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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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How Much Can We Make on Coffee?

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #70

I secret shopped my 70th YMCA in North Carolina.

The New Year is always a busy time for our company. I finished setting up our third YMCA campaign and decided to stop at a Y on my way back to Charlotte, NC airport to head home. 

When I pulled up, there were signs all over the lawn about an enrollment fee special. This is such a played out promotion that is done every January at most Y’s. In my opinion, it's a bad idea to do the same promotion at the exact same time of the year. You are conditioning the market to rely on a once a year discount and wait until that time of year to join. Your marketing should be more strategic, creative and thought-out.   

I walk into a reception area with three employees behind the desk. I was greeted and asked if they could help me.

“Sure,” I said. “I’m new to the area and may be interested in a membership.”

The associate introduced me to the membership director that happened to be behind the desk. After a brief interaction, I was asked if I would like a tour. “That would be great,” I said.

After entering through a metal turnstile, I immediately saw a $1.00 K-cup machine (the first and last one I was hoping to see was on a secret shopping mission in PA) vending machine. Is it just me, or does it seem counterproductive to try and sell expensive K-cups at a Y? Do you really make any money from selling $1.00 K-Cups?

You want members to interact after workouts, right? Coffee is a great way to do that. By the same token, if you want seniors to sit and chat before and after workouts, coffee is a great way to get them to interact.

Whether you are for or against the Silver Sneaker program, a lot of Ys offer it. Want to encourage the Silver Sneaker member to swipe their card? Offer a sitting area with free coffee (have a donation box by the cups) in the morning and see a spike in senior traffic. In my opinion, you will make more money that way.

I was working with a Y in MO and they had this “coffee thing” figured out. They had a space in the Y with 6 round tables and chairs with a coffee maker in the middle. I watched groups of seniors every morning, play cards, read the paper, hang out in groups and enjoy each other’s company – drinking coffee. In other Ys I see the opposite side of the slate. They offer no coffee or seating area, and it’s a ghost town.    

Back to the tour: The representative was friendly, but that was about it. She didn’t fill out a tour card or gather any guest data, and she gave me a very basic tour. No substance, no education and no Y history. After the tour she handed me some information, but didn’t ask for the sale. I said thank you and headed out the door.


The critique: 


  • Friendly staff
  • Offered a tour



  • Get a tour card and use it
  • Gather guest data so you can market to me in the future
  • Share what makes you different during the tour
  • Share some Y history and donation stats
  • Educate me on why I should workout with some benefits and advantages
  • Don’t sell $1.00 k-cups. Instead, set up a senior gathering area with free coffee

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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Let Me Take Some Notes on This...

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #69

I secret shopped my 69th YMCA in Virginia.

I flew from Denver (epic skiing – read blog mission 68) to Charlotte, NC, rented a car, and drove to a Y in southern VA, for an onsite consulting campaign. I arrived early, so I decided to go and workout before the Y closed.

On the walk to the front desk I passed a “synergy zone” room (love the name) with a multi-function fitness station – perfect for advanced PT – and a suspended track with many members actively escaping the winter weather.

I used my YMCA AWAY privileges for a day pass. I was surprised at the lack of guest data they gathered from me. I signed a guest waiver, but what about getting my email or phone number to use for marketing in the future? I could be a prime candidate for a membership. Maybe I’m moving to the area. No one asked any questions or gathered any information from me.

This was a missed opportunity for a proactive marketing effort, that could be targeted specifically to “warm leads” – people who purchase a day pass, use an AWAY pass, a member guest, parents of a child in Y programs, etc. These are valuable leads and potential future members. Most guests are interested in fitness and paid a high day fee to work out. Every Y should have a database with basic contact information and the ability to easily download and use that data wisely.

I headed downstairs to work out. The first thing I see in the strength training area is weights scattered all over the place. Weight plates leaning up against benches, dumbbells lying unorganized on the floor near the rack. It was a mess. I finished up my workout and looked around at the rest of the Y. The cardio equipment was crammed in a room with the circuit training machines. It looked like a maze of equipment that you had to squeeze through. If you get 10 people in that room it would be chaos. I immediately thought of a few ways they could improve the “flow” of the wellness space. The rest of the Y was laid out well, though, with a beautiful viewing area of the pool and nice changing areas.  

The next morning, I secret shopped the Y and it was the same tour I have heard many times. The tour representative was friendly, but that was about it. They didn’t fill out a tour card, gather any guest data, and gave me a very basic tour. Not one word about what makes them a cause-driven organization. They did however, take time to show me the prices, instead of handing me a sheet and sending me out the door.

Later that morning I had a staff meeting to discuss the upcoming membership drive. After the meeting, I was pleasantly surprised by how many staff members came up to me and wanted to learn our tour mapping process. The people at this Y were very engaged in the membership development discussion. They not only were happy and pleasant to be around, but they were asking pointed questions and taking notes on the new action plan.

