5 Tips for the Already Successful Personal Trainer

personal trainer

“Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of all those around you.”

Robin Sharma

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was pretty new in the fitness industry — I wasn’t even sure I was going to stay in the fitness field. I had enrolled at a local university with a plan to become a high school history teacher. I certainly loved what I was doing as a personal trainer and membership sales consultant at the time, but the industry hadn’t yet evolved into the exciting and dynamic entity we see today. Couple that with a training client asking me, “When are you going to get a real job?” at least once a month, and it was a recipe for professional self-evaluation. One thing I never wavered on, though, was this drive for constant self-improvement.

In the 1990s, there wasn’t much in the way of professional development material for a career-minded fitness person. The internet was little more than a potato with wires in it, so that wasn’t yet an option. Ultimately, I had to lean on learning lessons from the titans of various industries outside our own to see what I could translate into success. Fortunately, I found more than a few:

1. Know who you are selling to.

Your basic orientation and sales pitch structure should be consistent no matter who is in front of you — your client’s unique needs will vary.

If you are pitching anyone under 35 years of age, they are almost exclusively training to look better. It’s all about vanity. Going on and on about heart health and things of that nature builds minimal value in their minds. They still believe they are going to live forever.

However, when a prospective client is in their 50s and 60s, that whole mortality thing starts to rear its ugly head. With 75% of the population still not engaged in a fitness program, these almost senior-aged prospects are seeing some of their friends begin to develop significant health issues, or worse. Adjust how you build value accordingly.

2. Use circuit equipment sparingly.

It may sound self-serving, but the client needs to need you, or you are out of a job. Use tactile cues and make sure you are not just counting reps, but counting variation in your prescribed time under tension. If you expect a three-second eccentric motion, count it aloud and correct them when they are going too fast or slow. This is the stuff that isn’t written on the front panel of the equipment and an area where your expertise can shine.

3. Use the plank to demonstrate achievement in your jump start package clients.

Let’s say you could only get your new client to commit to six sessions — do you know what this client is thinking after only six sessions? “Everything hurts and I’m dying. Not to mention, I’m paying you for this privilege, and I can’t believe I haven’t lost all 20 pounds yet.” In such a short period, the client will likely not have realized any significant improvements to the way they look or feel, so asking for even more of a commitment can be challenging.

However, the plank is one exercise you can measure that will reflect tremendous improvement quickly. People’s cores get pretty strong pretty quickly with intentional effort. Always measure and record how long a client can hold a plank maximally at the end of the first session. If you know there are only six sessions for you to build value in the hopes to convert them into a long-term client, then schedule and measure the plank exercise at the beginning of that sixth and last session. It is not uncommon for clients to double or triple their times in only a few sessions. This tangible increase they can feel and measure assures them the plan you gave them is working.

4. Offer more than just one-on-one and small group training (SGT) sessions.

It is a limiting mindset to believe personal trainers can only offer these two things to prospective clients. Market specialty sessions and challenges to your prospective clients. Not everyone thinks of going to a personal trainer for things like throwing mechanics and performance. So offer that as your specialty session — assuming it is, of course. Below are just a few examples of unique sessions you can offer, starting tomorrow:

  • Signature sessions. Market to your specialty.
  • Next steps. People released from physical therapy are not yet back to where they were prior — help them get there.
  • Couples conditioning. Getting married in six months? Offer 30 minutes a week for each spouse and a one-hour tandem session with conversation geared around wedding prep. As an aside, ask about the wedding guest invite list. Always a hilarious and lively debate.
  • Trainer versus trainer. There’s a lot of value in making an enemy. Partner with another trainer and go head-to-head for eight weeks and see which team comes out on top.
  • Fitness foundations. A gym is an intimidating place for a newcomer. Offer a “Small Group 101” on fundamentals, and you’ll be surprised by how many people will enroll who have been members for years.

5. Encourage your one-on-one clients to come to a weekly small group session with your other clients.

I cannot overstate this: When and where you can, you should always create connection and community. One of the most impactful reasons smaller studios see retention rates in the 80th percentile is their clients know not only does their personal trainer care about them, but your other clients do too.

I say it in almost all my blogs — success isn’t a happy accident. Continuously invest in bettering yourself, and you will better everyone around you as well.

Jason R. Stowell is the division director of fitness and wellness for JCC of Greater Pittsburgh. He is an award-winning fitness leader with over 20 years of successful experience providing strategic planning, talent management, and expert-level sales training in the health and fitness industry. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

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