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Fixing Your Y’s Tour Process - How to Map A Tour Part 1

Now that we have determined that giving a full tour (To Tour or Not To Tour) is very important to the successful conversion of a guest, let’s discuss how to properly set up a tour. 

Why do people decide not to join the Y?

  • They’re not sure they have the time to dedicate to a fitness program
  • They want to think about it
  • They want to talk with their spouse first
  • They’re not sure they are going to stick to it and don’t want to waste money
  • They want to try it first
  • They want to check out other facilities and price shop
  • They’re concerned about affordability
  • They’re not sure they want to do it yet
  • They view the Y just like any other fitness center

 These objections are like bullets in a gun. We need to take the bullets out of the gun and subtly overcome the objections during the tour. If you do this correctly, you can educate and guide people into making a good buying decision when they come in to “check out the Y.” This will drastically improve your conversion ratios for walk-in traffic and guest inquires.

 Here’s how my team sets up a tour: We map out the Y with the following 17-point note system to remind us to cover key information and subtly overcome potential objections we may hear. We place the following notations on sticky notes throughout the Y.








FF -1












GP - Guest Profile. Go over the guest profile with the customer to gather information about them. (If you do not have a guest profile, send me an email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and I will give you an editable digital version.)

E - Explain. Give an overview of the tour and how long it will take.

H - Hobbies. This is important to ask because people want to talk about themselves, not you. If you can get people to open up and tell you what they like, you can get them to talk about their fitness goals.

T - Time. Everyone is busy and doesn’t have enough time. This is your opportunity to explain that it really doesn’t take that much time to reach fitness goals if you are efficient.

TH - Thinking about it. How long had they been thinking about coming in before today? This is an important question because it’s a very common objection you will hear.

S/F - Spouse and Family. Talk to the guest about their spouse or partner, and find out if they are supportive of them reaching their fitness goals. I also like to ask about kids and what programs may fit their needs.

ST - Stick to it. People deep down are thinking, “Will I really stick to this or will it be like last time when I joined a gym and only went a few months?” Remind them that they can.

FF 1-3 - Fun Facts. The Y has so many cool fun facts. In 70+ secret shopping missions, no one ever told me one fact about the Y. The facts I like to cover are that basketball and Father’s Day (everyone is surprised by this one) were invented at the Y,  and that the Y had one of the first indoor pools.

N/C/S/C - Nutrition, Cardio, Strength, Consistency.  This simple formula is all it takes to see results. This is where we discuss how non-complex a healthy lifestyle can be.

PI - Personal Instruction. I explain exactly how an instructor will help them set up a workout card and make sure they are confident and comfortable when they first start. 

Y- YMCA History. I like to touch on the Y history, non-profit status, the difference between a Y and for-profit gym, kids campaigns, after school programs, how much the Y donates to the community, events hosted at the Y, and much more.

BC - Benefits of Cardio. This is where we talk about the benefits and advantages of our cardiovascular equipment and what it can do for them.

BST - Benefits of Strength Training. I discuss all the common misconceptions of strength training and talk about how important it is to do resistance training.

C - Convenience.  I determine if the Y is conveniently located near their work or home.

L- Like. I ask them how they like the Y, if there is anything else they would like to see, and if they have any additional questions.

I came up with this process after training hundreds of different people over the years and experimenting with various types of indicator methods. It will give you a standardized tour that everyone can easily follow. The mapping system is simple and it works!

If you do not follow a reminder note system, then your tour people are free to say whatever they want or feel like saying. You can do regular tour training but until you have a tour system in place you will not reach your maximum potential in conversion ratios. 

In part 2 of this blog post, we'll look at where to place your indicator notes, and some examples of what to say when you see them.

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Copy of Fixing Your Y’s Tour Process - How to Map A Tour Part 2

In part 1 of this blog post, I explained my proven tour mapping system PART 1, which involves writing out “indicator notes” and placing them throughout your Y. Now you will need to determine the best places to stick them. After placing them around the Y you will want to practice on your own, moving the notes around until the tour flow is feels right.

When you are satisfied with where your notes are and have memorized their locations, you are ready to role play with your staff. Let’s look at some examples of what to say when you see an indicator note.


E - Explain. (Shake their hand). “Hi, my name is __________. I will be showing you around the Y today. The tour will take 15 to 20 minutes and should answer most of your questions. However, feel free to ask questions during the tour.”

GP - Guest Profile. “Before we start the tour, let me look over your  profile and ask you a few questions.”

The profile will show you what their goals are, the hours they work, how much time they think they have to dedicate to a healthier lifestyle, and much more. Simply ask them a few questions based on their answers. If you do not have a guest profile, reach out to me and I will send you a digital version.