As I continued to learn about their area, history and specific details of their Y, I found out from several staff members that they didn’t expect to lose hundreds of members to the new Planet Fitness that recently opened. They all expressed their concern for the future of the Y and were motivated to get back on track. I was impressed by the willing and eager attitude everyone showed.   

When you are in a location where there isn’t any real competition, you can get away with not gathering guest data, giving a basic tour, sharing the history, discussing the specific causes the Y cares about, etc. The feeling of security lulls people into a daze of below average thinking in terms of new member development. 

It’s interesting to see how a Y reacts to a goliath like Planet Fitness. Many directors I talk with are in denial and don’t think PF will impact their Y. They feel like it’s “just another gym” that they’ve dealt with many times over the years. What really wakes everyone up and gets people out of their comfort zone is a mass exiting of members who cancel and jump ship for PF. I keep telling directors to be very proactive and not reactive to a new PF opening. You need a plan that will insulate your Y from the impact and hype of a new PF. They are different and will take a bite out of your membership base if you stand by and let them. 


The critique:


  • Friendly staff
  • Offered a tour
  • Presented the prices



  • Gather guest data – its valuable!
  • Get a tour card and use it
  • Share what makes you different during the tour
  • Know the numbers (what the Y donates back to the community annually) and specific programs that impact youth and families
  • Give a quiz to your staff and motivate them to memorize and share important information
  • Be proactive, not reactive, to the ever-changing fitness / wellness landscape 

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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I Met the Hardest Working Executive Director Today!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #68

I secret shopped my 68th YMCA in Nebraska.

I flew into Colorado (you have to take a day and ski when you’re out West, right?) and drove out to rural Nebraska. After the long trip, I decided to stop in and check out the Y before settling into my hotel for the night.

It was late on a Sunday when I pulled up, and the parking lot of the Y was packed. I was very surprised and curious as to why so many people were at the Y.

I walked in and immediately saw a beautiful pool to the right of the front desk. There was a very open feel in the lobby, which has a comfortable waiting area.

The front desk associate was very nice. I said my opening line: “Hi, my name is Brian. I’m new to the area and may be interested in a membership.”

Surprisingly, she called over the executive director. I’m thinking, “It's Sunday, it’s late, and the executive director is going to give me a tour – amazing.”

Instead of secret shopping the director, I decided to introduce myself and find out more about the location and why the Y was so packed. He told me they ran a 12-week special for December and January, and signed up over 200 people. He took me to a viewing window that overlooks the gym, and there was a sea of people all participating in the program as a group.

He explained that he understands the importance of sharing the YMCA history with tours that he personally takes. I asked how often he gives tours and he said “as often as I can” – I love this guy already! Maybe that's why this small-town Y is doing so well with their membership base, and why they have strong participation in promotional programs.

After our discussion and the tour of the Y, the director said he would be in at 5:00 am the next day, and he is willing to meet with me anytime in the morning to discuss our startup schedule. Again, I was amazed at his availability and hours he puts in at the Y. After talking with several members and staff I found out he comes in early and stays late regularly to ensure “the Y is running smoothly.” Not only is he one of the nicest people I’ve met, he has a work ethic I’ve never seen in a director.

The next day I met the leadership team and discussed the startup process. I found out that a lot of the staff do not know any of the Y history and have no experience giving tours. They simply call on the office manager or executive director to give the tours. I asked what they do if one of the leadership team are not available. The response was they will reschedule the person to come back for a tour. Ouch! Have you ever heard the B-BACK-BUS saying? Basically, it doesn’t come around very often.

The time to tour, get the person excited, motivate them on fitness and the Y is NOW! Think about the process to get a person to show up and inquire at the front desk:

  1. They think about it an average of two years before taking the first step.
    2. They have to make time to come – everyone is busy nowadays.
    3. They have to get in their car and drive to the Y.
    4. They come in to gather information, but really, deep down, they want to join. You just need to help them make that important decision that can transform their lives, health, family, mindset, and a ton of other positive reasons we all know they should join.

Instead, these staff members simply hand the person a price sheet and tell them to come back when the executive director or office manager is there to take a tour and see the amenities. So, the cycle starts over. It may be another two years before you see them again — or worse, they go to the competition and join because someone showed interest in them and guided them into a buying decision.


The critique:


  • The hardest working director I have ever met
  • The director gives most of the tours, covers the Y history and differentiates the Y from just another fitness center
  • 200-plus new members in a new year fitness program is awesome
  • Engaged, passionate leader who love the YMCA and is obviously doing many things right



  • "Work smarter, not harder" should be his new motto
  • Never turn a potential member away and tell them to come back for a tour
  • Train the staff to give a basic tour. A basic tour is better than rescheduling them.

