22 November 2020

So, you want to be a PT? You’ve done your qualification, found a gym to contract from and started honing in your skills. You have your first client consult, and you think you’re about to get your first client…. but they don’t sign on with you, and you start to wonder why.

Well, often it comes down to your sales pitch - now that’s a term I shied away from for a long time at the beginning of my career, and it was a BIG mistake! I thought: “I’m not in sales, I’m a PT, I don’t need to be good at that, people will just want to train with me…” Well, I can laugh at this now but oh, I have never been so wrong! In fact, a year into my career I had to go back to Square One and learn how to tap into a client’s mindset and show them that I was worth a portion of their weekly pay cheque. Below are some simple steps to take in your initial consult, to convert a lead into a long-term client!

1. Create rapport

The client is probably nervous when they walk in, and it’s your job to help them feel welcomed and comfortable. The biggest mistake any trainer can make is to dive straight into their ‘sales script’ before building rapport with a client. Before you have even asked how their day was, you’ve asked “Want to do some personal training sessions with me?” These ‘hard sales’ techniques often put people off. Instead of just diving straight into your sales pitch, start simple. Greet your client with a smile and open body language, use their name, and ask them how their day has been. When they give you an answer, use a technique called active listening to paraphrase what they said back to them and ask for further detail; this shows that you are interested and listening.

Here’s a quick example:

  • Trainer: “Hi Amy, my name’s Libby, welcome to Fit Futures.”
  • Client: “Hi Libby.”
  • Trainer: “How has your day been?”
  • Client: “My day has been very stressful; we are in our busy season at work.”
  • Trainer: “Sorry to hear your day has been stressful, what do you do for work?”
  • Client: “I’m a marketing manager for a clothing company.”
  • Trainer: “I love fashion! What kind of clothing do they design?”

You don’t need to keep the conversation going for hours, a couple of questions is often all it takes to create rapport with a client. The key is to listen to their answers and elaborate on these as they come, instead of just moving onto the next point of your sales script, which leaves the client feeling like you don’t actually care about them. Active listening is a skill you should use daily with your clients and in fact, anyone you speak to! This may be your only opportunity to get to know this client, and first impressions count.

2.       Talk them through the process


After the initial meet and greet is over, explain to the client why you are going to take them through the pre-screen process, and what it entails. Keep it brief - you can go into detail as you get to each section - but a small description about how a pre-screen will help you discover their goals and any health issues or injuries they may have will help you to tailor a plan that is perfect for their needs, and will remove any worries they may have about the process.

3.       Find out their ‘Why’

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Whilst running through the client’s pre-screen, at some point you will get to chatting about their goals. I like to skip past the medical history (I do this at the end) and dive straight into WHY the client is sitting in front of me. This helps to build on the initial rapport you have created with them, before you start asking personal questions about their health. Start by asking a simple question: “What would you like to achieve in the gym?” Most clients will give you a very general goal such as ‘lose weight’ or ‘get stronger’. Before helping them create a SMART goal from this initial goal (we will cover SMART goals next) I like to find out why they want to achieve this. What motivates them? Is it feeling more confident, being able to run around with their kids, or creating a healthier lifestyle? When we can understand a client’s ‘Why’ we can help them create long-term success in the gym, and refer back to this ‘Why’ as a motivational tool when our client needs it.

We first must question their initial goal further; often clients will get shy and say “I don’t know,” so it is up to you to help them discover their ‘Why’. You can do this by asking deeper questions such as “How will you feel when you lose weight?”, “What would be different if you got to your goal?” and then elaborate on the answers given. Sometimes you will need to ask clients multiple questions before you get to their true motivation for wanting to create change; don’t rush it, and remember each individual will be different so try not to prompt their answers for them.

4. Set some goals

If you haven’t used SMART goal-setting yet, start now! Without SMART goals clients can feel like they are working hard yet achieving nothing. This leads to them becoming unmotivated and falling off the wagon yet again! We know the client’s ‘Why’ so next we need to help them to create some goals around this. Let’s use weight loss as an example. Without SMART goals it often goes two ways:

1.       A client sets a goal to lose weight, yet they never specify how much. They end up having some great success without ever celebrating it, always looking for the next kilo to be lost, and eventually become demotivated and go back to their old habits because they didn’t ‘reach their goal’.

2.       The client never puts a goal or plan in place; they try to make changes but are not consistent as they don’t really know what they want or how to achieve it. They fail to see some results, so they go back to their previous habits without reaching their goal.

Both of these issues can be solved using the SMART goal-setting system. I like to explain SMART goals as ‘goals you can tick off’. It is near impossible to tick off ‘getting healthier’ or ‘being stronger’ because they are not directly measurable.

As mentioned above, most of the time a client will give you a goal that is not SMART. A good PT can help the client create a SMART goal from their initial one.

Smart goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.

Here is an example of how you can help a client turn a broad goal into a SMART one.

