Unfortunately, a lot of trainers are secretive about what’s made them successful. I was the same way and have never told this story before in it’s entirety. It may surprise you to know that I never made flyers, gave free workshops at local businesses, canvassed the streets, or made endless phone calls. I’ve also never made a hard sell in my life.
People come to me asking to train, not vice-versa. If this is what you want read the story carefully, afterwards are step by step instructions for you to follow in your quest to become unstoppable by building your client army.
The story starts and ends with my client Pam. Pam had been training with me for 6 months when my club opened its second location. I elected to move locations. Pam was 67 years old when she started at our gym and had never workout out before.
Take a minute and try to put yourself in her shoes. Imagine how daunting of a task it was for her to join the gym. She later told me that she was literally shaking day one when we first met. Recall back to my article entitled “Give your clients workouts more cowbell” where I describe Prachaska’s Stages of Change Model. It took Pam 67 years but she had finally overcome the first 4 stages.
I took care of Pam from day 1 and we became (and our still) good friends. The early days training were more of a classroom than workout. I taught her jargon, introduced her to everybody (staff and clientele), and did everything in my power to make her feel comfortable. Once the new location opened she followed me there to continue her path to fitness.
It pains me to see good trainers struggling for clients. The talent and knowledge are often there. Problem is they never get or keep clients around long enough to prove their worth. Eventually that trainer, frustrated, leaves the gym they’re working at or the industry all together.
Do you have a hard time getting clients?
Do you get frustrated when clients stop training before you get a chance to get any results?
I’d be frustrated too.
Pam almost single-handily filled my schedule in the new location. At one point I was training Pam, her two best friends, her husband, her daughter, her daughters husband, and her daughters best friend.
In a week: 16 training hours * $41.80/hr = $668.80
In a month: 16hrs*4wks = 64hrs * $41.80/hr = $2675.20
In a year: 64hrs * 12 months = 768hrs * $41.80 = $32 102.40
$32 102.40! Think about how big that one number actually is. I treated Pam like gold. Not because of the business but because I enjoyed spending time with her and she was personally responsible for $32 102.40 in my pocket at the end of the year. She’s now been training with me for 3.5 years. Some of her referrals have stayed on and some haven’t. Some of them have sent me referrals of their own. In fact, I’ve drawn below a chart for you to illustrate what has happened. I can honestly say that in 3.5 years Pam has been personally responsible for over $100 000 in my pocket.
The best part (other than $100 000). She did it with a smile on her face and none of the sales were difficult.
- Pam briefed every new client for me
- She did the leg work and all the convincing
- She even told them the price most of the time before they came him.
- Pam was my army
Building your army
Obviously not every client has the potential to be a Pam, in fact few do. Lucky for you, you don’t need a Pam. Follow these steps to build your army and become unstoppable:
1. Teach workout jargon
Incorporate your clients into the workout culture. Teach them the jargon. Tell them what a set, rep, hypertrophy, and even RDL mean. Make sure that they know why they’re doing the primary exercises and what energy system they’re developing.
Your clients want to show off their knowledge. They will jump at the opportunity to tell their friends and family that they performed 2 sets of 8 reps of the Deadlift. They may even throw in the story of how the deadlift got it’s name (In Ancient Rome the soldiers that hauled dead bodies off of the battle field kept hurting their backs so the army generals trained them to lift properly using rocks, boudlers etc. It’s literally an exercise originally intended to lift the dead.) I can promise that they will mention their great trainer over this lovely dinner conversation.
The other great benefit is that they’ll feel a connection to the culture. Retention will increase and relapse into inactivity will go down.
Build your army by teaching jargon and getting your client to feel a part of the fitness community.
2. Introduce them to everybody
Your clients should be the most popular people in the gym. It’s to your benefit that they know and are comfortable speaking to everybody because, guess what, if they feel popular they will chat up new members. Guess what they’ll be chatting about.
Introduce them to all of the staff and members. I even go for walks in the neighborhood where our gym is located with my clients for a coffee occasionally after the workout and go out of my way to introduce them to all of the local shop owners.