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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How About a History Lesson?

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #67

I secret shopped my 67th YMCA in Pennsylvania. 

I'm guessing this YMCA was built in the late '70s. It looks like an older building, but it's in very good condition for its age.

This Y is very compartmentalized. When you walk in, the only thing you see at the front desk is a small waiting area to the left with a Keurig style coffee maker. Upon further inspection, I see that you have to purchase the k-cups for $1.00! I wonder how many they sell a year? My bet is not many. Not one person drinking coffee in the lobby that morning – go figure.   

I walked up to the desk and said, "My name is Brian, I'm new to the area and possibly interested in a membership." A friendly front desk associate asked if I would like a tour.

"Yes, I would love a tour," I said. 

She didn't have me fill out a tour card or gather any information about me, so I was hoping there will be some interaction during the tour to gather this important information.

The tour was the same "here is this and here is that" tour I have taken unfortunately many times in Ys across the country. The tour lasted 10 minutes and we were headed back to the front desk area.

"Did you know that Father's Day was invented at the YMCA?" I asked.

"No I didn't know that," she said. "Really?"

"Yes, really. Pretty cool huh? I bet if you shared some YMCA history, and non-profit information on your tour that people would connect better."

She agreed. 

I started to rattle off some fun facts to her:

"Did you know that the YMCA started as a bible study in the 1800's?" No.

"Did you know that basketball and volleyball were invented at YMCA's?" She knew about basketball, but not volleyball.

 "Did you know that bodybuilding was coined by a Y employee?" No.

"Did you know that one of the first indoor pools was at a Y?" No.

 "Did you know that the YMCA is a non-profit?" She smiled and said yes of course.

"What specifically does your YMCA do for this community?" I asked.

"We discount memberships for people that can't afford to be members and have a lot of youth programs."

"Awesome, what else do you do for the community?"

"Well, we do strong kids campaigns and fundraising."

"Do you know how much you raise a year for this community"?

"No, I don't know that number, but our finance person, I'm sure, does," she said.

"I agree, I bet they do and it's easy information to get."

After explaining who I was and that she was being secret shopped, I told the associate that some history, fun facts and especially what their Y does for the community are very important to share with every new person that walks through the door.

"People do not know the history and look at the Y just like the Planet Fitness down the road," I said. "It is imperative to the health of your Y and for the future of your organization that you share the differences on your tour."

I left her with this: By the end of the tour, people who walk in your door should feel that they should join, even if they don't work out here at the Y. That is how passionate you need to be about the organization with every tour.

She thanked me and promised to share Y history with every tour from now on. I believe she will.


The Critique 


  • The front desk made me feel welcome
  • Offered a tour
  • Covered all the amenities and gave me basic information
  • Great Y associate that was willing to learn and apply information.



  • Charging $1.00 for a k-cup. With all the Ys that have the senior insurance memberships this is the first thing I would offer for free. You want seniors drinking coffee, sitting and chatting, making friends after their workout.
  • No tour card
  • No gathering data from me (name, phone, email from inquiring guests is valuable information)
  • Didn't ask any questions to learn about me or my family
  • Didn't tell me any YMCA history or even the basic "we are a non-profit"
  • Didn't cover any fun facts about the Y


Y executive directors should make it a high priority to train every staff member on basic Y history and location specific information. This will make a positive impact on your location. 

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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Wow! I Didn't Know That!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #66

I secret shopped my 66th YMCA in Indiana.

As you pull into the parking lot, this YMCA is impressive. The modern, contemporary architecture indicates that it was likely built within the last decade — whoever did the design work made it look very appealing from the outside.

I purposely dressed down to see if I would get any different reaction or treatment. With my hat, t-shirt and jeans I approached the front desk. There were three people behind the desk and they were all busy. “Can I help you?” one of them asked.

"Yes, thanks. My name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership."

The associate handed me a price sheet, and as I was looking it over she asked if I had been here before.

"No, but for a small population, this is a beautiful Y," I said.

She asked if I'd like her to show me around, and I agreed. We started in the fitness area that is directly across from the front desk. She gave me the same basic information about the fitness area that I have heard many times before: “Here is our cardio area and here are our machines and here are our free weights.” Basic, basic, basic. No substance.

We walked around and I listened as she showed me the “movement studio” (cool name!) that has a kids' fitness game built in the ceiling and dance classes. Then over to the aerobics room, up the stairs to the track, down the stairs and made our way to the gym. She quickly opened the door and showed me the basketball gym.

"Did you know basketball was invented at the YMCA?" I asked. (She did.) “That’s a cool fun fact isn’t it? You should use that on your tours from now on. I bet people would appreciate that.”

"Yes, I need to tell people that more," she said.

