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Confessions of A Gym Membership Salesman

Okay, so… most of this was a reply to a reader who’d found out I’d worked at a gym and wanted to know what I thought about being a personal trainer as a side hustle. I got long-winded, strolled down memory lane a bit. I don’t know, you might get a kick out of it.

Between the ages of 21 and 32, I was at the gym about 5 days a week. I worked at [Fake Gym Name] for a while, but I was a membership salesman. I spent a lot of time with personal trainers, worked out with them a lot, learned a ton from them… but I never was one myself.

That was over a decade ago.  At the time, personal training as a side hustle would have been a tough gig. To make a living, it required a full-time commitment. You had to be filling 6-8 hours of your day with clients and spending the time you weren’t training them getting more clients.

It was a hard time for that sort of thing, the economy had just crapped its pants (which, you know… it’s probably about to do again) and a personal trainer was looking for a person who (1) was motivated about their fitness (2) had a lot of expendable income (3) was coachable.

The third one is more important than it seems. If they don’t listen to you on things like diet, they don’t get the results they want. If they spend a lot of money not getting the results they want, you don’t get referrals, and they don’t buy more training sessions.

All that said, I was the best at selling personal training packages to folks who’d come in to buy a gym membership. I’m bragging a bit, but I’m not being hyperbolic, [Fake Gym Name] actually awarded me a trophy for this. It’s this ridiculous (but also kinda awesome) glass pillar that says: “Life Changer”.  

Back then, the secret to selling the personal training packages was…

Okay, you probably weren’t expecting a story but, whatever, buckle in, here we go…

[Fake Gym] kept trying to get me to teach other salesmen how to increase the number of personal training packages they were able to sell as add-ons when someone came in for a gym membership. I confess to playing dumb, pretending it wasn’t teachable, that I must have just had the right charisma. I don’t think they were fooled because… well… no one will ever accuse me of having ‘charisma’.

Occasionally, my managers would do a “training” exercise where they’d have me do a mock tour/pitch. Basically, show them around the facilities as though they were a customer. They’d tell me they just want to sharpen my craft. Course, the other salesmen didn’t seem to get these pop quiz tours as often … So… I generally left out any of my ‘how to sell personal training’ methodology when this happened.

Well, that and I wasn’t selling the personal training the way [Fake Gym Name] wanted it done, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

What you must understand–It was a terrible job if you actually had to “do it” the way they expected you to. Lots of cold calls, lead generation… that sort of thing. Not my wheelhouse. I got away with a lot of laziness because I’d found a way to make myself somewhat indispensable selling the personal training and I didn’t want to lose that by teaching everyone how to do it. I had just graduated from college. I had a degree in molecular biology, and I was looking for a job at a lab. The gym was keeping me employed until an opportunity came along… but you know how it goes with employers… One must maintain the illusion that gym sales was the career I was passionate about.

Actually, I eventually had to confess that I was looking for another job to one of my managers. He wanted to promote me and the only thing worse than the job I had was the next step up (more cold calls, more lead generation, more coaching of the other salesmen, more getting yelled at for not meeting corporate sales expectations… not much more money). I ended up turning the promotion down.

I’m going off on too many tangents…

The formula for selling Personal Training was three things:

(1) I worked out every day, so I “looked” like I knew what I was talking about.

(2) I’d always slip in a mention of my degree. Early on I picked up a change in customers if they realized I wasn’t some stereotypical gym d-bag from an 80’s movie. They also kind of flipped a switch in their thinking, started assuming that a molecular biology degree informed my physical fitness knowledge (which was like 7% true, mostly… BS)

Now, once establishing yourself as an intelligent authority on the topic, who ‘looked’ the part…

(3) Sell personal training as an educational decision.

Remember how I said I wasn’t pitching personal training the way [Fake Gym Name] wanted me to? Well, that’s because they wanted it to be pitched as something you keep coming back for again and again. It’s a terrible angle. “You can keep paying us for personal training indefinitely, sound great or what?”

People just saw a never-ending bill and personal training isn’t cheap. Remember 2008, economy bad… etc

I would sell it by saying that if they spent 5 sessions with a personal trainer, they would learn the things they needed to know about getting results that eluded them in the past. How to make a workout plan, how to build their diet around it, how to rotate their targeted muscle groups blah blah blah. The reason this is effective is because we’ve all had the experience of deciding it’s time to get in shape, not getting any traction, and quitting. I was basically telling them that a lack of education was what kept that cycle repeating itself.

