I believe that in order for a trainer to call himself successful we must examine his/hers’ ability to “keep” current clients. In the field of personal training, where motivation and personality are as vital as practical knowledge, the mainstay of those attributes lies in the ability for a client to reach their fitness goal. Obviously, if a client reaches their goal, they will luckily, thank you and grant you some of the praises. With that, come great marketability, referrals, and confidence. With confidence comes a drawn-up map to success. Once you taste success, you want to experience it every time.
However, there are bumps along the way. A busy trainer doesn’t just have one client or maybe two. A busy trainer usually has 15 and up to 30 clients per week. And trying to motivate all your clients on a weekly basis can be a tedious, energy consuming skill. So I understand that sometimes when you are down to your sixth client of the day, you are tired, drained, hungry, and numb. People like you and me wake up every morning “planning” to attend the gym or exercise. Sedentary individuals that have entered the “action” stage need constant motivation and motivation to continuously plan ahead. This can be difficult for the trainer, so I understand that you don’t always keep every client you obtain. You do get “drop-outs” and it’s normal in the personal training field.
I also understand that with every one lost client you suffer, you must try to obtain 2 new ones. Why? One replaces the one you lost; the other is a back up. See, in order to “like” personal training enough to continue to do it, you must enjoy getting paid for what you love to do! Take some of the most popular and successful athletes. They have all quoted at one time or another, they have the best job in the world—they get paid to play a sport they love! You name them: Michael Jordan, John Elway, Andre Agassi, Wayne Gretzki, and so on.
Many trainers that begin in the field start out with a passion to help people—which is the foundation—but then they realize that they have to work at keeping clients and retaining new ones. They begin to hate the “business” side of personal training. They hate the “work” aspect of the career. That is fine too. I don’t think there is a company in the world that has employees with the same work production. Some employees go above and beyond because they are motivated by one thing and some are satisfactory because they are motivated by other things.
So what does this have to do with anything? I’ll tell you a story about a friend of mine. He is a great guy and is a personal trainer. He loves sharing his knowledge with people and is quite good at it. However, he is unhappy with the fact that he is only paid based on the amount of work he puts into drumming up his business. For instance: he can only “handle” 5 clients a week at $30 a session each. That’s only $150 a week he is earning for his services. He doesn’t want to look for new prospective clients because it takes a lot of effort on his part to “start over”, so he complains he doesn’t make a lot of money. The clients he does have begin to experience his frustration with the direction his career is going and sense a loss of passion. This can be experienced by monotony in workouts, less energy during sessions, and frequent session cancellations (by both parties). So, my friend would rather rely on “passive” income. The kind that resembles a plant. You water a couple times a week and it grows in the corner of your office. Well, once he begins to rely on passive income, he realizes that passive income is sporadic and not constant like “active” income. Active income you have to work at it. Active income you have to get up everyday and try your hardest to lure in a new client so you can replace the one you lost. Active income resembles all the time you spend periodizing a workout for a client….all the research you do for a client…all the templates you put together for a client….and all the openness you share with a client. So in the end, my friend just sits back down and is satisfied with his $150 a week.
Good trainers will always have clients that have been with them for years. And you know who these clients are? They fall into 2 categories: a.) clients who experience success towards their fitness goals (have lost fat or gained muscle) or b.) Clients that love the interaction with the trainer. Either category, the trainer is enjoying a continuous flow of income AND constant referral source. Clients that stay with you for long periods are your best marketers. They talk about your workouts, your personality, your work ethic, your passion, and your commitment to help them achieve your goals. Why wouldn’t you want to workout with that trainer?
So if you are presently a trainer--on your own or through a health club---here are 5 tips to help you retain your clients or get new ones:
1.) Always use the term “we”.
In your communication with your client, always use the term “we”. “We will get to your goal in 6 weeks”…“we ought to be able to hit that 225 bench next week”…“we better get to it because your marathon is coming up”. Clients love feeling like they are in a partnership with you. Clients look up to the trainer and when they feel like you are “sharing” their fitness goal, they feel more supported, more confident, and more obligated to not let you down.
2.) Always show the client the wrong way to exercise.
I have always demonstrated the right way and wrong way of an exercise to a client because I believe it empowers the client with knowledge. I believe that if a client can visually see the wrong way to perform an exercise, they are more apt to perform it correctly. I even go so far as point out people in the gym performing exercises incorrectly to my client. And while we stand there and watch, I let them in on “why” and “what exactly” is wrong with the way the exercise is being performed. This act of empowerment builds trust between you and the client, and also, re-establishes your role as educator.
3.) Don’t be afraid to speak to your client about things other than exercise!
I see this all the time. The trainer and client are finished with a set and they just stand there and don’t say two words to each other. There is no communication! The trainer must not be afraid to talk about the weekend, or the kids or the TV show they watched last night—just don’t get lost in the conversation! How awkward is it to grunt, sweat, and pant in front of someone everyday and not feel comfortable around them? You must establish a relationship with your client, and its okay, to talk about life with them. It’s okay to cross that line a little. So many trainers are robots and become fearful of “being unprofessional”. But guess what? YOU control what you say. YOU control what you talk about. YOU control how long you want to talk. This leads me to number four.
4.) The Trainer Must Control the Session.
A client must understand that the fitness professional must steer the session. Some clients may be big-time CEO’s or aggressive types, but in the fitness realm—you are the CEO! If you are confident in your ability, confident in YOUR workplace, and you are confident that you can help your client—then you must control the session. You must control the exercise selection, the pace, conversation length, and rest periods. I have never, ever let a client tell me what exercise we should do because it is “their favorite”. I have never, ever had a client bring a cell phone to a session. I have, ever had a client talk to me longer than 1 minute during a rest period. After every set of an exercise, I would announce, “okay we got 45 seconds until the next set”. Was I a prick? Sure…but my attitude was taken with stride because my objective was THEIR objective. (Remember “we”?)
5.) Acknowledge Your Client When You See Them
When you are with Jane and you see your client Bob, working on those Russian Twists you taught him, make sure you greet or make eye contact with him. Assure him that you are watching him and notice he’s made an effort to come in for a workout on his own. I can’t tell you how many times, and how bright a client’s face lit up, when I said “Hey Frank!”, when I was working with someone else. Their faces light up like wild fire. As humans, we all like to be acknowledged by name or face. As confidence grows, this becomes particularly true in most cases. So, don’t have blinders on with one client….keep your eyes moving across the entire gym floor and watch for your regulars. These traits are what score you the next potential new client. And I guarantee, if you apply these 5 tips to your present client list….you should have an easy time receiving referrals or obtaining that lady on the treadmill that watched you every morning train your 10 o’clock client!