We then entered the pool area from a family changing hallway. She explained the kids' water slide hours, sauna, steam room, how to access the pool from the main locker rooms and much more. I asked if she knew that one of the first indoor pools was installed at a YMCA.

"No, I didn’t," she replied. "That’s interesting."

The associate kept walking about four to five feet ahead of me in any areas where there was nothing to explain. Either she was a fast walker, or she didn’t really know what to say when there wasn’t an amenity to explain or a schedule to tell me about. I walked fast to try and keep up.

At the front desk, I asked her a few questions about the prices and commented that they are very reasonably priced.

“Tell that to people around here!" she said.

"If I join today, then I have to pay a joiner fee and pro-rated monthly amount. Is that correct?" I said. She said yes, but told me if I waited until January, the $75.00 joiner fee would be discounted.

"OK, I like to save money," I said. "How much is a day pass if I just want to work out for the day?"

"Oh, we don’t sell day passes. You have to come in with a member to try it out."

"OK, well have a nice day," I said as I walked out the door. 


The Critique 


  • Beautiful YMCA
  • Friendly people at the front desk made me feel welcome
  • Offered a tour
  • Covered all the amenities and gave me basic information



  • No tour card
  • No gathering data from me (name, phone, email from inquiring guests is valuable information)
  • Didn’t ask any questions to learn about me or my family
  • Didn’t tell me any YMCA history or even the basic “we are a non-profit”
  • Didn’t cover any fun facts about the Y
  • Didn’t talk with me during downtime
  • Walked way ahead of me and seemed to be hurrying
  • Discouraged me from joining by telling me to wait until January to join


The most disturbing part of this experience was the fact that I was an interested customer, standing in front of the associate, asking about a membership. You can’t ask for a better time to sell me a membership. Why in the world would you send me away and hope I come back in January to sign up?

The annualized gross on an adult membership is $531.00. That doesn’t include all of the "cascading effects" (referrals, renewal, fee based programs, camp, swim lessons for my kids, etc, etc) that you may get from my membership. That's potentially thousands of dollars that this Y just shoved out their front door. Now I'd be more inclined to go to the nice gym down the road and buy a membership there because they don’t have a “joiner fee.” 

I see this same exact scenario over and over again. Come on, folks! This is unacceptable and needs to be fixed.

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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No, Thank You. We Are Doing Fine!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #65

From the outside of the building, I could tell it was an older Y, but it looked well-maintained and in nice shape. My first impression was good. 

I walked in and was immediately greeted by the front desk associate. “How are you today?” she asked.

"I’m great. My name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership."

She had me fill out a very small 4x6 index card with some basic information. After filling out the card she asked if I would like her to show me around.

"Perfect," I said.

The associate was extremely nice and very friendly, but the tour was not good at all. She seemed to be all over the place and really didn’t have any plan or process in place. It was a very sloppy tour with no substance. I kept thinking that it wasn’t her fault: it was obvious that she had not been trained.

As a side note, I am not looking for a perfect tour. I understand that the front desk people wear multiple hats and are not professional tour guides. However, I do training with YMCAs across the country and within a day of training, I can turn any front desk employee into a solid tour guide.

We concluded the tour at the front desk and she asked if I had any other questions. I asked about membership prices; she slid a price sheet over to me. There was an awkward silence as we were both staring at the price sheet. I didn’t say anything because I wanted to see what she would say next.

As she and I were staring at the prices, I kept thinking, “who is going to speak first?” I waited and waited and waited. Nope. Nothing. It seemed like we were at a stalemate for at least 3 minutes, which is a long time to stare at a price sheet with no words being exchanged. It was getting weird, so I spoke first.

"OK, I have a confession to make. I work as a consultant and have worked with 120 YMCAs doing training and sales," I said.

I handed her a business card and talked with her for a few minutes about what we do and how she did a great job offering me a tour. I asked her how much training she got on giving tours, because I was impressed with how friendly she was and her great attitude. Her reply was that she has worked there for a few years and didn’t have any training.

"I made up my own tour," she said.

What I loved about this associate is she was all about learning and improving. She was very interested in what I had to say and seemed like she would apply the information that I gave to her.

I asked to speak to the Executive Director to share my secret shopping experience and offer some free advice. The ED came out and greeted me with a firm handshake and a smile. I explained what we do as a company and how I was willing to give him some free advice from my secret shopping experience. He seemed interested and invited me back to his office.

After explaining the pros and cons of the tour, he seemed content with the fact that there was no system in place and made excuses for not doing tour training.

"I am going to be in the area for a few days and I would be willing to do a few hours of training for free with your front desk lady. She is super nice and really seems to want to learn. Based on my 20 years of experience, I can promise you the training will make a big difference in your conversion ratios," I said.