I had a whole speech describing what it would look like if they came to the gym with no idea what they were doing… it was very accurate speech, because I spent 8 hours a day at a gym watching people who didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

Thing is, this worked for me because I “wasn’t” lying to them. [Fake Gym Name] was happy to have me lie to make sales at the time, but I’m transparent as hell when I try to lie. Basically, (1) it really does help to have a personal trainer build a personal training regimen for you (2) you do learn a ton from them.

See if you aren’t a sociopath, it’s hard to sell someone something you don’t believe in yourself, but I had no reservations about the paragraph above, so I could be persuasive about it.

Back to the point, I wasn’t supposed to sell PT as a thing the customer thought they weren’t going to need more of. See, that’s the other thing, I almost never tried to sell more than a 5-session package. Because I knew that just repeating the exercises you did with a Personal Trainer over 5 training sessions would be a launch pad for most people that would get them through the hardest part of getting started at the gym.

That said, lots of personal trainers were able to sell those clients additional training packages even after I did this, for the obvious reasons… a coach makes it easier…

Update on next upcoming novel

I haven’t dropped an update in a while, so it is time to fix that situation.

I have a new WIP (work in progress). I don’t have a working title for it yet, but in my head I’ve been calling it: “Bard-Hard.”

THIS WILL PROBABLY NOT BE THE FINAL TITLE. Too gimmicky even if it makes me smile.

Still, I look forward to thinking of its sequels as Bard-Harder… Bard Hard with a Vengence…

For now, I’m just going to refer to this WIP as “Bard-Hard” for the remainder of this update.

I began writing “Bard-Hard” about mid-September when my kids started Kindergarten. Currently, I’m 145 pages (roughly 60k words) into the first draft.

Now, I had started another book between The Never Army and “Bard Hard” and I was about 300 pages in before I knew that it wasn’t going to come together. I only bring this up because I sent out some early project announcements about said previous WIP and I don’t want folks getting confused. Anyhow, I haven’t thrown that previous WIP in the trash. The main problem with that story: it was too ambitious to be the first book in a fantasy series. The world I needed it to exist in requires more time to be fleshed out before jumping into where that story takes place. “Bard-Hard” will likely be the first stepping stone that eventually leads to that grandeur ambition.

The Paperback is (finally) here!

Good news today folks!

For the first time ever, the entire series is available in Paperback Edition. To celebrate, all the books are on sale for a limited time! (Unfortunately, this deal on paperbacks won’t last long, see below)

The Never Hero | Normally $15.99 | Currently $10.99
The Never Paradox | Normally $20.99 | Currently $14.99
The Never Army |Will be $25.99 | Currently $20.99

Outside the the United States?Prices/links above reflect the US. All books are discounted equivalently (according to currency) for any Amazon site you may visit.

Audiobook Update: I’ve spoken to Steven Barnett recently, and while we never make any guarantees on these things (it will always be quality over speed) he is confident he’ll be done recording before the end of March.

Sales Price: In order to discount the paperbacks, I had to disable ‘Expanded Distribution.’ This means that as long as the books are discounted they are not available to any retailers outside of Amazon. So, I can only offer these prices for a limited time. For more information on Expanded Distribution see Link: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/GQTT4W3T5AYK7L45

Author Interview With NeoStarling

This interview was a lot of fun. NeoStarling and I talk story, characters, and the upcoming finale. In the past my podcast appearances have been centered on the life of an indie author, this discussion was almost entirely Q&A about The Chronicles of Jonathan Tibbs themselves. Big thanks to NeoStarling for the opportunity to nerd out!

Vol 3 | Title & Cover Reveal

Confession, title reveals make me far more nervous than cover reveals. Once a title is out is out there you can’t change your mind.

First off, the answer is “Yes.” I’m fully aware that TNA is an… unfortunate… acronym.

Second, some of you may be thinking, “Wait, wait, wait… The Never Army. Isn’t that also the name of your e-mail subscriber list? What are you playing at here?”

