"Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to suck it up and just approach clients. That's a shotgun approach. I want to help you be a sniper."
Your client roster is looking a little bit thinner than you’d like. It’s that time again. Time to sell.
PTDC has some great resources on sales techniques for when you sit down with your prospect and get them to answer the intake questionnaire. I want to offer a few tips for what you can do before then; those moments and conversations that will get them into your office for the intake.
If you need a prospecting pool, you need look no further than the gym floor.
Okay, I can already feel the tension coming from you. Approaching people on the floor is scarier than cold emails or cold calling. It means you’d have to, like, talk to strangers and stuff. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to suck it up and just approach people. That’s a shotgun approach. I want to help you be a sniper.
1. Know Your Target
One of my most popular blog posts is How to Kill a Sales Pitch, where I share a story about how a personal trainer completely botched his sales pitch when he approached me on the gym floor.
Mr. Robot, as he called himself, was trying to convince me to hire him. Branding befuddlement issue aside (Mr. Robot. Really?), here’s where he really went wrong.
He started off okay by asking me what my goals were. I responded with, “Lose fat and tone up.” He replied with, “Well, I’ve trained models, people who are overweight wanting to lose 100 pounds, and athletes training for competitions.”
From his perspective, I’m sure he was trying to demonstrate expertise. He thought that his list would be impressive. It backfired. Because in my mind, all I thought was, None of those people are me.
Instead of listing that wide variety of people, it would’ve been much more effective if he gave me three examples of three people who were like me — professional female who’s fit but wants a more athletic look. Then, I would’ve thought, Wow, this guy knows me!
Your First Mission.
Who’s your target when you approach clients on the floor? What’s the profile of your ideal client? Male/female? Age? Goals? Exercise experience? Then, identify who in your gym fits that description. This is your “hit list.”
You may not know their names yet. Just write down descriptions — bald guy who loves the squat rack or curly-headed chick with pink sneakers. These are the people that you’ll approach with the rest of the process outlined in this article.
2. Build Rapport
Now that you have your hit list, it’s time to slowly and strategically develop rapport with them. You’ll no longer look out onto the gym floor and miss the trees for the forest. You know which trees you’re going to pee on.
This means that anytime one of your targets is in the gym, you smile and say hello. You do this for a week or two.
For weeks 3-4, you smile and say hi and spark chitchat. This does not mean asking, “How‘s it going?“ We have socially acceptable short responses to that question. “Fine.”End of conversation. To spark chit chat, use what’s known in intelligence communities and the field of elicitation as a Provocative Statement.
A provocative statement is exactly as it sounds — something that provokes a response. Here are a few examples:
Never underestimate the power of flattery. “I like your shoes. Where did you get them?” Will give you, at the bare minimum, a three-sentence conversation. Which, at this point, is all we’re going for. But who knows, it could lead to a full discussion. And that’s a discussion that you otherwise wouldn’t have had with your target.
Observe and Comment
T-shirts are like big identity tags that people wear in the gym. You can learn what college they went to, what teams they like, what music they listen to, what movies they watch, what races they’ve run — the list can go on and on. Make note of these and start a conversation. “Hey! I like your Captain America shirt. What did you think of the last movie?”
Ask for Their Help
Yes, you’re an expert. But that doesn’t mean you’re an expert in everything. There’s something special that happens when an expert asks a non-expert for advice. Don’t worry, you’re not asking for workout advice. Instead, identify opportunities to ask you target for their thoughts on something.
“Hey, George. You’re a married guy. I’m debating what to get my girlfriend for her birthday. Any thoughts?”
“Hey, Jane. You always have the cutest up-dos in the gym. Is there like a YouTube channel that shows how to do those or something?”
The goal with each of these is to build rapport. You’re in the courting phase of the relationship. Now, I’ve broken down this process over a month period (1-2 weeks of smile and hello; 1-2 weeks of conversation sparking). Use your best judgment if this process needs to go longer or, if you think things are going well, you can shorten it.
In Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence, he thoroughly breaks down the power of reciprocity. It basically boils down to this: if you give someone something of perceived value, then they’re subconsciously, socially obligated to return that with something of equal or greater value.
I want you to get creative here.
The common knee jerk reaction is to offer free exercise advice. But as I’m sure you realize, walking up to your target in the middle of their workout and saying, “Would you like to know how you can do that better?” is a bit tricky and could easily knock you into the douche category.
For this part of the strategy, I want you to think of free things you can give them. Next time you see George, out of the clear blue say,
“Hey, George, I’ve got an extra protein bar here. You want it for after your workout? Here ya go.”
“Hey, Jane. We’ve got extra workout towels in the back. If you want one, here ya go.”
That item is now anchored with the thought of you and your random kindness.
Okay, so we’ve established rapport and triggered a bit of reciprocity. Now it’s time for intelligence gathering.
It’s up to you at this point. If you think you’ve developed enough of a relationship with your target to say, “You know, I’ve really enjoyed talking with you when you’re in the gym. I’d love to talk with you about being your personal trainer sometime. Would you like to chat just sit and talk after your workout today?” Then go for it.
If you don’t think that you’ve built up to that yet, then you need to gather more intel about them. What are their goals? What are they wanting? What kind of program are they on right now?
But here’s the thing, if you directly ask those questions, they might shut down. It will feel like the beginning of a sales pitch. When we ask direct questions, the other person’s mind instantly defaults to pre-programmed software that says, “Why do they want to know this? What will they do with that information? What will they think of my answers?” This defensive mode is what you want to avoid.
As Sherlock puts it, “People don’t like telling you things, but they love to correct you.”
So, you need to be subtle and speak in sentences. This conversational (and covert) style of interviewing is known as elicitation. You’re eliciting information without asking a direct question. Types of elicitation statements could be:
“Looks like you‘re focusing on strength building lately.”
“I see you‘re liking the cardio exercises.”
“You‘ve been in here more regularly. Motivation must be kicking in a bit.”
In each of these, they’ll either agree with you or not. Either response is good, because it’s information. The information that they share will be about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and give you insight into their goals.
All these things will guide your future advice and make the next phase more compelling for them to sit down with you during the sales meeting.
5. The Ask
All right, you have the rapport and you have the information. It’s time to get them into the assessment meeting. There are two ways that I recommend you frame your ask.
First, is with social proof.
This is my preferred option. Share an anecdote of one of your successful clients who’s just like your prospect.
“I’m having a great day because one of my clients just hit her goals. She’s just so happy. You know, she reminds me of you in a lot of ways.
She’s a busy lady and it’s not like she had a lot of weight to lose, she just wanted to tone up and feel sexy (remember that target profile!). I really like working with people like that. You know, I’d love talk with you about the program I had her on and see if you’d like something like that. How about after your workout?”
Second is with “newness.”
People are highly compelled by new things. You could approach your target and say,
“You know, George, I was thinking about you when I was reading the latest research on training men in their mid-forties (again, throw in any other target profile information here).
There’s some really interesting things that people are doing that are making a big difference. I’ve always enjoyed our talks and I think I can really help you. How about we talk the program and some options?”
In each of these scenarios, you’ve given them a subtle and socially acceptable reason for bringing up the sales pitch. Plus, they’re more inclined to accept the sales meeting.
Yes, this is a process. Yes, it takes time. But if you’re not the type of person who feels comfortable “going for the kill”and approaching every Joe-schmo on the floor, then this is your process. Building the relationship makes the ask easier, for both you and them. Then, you do your thang in that sales meeting.
For Those Who Want More[From Jon]
SharÃ is the creator of a fantastic personal influence course. For those trainers looking to improve their communication skills, this is a fantastic resource.
As SharÃ says, “Your personal and professional success hinges on your ability to be persuasive.” I agree. Also, being persuasive is not just about getting clients to train with you, but getting them to adhere to your programming better.