How YOU can compete with Silver Sneakers

I recently received an email from a trainer with a common challenge facing many fitness professionals who work with mature clients.  Here is her comment:

My clientele are mainly 50 plus, but what I have been running into is the Sliver Sneakers program that many seniors are wanting instead of paying a Trainer. What are your thoughts and can this program you offer help me overcome this situation.

First off, YES this challenge can be overcome and actually used to your advantage.  Here are three key areas that need to be addressed if you are going to be successful.

#1 – Realize that competition is a good thing because it helps you to communicate your distinctiveness.  If you run a high-quality personal and small group training program based on the Functional Aging Training Model then you can confidently say that there really is no comparison between your training and Silver Sneakers.  Free use of a fitness facility does not typically lead to meaningful results because the responsibility for developing the fitness program, sticking with it, overcoming barriers and working around injuries is all on them.  The group exercise option is not customized to their individual functional needs so it too will limit results.  We all know this so the tendency for most trainers is to make direct comparisons between Silver Sneakers (or any competitor) and themselves but what you really need to do is position yourself as a “category of one” so that there really is no comparison.  The best way to do this is to identify and communicate all the ways that make you and your facility/program unique (environment, equipment, training methods, assessments, education, trainers, nutrition, etc.) without referencing any other facilities or programs.  For example, saying that your trainers are Certified Functional Aging Specialists who understand how to get great results for someone like them (age, gender, physical condition, goals, etc.) will demonstrate a distinctive credential.  And whatever you do NEVER speak negatively about another facility or program (older adults are really turned off by it) and don’t say you are “better” than something else (it is too ambiguous and infers a comparison).

#2 – Know who your ideal client is.  We tried Silver Sneakers in our facility for a short time and quickly realized that those who opted for the program were NOT our ideal clients.  Our ideal client, among other things, is interested in really improving their health and function, has little to no experience with exercise, has several age-related physical conditions (arthritis, joint replacement, overweight, etc.), is moderately affluent AND sees the value in paying more to get those results.  Income or net worth alone do not distinguish our ideal client because many mature adults with lots more money only want the cheapest or free option.  When you know who your ideal client is you stop fretting so much about losing potential clients because your goal is NOT to be everything to everyone.  Develop a laser-like focus on your ideal client and start working hard to find and get those types of clients in your program.  In general the Silver Sneakers client is not going to be your ideal client either just like the regular gym-goer won’t be your ideal client either.  (PS – It’s okay to have more than one ideal client – we have three)

#3 – Demonstrate incredible value in the language of your ideal client.  If you are not closing a very high percentage of potential clients (80+%) during the sales process then you have a major issue that is typically one of the following errors:

  • Your marketing failed to attract your ideal client
  • You failed to show value that is meaningful to the client during the sales process
  • You failed to ask confidently for the sale

I want to focus on the second error which is failing to show value that is meaningful to the client.  Values drive almost all human behavior.  What you value (rather than what you say you value) will determine what choices you make on a daily basis.  If you do not understand what your ideal clients value then you will NOT be able to communicate with them appropriately.  For example, a potential mature client walks in saying that one of their goals is to lose weight.  You make the assumption that they want to lose weight in order to look better so you talk about how your programs will help make them lean and muscular and they will be able to fit in their “skinny jeans” again, etc.  However, what you failed to understand is that they want to lose weight to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease because they have had several friends die from heart attacks over the past year.  You assumed they value aesthetics when, in fact, they value health.  So they walk out the door without signing up because they need to “think about it”.  However, in their head they have concluded that you don’t really understand them and this is not the right place for them.

In general, mature adults value: altruism/giving back, family and relationships, faith and spirituality, health, functional ability and life experience, to name a few.  You can use these values to your advantage BUT you need to explore these areas with your potential clients first (ask the right questions and listen more than you talk) to find out what their “hot buttons” are (what really motivates them).  Doing so will greatly enhance your ability to close a sale.

The Functional Aging Specialist certification will give you a distinctive credential and help you understand mature clients better.  It is THE premiere program for creating safe and effective functional exercise programs for this population and can be completed entirely online.

The Advanced Functional Aging Specialist certification will help you take your business to the next level by teaching effective marketing, sales and business methods that are critical to success with the growing mature population.  Spend two days (July 25, 26) being mentored by Dan and Cody in their facility on how to build and grow a successful business.


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