In this blog series, I want to share with you some tried and proven methods in how to gain and retain clients. I sometimes have the privilege of presenting this information to our Personal Training Academy Certificate IV Blended Intensive students, here at our head quarters in Prahran, Melbourne, so I thought it would be beneficial to share it with our wider community. I hope you enjoy and it is of use to some of you.

It is pretty fair to say that most personal trainers dread the concept of ‘selling’ or hate to think of themselves as ‘sales people’, yet selling is one of the critical skills all personal trainers need to become successful. On the other hand, most personal trainers love to help people and give ‘great service’ and it is for this reason, that I believe the most effective way for new personal trainers to gain clients, is to think that ‘the service is the sale’.

Let me explain.

If you focus each session around providing phenomenal service to your new client, then before you know it your client is selling himself or herself on your service.  I will outline a few simple steps over this blog post and if you can remember to do these things in your first session (or every session for that matter) then you will more often than not create a fun, engaging and highly motivating environment for your clients, which will ultimately result in them wanting to come back to train again and again with you.

It is worth noting that these tips or methods come from ‘real’ personal trainer success stories and are not mere theories pulled from of a book.  Before joining the Personal Training Academy in 2010, I spent the previous 12 years working for 2 major Health Club chains, namely Crunch Fitness (based out of New York City, USA) and Fitness First Australia.

Being an Aussie living and working in NYC were some of the best years of my professional and personal life, however in late 2001, when I knew it was time to return home to Australia (unfortunately I was in NYC during the terrible events of the Sept 11th World Trade center attacks), my then partner and now wife, Melony and I spent the best part of six weeks travelling around the Crunch clubs meeting with the top personal trainers.  Our objective was to find out what they all did in the first session(s) with a new client to increase their chance of success.  It was no surprise that a pattern began to form, in that most of these top trainers all did similar things when working with a new client.  We simply gathered this information and then put it into a format that could be replicated by the average trainer and this essentially became our ‘road map’ or ‘recipe’ for success, outlined below.

Let’s now take a look at how top trainers create the ‘magic’ of their first session.

Tip 1: Get them to show up!

The hardest client to sell personal training to, is the client that doesn’t show up, so new trainers need to get the basics right when confirming their new client appointments.

Some simple tips when confirming appointments over the phone are:

  • Make the call – Remember to confirm your appointment approx 24-36 hrs before. Note this means do not call them the night before their 7am appointment as you are giving them an excuse to pull out or reschedule with you.
  • Set the tone – Remember you are one professional talking to another, so act like it.
  • Don’t devalue yourself – Don’t start your call with “Have I caught you at a bad time” or “Sorry to bother you”, etc.  Be assertive, yet polite and state the reason for your call – “Hi, this is Dominic from (your fitness business), I am calling to confirm our appointment for (appointment date/time) and just wanted to ask you a few important questions”…
  • Set a meeting place – Remind them of where you will meet them and what to bring.

Tip 2: Keep anxiety levels low!

The challenge for most personal trainers is they struggle to put themselves in the shoes of their clients.  Personal Trainers are typically fit and healthy people and thus often struggle to understand what their clients go through before they stand in front of them for the first time. Each client has their own story however most suffer from various forms of anxiety in the lead up to first stepping foot in the fitness club.  In your clients mind, the fitness club is a scary place, full of lycra clad ‘trim, toned and athletic’ people and whether this is an accurate reflection of your fitness club or not, it is ‘their reality’.

Here some tips on how to keep both you and your client’s anxiety levels low:

  • Be early and be prepared – ensure you leave yourself a few minutes to clear your head and prepare before your clients is due so you can assess what type of equipment and session you will have access to.
  • Meet them at reception or somewhere clear and obvious – the worst thing you can do to a new client is have them wonder around your club looking for you because the you can guarantee this will drive up their anxiety levels, as the little voice in their head says – “See I told you this was a bad idea!!”, “You don’t fit in here!”, “Run while you still have the chance”.
  • Play ‘guess my client” – Some of these top trainers stood at the club reception or turnstiles approx 5 mins prior to the session start time and tried to guess which client was theirs.  Having never met them face-to-face before (only speaking with them over the phone) they would try to guess which member it was.  Imagine you were meeting your new client (let’s call her Sarah) and you wanted to ensure she was coming into a safe and encouraging environment.  They would ask every female who walked into the gym “Hi are you Sarah”? “No, sorry have a great session”.  “Hi are you Sarah”, etc… Then when Sarah actually walked in – “Hi are you Sarah”?  Sarah says “yes how did you know”. You reply with “Oh I just had a good feeling about it”. (Result is she is hopefully feeling safe now she can put a friendly face to your name)
  • Meet & greet – remember the old 10/10/10 rule – first 10 meters, 10 seconds and 10 words you say will create a lasting impression with your client, so be confident yet welcoming when you greet your client.

Tip 3: Find your clients ‘underlying motive’ not their fitness goal.

Let’s face it; personal training is often considered a luxury item to most people, not a necessity.  We know people make most buying decision based on emotions, not logic.   In other words, they make decisions based on ‘how it will make them feel’.  It is for this reason that you need to find out your clients ‘underlying motive’ or ‘emotional reason’ for deciding to use your services.  I will let you in on a little secret – it is not to ‘lose weight, tone up or get fit’.  Those are physical benefits of personal training  or fitness but they are certainly not going to connect you emotionally to your client.

Here are some tips on finding your clients ‘underlying motive’:

  • Find a quiet place – don’t try to do a effective needs analysis with your client on a busy gym floor, on a treadmill or in front of multiple TV screens.  Your client will likely be self-conscious or in sensory overload by all the visual stimulation in front of them.  Instead find a quite place where you can sit shoulder to shoulder with your client to find out more about each other.
  • Ask open-ended questions – these are questions that make your client reveal something about them and can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. A simple yet effective open-ended question would be – “Why did you join (your fitness business)?” Or “What are you hoping to get out of today’s session”.
  • Ask effective branch questions – this is where one question branches into another question to dig a little deeper.  My favourite branch questions are “Why is that important to you?” and “How do you mean …(put their words in here – i.e. lose weight, tone up, etc)?”
  • Make a bold statement – when you discover your client’s ‘underlying motive’ try to make a bold statement about it so you highlight it and take ownership of it.  This is often easier said than done however try to simply summarise their ‘underlying motive’ and collectively take that first step toward it.  This will show your new client that you have listened to them and invested in them.
  • Set a deadline – try to set an expected time frame or deadline in which they want to achieve this by.  This subconsciously helps project you into the picture and showcases how you can help them achieve this by their deadline.

Without a doubt, the best tool available to do this is the PTA Global Program Design Questionnaire (PDQ).  You would have been exposed to this if you have completed our PTA Certificate IV in Fitness or if you have completed our PTA Global Bridging Course (if not then I highly recommend every PT completeing this course – it will be a real ‘game changer’ for you).

Ok, stay tuned for my future blogs, where I will reveal more tips on how you can provide phenomenal service and get more clients.  ‘Till then be safe and have fun!

About the Author:

Dominic dos Remedios  |  Director & CEO

Dom started his career in the Fitness Industry back in 1991 in Sydney as a Personal Trainer. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Education degree in Human Movement. Before joining PTA he was the National Personal Training Manager for Crunch Fitness (USA) and National Fitness Manager for Fitness First.  He became a Director and owner of the Personal Training Academy, and BioAge in 2010. Dom is widely respected within the Industry both nationally and internationally and is a regular presenter at Filex Expo.

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