Building Personal Training Business
How many times have you invested advertising dollars to promote personal training only to be frustrated by a lack of return? To add to your frustration, trainers often neglect the best, most economical and obvious form of marketing when they fail to promote themselves. Personal trainers are guilty of the same errors their clients make: They tend to strengthen already-strong muscles and avoid training weak ones. They review technique for the bench press, offer postural assessments and provide creative use of balance tools — but they focus too heavily on their personal training skills, and not enough on marketing their services. Experienced managers and trainers, who have learned the key to survival the hard way, seek out techniques to motivate fitness center members to buy personal training.
Trainers don’t intentionally sell their services poorly, nor are they lazy. They just need education and training. Following are examples of activities that encourage trainers to get out of their comfort zone and ask for business, and that create a team approach rather than pit trainers against each other. When leading these activities or performing them for the first time, reward effort. And remember, any new exercise requires practice.
Trainer contractThe personal training director should sign an agreement with each personal trainer requiring them to set goals based on the number of contacts they will make each day. The director should also coach trainers to commit to their goals and track their progress, but they should not set some arbitrary number for trainers. This way, it is the responsibility of the trainers to reach their goals and ask for support when needed. (At this point, there is a clear measure of whether the trainer is a good fit for the job during review.) The agreement should include the number of sessions per week the trainer will have, the number of new contacts they’ll make daily, and the number of follow-up calls made to inactive clients. Strive for 50- to 70-percent renewal rates and 50- to 70-percent minimum new business leads generated by the trainer. Those numbers will be the result of trainers making the daily calls and approaches.
Meet with new staff members every day for three weeks, and check to be sure they are in the habit of using this new procedure. Then, continue daily self-tracking, but cut back on one-on-one meetings to a weekly basis for nine more weeks. By their 90-day review, trainers will have habits that lead them to success.
Staff meetingsAt regular staff meetings, encourage trainers to share success stories. Strengths and successes of trainers don’t do the group any good unless they are shared. Acknowledge that both new and more experienced trainers have something to offer. For example, during a membership promotion at one fitness center, free training sessions were offered. Some of the veteran trainers had a negative attitude. It was their feeling that few people would renew a training package if they got it free in the first place. A new trainer, however, shared his 70-percent success rate in turning these “freebies” into long-term clients. He gave specific examples of what he said, how he worked with objections and how his customers responded. Ultimately, the new trainer’s enthusiasm and success helped turn some “old” minds around.
Scavenger huntHaving “scavenger hunts” at your fitness center is one way for trainers to recruit clients. During a busy time at your fitness center, have trainers who do not yet have “full” schedules meet collectively in the conference room. The object of the game is to overcome either “call” or “approach” reluctance, and create urgency for the trainers to ask for new business. They can bring a list of phone numbers with them so they can make follow-up calls from referrals. Or, they can head out to the floor and approach members as they exercise, offering a fitness tip and engaging them in conversation about personal training. Points are awarded for talking with potential new clients, handing out business cards, getting phone numbers, making appointments and filling out contracts. The trainer with the most points earns a reward, such as a visit to your facility’s spa or something from your pro shop.
The discussion that follows the game is everyone’s prize. Trainers come back motivated after 30 minutes of having approached people and promoting their services. They have fun doing it, and can share with others what worked for them.
Special promotionsAnother trainer incentive is to offer a Very Important Promotion (VIP). For example, a “One Day Only” special can be offered from open to close. Trainers shouldn’t be informed of the promotion until close the night before, so there is no risk of pre-selling or upsetting members unable to take advantage of the sale. Personal training fees are dropped to your largest package rate, regardless of how many are purchased. The offer is good for new clients only, and payment has to be collected before close that day. The urgency created by the offer motivates trainers to follow up on their referrals or leads. It gives them a specific reason to talk to people that day.
It is possible to generate four times your typical revenue on that day. Use the program’s success as an example of how much trainers could get done if they repeated those habits every day.
Long-term contestsMany trainers enjoy a little healthy competition. Incentive contests give them reason to pull out the stops at what might be slower times of year, like July or the holiday season. To make the incentives appeal to everyone, equally weight a variety of activities. If you awarded points for only new business or number of sales in a period, it wouldn’t accurately reflect contributions made by all staff members. Trainers earn points for the number of sessions conducted, new business, renewed contracts, participating in marketing events, testimonials collected, etc. Trainers enjoy seeing scores accumulate weekly during the month-long contest, so post a graph in your break room. The cash prize of $200 is awarded to the winning trainer at a staff meeting. The cost to you is the cash prize and minimal time spent recording numbers you should track already. The excitement and additional effort by trainers results in everyone’s win with their increased business that month.
If you hope to involve trainers in becoming their own best source of new business, provide regular and consistent opportunity for repetition until it becomes a set of daily habits for your staff. Training for sales can be made more fun and team-oriented, and less isolating, and individual successes can motivate the group. Consistently flexing the right muscles will build you personal training business to its full strength.
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