Successfully Selling Your Personal Training Sessions
Assessments are vital to establishing you as a fitness professional and successfully selling your personal training services. Being successful in the business world, while staying true to the principles of being a professional fitness trainer may seem like a paradox. The business world is often portrayed as being heartless, as indeed it can be when trainers set out to succeed without knowing all the rules involved. The exciting thing is that once trainers do learn the rules, they can tap into key target markets while doing the work that they love.
As you meet people who you hope to gain as clients, it is vital to position yourself in a way that allows you to understand the potential clients’ perspectives. Sometimes, people find themselves squarely in the middle of a fitness consult, when it is about the last thing they would like to be doing. In some settings, a trainer who is not mindful of the big picture might come to view this client as someone who is meeting with you to learn how to use fitness equipment and get in shape.
But we know that it is MUCH more than that. We have learned that the client may come to us with what they feel they want, but this doesn’t guarantee that their needs are going to be met unless some relationship-building is done in order to bridge the gap between where they are now and where the client would like to be.
In the fitness industry, we have done a great job of facilitating physical activity for the general public. But we want to understand the big picture from a trainer’s perspective, too. This means that we must understand how someone is initiated into the process of becoming healthier or more physically fit. In fitness club environments, we manage to corral people into the fold, where we put them on a treadmill and show them equipment set-up, but then we tend to leave the connection broken between why they joined and what their goals are….that is unless we become their trainer.
Within the context of a fitness consult, remember that the person before you may become a client. It is therefore essential to understand that the first impressions you make are likely to endure throughout the course of the relationship you share with this client. What motivates this person to join a club? Why are they making this change, right now, at this stage of their life experience? For some, it is “doctor’s orders” (read: medical clearance) and for others, they may have been devastated by comments from a loved one or friend who remarked about something related to their physicality. Either way, you MUST understand that you very well might have someone before you who does not like the idea of exercising, regardless of how this opinion was shaped or formed. Your job is to find out what their motivations are.
It’s likely that your client doesn’t know it, but they are really coming to you for your ability to make connections. You are responsible for connecting Point A to Point B. You are also establishing a connection to the benefit of training specifically with YOU as their trainer. The difference between you and any other personal fitness trainer may lie in your ability to connect the features of training with you to the benefits the client will see. Another difference will be seen in how you communicate with this client. It is important to show empathy and compassion for the client and their situation, without fail. The level of intensity in your communication is important o get right from the start, as first impressions tend to endure.
Communication and Sales
Communication skills are also known as “people skills”, because, at their best, communicating involves connecting with people and positive and productive ways. As you enhance your skills in this area, you can expect to increase productivity, reduce stress, and improve teamwork. You will also build stronger client relationships and minimize the potential for misunderstandings among colleagues, coworkers, and clients. However, the greatest benefit manifests itself in clients who feel at ease and experience high levels of satisfaction with you being their trainer.
Good communication is a two-way process that involves an exchange of ideas, emotions, and attitudes. The goal of communication is to elicit some type of action. The communication skills necessary and effective therapeutic relationships are the ability to establish rapport, listen to answers, effectively utilize communication technology, be patient, make intelligent observations, elicit information, ask open-ended questions, gain cooperation, conduct excellent client interviews, ask for input, assert boundaries, use active listening techniques and show genuine concern. Most of what has just been listed might sound familiar, depending on the descriptions you’ve used before to describe “what makes a trainer good”
Professionalism and First Impressions
First impressions are powerful — and often irreversible. Your first interaction with a person sets the tone for future communication. It has been stated that it takes between four and 20 seconds to make a first impression. The elements of a first impression include characteristics such as your appearance, facial expressions, body language, what you say, what’s not said, your ability to build rapport, your energy level, and the actual messages you convey. A vast amount of information is exchanged, and many judgments are formed at lightning speed in just a few moments.
Sometimes trainers unknowingly alienate new potential clients because they don’t present themselves positively and professionally. To avoid this potential pitfall, take some time to think about how you present yourself and your work in the vital first meeting. When you’re thoroughly prepared and not worrying about how to introduce yourself and what to say, it’s easier to focus on being with your clients and listening to them completely.
