Rocky Chow has attached great value to customer service since he started as a personal trainer at a leading fitness centre.
"The tasks handled by a personal trainer and a salesperson may differ, but both need to ensure that the client is happy with the service they provide," says Chow, senior vice-president for sales at California Fitness.
The United States-headquartered company is looking for three to four sales consultants for each of its 10 fitness clubs in Hong Kong. They will be responsible mainly for recruiting new members.
Chow says the company looks for candidates with service sales experience, but also welcomes fresh graduates who can absorb knowledge quickly.
Kent Tsoi, general manager of the Quarry Bay branch of the club, says candidates must be outgoing, creative and able to promote a product effectively. Sales consultants are involved in introducing new promotional ideas and helping to organise marketing campaigns.
"In making calls to prospective clients, a sales consultant has to come up with ways to arouse their interest," Tsoi says. A phone script is provided but there is room to add a personal touch by, for example, speaking with the right tone and speed to ensure a good connection is established.
Chow says fitness is a proactive sales business. "We have to look for new opportunities all the time. It's different to other service industries, where customers come to you. We have to be the one to approach and encourage. Therefore, you need the skills, charisma and creativity."
Prior knowledge is not necessary for a sales consultant, he adds, as the company offers training in product knowledge. New sales staff get training in general sales techniques and training specific to a particular club. "Sales techniques differ," Chow says. "Street marketing is more commonly used in Mong Kok where the club is situated on busy streets, whereas we mostly meet with clients through appointments in Quarry Bay as there are more residential blocks and offices."
The company is always looking for skilled personal trainers who can explain to club members how to use the equipment and suggest basic exercises to get them started. They also design personal training programmes for clients.
"The question is how to help clients understand why they need a personal training programme, what they should do, what goals they should set and how to stay motivated. Personal trainers need to have excellent communication skills," Chow says, adding that personal trainers, such as Tsoi and himself, have become sales staff.
Chow says California Fitness is a growing company with many opportunities for promotion. "Employees can learn on the job and learn from managers," he says. "The company also encourages further learning. I was given the opportunity to visit our parent company in the US."
In hiring general managers, Chow says the company considers promoting internal staff and hiring externally. General managers are responsible for the performance of the fitness club, from providing good customer service to the financial performance. Candidates should have at least two to three years' experience in store management in the customer service or retail industry.
As a general manager, Tsoi finds co-ordinating the different departments most challenging. "We have personal trainers, sales, and employees in operations, group exercise [such as aerobic instructors] and cleaning. I meet with everyone in the club every morning before discussing with team heads the targets for the day and how to improve our service."
All in a day's work
Sales consultants begin their day by confirming appointments already made with potential clients.
They will then hit the streets, promoting the fitness club to encourage passers-by to visit the club, and providing a guided tour to those who are interested in becoming a member of the club.
They spend the rest of the day meeting with prospective clients and arranging appointments for the following day.