  • Client: “My goal is to get stronger.”
  • Trainer: “Getting stronger is a great goal to have! Let's make it a little more specific using the SMART goal system, so that when you achieve your goal you can tick it off and celebrate. What ways would you like to gain strength?”
  • Client: “In my arms and my core.”
  • Trainer: “Awesome, having upper body and core strength is essential for day to day tasks. Are there any specific movements you would like to improve on or do for the first time?”
  • Client: “Yes, I would love to do a chin-up and hold a plank for longer!” (Specific)
  • Trainer: “Good ones, can you currently do a chin-up?”
  • Client: “Not yet.”
  • Trainer: “Ok, shall we set a goal to get 2 chin-ups?” (Measurable)
  • Client: “Yes, sounds good!”
  • Trainer: “When would you like to achieve this by?” (Time bound)
  • Client: “Two weeks?”
  • Trainer: “Seeing as you can’t do one just yet, it may be more realistic to set this goal for 6 weeks. We can build the strength for this in your first 6 weeks of programming, how does that sound to you?” (Realistic, Achievable)
  • Client: “Sounds great!”
  • Trainer: “Perfect, so let’s put down “I will do two chin-ups in the next 6 weeks.” How does that sound to you? Does this seem achievable?”
  • Client: “Yes, I think I can do that!”

You would then repeat the process for the plank goal. Use your active listening skills to take the client’s initial thoughts and fine-tune them into a goal. If a client seems hesitant that they can achieve that goal, or sets a goal that is unachievable, we can talk them through what is realistic within that timeframe. You need to be honest with your clients as setting unrealistic goals and not achieving them is just as unmotivating as not having a goal at all.

You could talk them through adjusting the measurable part:

To lose 10kg in 8 weeks (unrealistic)

To lose 4 kg in 8 weeks (realistic)

Or you can speak with them about extending the timeframe:

To lose 10kg in 8 weeks (unrealistic)

To lose 10kg in 5 months (realistic)

5. Find out their barriers and give them a solution

Once you have set a couple of goals, before creating a plan you need to talk to the client about what barriers may get in the way. We’ve all been there before; as soon as you start a new program the kids get sick, you get injured, or work is suddenly ‘all hands on deck’ and you just don’t have the time or energy... and so your goal gets put on the back burner. Barriers are inevitable! If we can identify what these may be before they occur, we can put a plan in place for when they crop up. This is also a nice time to show the client why they need you as a PT, if you can show them that you have the solution to their barriers (often the same ones that have stopped them in the past) they will be more likely to sign up with you.  Ask them what they have done in the past. Have they worked with a trainer before? Why did or didn’t they achieve their goals in the past? What things are likely to get in the way of their current goals?

Once you know what their barriers are, offer them a solution. This shows WHY they need to train with you and is a sales pitch, without the hard sell. If you can show your worth, the client is more likely to train with you regularly!

When it comes to barriers, the most common issues are time, finances, work/ time and kids. If you can have 3-4 solutions up your sleeve for each of these barriers you can easily suggest these to your client as they come up during your consult.

Here’s a quick example:

  • Trainer: “Great, we have your goal of 2 chin-ups, do you think there is anything that might get in the way of you achieving this?”
  • Client: “Last time I came to the gym for a while but then work got busy and I just stopped coming. I often don’t have the time.”
  • Trainer: “I know it can be tough when life gets busy, especially with your job. I can create some 20-minute workouts that you could do in your lunch break. Exercising can boost your energy levels and brain function, giving you a clear head for the busy afternoon. You could schedule these in three times a week, just like a business meeting. Do you think that could work with your busy schedule?”
  • Client: “20 minutes? That seems pretty short, would I even see any results?”
  • Trainer: “Of course. It’s all about smart programming, we can create a plan that gets you more bang for your buck time wise and gives you a quality workout in just 20 minutes. You would still have time for a shower and something to eat before heading back to work.”
  • Client: “Well, if that’s all it takes, I’m in!”

6.       Finish the pre-screen

You have now done all the sales groundwork needed. Go back to the top of the pre-screen and finish the health and injury section before heading into your final sales pitch. You may or may not offer fitness testing here, or you may choose to do this in your first session with the client.

Ask them how many times a week they plan to train, what things they do and don’t enjoy in the gym and how long for. This is crucial for your final sales pitch.

7. Run your sales pitch

You’ve taken the time to get to know your client, and you’ve found out their goals and the barriers that might get in the way. You’ve shown your value by providing them with a solution to their problem, so all that is left is to give the client some training options. I like to keep these brief and simple to not overwhelm the client. You may have these written down on a piece of paper that you can hand to the client or you can give these verbally, it just depends on what your personal style is.

When running them through options, utilise all the information you have gathered within the consult. Using this information, create a tailored ‘package’ for your client that will suit their needs. I always liked to give three options: a low, middle, and high offer with your price for each.

For example, if a client wanted to train four times per week:

1.       A personalised program with two one-off PT sessions, to complete fitness testing and a program show through (Low offer)

2.       1 x PT session weekly, with programming to complete in their own time (Middle offer)

3.       3 x PT sessions per week, with one self-directed session or class in their own time (High offer)

Having three options is better than two, as it makes the middle option seem best value for money. For the best result, provide your client with guidance on which two options you believe would be best for them to achieve their goals and budget (‘package’). This gives them an A or B option, making it a simple choice. You may not make the sale this time - but if you take the time to get to know the client and listen to their ‘Why’ and their barriers, when the time is right, they will remember the effort you put into that one meeting and come back to you for some 1-1 sessions or a new program.

The key to running a successful PT business is to create long-term clients who will provide ongoing income and word of mouth referrals. It is far easier to keep a client than it is to gain a new one. The PT industry is flooded with talented PTs, so if you fail to show the client your worth and go the extra mile, you risk losing them to someone else! Take your time, listen, and show the client you have the expertise to get them to where they want to be. Lastly, once they are your client, treat them well and go the extra mile. This is what keeps them as your client and creates those word of mouth referrals!

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Written by Libby Searle.