H - Hobbies. What do you like to do in your spare time?”

Y- YMCA History. Do you know much about the Y? Let me tell you why we are different than just a gym.”

Talk about specifics and hit home on the fact that you are a non-profit. I like to add, “Even if you decide not to workout here, you still should be a member to support kids and families in the community.”

FF 1-3 - Fun Facts. “Did you know basketball was invented at a Y?” (place this note near the basketball court) “So was Father’s Day. The Y also had one of the first indoor pools.”

N/C/S/C - Nutrition, Cardio, Strength, Consistency. “Many people over-complicate what it takes to get shape. It is a very simple formula that anyone can follow. All it takes is

Nutrition / Cardiovascular / Strength Training / Consistency.”  

PI - Personal Instruction. “Here at the Y, we care. Many gyms require you to sign up for personal training in order to get help, but not here. We will set you up with a workout card and make sure you are confident and comfortable when you start with us.”

BC - Benefits of Cardio. “Did you know that the leading cause of death in America is heart disease? Regular cardio can drastically decrease your risk of a heart attack. I could bore you with 50 other reasons you should do cardio, but here are just a few other important ones: It lowers blood pressure, increases metabolism, lowers cholesterol, and helps you reduce body fat.” 

BST - Benefits of Strength Training. “Have you ever heard the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it?” In medical terms this is called muscle atrophy. It’s proven that if you don’t do regular resistance training, your muscles get smaller and weaker every year. If you are between the age of 16 and 100, you should be doing strength training.

Strength training also tones, shapes and defines your body. It reduces body fat through increased calorie burn (lean muscle burns calories day and night); prevents against osteoporosis; helps you reduce stress; and releases endorphins in your brain.”  

C - Convenience. “Is our location convenient for you?”

TH - Thinking about it. “How long have you been thinking about reaching your fitness goals?”

S/F - Spouse and Family. Is your spouse or partner in favor and supportive of your fitness goals? Do you think he/she would be interested in working out with you? Do you have kids?” (If yes: “Tell me about them.”)

ST - Stick to it. If you were getting help with a workout card, coming in regularly and seeing results, do you think you would stick to a fitness plan?”

Total Time. “Too many people think it takes a huge time commitment to get in shape. That is simply not true. Can you dedicate three days a week, 45 minutes per day to start with? If you think about it, this is less than 1 percent of your total week.” 

L- Like. “How do you like the Y? Do you have any additional questions?”

I just recently did my own survey and asked 50 people if they knew that Father’s Day was invented at a Y. Guess how many people knew that? Not one. After secret shopping over 70 YMCAs guess how many people told me that fun fact? Not one. This is one small thing but can make a big difference. If people know how important the Y is to their community and some fun history along the way,that can make a much larger impact.

My sister recently texted me saying she joined a Y near her home in Florida. She and I talk about what I do for the Y and the importance of giving a tour to differentiate yourself from the competition. She wasn’t even offered a tour when she inquired about a membership at the Y, so why did she join? Maybe because her big brother preaches the YMCA mission to her all the time. If she were any other guest, she might not have chosen the Y over all the other beautiful fitness options in her area.


In our next blog, we will look at how to overcome objections when you hear them.

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Fixing Your Y’s Tour Process - To Tour Or Not To Tour

When talking to YMCAs about how they give tours, I hear a common thread: Y staff are asking the customer what they want to see and what they are interested in. Their explanation for this? “We only want to show them areas they are interested in.”

I understand that you may want to shorten a tour for a hurried guest or if someone is adamant that they “only want to see a particular part of the Y.” These people are the minority, not the majority.

What if you met with a personal trainer and they said, “What exercises do you want to do?” You would think, “What do you mean? You are the professional, you tell me what is best for me.”

This is exactly how you should approach a tour. You are the professional who is  there to guide the potential member into making a good buying decision based on all the information, solid facts, history and giving them a proper tour of the facility. 

You might be thinking, “What if someone comes in and says they only want to see the pool?” In my 21 years of touring I have only heard this a handful of times, and it’s easy to overcome.

For example:

Customer: I only want to see the pool.

Staff: Great, we have a ton to offer you here at the Y. I could spend an hour showing you around. However, I know you are busy, so I will briefly touch on who we are and what we offer, and then we can really spend time at the pool. I will give you an “abbreviated tour until we get to the pool. Sound good? 

Why would you want to give the customer the full experience when they only asked for one specific area? Because the Y is an awesome place and needs to be shared --  not just for the guest, but for others they will share the information with. What if the person only wants water aerobics but you give them an abbreviated tour and talk about the Y history, other amenities, the work you do in the community, and how much you help kids and families? Is there a possibility they may share that information? Of course there is.