If your client knows everybody in the gym they will stay longer, plain and simple. It becomes a social atmosphere and comfortable haven from their crazy lives that they look forward to.
Beyond them staying on in the gym making your clients popular has massive benefits. They become your army, spreading your gospel to anybody who will listen. They will chat up new members and go out of their way to bring in friends and family not just because they enjoy the gym but because they want to show off their popularity.
Build your army by making your clients popular. They will chat up new members for you, stay longer,and bring more people into the club
3. Surprise them with emails
Often books on personal training will advise you to keep in touch with your clients outside of the session. You can do this via sending relevant jokes, relevant info, restaurant advice etc. What I feel is most important though is to:
Most trainers that I shadow on the floor only do half the battle. While speaking with a client they get an idea to send them a relevant article. The mistake? They tell their client about it.
When I get the idea to send a client a relevant article I make a note on my clipboard and continue the workout. The next day, I send the email without notice with the tagline:
“I thought you would enjoy this, it’s what we were speaking about yesterday”
The surprise effect keeps you on top of your clients minds even in off days from the gym in addition to showing them that you think of them outside of training hours. You know that you’ve done well when they send you funny jokes, restaurant advice, relevant articles etc. on their off days. In addition to having them constantly thinking about you, you’ve provided them with material to send on to their friend and family. It acts as a powerful takeaway.
Build your army by using the power of surprise to show your client that you’re different and willing to go the extra 10%
4. HAF badges
HAF = Hard As F***. I give one client every month the coveted HAF badge. It’s an award that I’ve developed to show my appreciation for my awesome clients. In addition to getting the physical badge to display I profile the client in a write up on my site highlighting their accomplishments.
You better believe it lights a fire under my clients butts. Every day I get asked the question:
“Was that workout HAF?”
I highly recommend you develop an award for your clients. Here’s why:
A. A little competition never hurt
Ever since the HAF badge started my clients work harder and cancel less workouts. They all want to win. The result? They all reach their goals faster.
B. Building an army
The HAF badge acts to bring my clients together. I catch them chatting in the gym when I’m not around saying things like:
“Have you been HAF this month?”
The stronger the community between my clients the stronger the army.
C. Show offs
The HAF badge is a physical object. I had it designed and write my clients names on it. They usually display it on their fridge or mantle and show it off to their friends and family whenever they can. After all, who doesn’t want to show off that they’re HAF? They send their friends to my site to check out the write up on them and the stories have occasionally gone viral.
Build your army by having an award. It gives your clients a soft way to show off their hard work and results and lights a fire under their butt.
5. Take aways
Not as much fun or as interesting as the HAF badge but just as important. The first and most obvious take away is to always have business cards on hand. I’m dumbfounded at how many trainers don’t make sure every single one of their clients has at least 5 of their cards.
The next take away is to have a brief bio of your experience and services that you offer available. Include client testimonials and special niches that you’re proficient in (ex. chronic low back pain, labral tears, exercise for pregnancy). Make sure that each client has a pamphlet and have it available for download on your and your companies website. Make it easy for your clients to pass on the info about you to their contacts that you want them to know.
The last take away is material written by others (make sure to give appropriate credit). In one of my all-time favorite articles called “What’s in my Desk” I wrote about the file I keep on training for various injuries or special conditions. It has 2 benefits:
1. Proves to the client you understand their problem and are willing to research their condition
2. Allows you to give them a takeaway (with your business card attached of course) for their friends
Build your army with takeaways. Make sure that your clients think about you outside of the gym and make it easy for them to pass on proper info about you
If you’re looking for longevity as a profitable trainer BUILD YOUR ARMY. Teach your clients jargon, make them popular, surprise them with emails, give out an award, and have takeaways available. Once the army is ready they will spread your gospel to anybody who will listen.
How did you build your client army? Did I miss anything? Comment below and, as always, please share using the buttons below.
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photo credit: 501st Sustainment Brigade