The Black Belt Business Podcast

Why Your Leads Are Not Signing Up

Sep 11, 2023

You’re getting leads. They’re reaching out, booking their first class, and showing up for their appointment. But what keeps them from signing up? Why does your close ratio either jump erratically or not budge at all?

Sure, different seasons affect all industries, slowing them down or ramping up the pace, but how do you make sure that you’re doing everything on your end to keep students wanting to come back?

If you’re relying on the post-New Year or back-to-school surge to fuel your membership count, you’re probably struggling to see your academy grow. No matter what time of year it is, you need to make it an active part of your staff culture to create the best experience possible for prospective students so that even if not now, they’ll want to come back later.

Friendly and engaged staff

The success and health of your academy starts at the front. At Easton, we refer to our front desk staff as “First Impressions Specialists.” This is because they’re the first dose of Easton Training Center a prospective student gets upon reaching out or coming in.

We never want to perform or act inauthentically, but an engaged, smiling person behind the desk that’s ready to jump in and introduce themselves or ask questions goes a long way.

Some of these leads went far out of their comfort zones to come in; make it your mission to make them as comfortable as possible. 

Find staff who are personable, empathetic and honest. It always helps, but shouldn’t be a prerequisite, if they start out as students themselves, since they can relate to many of the feelings and insecurities new prospects may experience.

From how they bring leads in, to how they represent the school over communication platforms like email, social media, or texting softwares, your staff will set the tone that can either make or break a community’s spirit.

Make sure your front desk staff understands the importance of their roles and how valuable they are. They’re not just there to sign people in and count classes – they’re responsible for making a first impression on everyone who walks in your academy, even long time students.

Your front desk staff should be ready to greet new prospects, help them settle in, and make their experience as excellent as possible. Share the martial arts love, and make decisions that keep everybody safe!

They don’t have a solid experience on Day 1

Martial arts are expansive and confusing, and that fact will deter many people from signing up. 

One crucial element for academies to integrate into any prospective student’s experience is that of an intro class, or orientation.

An intro session, scheduled 30 minutes before their first class, helps them learn the basic warm up movements so they can leave their first class feeling like they at least understood something. 

Additionally, it gives the orientation instructor a chance to build rapport and hand off the new student to the coach so that the student and coach feel comfortable right away. 

The new student goes into class already having had a positive learning experience in either a one-on-one setting or a small group if multiple new people have signed up for the same class. 

Rather than getting thrown on a bike with no training wheels, which can plummet confidence instead of instilling it, students already have something to build on and some fundamental understanding of the art. The more a student feels like they’re learning, the more likely they’ll feel drawn to return.

Encourage your coaches to connect with new students as much as they can and make it fun!

Speak loudly, clearly and enunciate. You can have the most beautifully-skilled black belt running a class, but if the curriculum feels scattered or you can barely hear them, your leads may not stick around. 

Keep class engaging and fun, and always make sure to set up an orientation, or intro class, before new prospects jump into class. If you set them up for success right off the bat, new students who may have otherwise bailed may discover one of the next great passions of their lives.

Dropping the sales ball

Two things will ensure you never get a lead to sign up after class: trying too hard and not trying at all.

Most martial arts academies have a process in place for after their first class: prospective students receive a short presentation about the academy’s membership options.

For anyone not naturally inclined towards sales, this can be hard. It can feel like you’re bothering people, tricking them into something, or trying to “make a sale.” It can have an icky connotation that feels very removed from the fun, healthy, active experience they just had.

How do you do your job while maintaining that positive, healthy experience?

The discomfort of sales can lead new front desk staff to lack resolve in approaching prospects post-class for the membership chat. Or, if your staff isn’t prepared, the almost-student can slip out entirely. 

Make sure you educate your team on the value you bring as a school, and empower them to passionately share that value with others. Let them lead with personal experience, curiosity, and information rather than a preconceived notion.

On the other hand, we often get repelled by people who try too hard. If the pitch feels inauthentic (i.e., a “pitch”) people will sense it and recede. The more you try to sell them, especially after they already said no, the more they’ll want to run.

Pro tip: If they say no, be cool. You get it. Would they like for you to reach back out in a few months? Sometimes, it may just come down to timing. 

Don’t scare away potential students by going too hard for the sale when all they need is a little time. Tap into the human element! You’re not tricking anyone; you have an amazing product (martial arts) that you believe in and love, and want them to love it too. 

On the flip side, scoring a sale isn't just about being authentic. It can take practice to skillfully move someone through the sales process and manage their objections. We use roleplaying as well as our instructional series to train our staff.

Extremely important – make sure you stay as transparent as possible about all aspects of your memberships. If there’s a cancellation policy with a special timeline – tell them. Don’t leave out any fine print; shadiness will be detected and bite someone in the butt later.

Check out our resources about how to book appointments and make sales afterwards!

Nurturing the aftermath

Like we pointed out, sometimes people don’t take life timing into account when spontaneously signing up for a trial class.

Maybe they did it right before a trip, or leaving for college, or their current work schedule doesn’t fit with your class schedule. 

Don’t count them as a lost cause, but also don’t bring out the big guns. Life is complicated. People tend to resonate with those they feel safe with. Let them know you’re on their side – you want what’s best for them. And truly mean it.

Offer them another free class if they didn’t have a good time, or promise to follow up if they did but can’t commit now – and then actually follow up.

Make sure to keep the experience positive all the way through. Even if they don’t sign up, they’ll remember you. Then in the future, when they’ve changed jobs, sent their kids to school or have more passive income, you’ll be the first school they’ll come back to.

Set follow-up reminders to check in, and maintain the dialogue. Sometimes it may take months, but then you’ve got them for life.

It’s not about catching flies, it’s about making the honey so good people can’t help but want in.

And yes, while the success of any company depends on the fiscal component, the other side – the front-facing, human side – is the culture you build and the community that will carry you.

Remember: we’re not “making sales;” we’re changing lives with martial arts. 

Get access to our Easton Online Affiliate Introductory Pack and learn more about how to clean up your marketing processes and more! 

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