|In the beginning of my training career, I would do everything I could just to keep a steady income. My schedule was dictated by the demand of my clients and with that came the dreaded split shift. I would train my one-on-one clients, every hour on the hour, from five to ten in the morning. Once finished, I would get my workout in and head to the community trainer's office to study until my next client came in. I would start up again with my one-on-one clients, every hour on the hour, from four until nine and then head home. A few hours of sleep and I was back at it again. Sometimes I wondered why I even left the gym at all and often joked about buying my own cot to sleep under the squat rack.
Five years I worked this split shift until I finished my college degrees and things slowly began to change. During that time, many of my clients became "lifers," the quality of my product improved and I was, to my surprise, in high demand. Was this change due to adding a few initials after my name or was it a result of having earned my clients trust? To be honest, I don't think my degrees had much to do with it at all. Many veterans call it "paying your dues," and I had finally made my last installment. I worked hard, showed commitment to my clients and took every opportunity to educate them on how to achieve their fitness goals.
With my reputation established, I grew my one-to-one personal training business into an eight-to-one group training business inside my own personal training studio. I have worked for this opportunity for eight years and I still have the majority of my first year clients training with me. Why?
The quality of your product: if you don't believe in you, why should they?
Mediocre personal trainers are a dime a dozen; however, a truly dedicated and career-based certified personal trainer is hard to find. To elevate yourself to this level takes a deep burning passion for educating our clients on how to live a healthy lifestyle. I use the word "educating" because an effective certified personal trainer teaches and educates their clients and knows that every day is another opportunity to teach their clients something that will assist them in changing their lives for the better.
The certified personal training business is more than simply "making your clients sweat." With every session, we get the opportunity to enlighten and mentor our clients. In order to gain your clients' trust, you need to convince them that you know your craft inside and out. Career trainers spend their hard-earned money on improving themselves (CEU/CEC) as often as possible and look forward to the opportunity to learn about program designs, new or updated training techniques or advanced peer research information. Trainers that show their clients that they are passionate and committed to improving themselves also show their clients that they place value on the quality of the product they provide. The moral of this topic: if you don't believe that the product you provide for your clients is valuable, nether will they. Career trainers believe that they are the right person for the job, that their program design is the best and that they are in the fitness industry for all the right reasons. These beliefs lead the career-based personal trainer toward truly make a positive impact in the lives of others.
Two ears, one mouth: listen to your clients
Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove are famous for saying, "You have two ears and one mouth for a reason, keep your mouth shut and listen to your clients." Especially during the initial consultation or assessment of a new client, the certified personal trainer needs to allow the client the opportunity to "tell their story." People love to talk about themselves because there is no other topic they know better. The client has already come to you for help; they have made their choice and are comfortable with your qualifications. Now is the time to turn the spotlight on them!
Treat this opportunity like a television interview. Lead the client in the direction you want them to go, but allow them to fill in all the detail. Your job is to provide the client the opportunity to regurgitate their life out on to your paper. Then you need to organize it into useful information. This technique takes some time to develop and is vital to a successful training experience. Interpreting our client's information into their personalized program design is exactly what separates us, the trainers, from our clients. They don't know how to use this information to make their lives healthier. That is what we went to school for and exactly what we learned while studying to pass our certification exams.
The assessment information is vital to the beginning of a program design as well as throughout the clients training experience. Every 12 or 16 months your "lifers" should be re-evaluated to allow them the opportunity to appreciate your product and their hard work. Again, you provide them the opportunity to talk about their new goals, what they feel they need to improve on, where your program design might be lacking and what your strengths are as a trainer.
Make your client feel special! Not just in the beginning either. Your "lifers" should be valued just as much as a new client walking into your facility for the first time. Your "lifers" are the ones paying your bills, allowing you to continue your education and maintain or improve your livelihood. Cherish them, as they are the backbone of every successful certified personal training business.
When the opportunity presents itself, give back to your clients
Over the last eight years I have been given gifts by many of my clients for my birthday, anniversary, a holiday or just out of the blue. My clients bring me back souvenirs when returning from their travels, they purchase t-shirts with the athletic teams logo I like on it and they always say thank you after their workouts. My clients are grateful for the service I provide and, in return, I try to be just as grateful back.
A great way to start showing your clients some appreciation is by welcoming them as they come in for each training session like you haven't seen them in years. Solid eye contact and a verbal greeting utilizing their name are two ways to show your clients that you value them and that they are important to you. Remember your clients' birthdays and give them small gifts (something specific) that shows you were paying attention when they discussed something that they liked. Remember your clients' spouses' names and their kids.
Once or twice a year, give your "lifers" a discount on their personal training package or add in a session every once and a while for free. When you are reading fitness-related material and come across something that relates specifically to one of your clients, make a copy of it and hand deliver it to them. This shows your client that they are on your mind more than just the hour-long training session they have with you twice a week. Give your clients holiday cards and be sensitive to certain religious beliefs. Every night before you go to bed spend two minutes writing a few text messages or emails to a few of your clients informing them of what a great job they did in their training session today or how great they are looking due to all their hard work. A few minutes here and there, an extra effort occasionally can go a long way with your clients. Remember, without your clientele your business is nothing. Treat your clients as well as you would like to be treated when you are paying for service but take it one step further and really impress them.
All of these techniques I have discussed individually will not do much to improve you or your personal training business. However, a solid combination of them all will show your clients that you are a serious and passionate professional; that you care about their goals, their needs, their accomplishments and that you value their commitment to improving themselves and supporting your business. Many of my clients have been with me for almost a decade and during that time I have developed some wonderful friendships. Stay the course, work hard, stay committed and show your clients that you genuinely value them for everything they do for you. If you do these things you will be a very successful and career based certified personal trainer.
Robert Linkul MS CSCS D* is the NSCA's Southwest Regional Coordinator and trains over 100 clients a week in his personal training studio. Linkul has his master's degree in personal training, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified personal trainer with distinction.