He thanked me for the offer but declined. I was frankly shocked that he wasn’t interested in a few hours of free training. He walked me out and said he would keep my card, and that if he is ever interested in our services, he will give me a call.  


The Critique 

Our team has been hired to train YMCA staff and teach them our tour process to convert a much higher percentage of walk-in traffic to memberships. The fee they pay is a small fraction of the lifetime increase in conversion rates due to training. Beyond that, it helps the YMCA to look much more professional and informative to guests who inquire about memberships.

I have given tours to thousands of people at YMCAs across the country, and I tell every single one of them the difference between a for-profit and not-for-profit. Why, you may ask? Because it is a huge selling tool, and by sharing all the great things the Y does for the community, we help people understand why our higher rates offer a greater value than that $10.00 a month gym. I help them see how they are part of a movement, not just a gym, when they join the Y. This is a cornerstone of my tour and should be just as important to every Y.

I get thank you emails and positive feedback from Ys all the time telling me how our tour training made a big impact. Having a standard tour, asking questions, being genuinely interested in the guest, gathering information, giving the proper information, building rapport, should be standard. Our process isn’t hard, but it has to be practiced and maintained, or it will fall by the wayside.  

This was the first time I have offered free training, and it may be my last.

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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The Prices Are Over There on the Wall!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #64

Our company is currently working with YMCAs in Montana, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, and Missouri to drive membership sales. Before starting every campaign, we secret shop the Y to gather information about the location.


I secret shopped my 64th YMCA in Missouri today.


From the outside of the YMCA, I would guess this was built within the last 10 years. It's a very nice-looking YMCA with an outdoor kids' play area and soccer fields within view. This Y is connected to a college on the opposing side of the building. 

As you walk down a long hallway to get to the front desk, there are windows to the right so you can see the entire fitness area. I really like the layout, which lets you see some action with people working out immediately when you walk in the door, rather than a “stale” front desk with no one around.   

I said my opening line: "Hi, my name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership." One of the two front desk associates, from their comfy front desk chair, pointed to a wall tray to my left: “Just grab a price sheet and that will give you all the information you need,” she said.

I walked over and grabbed a price sheet from the stack on the wall, read over the prices and minimal information on the sheet. After looking it over I asked a few questions about the facility to try and prompt someone to offer me a tour or even get up out of their chair. No such luck! As I left they returned to their computer screens and I didn’t get even a “have a nice day” as I walked out.


The Critique  

This is a major problem! The average customer has no idea what makes the YMCA different and unique. I am very surprised that this type of low energy, low motivation and frankly, laziness is allowed in any customer service industry, let alone the YMCA. This is unacceptable. It's the perfect example of what not to do.


My advice for this Y is obvious:

  1. Get out of your chair and greet potential members with a smile.
  2. Don’t point to price sheets on the wall and say “go get one.”
  3. Ask the customer some questions. Make them feel welcome.
  4. Ask if the customer would like a tour
  5. Explain why the YMCA is different than the other fitness centers in town.
  6. Make customers feel like you care if they become a member or not.


Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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No Tour for You! Let's Look at Prices!

What I Learned During My Secret Shopping Mission #63

I've toured a variety of Ys across the country—everything from the big, beautiful, new, expensive Ys, to the not so nice Ys, in a variety of demographics. Our company is currently working with YMCAs in California, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, Iowa and Pennsylvania to drive membership sales. Before starting every campaign, we secret shop the Y to gather information about the location.

Today I secret shopped my 63rd YMCA. It looked amazing from the outside. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see past the front desk!

When I pulled into the parking lot, I could see a play area for kids that put McDonald’s to shame. The front of the building was all glass windows, and I could see nice, new equipment was being used by lots of happy members.

I walked in and looked around the beautiful front desk area. There was a pool to the right and a glass partition to the left with a lot of cardio equipment in view.

I said my opening line: "Hi, my name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership." One of the three front desk associates said she would be right with me. She returned and asked what kind of membership I was interested in.

When I said I wasn't sure, the associate pulled out the price sheet and started to go through every membership—and I mean, every membership.

She started with the Individual membership and worked her way down to the senior membership before I stopped her and said, “Do I look like a senior?” She smiled and said, “Oh no, no you don’t – sorry.”

I then asked about the household membership, and if my kids could come in with me. I was hoping to prompt a tour. Instead, the associate explained all the amenities for kids, and said they could stay in the play area as I worked out. I commented that the play area was beautiful, again trying to get a tour. She responded by saying that I could keep the price sheet and that they will be doing an enrollment fee discount next month. I thanked her and headed for the door.


The Critique  

There is a big problem at this Y based on the information above. First of all, there are at least five really nice fitness locations within a 5-mile radius of this Y. The average customer has no idea what makes the YMCA different, so a tour is essential. Some Ys can get away with not giving a tour and being sloppy because they are the nicest facility in town. This isn’t the case in this area.

