Successful personal trainers generally have several basic things in common, even if the exact training program they create for their clients might vary widely. Outlined below are 8 tips to help you take your personal training career to the next level.
1. Sell weekly sessions for a certain number of months, not a total number of sessions
Which one sounds like more – 24 personal training sessions or training 2 times a week for 3 months? Hint – they are the same. 24 sessions sounds like a lot on one hand, but everybody knows just working out 2 times a week for 3 months is likely the bare minimum necessary to achieve some results. When a client simply sees the total number of sessions, 20 or 30 or 40 sessions can seem like a lot, but our brains don’t work that. You don’t think how many workouts it will take you bench more weight, take 30 seconds off your mile time, or drop 20 lbs - you think about how long and how often it will take. Sell your sessions to you clients that way, you will make more money in the long run.
2. Have an automatic renewal to your contact
When your contract ends from its predetermined timeframe (which is usually 2, 3, or 6 months long), have something in the contract that says it automatically renews on a month to month basis. You are not trying to trick the client here, you are just making it convenient for them and for you to continue on with the workouts. I can’t tell you how many 2 month long personal training packages I have sold that went on to last several years without me ever having to ask the clients if they want to renew. Your cell phone, cable TV, and household utilities all just continue even after their original contract expires, we want to do the same thing with our clients. It is important that you clearly delineate this feature in the contract and they should initial that specific section to ensure all parties are on the same page
For more business specific tips see the article: http://virginia.nationalpti.edu/blog/business-information-for-personal-trainers
3. Demonstrate anything new and always start light
Any time you have a client perform a new exercise you should demonstrate it first with the form you are looking for and then have the client perform it. Don’t just assume the client knows how to do the exercise, even if the client has been lifting for a long time. Start off on the right foot with a good demo, remember a picture is worth a thousand words – you are communicating a ton of information with that demo and there are many variations of exercises possible, this will clearly show the client what you want them to do. And any time they start off on a new exercise start very light, use warm-up weight, and gradually progress from there. In general you want a client to have a positive experience with a new movement and not a negative one.
4. Clearly focus on physical performance
No matter what the client’s broad goals are, relate the goal to some form of physical performance and then closely measure and monitor that. Remember our scope of practice – to enhance the components of fitness for the general, health population. We are experts in the components of fitness, all of which are objective and measurable. We are not experts in making people feel better, look good, or changing their blood profiles although it is possible those things might occur as a result of the personal training sessions. Virtually every client will have some ideal of what fitness represents to them – benching pressing a bunch of weight, a lower 10k time, being really good at push-ups, touching their toes, walking around the mall without getting tired, something. Find out what that is, measure it, train it during their sessions, and then show them their hard work is paying off and they are making progress in that area. I am not saying this must be your only focus, but I am arguing that you should have some clear measureable physical performance goals with essentially every client, from grandma to the elite athlete and everybody in between.
5. Write programs you would enjoy yourself
A big part of personal training is how you sell the workout, and I don’t mean the sales pitch to get them to sign up. I mean how you communicate the importance and the significance of the personal training session. If you are taking a client through a workout that you yourself would find boring, distasteful, meaningless, or of little value in general that will come across to the client in your non-verbal communication. This doesn’t mean you must train the client the exact same way you would train yourself, but include some elements that are fun to you for the client. If you would hate to train your core by performing 1 minute of sit-ups followed by 30 seconds of rest for 10 minutes straight, don’t do that to your client. If you think that idea is the most awesome way of blasting abs, then do it. Prescribe things that you believe in and that will come across to the client. Don’t waste your time doing things you don’t believe in.
Do you love or hate the prowler?
6. Make the session a positive experience
The workout should be a positive experience for a client, just like I would imagine you view your own workouts as a positive experience in your own life. It is not a tug of war or a battle of wills where you must force the client to do what you wish, even if that is successful that will only yield results in the short term. We are trying to build a lifelong love of fitness in our clients because then our job becomes easy – you no longer have to motivate someone to do something they love, they do it of their own volition. Ask yourself – does the client seem to look forward to this, would they want to repeat this experience, what can I do to make it better for them?
7. You must be reliable and dependable
You can’t give a good personal training session if you are not there to lead it. If the workout is not ready, if you are repeatedly late to the session, if you are slow to follow through with things your clients expect of you – that all sends the message that what you are doing with them is not very important, both to you and to them. I am assuming (and hoping) that you take your own workouts seriously – if you do then apply that same dedication to your clients – make their workouts just as important as your own. If you don’t take your workouts seriously, clients will probably pick up on that message as well – take a page from how you treat your clients and treat yourself the same way, remember you are your first client.
8. Do something a little bit extra for them
The bottom line is you are not the only trainer in the world and your clients have options. You might believe it is your deep knowledge of exercise science or your awesome biceps that keep clients coming back to you, but in reality that probably isn’t the case. Personal training is a customer service industry and customers like receiving those little extras that make them feel special, unique, or at least well cared for. Think of positive customer experiences in your own life – the coffee barista that knows exactly how you like it; the extra chicken that one person gives you at Chipotle; the hair dresser that gives you the employee discount on the fancy shampoo. Whatever it is, try to emulate those experiences with your clients. Give them a random ‘you are awesome’ card; spend an extra 10 minutes training them for free; email them a training article or even an article about a non-fitness related topic you were discussing. Buy them a small but personalized Holiday present; remember on Tuesday the personal details of what you were discussing last Thursday; be a sounding board, be supportive, be someone that believes in them. We love to focus on the “training” part of our job, but in reality it is probably the “personal” part of our job that will make us successful or not.
It isn’t easy being a successful personal trainer, but I don’t think it is that hard either – particularly if you have a passion for working out and a desire to help others. Make sure you ponder and hopefully implement these 8 tips and you may find yourself facing every trainer’s dream problem – having more business than you know what to do with.
If you would like more tips on how to become a successful personal trainer, be sure to check out the new text: NPTI's Fundamentals of Fitness and Personal Training which has an entire chapter on how to conduct a personal training session