I’m not necessarily one for parables – but here goes.

There was a Gym in Fargo, ND who had a small group of personal trainers who did a great job. They built up a really good following and were involved with every single person who attended the gym in either one on one or group training sessions. This was awesome for the gym and really set them apart. These instructors were making really good money for the gym as well as a good income personally. 

The owners of the gym were looking for new ways improve the fitness services they delivered to their customers and came up with some new programs. Firstly they came up with a great diet plan that would really help both new members as well as those long term customers wanting to muscle up.  They also introduced some new classes and some new methodology they thought would be both successful and possible.  The owners engaged the sales team to lead the role out and they made a considerable investment on marketing to the existing customers. They ran information evenings, mail outs, loyalty promo’s and discounts – but found despite their best effort they were getting no traction at all. 

They wanted to discuss this with the personal trainers but they were really too busy as they had absolutely full schedules from 7am through 10pm and getting them together was just too hard. When the owners spoke to a trainer – each time the trainers said they believed that the new programs were good and when they took off he would help deliver them. They never took off. 

One owner over heard this conversation that really perplexed him:  

Member: “Hey Joe – I keep getting messages about the new Fitness classes – do you think I should try it?”

Trainer: “Well you know – what you are doing now seems to be working. It is really hard to get this 8pm slot with me – so if you gave it up you might not get it back?”
Member: “Yeah – good point, I’ll stick with this.” Moving on he heard another conversation: 

Member: “Hey Bill, I see they are running a new Hot Room kettle bell class, what do you think of it.”

Trainer: “You know I know nothing about Kettle bells, but how interesting could it be. I run a boxing class on Saturdays which is really intense – why don’t you come to this one?” This same sort of conversation was going on all over the gym. The sales team was pulling their hair out as to how were they supposed to sell anything – when the people the members really trusted were not supporting them.  So they called a late night meeting of all trainers (paid for carrots and celery sticks with a mix of protein shakes be brought in) and asked them: 

Sales Team:  “Why are you not recommending the Kettle Bell classes?”

Trainers: “Well who is going to run them and are they really any good? They look rather complex and we have had no training. I’m not sure how good the results can be from lifting a bell”.
Sales Team: “Yeah but we have provided you all with manuals and instructions – it will be easy, plus we paid for you to attend the online web training session?“
Trainers: “Given I am doing 10 hour days already when do you think I would be able to learn all these things, plus what we are doing now works most of the time – and I know if I get stuck I can go and ask John who is knowledgeable.  If I need help with Kettle bells – who can I turn to?”
Trainers: “Plus, right now I get paid good commission in boxing class which is always packed. Why introduce something new – which will mean less commission?”
Sales Team: “But in the long run there is much more opportunity in the new classes”
Trainers: “yes but what we do now may be boring, but it works!” In case my parable has holes in it – the message is simple. Customers only believe their trusted advisers and take little notice of sales teams. You can send out a million flyers, emails and promos but if a customer does not get a rave review from the ‘trusted adviser’ then you will never sell anything. So if you step back and invest a little of those marketing dollars into education for your trusted advisors, the results from your next marketing campaign may well be very different. 

So who are the trusted advisers in your organization?