Okay you caught me. I knew six years ago that The Never Army would probably be the third volume’s title. But that was also before I really started considering how to go about marketing books (back then, I didn’t even know I needed a mailing list). So, when it occurred to me that The Never Army was also a catchy name for an email subscriber list… I went with it. Unless I’ve made a severe miscalculation any confusion this might cause will be minimal.

All that said, when I started working on volume three’s draft there was a serious contender for an alternate title. I won’t say what that title would have been because the alternate was “too apt.“ I know that sounds like the opposite of a reason to not have chosen it, but I came to feel the alternate actually risked being an ending spoiler.

Now, if all that just made you angry and curious about about what this mystery alternate title would have been, don’t worry, I plan to include that story in an author note at the end of the published novel. Theoretically, you’ll all have finished the book by then and the danger of ruining anything will be passed.

Anyhow, you’re all probably sick of hearing me babble about titles!

As always, thank you all so much for being a reader and supporting this series! You are all the reason my family eats and has a roof over its head! My only regret is that I can’t write faster for you!

Book Three Update

Hello Gentle Readers,

Given the frequency with which I’m getting update requests, I feel its time to put everyone at ease about book three. I’m still working on it. This will remain the case unless I die…

…or fall into a coma

…or lose my hands

…something really terrible will have to happen.

No, the manuscript is not as far along as I’d like. I’m about 60% of the way through the first draft.

Now, I know–I KNOW!

…Months ago, I said I was half way through the first draft.  The reason for such little progress since is that I re-wrote the whole damn thing. Trust me, this was out of necessity.

Okay, so why is it taking me so long regardless of rewrites? Well, I hate to blame my shortcoming on innocent children…

I said I hate to do it, didn’t say I wouldn’t.

Currently, I am the loving father of two babies under two years of age. Okay technically Xander will turn two tomorrow, but at the time of this writing this statement is true. Lorelei is almost eight months.

These two are a handful.

I try to get as much time in the chair writing as possible, but if you’re a parent you already know I spend most of my days operating at some degree of sleep deprivation while desperately trying to accomplish the goal of showering at regular enough intervals as to not smell homeless.

All that said, you–Gentle Patient Readers–deserve something for your support! An update worth your time! So, here is a look at the cover art for the finale!

Now, I’ve redacted the word that comes after “The Never” in the title. Why?  I learned with The Never Paradox not to commit to a working title in the middle of the first draft.

Well folks, that is all I’ve got for now. I appreciate your patience and support. I can’t wait to get this book done for all of you!

What Books Inspired You to Write?

What Books Inspired You to Write?

I get this question often and my answers always feel vague. The question isn’t as straight forward as it seems–I end up in a thought labyrinth as I over-dissect the exact meaning of the word “inspired?”

So here are a few answers for each of the ways I might take the question:

Are they asking: What books of fiction have had an observable influence on the stories you write? 

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff |  by Christopher Moore.

Ismael |  by Daniel Quinn.

The Way of the Peaceful Warrior | by Dan Millman.

Though, if we are talking influences, I draw a lot from reading comic books in the 90’s and watching movies/TV shows.

Are they asking: What books of fiction have you enjoyed a great deal?

The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fears | by Patrick Rothfuss.

If I ever met Patrick Rothfuss, I would shake his hand and let him know that, as an author, his work profoundly humbles me every time I read it. It’s not just the man’s prose, but the shear scope of his world building.

The Dresden Files | By Jim Butcher.

The Iron Druid Chronicles | By Kevin Hearne

The Sword of Truth Series | By Terry Goodkind

At the time of this writing I am enjoying Peter V. Brett’s The Demon Cycle.

I am just gonna stop this list short, but I update my Goodreads profile from time to time if you want book recommendations.

Are they asking: What books do you feel people should read for the purpose of self improvement?

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark |  By Carl Sagan

The Moral Animal | By Robert Wright

The Hero With A Thousand Faces | By Joseph Campbell (you guys probably saw that coming)

Are they asking: What books have helped you with the craft of Writing itself?

I found Stephen King’s book: On Writing incredibility helpful. That said, I would add the caveat that one should read this as they are attempting to write their first novel.  Said person should absorb this slowly–only read a chapter or two a week.

Stephen King expresses a lot of his own self doubts throughout the book and it helps to hear a successful author describe the exact same feelings you’ll soon find yourself experiencing.

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