After a bit of a break, here is the 3rd article by Graham Butcher, Author, International Stav Teacher & Master, to help you market your club. Although we may think of ourselves as above “selling our classes”, any interaction with a prospective student does really include a sales process. Graham gives you guidance below to help you to be more effective at this.
At the end of this article, you will find a link to an interview that I did with Graham back in March 2012. Well over to Graham for his article:
You may think that you don’t actually sell your martial arts training. Well perhaps not in the way that a car dealer sells a vehicle. However you will have conversations when someone comes into your Dojo and asked about training with you. Or they phone or email and ask for more details. Or you may be at an event such as the charity martial arts event which took place in Portishead early this year and find yourself in conversation with a potential student. In these situations you owe it to yourself and your club to deal with a potential student in a systematic and professional way.
According to marketing expert Chris Cardell there are five factors in making a sale. The first step is rapport, next knowing needs, then meeting objections and finally closing. The fifth factor is an overall belief in what you are offering, if you don’t have that then you will be neither convincing to others or being honest with yourself. So lets look at this in more detail and consider how you can apply this concept to a martial arts club.
Rapport basically means getting on with people and making them feel at ease. This largely means being relaxed and simply being yourself. If you are tense and frustrated about something then it is going to be difficult for you to make others feel at ease. You can also help by mirroring the other person, this means adapting your communication to them. So if you have a confident young man in front of you then a fairly loud and fast voice delivery and some gesticulation may well be very appropriate. If if is a middle aged woman who is interested in taking up martial arts for the first time and is rather nervous at the prospect then speaking slowly and quietly may be best. If it is a small child then sitting or kneeling to make eye contact on the same level as you talk may be a good idea.
The most important thing in establishing rapport is that you pay attention to the other person and that brings us to the second stage, ascertaining needs. The temptation when trying to make a sale is to start telling the potential customer how wonderful your product is and bombarding them with reasons why it is so great. This is a big mistake because you have already managed to convince them that your style is worth considering. You know this by the fact that you are having the conversation with them at all. So now you need to be discovering what their needs are. You will do this from asking them questions and, much more important, paying attention to the questions they ask you. It is also essential that you are honest with them as to whether or not your club is really going to be right for their needs. If you have someone asking about the spiritual benefits of practicing Kata as moving meditation and your training is all geared to preparing for MMA competitions then you may do well to direct the person to the local Tai Chi class. Have names and phone numbers at hand if possible.
All instructors find themselves confronted with the same situation and other teachers may well make referrals back to you when appropriate.
Once you have established that your class may meet their needs then you have to be ready for objections. Objections are usually based on cost and risk, eg how much is this going to cost me in money, time and effort? What am I risking if something goes wrong? Money shouldn’t be too much of an issue if you are clear up front about the costs. If they claim it is expensive then point out that you rent an appropriate premises for training, that classes are kept to a size so that there is individual attention for each student and so on.
Just make sure they know that there are no hidden costs that are going to be sprung on them later such as huge fees for gradings. If gradings are expensive because you get a top instructor over from Japan to judge progress then this may be a plus point. Just be up front about it from the beginning. Often people are afraid of getting hurt and that is a legitimate concern in martial arts training. All you can do is emphasize the care with which classes are managed, your first aid training, insurance etc.
But again be honest and let them know what the risks are in your class, for example a postman has to be able to walk a long way each day for his job so if strained knees are an occupational hazard in your style our hypothetical postie might be forgiven for thinking twice before training with you.
A common way is to overcome objections is to offer a free first class so that the potential student can try out the class at no financial risk. This can be disruptive to the rest of a regular class so if you have a lot of inquiries it may be a better idea to do a special introductory session specifically for first timers. Which brings us to the fourth stage which is the close.
It is all too easy to have a very satisfactory conversation about your style and agree that your class sounds absolutely wonderful and then the person just wonders off and you never see them again. So if you really think this person should be training with you then close the sale with a call to action. Ideally get them to give you their contact details so that you can send them more information and keep in touch with them. Don’t pester them relentlessly but six further contacts over a reasonable period would be okay. If someone doesn’t want to be contacted any more they will usually tell you directly. Otherwise it is reasonable to assume that they just haven’t gotten around to showing up yet and they actually appreciate the continued effort.
Reasons you might create for making contact might be that you are holding an introductory open class, that you have published a new leaflet which you are sending them, created a new website for them to visit, opening a new class near to where they live, taking part in a open event and they may like to attend. Even if they don’t respond themselves there is every chance they will pass the information on to someone else who will.
To summarize, be approachable and establish rapport, pay attention to the needs being communicated, be ready to answer objections and then make a call to action at the end. All the time be true to your beliefs and values in everything you say and promise.
For more information about Graham, please visit: www.iceandfire.org. If you would like to add your own thoughts/experience to help others promote their clubs, please leave your comments below.