Developing a Sales Culture at Your Yoga Studio

Presented by Phil Swain, YogaWorks CEO | Published on: March 28, 2014

Raw capitalism probably isn't the first thing you associate with yoga, but in the $7 billion-a-year industry, competition does exist, so it pays to be business savvy.

YogaWorks CEO Phil Swain explained at the 2013 Business of Yoga conference in Washington, D.C. that creating a sales culture at yoga studios includes wanting to actually be competitive instead of coasting.

"As the industry grows and bigger companies come around, you're going to have to take a serious look at how you're operating your business," said Phil.

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Embrace A Sales Culture

Especially as the yoga industry evolves and becomes more competitive, studio owners can’t be afraid to embrace a sales culture and actively recruit new students. While yoga is about the community, studio owners and teachers cannot spread yoga’s benefits if they’re offering classes in empty rooms. Phil suggested that you can’t change people’s lives if you don’t take the opportunity to introduce them to yoga.

Offering discounted or free classes and workshops to first-time students is a great way to bring new people through the door, which is a key first step to gaining valuable, loyal customers. In the long run, the returns made on loyal students will outweigh the cost of occasionally providing free classes.

"It's okay to sell… I'm not talking about manipulating people, I'm not talking about being dishonest,” said Phil. If you provide quality yoga instruction, there is nothing wrong with making that known to your community, especially because, as Phil pointed out, "People are afraid sometimes to make a decision."

Train Employees to Give and Receive Information

"You can't hire people who just love yoga. You've got to hire people…[who]…want to be professionals," said Phil. The best employees are those whom you can train to promote your studio in all aspects of their work.

Phil recommended owners thoroughly train employees to become passionate spokespeople for the studio. He suggested coaching front desk staff to engage with students and ask anyone who enters the studio:

  1. Is this your first time here?
  2. Have you practiced yoga before?
  3. Do you live nearby?

The questions make students feel welcome; the answers provide data that you can use to inform your business plan. Phil also emphasized that your employees should know about:

  • The product, i.e., the studio
  • The number and type of classes offered
  • The teachers, and,
  • The benefits of yoga

If your staff is dedicated to increasing membership, further motivate them by setting target goals such as revenue or student growth. Setting a monthly target is a good start, but those numbers can be broken down on a day-to-day basis, too. That way, when it's the middle of the month, you already know if you're on track to hit your projections.

If your employees work on commission, they have a built-in incentive to boost their sales numbers. You do have to hold sales associates accountable if they're missing their goals. "If you don't make that serious, if you don't make that accountable, it's just lip service," said Phil.

Encourage Referrals to Drive Growth

The biggest source of student growth for either studio operators or teachers is referrals from existing students. However, you must have students in order to attract more students. This is where instructors can make a big impact for studios.

"Who has more influence over your students than your teachers?" rhetorically asked Phil, advising that you talk to them about what they can do to help bring in more heads.

Growing your business also means being proactive about finding and marketing to potential students instead of waiting for them to come to you. He suggested seeking out students from businesses that may share the demographic model of your student base. For example, Phil explained that fitness clubs are like farm systems for yoga studios in that while they may offer yoga, they won't have the breadth and depth of offerings that a yoga studio provides. So someone who wants to try yoga may give it a shot at a nearby fitness club and then eventually stop at your studio to continue practicing.

Phil also mentioned you can find local businesses that may be interested in offering yoga to their employees. "There are people nowadays that will pay to have your yoga instructors come to them, clear out a conference room, do a class," he said, adding that you can give the company free trial passes for their employees to come to your studio.

About Phil Swain

Phil Swain is the CEO of YogaWorks and has spent over 35 years in the health and fitness industry. He helped create The Sports Connections, Spectrum Clubs, Sports Club LA and Reebok Sports Club/NY prior to joining YogaWorks. Phil has a passion for building health and wellness businesses and has doubled the size of YogaWorks through his belief in the healing properties of yoga.

Eligibility for Continuing Education

This workshop counts for one Continuing Education Non-Contact Hour or one RYS Curriculum Non-Contact Hour under the Teaching Methodology category.

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