How Personal Trainers Should Approach Client Recruitment

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Personal training is a great way to help members reach their health and fitness goals. It can also be a significant revenue stream for a facility. To build a successful personal training program, a personal trainer must consistently prospect for new clients. Often this is one of the most challenging tasks for a personal trainer.

I don’t think I have ever met a personal trainer who said, “I got into this industry because I can’t wait to sell personal training.” Sometimes, personal trainers even see the term “sales” as a bad word.

Let’s face it. People become personal trainers because they love the industry and want to help people change their lives. They don’t do it to become salespeople. The Catch-22 is that if a trainer doesn’t sell packages, that trainer will never have clients, regardless of skill and desire to make a difference in a member’s life.

As owners and operators, it is essential to consistently remind trainers not to think of it as “selling” but simply “solving” people’s problems. While the actual sales process is a topic for future discussion, this article focuses on how a trainer should approach members in a way that provides an excellent experience for member clients and themselves.

Prospecting is an art. It is not enough to tell your trainers to go out there and book some introductory sessions. As leaders, we must provide the coaching and tools a trainer needs to do this effectively. Here is a five-step process you can use with your trainers to give them the tools to successfully book significantly more intro sessions.

1.  Regular engagement

One of the first keys for trainers in booking more introductory sessions is to make themselves recognizable. The more members are around someone, the more comfortable they feel with that person.

Encourage your trainers to spend time on the floor talking with members. Suggest that they spend time at the front desk helping check people in. Point out that trainers who work out at the facility can not only engage with members but also see things from a member’s point of view. Have them participate in group exercise classes either by taking classes themselves or assisting participants. (Another good practice is to have the group exercise instructor introduce the trainer to the class participants.)

When members decide they want to sign up for personal training, they are likely to inquire about the trainers who have made themselves present.

One of our trainers was particularly good at this. She smiled and greeted everyone she passed in the facility. At one point, a woman inquired about doing some training and specifically asked for her to do the intro session. When asked why she requested her, the woman said the trainer always said hi and smiled at her. Being engaging and friendly goes a long way.

Encouraging your trainers to be more present is the first step in creating opportunities to generate personal training leads. One thing to note: Make sure you follow all applicable laws and regulations regarding compensation when asking your trainers to spend time on the floor or in classes.

2.  Rapport building

Working with a trainer takes a lot of trust. Trust comes from building rapport. Coach your trainers to spend time building rapport, as opposed to simply going up and asking a member to do a session.

This begins by executing step one above, but in this second step, the goal is to start building a relationship. Look for an opportunity to engage. Do not interrupt. When the time is right, a trainer should make a proper introduction and learn more about the member. Start by exchanging names. Ask how long they have been a member. How do they like the facility? These and similar questions provide the opportunity to get to know a member.

In addition to the questions, the trainer should share some personal information, such as how long they have worked there, where they are from and why they love the facility. This allows a member to get to know the trainer.

Notice that nothing about actually doing a session has yet to be mentioned. That is deliberate. This step is to build a relationship and establish a comfort level between member and trainer.

3.  Workout habits

If step two is done effectively, it’s time to move on to step three. It is now appropriate to talk about a member’s health and fitness. This may be asking about the member’s typical facility habits. How often do they visit, and how much time do they typically spend per visit? What are their preferred exercises? Again, the trainer should ask good questions and listen actively. Think of this as a causal, on-the-spot, health and fitness intake.

After this step, a trainer should know a lot about the person, as well as the individual’s health and fitness habits. The critical thing to remember is that, just like step two, this is a casual conversation.

4.  Helpful advice

In this step, a trainer should use what they have learned about the member, combined with observations, to give some initial advice or make a small recommendation.

It may look like this in practice: “I noticed you were working on legs today. Your deadlift form looks pretty good. Deadlifts are one of my favorite exercises. Is it okay if I give you a simple tip to make your lift even more effective?”

Never tell a member that what they are doing is wrong. That can be off-putting and offensive. Offer a tip. While giving the tips and working with the member, ask the following questions: “Can you feel that more now? Do you see how doing it like this is helpful?” Offer some constructive advice. Members appreciate that.

5.  Schedule a session

If all has gone well up to this point, it is appropriate for the trainer to offer an introductory session or trial. Different facilities offer different things, but for this article, let’s assume the offer is a single complimentary personal training session.

After providing the initial advice, the trainer should use dialogue such as this to book a trial session: “Are you aware that you get a complimentary training session as part of your membership? I would love to show you more exercises like this. Can I set you up with a complimentary session with me?” It is entirely appropriate and acceptable to ask at this point. It is also okay to be more assumptive and say, “Let’s set up a complimentary session to work together more.”

If the member says yes, book a day and time for the session. If the member says no, that's okay, too. The trainer should let the member know to reach out if the member ever wants to do a session. The trainer should also remind the member that they now have a new friend at the facility and to reach out with any questions.

Simplified, these steps call for trainers to make themselves well known in the facility, build rapport with members, learn about members’ health and fitness habits, offer some advice, then invite them to try working together.

It is also essential to remind trainers that sometimes a sales cycle is longer. It is okay if the first series of interactions doesn’t end with a booked session. The trainer has built the foundation for a relationship that can be nurtured. There will be more opportunities to work together as time goes on.

When this process is done well, it isn’t sales at all. It is helping a member solve a problem. It is an excellent experience for the member and the trainer, and will ultimately lead to an effective personal training program.

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