Becoming a professional and effective salesperson begins with image and first impressions. The proper attire and grooming must be taken into consideration. While a small town, local gym will vary from a high-end suburban health club, the personal trainer must make the appropriate efforts to be clean shaven, well-groomed, with clean, appropriate attire that is neither too revealing nor too mysterious. There is nothing wrong with wanting to display a healthy physique, but it is quite another to flaunt one’s attributes. Confidence and cockiness are not the same. The personal trainer must be clear about their environment, the type of clientele they expect to receive, and must evaluate the situation to be able to separate themselves from an “ordinary” trainer.
The personal trainer must smile. A “goofy” or “silly” smile is no substitution for an honest, sincere smile from a person who simply enjoys what they do and is happy to be where they are. New clients will gravitate to the trainer whom they feel will help them “feel better” and will help them enjoy working out just as the trainer CLEARLY does by the fact that they smile often and much. This cannot be overstated. The “tough guy” approach may work at times, but it is the sincere, likeable person that draws the most attention.
The personal trainer should always look people in the eye, and remain in view whenever they are communicating with a potential client, or training one. Consistent eye contact and remaining in view of the client or potential client helps keep the client focused upon the concept that the trainer is the solution to their problems by always appearing to “be there”. As well, it is wise to remain at or below eye level, much like communicating with a child, to avoid intimidating another individual. While intimidation may gain some clientele or keep it, it will only go so far until the client may begin to feel that there is a lack of concern over their well-being and progress.
The ability for the personal trainer to be confident and assertive is crucial. A person will “always miss 100% of the shots they don’t take!” Likewise, the trainer must continuously put themselves in positions to meet people where they can offer their expertise. This means walking around the gym or standing in a place with a purpose. Simply being present or saying hello is not sufficient. The personal trainer must make it clear, in their own unique way, that they are present to help and have the utmost concern for the well-being and safety of the people around them.
The approach must be consistent. When it comes to approaching potential clients on the gym or workout floor a simple approach often works best.
Question #1: The First Approach
“Hello, how are you?”
The person approached always answers this greeting whether or not they are pleased to be approached and the response matters less than the fact that they have now acknowledged the presence of the personal trainer (whether this is the exact question that is asked is not important, only that it be a friendly greeting). As well, there must be an open ended question asked by the personal trainer to keep the individual who is approached involved in the conversation. This sets the stage for the next question. It is not a conversation yet, but it will be.
Question #2: The First Approach
“What are you working on?”
This question provides the answer that the personal trainer must consider before offering any advice or suggestions when observing an individual perform an exercise. Wait until the individual has finished their exercise set before posing any questions or offering any suggestions. What the personal trainer believes the person should be aiming to achieve by the motion they are attempting versus what the individual feels the exercise accomplishes may well be very different. What looks less like a lat pulldown attempt and more like a leaning back row is likely to be perceived as a picture-perfect lat pulldown by the individual performing the exercise and they may look at the trainer as though the trainer should have figured this out. Once again, the response is only information for the trainer so that they are clear in WHAT suggestion to make.
Question #3: The First Approach
“Can I make a suggestion?”
Surprise, surprise, almost no one ever denies a suggestion. This is less intimidating than telling someone that they are wrong or even implying that what they are doing is incorrect. This is merely a suggestion which the individual is free to decide whether or not to accept. The trainer must then show the individual a “different” way of performing an exercise aimed at the goal the individual has previously stated when asked “What are you working on?” Then the trainer assists in monitoring the range, path and technique of the motion performed while giving verbal cues just as they would if the individual were their client.
Question #4: The First Approach
“How was that for you?”
If the answer to the trainer’s question is positive, they have done their job. If the individual is not interested in training (they will bring it up) or not intrigued (they will appear distracted or bored) the trainer has not done their job. If the individual continues to ask questions or is visibly impressed, the trainer has succeeded. No further advice should be given at this point. The First Approach is a “teaser” or a way of drawing initial interest. The trainer must then decide, based upon the effectiveness of their performance in the approach if this individual is worth pursuing or leaving the opportunity for another day. Never walk away from anyone without getting their full name and giving them yours. Remembering something significant about the individual will help next time the personal trainer sees them again, and will provide for further conversation.
The personal trainer shouldn’t have to “sell” – but must ask for it! There are countless ways of approaching the point of asking for the sale or determining if an individual wishes to continue training. Some are effective and some are not. There is NO perfect approach. Also, the approach should not be “canned” and appear that the trainer is reading from a script that was obviously not their own idea. Most individuals are smart enough to see that they are “being sold” and that the trainer does not have their best interests at heart.
If the potential client is interested in training THEY WILL ASK about training and the trainer will only have to answer questions. Open ended questions that lead the client to a deeper response are best. For example, “How satisfied are you with the results you are getting from your program?” “How do you measure your success from your workouts? First get information then give information.” This information is vital to closing the sale. The selling should come from the performance of the trainer from the beginning of the first appointment or approach to the end of the conversation or meeting. “Inviting” an individual to train with the personal trainer helps move them into action. Their interest may or may not be obvious. Most are fearful to ask questions or are unaware of which questions to ask.
It is important that the trainer be honest, sincere and professional in their approach to the sale. Expect to learn from each potential client opportunity, and utilize the lessons learned for future opportunities. People change their minds and they talk to others, so the trainer must keep this in mind and not hard sell if they want to maintain a professional reputation and receive future referrals and repeat business. Hard selling is rarely successful and often leads to buyer remorse.
The last thing a professional personal trainer or any professional wants is an individual who has purchased services and later regrets having made the purchase. The personal trainer should be prepared for possible objections that are likely to arise when asking for the sale. Common objections range from not having enough time, to an inability to afford services, or the need to check with their spouse. If the personal trainer has done their job, there should be no objections. Objections that are offered means that the trainer needs to work on their ability to influence and needs to resell the benefits to the individual. Work on the ability to ask the right questions. Be responsive and respectful to the client’s needs by learning to listen more than speaking.
A prospect may often talk themselves into personal training. Here is an example of a response if someone says, “I can’t afford it”. The personal trainer may respond with, “Yes, it’s not cheap, but what is your health worth to you? If you could buy a bottle which provided lean muscle, an efficient heart, lower cholesterol, more energy, a better sex drive, and more quality sleep, what would you pay for it?” Hard selling is for one-time only sales and not good business for a service related position, like personal training.
Always ask “What are your thoughts about training one-on-one?” or “When would you like to start training with me?” Then wait. The personal trainer should wait for an answer and not speak again until the client has given one and only one of two choices – yes or no. They will hem and haw and talk to themselves at length waiting for the trainer to bail them out with a response. They must choose. A professional only asks once and waits for a final answer. The only other possible words the trainer may choose to use are “The choice is up to you.” Throw it in their court.
To command higher fees a successful trainer must master the art of influence and polish their sales skills. The personal trainer must strive to close the sale at the first meeting and learn to anticipate client needs and answer questions even before they have been asked.