I took someone on a tour several years ago who only wanted to do zumba. This person told me right up front that the only thing she wanted to see was the class schedule for zumba. I said, “Sure,” and shared the class schedule with her. Then I asked if I could give her an abbreviated tour of the Y in case she had family or friends who may be interested in more we had to offer. She agreed.

During the tour I got to know her and was able to determine why she only wanted zumba. She had a misconception about strength training. In her mind, resistance training made you “bulky” and “big.” She  had no idea how strength training could help her reach her 20 lb. weight loss goal. She also didn’t understand all the other benefits, like building bone density, relieving stress, lowering blood pressure, toning, burning calories via lean muscle, preventing muscle atrophy, etc. I shared how strength training  can be fun and rewarding.

Not only did I have a chance to educate her about resistance training but I also shared the Y history, fun facts about basketball and Father's Day. She asked a lot of questions and was genuinely interested in a lot more than just zumba. She may only do zumba, but I was able to plant a seed that may grow and be shared with others. She now knows that the Y is different and not just another gym.

Now that you understand why you should give a full tour, let’s discuss how to set up a tour properly.

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Fixing Your Y’s Guest Inquiry Process and Offering a Tour

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #72 - #75

Over the last several months I’ve secret shopped five YMCAs in different parts of the country. They’ve all had identical problems in the way they handle guest inquiries, engagement and data gathering.

Based on my 20 years of experience in the fitness industry and my work with Y’s across the country, I’d like to offer some advice for fixing these problems. Let’s explore every step of the guest inquiry process, from the time a potential member asks about a membership at the front desk, to your follow-up activities after the guest leaves.

  1. Initial inquiries

When a guest reaches out to you about a potential membership, this is your chance to make a great impression -- and thereby, a sale. Special attention should be given to inquiring guests because they are already interested in your organization. Remember, not handling this part of the process properly could drive a potential new member right over to your competitors.

Phone inquiries:

There should be a script at the front desk. When a team member answers the phone they can easily follow the short phone script posted next to the phone. 

Here’s an example:

Customer: I’m calling about membership prices and information.

Staff: Thank you for calling! Have you ever been here before?

Yes: Great, let me answer any questions you have.

No: Would you like to come in for a tour? We have a lot to offer here and would love to show you around.

  • If yes, schedule them for a tour time. This will emphasise the fact that it’s an appointment. This will significantly improve your show ratio for phone inquires.

Walk-in inquiries:

You should have a 90+ percent closing ratio with walk-in traffic. Think of the process someone goes through before walking in:

  • They hear about many fitness facilities in the area
  • They make the decision to check out the Y
  • They think about it (sometimes for years)
  • They’re motivated to do something about their health
  • They find time to stop in (everyone is busy)

They finally come in. This is your opportunity to shine.

In my experience, the tour portion is rare at YMCAs I’ve been in (which is over 120). The front desk hands you a price sheet and  basically says, “See ya later” in most Y’s. If you get a tour, they’re all very basic. They are now calling it a “cause-driven tour” but it's the same tour with a different name.

Here are a few factors at play when an employee gives you a tour:

  • How the employee is feeling that day (happy or going through the motions)
  • How motivated they are to give a tour (they may not be)
  • What information they remember to share during the tour (if you do a tour correctly there is a lot of key information to cover)
  • Are they following the cause-driven tour system or just falling back into their old, stale tour
  1. Gathering guest data

One of the most important things you can do up front is get as much information on your inquiring guest as you can. At the very least, you’ll want to get their name, phone number and email address so you can follow up on the lead and stay in touch if they don’t make a decision right away.

  1. Offering a tour

When a guest walks in and inquires about a membership there needs to be a system in place or everyone will do their own thing -- and that never works! The process doesn’t have to be complex, but it does need to be exact. There should be a proper guest experience that embodies what your Y is trying to portray in the community.

Here is a quick example:

Customer: Hi, my name is Brian and I may be interested in a membership.

Staff: Hi, my name is Beth, it’s nice to meet you (get up and shake their hand with a smile). I’m sure you have lots of questions. I would like to give you a short, 20-minute tour and explain who we are and what we have to offer. 

Yes: Please fill out this short tour card and I will get someone to help you.

No: OK, no problem. Before answering your questions would you mind filling out a short guest inquiry form?

Note: This will allow you to market to them in the future if they decide not to join.

I hope these tips are of value and that your team will apply the techniques to make an immediate impact on your membership process. In my next blog I will be talking about how to set up a tour (mapping process). 