Second, there were there people working the front desk. There is no excuse for not having one of them offer a tour. I have no idea how well this Y is doing financially, but I am confident if they gave tours it would be much more successful.


My advice for this Y:

  • NEVER give price sheets out at the front desk until the guest has a tour.
  • When you do go through price sheets, don’t just go down the list of membership types. Based on the guest, recognize what type of membership they might need—it’s a waste of your time to go over the senior membership with someone who is middle aged.
  • The goal should be to sign the person up when they are at your front desk. You should have a minimum 75% closing ratio with walk-in traffic. The hardest part is getting potential customers in the door. I came in on my own, inquiring about joining. I should be a new member, if the situation were handled correctly.
  • Don’t tell me to come back when you are discounting your joiner fee. There is an old saying: 'the b-back bus doesn’t come around very often.' There is a good chance I will go down the road and find a better price—or maybe just get some attention with a tour person that is interested in getting to know me and helping me make that buying decision.

Stay tuned for more secret shopping missions.


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How About a Scholarship Membership!

I Secret Shopped my 62nd YMCA today.

I walked in and said my opening line: "Hi, my name is Brian, I’m new to the area and possibly interested in a membership."

The front desk associate said she would get a "membership representative" to help me, and asked that I sit in the waiting area. After a few minutes, a friendly fellow in his late 20s greeted me and asked if he could help. We went to his desk near and he asked if I knew what type of membership I wanted.

"I'm not sure, probably a single membership for myself," I said. *1

Just when I thought he was going to whip out the price sheet, he surprised me and asked if I'd like a tour. Brilliant! I wanted to give him a high five but I resisted – I'm on secret shopping mission! :)

He started the tour by telling me that two other Ys had closed recently, which is why this location was so busy. He then said he had a tour card, but would have me fill it out later. *2

He first directed me towards the cardio area and proceeded to share the rules with me. *3. One interesting rule that he shared with me, twice, was, "You have to wear shoes." After the second time, I asked, "Do you have a problem with people not wearing shoes?"

"Not really, but we want to make sure everyone wears shoes," he said.

"Um, okay," I said, smiling.

We moved on to the free weight area, where the rep went through a ton of unnecessary information. I feel like he just didn't really know what else to say, besides the weight range of the dumbbells. He mentioned the "fitness staff" and pointed to a young guy that was standing around, talking to his buddies. He wasn't wearing his staff shirt, and I couldn't tell he was a YMCA employee *4

After the free weights we went into the "fitness area," where there were a variety of different machines that the rep glossed over. We then moved on towards the youth room. *5 Before talking about the youth room, he did mention the chapel and the fact that the Y is a Christian organization. This was the first tour, ever, that someone has said anything about the Y being different than just a gym.

"The prices may be a little higher than other gyms around here — well actually they are a lot higher," he said. But more about that later. *6

We spent a long time in the youth center. He discussed it in detail and said that they had lots of video games and other fun things for kids, but it would be too loud to do homework or read a book (interesting comment).*7

He then took me through the locker rooms and into the pool area, where we also spent a lot of time. He seemed to know everything - the temperature, depth, open, close, steam room and sauna cleaning schedule, whirlpool capacity, etc.*8 After the pool area he showed me the aerobics rooms, class schedules, basketball gym, climbing wall, racquetball, and then looped me back around to his desk.

"Can I ask you how much you make per year?" he asked. I asked why he needed that information, and he said he may be able to get me a lower price, since they base their membership rates on income. He continued by saying their regular prices are high but if I could show a lower income that I would get a lower rate. *9

I said, "What if I am retired and can show on my taxes that I make a very low amount, but I have two million in my bank account. Could I get a discounted rate?" He said yes, and I commented that it seems like a lot of people would abuse that kind of system.

"Probably, but our regular prices are really high compared to the other gyms in town. We do scholarship memberships to get you a lower price," he said. *10

I said no, I will pay the regular rate if I join. After showing me the prices he said that every year I can get a free day pass to the Y. I said, "Sure, I'll just use my yearly free pass and let you know."

He seemed relieved, shook my hand, and told me to have fun with the free pass. *11


What could he have done better:

  1. I wouldn't ask what type of membership the customer wants in the very beginning of the tour. They have no idea what you have to offer. It is your job to determine what type of membership will benefit them most.
  2. The tour card must be filled out before the tour so you can use that information during the tour. The tour card should give you valuable insight and information on the potential member.
  3. Instead of focusing on the rules of the cardio area, why not focus on the benefits of doing cardio. Maybe something like this: "Brian, doing regular cardiovascular strengthens the heart and lungs, decreases blood pressure and cholesterol, reduces body fat and so much more."
  4. If you're going to highlight the fact that there are fitness staff, make sure they are wearing a staff shirt and helping members, not sitting around talking to friends. Also, the majority of the population has tons of misconceptions when it comes to free weights. It is very intimidating for the average member, so you have to educate them on the benefits of doing free weights and lower the intimidation factor.
  5. Instead of just quickly touching on the strength training area and saying, "Here are a bunch of machines," why not tailor the tour to me and say something like: "Brian, you said earlier that you want to lose weight, right (based on the tour card)? Strength training is a key component in losing weight. Let me show you a few machines so you can get a feel for what you will be doing."