Avoid pre-judging yourself or your clients. This prejudice can substantially alter your first impression. Focus on building rapport and keeping an open mind. Your confidence in yourself and your abilities increases the comfort of your client’s experience.
Why is Building Rapport With Clients Important?
Rapport is the bond that develops between you and your clients; it’s based on mutual trust as the core. After you’ve made a good first impression, rapport can be the single most important factor in whether this prospect becomes a long-term client. Rapport develops by being open and demonstrating genuine concern. Some techniques for developing rapport are correctly pronouncing clients’ names, using clients’ names frequently, smiling, shaking hands, making eye contact, allowing ample time for clients to talk, speaking with enthusiasm and conviction, being punctual, listening, and asking light personal questions about your prospective client’s family, hobby, or job.
Why are Listening Skills Important for a Personal Trainer?
Although more than half of all communication time is spent listening, very few of us have received training in the most effective ways to listen. In fact, by the time we reach adulthood, any of us have become highly skilled at tuning out messages — either from well-meaning but overcritical parents or teachers, or from the constant bombardment of media advertisements.
Listening goes beyond hearing. Hearing is simply the physiological process by which the brain interprets information received in the ears. Listening involves taking the time to understand and interpret heard information. Listening means giving the speaker your full attention.
Effective listening skills affect clients in positive and powerful ways. They can help a client to feel at ease. Listening skills can also help diffuse difficult or awkward situations when you may encounter an emotionally upset client. Being heard can profoundly help a client to relax and heal. After feeling truly heard, a client may relax – breath deeper, sleep better, and feel less tension in his or her body.
One of the most common mistakes in both personal and professional communications is to give unsolicited advice or turn the focus back to yourself when someone expresses concern and frustration. By jumping in with a solution or inserting your experiences or situation, the person you’re talking with will not feel truly heard. In a professional setting, you also risk traversing into territory better handled by a psychotherapist. With training and experience, however, trainers can learn to manage the fine line between being supportive and moving into the territory of a psychotherapist.
What is Active Listening?
Active listening involves giving your full attention to the speaker. Often times this means listening for the feelings behind words, facial expressions, or gestures. Words convey only part of the message. To completely comprehend what the client is saying, the trainer needs to understand what the message means to the client. This means that we must understand what’s being said from the client’s frame of reference. It also requires a willingness to set aside wandering thoughts and stay focused on the client’s words.
An active listener will raise interest with non-verbal communication, such as open body language and steady eye contact, and avoids distractions such as fiddling with a pen. The active listener also pays close attention to the client’s verbal and nonverbal communication. The old saying, “walk a mile in my shoes”, captures the essence of active listening.
Reflective Feedback – Linking Active Listening to Your Client
Reflective feedback is one of the most effective techniques for enhancing communication. This involves briefly restating the feelings, concerns, or content that the client has said. An active listener, or trainer, that uses reflective feedback, first allows the speaker to relate their story without interruption and then responds by asking further questions or rephrasing what was heard.
When doing reflective feedback, do not merely parrot back what someone has said. This can be counterproductive. Instead, find the core of the message, and show understanding by how you reflect the client in your own words. Use tone and intention to convey what was heard and check to see that what was heard is accurate. For example, a client claims to be experiencing pain in her right shoulder. An active listener might reflect back, following up by saying, “Tell me more about the pain.” “How does this pain factor into your daily activities?”, or, “What I hear you saying is that the pain…”
If you have accurately received your client’s words, your paraphrasing will confirm this for them. If, on the other hand, your paraphrasing is incorrect, the client has an opportunity to correct this. Another advantage of reflecting a message back to the client is that it offers them time to reflect on what they said, and an opportunity to delve deeper into themselves.
Try practicing reflective feedback by asking questions, such as, “So what you’re saying is that you’ve been having headaches after you were rear-ended last week?” Reflecting in the form of a question allows the client to tell you if you heard him correctly and to add any information they may want to convey.