Stay tuned for more secret shopping / training missions from “The Secret Shopper!”


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Dare to Compare!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #71

I secret shopped my 71st YMCA in Indiana.

I was at my northern office for a few days and one of my employees asked me to work out with him.

"Where do you work out?” I asked. He said he is a member of a "really nice" gym in town. He was raving about this place and excited to be a member.

We met the next morning and he was right; the place was very nice. The woman at the front desk had me fill out some information and offered a tour. I noticed that she entered all my guest data into their computer system. The welcome packet she handed me was a nice organized folder, with the hours, programs and classes they offer.

The tour guide was friendly and gave me a simple walk-through, telling me where everything was located, hours, classes, pool schedule, programs for adults and kids, etc. The tour had no substance or information gathering, but the facility was exceptional.

After the tour, she presented prices and asked for the sale. I explained that I am only in the area a few times a month and it wouldn't make sense to join, but I would come back.

When I was pulling out of the parking lot I received a text that said "Welcome to _______ ! Thank you for your interest in our facility. It was a pleasure showing you around. We hope you will come visit us again." I was impressed.

A week later, I received a follow up call to thank me for my visit. They asked if I had any additional questions, and said that they would love to have me as a member, if I hadn't joined anywhere else yet. I appreciated the follow up call but they should have taken better notes in their CRM system. I didn't plan on becoming a member due to not being in the area that often, and they should have known that before calling me. There are a lot of things I could suggest to improve their process, but they are doing many things right.  


The Y Comparison

I decided to head over to the Y to compare the two facilities.

Side note: The Y is different and shouldn't be lumped into the fitness center group as a competitor. The Y does a lot for kids, families and their community. However, unless you share that information and educate guests, they will lump you into the "just another gym" category. Our team talks to thousands of prospective members every month at Ys across the country, and very few look at the Y differently. We share history, fun facts, community involvement, donation amounts, and every Y story we can come up with to differentiate the Y from other gyms. This is a key part of our process to develop membership.

It was mid-morning when I pulled into the parking lot. I saw a huge banner on the Y that said "join our cause-driven organization." I walked in and the guy at the front desk asks if he can help me. I said my opening line: "Hi, my name is Brian. I'm new to the area and may be interested in a membership."

He handed me a price sheet and said that membership includes this location and an "express location" on the other end of town. I'm standing at the front desk, looking at hallways in both directions, wondering what they offer.

"Do you have anything for kids to do here?" I asked, hoping to prompt a tour.

"Yes, we have child watch and a pool," he said.

I really wanted to write about the tour comparison so I was working him, trying to get a tour. I asked a few more questions and finally said "OK, well I can't see anything from the front desk, so can I walk around?"

"Yeah, sure, go check it out."

I mentally shook my head in disappointment. After a quick walk around, I passed by the front desk, said thanks, and walked out. As I am leaving I see the "Cause-Driven" words on the banner and realize they're meaningless. They should take the banner down. They are just another gym. Actually, they are a poor representation of a gym.  

This area is oversaturated with every fitness center you can think of, from the high-price wellness centers to the low-price clubs. I have no idea how some Ys stay in business. If they were in the for-profit world, without community donations, paying taxes, they would be out of business. This type of location reminds me of a government ran business, inefficient, losing money, lack of the entrepreneurial spirit and energy, but they stay open.

I am surprised at how prevalent this problem is. I really didn't understand how bad it was until starting this blog. I knew that Ys didn't have a tour system and it was a problem, but I thought, "that's why they hire us." We give quality tours, educate, get members connected, train their staff on a tour system, leave them in a great position to take care of the new members and focus on retaining them. If a Y can't even give a simple tour and cover some basic Y facts, they are not going to have a system in place for retention, member engagement and customer service.

The secret shopping missions started in just locations I was working with. It allowed me to gather key information for our consulting campaign. It's morphed into stopping into as many Ys as I can to secret shop them. It is my personal mission to help every Y across the country develop a tour system, and tell the Y story and history to every guest. If this doesn't change, the YMCA history will be lost.

Frankly, it's lost in most places I visit. I fear when the Y loses their senior donor base, the next generation will give much less. The seniors that I talk with have a much better understanding of the Y and spent a lot of childhoods at the Y. They have loyalty to the Y and continue to support it. The next generation doesn't have the same loyalty. Back then it was a completely different landscape. The fitness industry has changed dramatically and if there aren't big changes in the organization it will eventually be extinct.   

I am encouraged every day to keep this up when I hear about how this blog has helped a Y. I'm motivated by executive directors that take time to email and thank me for the blog and tell me they are applying the information to their Y.

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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