    One other big point I always touch on is the Y cares, wants you to succeed, and is committed to helping you see results. Share with them your commitment and tell them they will have help when they first get started.
  6. Don't ever discuss price in the tour, especially how expensive the prices are. The tour is about building value based on all of the amenities the Y offers.
  7. If I am only interested in a single adult membership, why spend so much time talking about the youth room? Definitely show it to me, but we don't have to spend 5 minutes talking about it when I didn't indicate that I wanted a family membership.
  8. Why spend so much time talking about information that doesn't matter to me? If I want to know specific details of the pool I will ask. Don't spend so much time on irrelevant information, unless of course they are asking specifics or have a high level of interest in the pool.
  9. Assume everyone can pay for a regular membership. If they can't, then you can always talk about the scholarship later. At least wait until I say the prices are too high for me before presenting the lower income option.
  10. Scholarships are the most abused membership out there. You should know that, and focus on regular prices. You will get a "gut feeling" and be able to figure out who is really in need and should fill out an application. This isn't a membership for everyone.
  11. Do you want to sell memberships? Do you believe in the Y? Do you think it will help your community if you have more members? Then don't tell me I get a free pass. Tell me you think the Y would be a great fit for me and you would love to have me as a new member. At a minimum, ask if I want to join. Don't just tell me about a free pass and send me on my way.


I hope the above information will motivate you to work with your staff on touring and building a rapport with potential members that visit your Y.


Your Y could be next. Stay tuned for more secret shopping visits.

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How to Give a Mission-driven Quality Tour

What is a “quality, mission driven tour”?

The first, most important part of a tour, is to offer to give one. Many of the locations that I visited said, “Here is a price list” after inquiring about their facility. I was frankly shocked by this. With the over-saturation of fitness centers, and a lack of understanding about the difference between a Y and a for-profit fitness center, a tour is a MUST.

A mission driven quality tour has several parts to it. Here are a few essential parts of a tour:

  • A front desk SYSTEM for guests that come in and inquire
    • Tour Card
    • Guest / Visitor data, entered into the computer to follow up on
  • Greeting
    • Having a big smile and shaking their hand
    • Introducing yourself properly
  • Information gathering
    • Proper use of a tour card
    • Gathering what the potential member is interested in
    • Learning specific information about their past and goals they may or may not have
    • Explaining what the tour will consist of and approximately how long it will take
  • Proper touring techniques
    • Mapping a tour ahead of time
    • Being very confident in your tour (because of all the practice tours you have done)
    • Subtly overcoming common objections (time, thinking about it, spouse, convenience, sticking to it, trying it, past failed attempts, etc.)
    • Educating the potential members on the benefits and advantages of fitness
    • Eliminating the many misconceptions about health and wellness (strength training is only for body builders)
    • Explaining the difference of a non-profit compared to a for-profit
    • What information is important to give on a tour and what is a waste of your breath and the person’s time (our floors are waxed every Saturday for 4-hours….)
    • Giving a DETAILED YMCA HISTORY and why the YMCA should be joined even if they don’t “workout there”.
    • Fun facts about the YMCA
  • Transition from tour to showing prices
    • Sitting them down
    • Answering any additional questions they have
    • Learning from the tour what membership you will be presenting
    • Creating urgency
    • Having confidence in the transition
  • Presenting prices
    • Having a price presentation sheet
    • Practicing the presentation
    • Believing in what you are selling
    • Being honest and sharing why you feel the Y will benefit them
    • Using information gathered in the tour to motivate them to join
      • It is OK to ASK FOR THE SALE. Sales doesn’t have to be “shady” or “high pressure”. You MUST believe the Y can help them and your community. You are not selling them an upgraded vacuum when they already have a nice vacuum. You’re SELLING HEALTH AND WELLNESS. You’re SELLING a BETTER LIFESTYLE. You’re SELLING LIVING LONGER, HAVING A BETTER QUAILTY OF LIFE and MUCH MORE!
      • If you don’t ask for the sale, hang up your touring cap and do not take tours.
      • Unfortunately most people default to “I’m not a sales person”. Sure you are. You sold your wife / husband on the fact they should marry you. You sold your kids on how to clean their rooms or they get a punishment. You sold your boss on why you deserve a raise. Well maybe you were able to just sell them on why you SOULD KEEP YOUR JOB.
    • Efficiently filling out the paperwork
  • Welcoming them into the Y
    • After the member joins they should be properly greeted by the front desk staff. Everyone should shake their hand and make them feel like they are special.


