going into Macy’s and we see ‘oh, something that used to be $130 but today is $19.99...that just doesn’t work. And unfortunately, that hurts the brand of a club.

So what clubs need to do is take a little bit of time, do some homework, look at the market that’s around them, and figure out where their brand is and figure out “are we Macy’s or are we going to be Kohls?” And whichever you’re going to do, do it right. So, back in the day Macy’s was higher-priced, and people knew that, and they went there for that. Again, a very difficult answer, but you have to do some homework there.

GA: I love this question. And there’s one way I’ve found that you can make this happen immediately, believe it or not. It’s one that I think the club industry really has forgotten about, and I call it “setting limits”. Basically, what you’re going to do is create a sell-out. You’re going to need a sell-out. If you think of Apple or Playstation or xBox, whenever they release a new piece of technology, it’s important for them to sell out. They want people lining up down the street for their product.

Now how do you do that in actuality? You do that by limiting the quantity, and you tell people that you’re actually going to raise the prices, so they had better act fast. And the thing is, you can’t just say that - you really need to do it. So I would encourage you and your club to create a limit on how many memberships of a particular category that you’re going to open. That could even be three memberships, by the way - in fact it could be one membership, and you announce to the world that you sold out on this one membership category, and now the price will raise and they had better get in fast. I think that is a really powerful motivator. It’s something that is human nature, you know, if it sells out and other people are talking about it and other people did it, that we should do it, too, because we don’t want to miss out. It’s just something weird in our human psychology. So make sure you have a sell-out, whatever that number is for you, and stick to the fact that you’re going to raise the prices. If you do that you’re going to attract people who don’t want a discount, but want to get in before they miss out.

RC: I love what you say there because you’re looking for urgency on the prospects, and you’re right - if there’s unlimited amounts of sales out there, there’s going to be no urgency. So urgency is really good.

Question Number Three 

GA: Sylvia actually asked us another question as well. Sylvia asked, “our club has no fitness center. We have a small fitness room located at our pool complex that is currently used for four complimentary classes each week - two days of yoga, two days of weights and stretching. They’re not bad, but they’re offered at 9AM, and only about six to eight older women attend. While I know many members say we don’t need a fitness center - i.e. they don’t want to pay for it - I know having a robust health and wellness program will help add value to our club. I’d love to hear from you guys on what clubs have done who are in a similar situation. Have they created a program without an actual brick and mortar facility? There are so many non-traditional fitness offerings now, let’s get some ideas. Rick, what are your ideas for Sylvia here?

GA: This is great. That’s why I love this show. There’s so many different real situations going on, and this is certainly one. We’ve heard the cliche over and over again about thinking outside the box. Well, the answer to me to this question is thinking outside of the walls. Typically, at clubs across the country we have the best property in any given city. So I want to recommend taking advantage of that. I’ve been at clubs where we’ll do golf-specific stretching out on the driving range. I mean, it’s a beautiful property. It’s all mowed very well. We would take people out there and help them stretch before their round. At a club I was at in Chicago, we had an aqua fitness director come in, so we were utilizing the pool space at that time. Very fun classes, set to music, and it’s all done inside of the pool. You can do anything using the property. We’ve got some beautiful green spaces - obviously, it comes down to weather. But people love being outside. And obviously, this is where cardio tennis started as well. That’s a great example of this - they could be doing this inside a building, but they’re doing this outside on a tennis court. So just take advantage of your property. Get creative.

GA: That’s exactly what I was going to say as well. Let’s think of ways to turn that negative into a positive. Like Rick said, you’ve got a beautiful property - so use it. So how about a sunrise yoga class? Or tai chi or something out there. Organized runs or bike rides around your club’s grounds. You could probably come up with a nice running track - although, hopefully, people won’t get hit by golf balls, but I think if you do it at the right time of day you’ll be fine. But figure out some way to get people outside and exercising, and once they start doing that, Sylvia, they’re going to be begging to start a gym fund because you get in the habit of exercising, you start to feel better, and then you realize how much you want to keep doing it. So get them outside, and I think things will change for the club. 

RC: Those are good answers to that question. Now we jump into - I know this gentleman - he’s up here at a club near me. Joe Leskis, the Director of Membership and Marketing at Elgin Country Club here in Chicago.

Question Number Four: Hi Gabe and Rick. This is Joe Leskis, Director of Membership at Elgin Country Club. As a relatively new sales person in the industry, what would your top three tips be for me as I head into my busy season?

GA: Rick is going to love this, and he didn’t ask me to do this. I’m going to say my first thing is to invest a good CRM. A CRM is going to get you organized, keep you organized, and cut through the clutter of your daily day.

Talking about clutter, don’t let email overwhelm you, Joe. I think that’s really important because I think most people probably get hundreds of emails a day, right? But some you’ve got to answer  and you can’t wait to answer them. I actually did a video tip about this on my YouTube channel that showed if you answer a prospect within five minutes you are going to be exponentially in a position to actually close those deals or move them into the prospect stage that are leads. So it’s really important that you don’t wait ten minutes, even, that you don’t wait twenty minutes - you certainly don’t wait an hour - but you get ahold of people immediately. It’s crazy. I showed some data about that in the video, so check it out.

