This week we’re introducing Erik Charles Russell as our guest writer with some thoughts on how to improve your lead-to-member conversion. Eric has helped thousands of fitness business owners increase their member counts by providing concepts and coaching on the sales process.

If you’re interested in converting more trial members and leads into memberships, check out the blog below and his book as well!
Martial Arts Memberships

Pain: The Missing Element in Your Membership Sales Process
By Erik Charles Russell

Most people have heard the story of Michael Jordan being cut from his high school basketball team. It seems crazy that a man who many consider the greatest basketball player of all time couldn’t even make the high school squad. For Jordan, it was embarrassing and painful.

Jordan could have given up. He could have let a painful experience stop him from becoming one the best ever. We all know that he didn’t but what Jordan did do was use that painful experience to motivate him to change. He practiced more, worked harder, and became better. The rest, as they say, is history.

Pain is a powerful motivator. The most powerful motivator there is. Your prospect will do more to get out of the pain that they are in than they ever will to gain the pleasure of achieving their goals. There are exceptions but very few.

Pain has helped poor people become rich. It has helped weak people become strong. It has helped unhealthy people become fitness gurus. Pain is the reason that your prospect is sitting in front of you. It might be the physical pain of body aches associated with inactivity. It might be emotional pain of how they are treated by others because they are overweight. It might be a some other pain.

Many times a prospect will come in and tell us about their goals. You know, they want to lose 10 to 20 pounds, they want to be happier, healthier, look better, feel better, etc. You know the deal. The one piece of information that they almost never reveal is the pain that they are experiencing by not accomplishing those goals. You will have a higher closing percentage if you understand your prospect’s pain.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that a positive, pleasurable first experience isn’t part of a successful sales process. It most certainly is. What I am saying is that ignoring their pain will lead to lost sales.

Losing weight may be their goal but the pain of looking in the mirror and seeing this fat person is the reason for them having the goal. It is the reason why they will buy a membership from you. As I always tell my consulting clients and their staff, “if you get the reason, you will get the sale.”

The basic fundamental here is that you get the reason from a prospect by asking questions. Questions are the key to closing sales. Questions control the conversation. Questions get you the information you need in order to best help your prospect become a member. In other words, questions are the answer!

The problem is that most of the time we don’t ask the prospect about their pain motivators. That p roblem stems from how it makes us feel as membership salespeople, weird and awkward. The
reason it’s awkward is because many times you’re not sure how to ask. This is where I see the biggest hole in almost everyone’s game, if you will. Follow my advice on this and it will change your business, your income, and your life as it has done for myself and my clients all over the world.

Let’s dive into the questions that you need to ask to uncover your prospect’s pain motivation. Keep in mind that this is only one part of my sales process. You can get the full process by ordering my book, The Art of Selling Memberships, from or by visiting


Since the number one reason people come to train with us is to lose weight, let’s use that as the example here. The conversation is already in progress.

“Mr. Prospect, we talked about where we want to be and how we’re going to feel when we get there. That’s important to have that goal and to know how it makes us feel in our mind. Now let’s talk about where we are currently. Your weight is the issue here. What does it feel like to be twenty pounds heavier than you should be?”

“I feel like crap. I feel gross.”

“When you say that you “feel like crap”, what does feeling like crap mean to you?”

“I feel lazy and slow. I don’t feel happy with myself.”

“When you look at yourself in the mirror what do you see?”

“An old fat dude with love handles hanging over his pants.”

“How does looking at those love handles hanging over your pants affect your life in a negative way?”

“I feel a lot less confident. It’s really affecting my job the most. It really makes going to work miserable and working is most of what I do.”

“It sounds like you have some strong motivation to really accomplish this goal. I’m excited to be able to help. Other than yourself, does anyone around you notice how overweight you are?”

“Yes, actually one of my good friends made a comment to me the other day. He said he noticed that I was putting on weight and asked if everything was ok.”

“That’s great that he was concerned but yeah it’s not a great feeling when other people are noticing negative things about us. What was the final straw for you? Was it your friend’s comment or something else?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about for awhile but that comment really hit home that other people are seeing me as fat. I know it’s time to do something about it now.”

“Mr. Prospect, listen, you’re doing the right thing and taking positive steps in the right direction. I’m going to encourage you to continue doing that because I’ve had many clients just like you become healthier and happier through our program.”

Go back and read it again. Make note of the questions being asked and how they are positioned. Positioning of the questions is critical to your success. Role play this scenario until you have it down solid. Then use it on your future prospects. You will see what many others have seen after implementing this into their sales process, more sales and more fun. Because, there is nothing in this business that is more fun than more sales!

About Erik Charles Russell

Erik Charles Russell has owned, operated, and sold multiple successful gyms and martial arts studios throughout New York State. In 2015, his book, T he Art of Selling Memberships, debuted at #1 on Amazon in three different categories in the United States, Australia, and Germany. Sales of the book made Erik one of Amazon’s Top 100 Best Selling authors in Business & Money for 2015. He is the founder of the Membership Sales Academy, an online sales training resource for the fitness industry. In addition to his consulting work, Erik still owns a successful 10,000 square foot facility in Watertown, NY where he lives with his wife and three children.