Asking for the sale

It is OK to ask for the sale. Selling doesn’t have to be “shady” or “high pressure”. You MUST believe the Y can help them and your community. You are not selling them an upgraded vacuum when they already have a nice vacuum. You’re SELLING health and wellness. You’re SELLING a better lifestyle. You’re SELLING living longer, having a better quality of life and much more! SELLING is not a bad word; it is something you believe in and can be very satisfying. You are simply giving customers the information they need to make the best possible buying decision.

If you don’t ask for the sale, hang up your touring cap and do not take tours. You should allow someone that believes in the Y enough, to ask the customer for a sale.

Welcoming new members into the Y

After the member joins they should be properly greeted by the front desk staff. Everyone should shake their hand and make them feel like they are special. This is another thing that really surprises me. Very rarely do I encounter a YMCA front desk staff that greets a new member properly. I usually pass the ball to them by saying “here is our newest member!” Most of the time they give a halfhearted smile and start the computer entry process. Some of the really good ones will say hi to the member and acknowledge that they just signed up.
The front desk staff should be the most welcoming, friendly, “smile happy” people at your YMCA. They should be greeting everyone that walks in door whether it’s a member or guest.

Teach your front desk staff to treat everyone like this:


How do I start developing my staff for touring success?

One of my favorite quotes that I use all the time is:

The first step is making a plan and sharing that plan with the staff. If the leadership are not firmly committed to a new touring plan, the staff definitely will not be. The leadership has to lay out the plan and set up a system to make sure the plan is executed properly.

What happens after you make your plan? Check out our future blog posts to find out.

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Secret Shopping a YMCA: What I've Learned

Why am I qualified to critique a tour?

I started Y Membership Solutions in late 2005. It took me almost 2-years to get into my first YMCA. Nobody wanted to be the first to work with a company that had no track record in the organization. After countless presentations, a YMCA that was in a challenging financial position, and in desperate need of a membership boost decided to give my company a chance. I’m proud to say that our team played a big part in saving that YMCA from closing its doors. Not only did we generate hundreds of new members, we helped them succeed and grow in many other ways. They are now a thriving YMCA in a stable financial position, with systems developed by us, still in place today. That is one of my most favorite accomplishments and one I will never forget.

Since working with that first YMCA over 9-years ago, I have worked with over 100 YMCAs, generated over 17-million dollars in new membership revenue, and donated over $180,000 to individual Ys that I have worked with. After working with everything from the “not so nice Ys” to the “big, beautiful, new Ys” I feel like I am qualified to critique a YMCA tour.


My experience with YMCA tours.

After secret shopping over 60 YMCA’s myself, I could tell you a few horror stories that I’ve experienced; but for the most part, I’ve met a lot of nice people, with a smile on their face, that were happy to show me around their Y.  The problem is, after taking 60+ tours at different Ys across the country, I have not once taken a quality, mission driven tour. Not One Time - in 60+ Tours!

In my opinion, one of the biggest challenges the YMCA faces, going into the “fitness over-saturation movement” happening right now in our country, is that unfortunately they give some of the worst tours I have ever experienced in my 20+ years in this industry. Again, I have met a lot of nice people that didn’t “turn me off as a potential customer” but they definitely didn’t “turn me on”. These tours are not necessarily bad in the sense of the personalities of the people, just in that they did nothing that specifically ever made me want to join. I want to be clear that I am not “bashing” any specific Y and never will. I love the YMCA and the mission they are focused on spreading throughout the world. I am a member and a believer.  The purpose of my secret shopping missions were to expose weaknesses in the YMCA, learn from them and apply the information gathered, to improve our business model and help Ys that I work with.

I've always wondered why this isn’t something that is a main focal point of staff training and development. This has to be engrained in the staff, and is of the utmost importance. If you have any chance of motivating your staff to “embrace” the Y tour - as it should be, it takes regular training, weekly goal setting, mapping a tour, building staff confidence, tour card training, proper information gathering, roll playing and practice, practice, practice until they are perfect.

Most Y’s seem to overlook the fact that their staff just hands out price sheets to inquiring guests. They don’t greet potential members properly. Most staff I see are not even motivated to take tours, they look at it as an inconvenience, taking them away from their comfortable front desk seat and so the tour is quick, non-engaging, and flat. Simply just a quick, “here is this, here is that” type of tour, with no substance, no energy, and no new member at the end. They are waiting for the “walk in” that says “I would like to sign up please”.  



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