If you can set up some kind of a system so that when they write the membership email, even if it’s when they fill out a specific form on their website, or something like that - you can have a notification on your cell phone that rings in a certain way when you’ve got to answer those ones. But those other ones - those non-essential ones - you’ve got to put them to the side and not get overwhelmed by them.

My third tip is one that actually came from another guest on this show, his name is Mark Ensign. I don’t know if he talked about it on the show, but I’ve heard this theory before. When he was trying to get a particular position, what he did was he made sure he called all these people at these companies and he got ten ‘no’s’ per week. So it became his goal that he got ten ‘no, you cannot's’ before he stopped what he was doing. You can become a powerful, unstoppable force at your club, and get in the habit of loving to be rejected and that will actually motivate you to keep going and find those members for Elgin.

RC: Awesome. I love that Joe asked this question. Probably the most consistent thing that I put out on LinkedIn is about having a mentor in the industry, and thankfully I’ve been able to help Joe out with a lot of stuff because we’re so close to one another. I’ve sort of become a mentor for him and watched him flourish over the last couple years. That’s just one thing above the top three - if you’re new to the industry, try to locate somebody you can call on when you have questions.

Let’s get into the three. Again, I think you mentioned this right off the top: stay organized. Once you get into the busy season, calls and leads are coming at you left and right. If you don’t have a method to the madness to keep track of that you’re just going to have people slip through the cracks in a high-paid season.

Number two is what you said earlier: rank your leads. I see this unfortunately too much across the country that they just have a pool of people, and they haven’t distinguished “who should I be spending time on?” So certainly rank those leads. Make those people earn your time. Whether you call them hot, warm, or cold, A,B,C,D - whatever it’s going to be, make sure someone is earning that A or B status, and then spend your time on those.

And then, number three, I know you’ve done a video about this Gabe, but be a master of follow-up. Too many times, the salesperson is only following up once or twice, and many of those sales aren’t going to happen until five, six, seven touches down the road. So Joe, I know you do this, be a master of follow-up. Get to the point where they tell you yes or no. And even if they tell you no, keep them in the system because things happen with prospects - they get better jobs, they move closer to you, their life changes - and even if they’ve told you no today, they may say yes down the road. So keep them in your system.

GA: Maybe they win the lottery.

RC: Maybe they write an award-winning book and get rich all of a sudden.

RC: Alright, Brandon Townes, I think you know who he is. He used to be a wonderful membership director in the Kansas City area, now works with Club Mark.

Question Number Five

Brandon Townes: “Hey there, Rick and Gabe. This is Brandon Townes with Club Mark Corporation. We see a lot of our clients use CRM systems to perform various automated functions throughout the club. In your opinion, what are the two most underutilized tools in your CRM that clubs should be using today?

GA: Nice, Brandon, very nice. Well, I’m going to give you one of those. I’ll let Rick take the other one. For me, it’s using the automation of the CRM or creating an auto-responder series. So again, it’s important as Rick just mentioned in the last question to make sure you continue to follow up with people even if they say no. You know, keep giving them tips and information and useful ideas and maybe you’ll convert them at some point. So, create an auto-responder series and automate the process. Don’t be sending emails one at a time to people. A CRM can handle that for you in most cases. And when people first contact you, an automation tool in your CRM can probably send that first initial email for you. If you can’t reach out to them within five minutes, you can have them reach out almost immediately via the CRM to answer the email and tell them that you’ll be giving them a call a little later in the day or whatever your schedule is at the club. So, create an automation or an auto-responder.

Rick, what's your take?

RC: Well, my answer here is going to be very high-level, because with a CRM you can get down into some very, very specific items. My biggest things are, like you said, keeping track of activities, those follow-ups we have with our prospects. Unfortunately, the sales position at private clubs is one of the most turbulent positions. Unfortunately, a lot of times clubs don’t want to have that role. What I preach across the country is, every phone call, every email, keep track of them in the CRM. Don’t put it into Outlook, don’t put it into Gmail. Because what happens if a membership committee person says all of a sudden, ‘okay, Rick. Show me all the steps that you took with this prospect. If you don’t have them in one, single location, you’re not going to be able to show that and unfortunately, we need to have evidence of the steps that we’re taking. Inside the CRM, keep track of every step that you take with that prospect so that the reporting tool can show all those activities.

And the second answer is the reporting tools. When I go to those membership committee meetings and those board meetings, a lot of the decision making is based off of speculation of what is going on at a club. I want to be able to bring data, to bring pie charts, bring column bar charts, to show where our leads are coming from, show what the prospects are interested in, so that we can have real data to make sure that the decision making at the club is based off of data instead of based off of speculation. So keep track of those activities, and make sure you have some reports you can take to those important meetings that you have.

GA: Very nice, very nice.

RC: Well Gabe, thanks again man. I love it and I’m glad to be back with you for this episode. I think we did some pretty good stuff on here.

GA: Awesome, man. Yeah it was good to be with you man. I enjoyed it, and catch us next time on another edition of The Inbox.

Want to be on the next edition of The Inbox? Visit privateclubradio.com/Inbox and leave us a voicemail. The best questions will get answered on the show.


Check out the other episodes of The Inbox