Validate the client’s feelings and experiences regardless of what you think about them. Also, refrain from expressing any judgments or personal opinions. This can be more difficult than you may think. Simple agreement or disagreement with the content of the information can be judgmental, or judgment can be more direct as in the following example: a client is very distraught because her teenage son was caught drinking last night, so you must avoid saying things like, “Wow, I hear how upset you are when your son behaves stupidly!”
Reflective feedback requires total presence; people see, hear, and feel when you’re paying attention to what they say. It also requires that a trainer paraphrase, instead of repeating, what has been heard, word for word. Only reflect back on what is most important to the client and for the process-related training.
Interacting with Clients
Initial interviews (sometimes called “orientations” for new fitness club members) play a key role in creating lasting, healthy relationships between trainers and their clients. Information is gathered, rapport is built and ideas are shared. Ideally, these communications occur at regular intervals. The most extensive interview is the initial session with your client. It sets the tone for your working relationship and an effective first session can take a full 60 minutes; this will require good communication skills, especially the ability to listen. Any new client meeting isn’t simply about obtaining a client’s health history. It is an opportunity to explain the benefits of training with you, clarify your current health status, formulate your professional recommendation, and educate your prospective clients. It is also time to build a climate of trust by listening carefully to client concerns and questions.
Attitude plays a critical role in determining the difference between failure and success. Attitude is how one decides to approach something. Attitude is a choice. Attitude is the “lens” that colors how we view life experiences. All too often when we encounter something new or challenging, we automatically have a negative attitude about it. But if we choose to look at the situation objectively and decide to stay open to learning more about it, our attitude already changes from a negative one to a positive one, and is willing to adjust to the new circumstances.
What Do You Do For a Living?
You are a problem solver. You are hired to solve your client’s problem of not being able to reach their health and fitness goals independently. Again, you are making connections.
YOUR JOB IS TO GET YOUR CLIENT FROM POINT A TO POINT B.
The information for the trainer to Bridge the Gap is obtained through proper assessments. Point A is obtained by completing a detailed health history and exercise history, as well as thorough physical assessments. The information for Point B (their goals) is obtained by asking detailed questions of the client.
Without proper assessments, a trainer has no idea how to design the best exercise routine for that client; no way of knowing how to “Bridge the Gap”. The reason for this review is to point out how proper assessments are vital to establishing you as a Fitness Professional – NOT just someone who teaches people how to exercise. By properly establishing yourself as a Fitness Professional in your client’s eyes (as the problem solver they are searching for) you will find clients asking you for the sale instead of the other way around.
What Separates Successful Trainers from Marginal Trainers?
Education and practical knowledge are important, however, knowledge does not ensure success. Many personal fitness trainers have advanced degrees in exercise science and multiple certifications, and yet may never be very successful from a business standpoint. On the other hand, there are many trainers who only have the foundational certification and have never advanced beyond that, yet many are very successful. What do these trainers have that others with more education do not? It’s a proper STATE OF MIND!
A Successful State of Mind – The Traits of Successful Trainers
• Confidence: Successful trainers are confident in their ability to help their client achieve their goals. Would you want to go to a doctor that was not confident in their diagnosis?
• Professionalism: Successful trainers demonstrate professionalism at all times. Successful trainers are more than just “rep counters” They are attentive to their client’s needs and considerate of those around them. Remember, unless you are training in a private setting, a potential client might be watching.
• Enthusiasm: Successful trainers are enthusiastic and motivating. Who wants to be trained by a dry and boring trainer?
• Passion: Successful trainers are passionate about their work and helping others. Showing passion for what you do will motivate both yourself and your client. This type of passion for fitness is contagious and vital in creating positive lifestyle changes in your client.
• The Golden Rule of Training: “Train unto others as you would have others train unto you.” In other words, if you were going to pay for personal fitness training, what type of training would you expect?
How to Become a Certified Personal Trainer
Check out what it takes to start a career in personal fitness training. NESTA is your most affordable and fastest way to become a highly qualified personal trainer.
There is always something exciting about earning a new training or coaching certification and applying that new knowledge of how you train your clients. This also helps you hit the reset button.
NESTA and Spencer Institute coaching programs are open to anyone with a desire to learn and help others. There are no prerequisites.
That’s it for now.