Your business is interaction driven. Whether its speaking to a potential client, a current client, or attempting to network, if you’re “bad at talking” to people, your business is going to go nowhere
Now, most trainers are comfortable once they’re in a session. But everything that comes before that, well, that’s a different story.
There’s nothing in trainer education that teaches you to walk up to people “cold” and attract their interest in your services.
What I’m offering here is strategic series for doing exactly that. However, these communication strategies aren’t grounded in the typical sales or leadership, but the psychology of Pick Up Artistry (PUA).
You know, the stuff that teaches guys how to get girls.
Addressing The Outrage Over PUA
Some people are going to be upset at this idea.
“That’s a bunch of evil psychological tricks to manipulate people!!”
Now, I firstly want to say I’m NOT part of the PUA “community.”
I don’t subscribe to any specific PUA theories about women or gender or sex or anything of that nature. “¨”¨And I’m not endorsing using psychological trickery, insults, or wearing feather boas and sunglasses with your clients or potential clients.
However, such tactics are just one aspect of the PUA concept as a whole, and they’re generally derided for being ridiculous, and with good reason.
With all that said, there’s a misconception that PUA strategies is all about sex. And it’s not.
Pick Up Artistry Psychology Applies To Personal Training
The majority of PUA is built upon fairly universal principles of successful communication. Anyone that’s read books on selling, or how to make friends and wield influence, or how to be a leader, the principles are all very similar.
So why not recommend those books? “¨”¨I used to. But the material often isn’t very engaging, and people might “read it” but they don’t learn much from it. PUA, for better or worse, is entertaining to read, it often fascinates both men and women, and almost all of them emphasizes immediate action and learning in real time.
Everyone has experiences of feeling socially awkward talking to people, or falling flat in conversation. PUA material resonates with people both intellectually and emotionally. This improves the learning immensely.
PUA Principles Applied To Personal Training
From the breadth of PUA content I’ve read, and changing the context of application, I’ve distilled 7 Principles that will develop and improve your communication skills. If you’re feeling socially awkward around people, practice and engrain these into your mindset. Do this and you’ll be on your way to being an effective communicator, self-sufficient, and making a real living as a personal trainer.
The 7 Principles To Effective Communication
- Speak with clarity and conviction
- Recognize and take on opportunities
- Confidence, confidence, confidence
- Maximize all your interactions
- Don’t be dissuaded by failure
- Adopt an Abundance mindset
- Enjoy the process, not the outcome
Now, what you apply the above principles to is what gets people upset. However, it’s reasonable to say that the principles in themselves are universally relevant to almost any service driven profession. And that they’re not deceitful or malevolent.
I also think anyone would agree that effective communication skills are the cornerstone of Personal training.
Moving forward from that point, lets translate the above principles into common obstacles, and apply them to the primary barriers trainers face.
Applying The 7 Principles To Personal Training
Principle 1 – Speak with clarity and conviction
Scenario 1 – Getting tongue tied when speaking with people
“I just get nervous whenever I have to talk to people I don’t know, the words don’t come out right”
Applying Principle 1 – Practice speaking with clarity“¨”¨
This problem is highly common, but easily fixable. Tactics to solve for this include; writing and reciting conversational scripts, role playing with other trainers or your manager, and practicing on non-clients who can give you unintentional feedback”¨”¨
To begin applying this, write down your own script that starts with a simple introduction. Write and rewrite this 10 times, sentence by sentence, and simply recite it to yourself alone until the words become second nature. “¨
“Hi! My name is John/Jane, it’s a pleasure to meet you today”
From there, find another trainer or colleague whom you feel comfortable with, and practice this opening dialogue with them.
If you’re a manager or senior trainer helping a rookie, introduce your clients to new people. This gives them someone stress free to engage with, and they can get immediate feedback without feeling put on the spot to “sell.”
Beyond the gym, practice engaging with people that you don’t really know or wouldn’t ordinarily speak much with, such as the barista that makes your coffee. Adapt the script to any social situation.
“Hi! Thanks for the coffee, I really appreciate it. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
These small engagements build positive confidence, and as you get more comfortable with them, you’ll gradually shed the nervousness that makes you flub the delivery like before.
Principle 2 – Recognize and take on opportunities
Scenario 2 – Avoiding interaction/opportunities
“Would you mind giving these new members a tour? “¨”¨
-Umm, just show them around the gym? If you want me to. “¨”¨…….”
-You know what, don’t worry about, I’ll get membership to do it.””¨”¨
Applying Principle 2 – Recognize and take on opportunities.
EVERYONE you meet is a potential client. This doesn’t mean you see everyone as a “sale to be had,” but rather you are always open to engaging and potentially discussing “fitness” stuff with people.
I’ve seen successful trainers who started as people with very small comfort zones, and it’s simply a matter of overcoming this discomfort. Additionally, the more people you interact with, the greater the chance of finding strong leads who later convert to clients.
-You likely have opportunities all around you to talk to people, you just haven’t taken advantage of them. Write down a list of all the public places you go to within any given day. If you are working at a gym, this is pretty easy to do.
“¨”¨With your list, mentally map out “talk opps” as I call them, which is any potential opportunity to speak or even say hello to someone from a time you walk into the building until the time you leave. This goes back to Principle 1 as well — not only are you practicing say hello, making small talk, you are finding every opportunity to do so. “¨”¨Example;
-Walk into gym, say hello and how are you to front desk girl
-Say good morning to my manager, ask him how his weekend was
-Wave hi to group exercise instructor
-Greet personal trainers in breakroom
So on and so forth. Over the course of day, you’ll have 20+ opportunities to chat with people that you never realized. On top of your list, always take advantage of opportunities to be exposed to larger groups of people. “¨”¨“¨
Principle 3 – Confidence, confidence, confidence
Scenario 3 – Confidence, or lack thereof
“I want to train people, I just feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Straightforward as it gets.
Applying Principle 3 – Confidence building, small to large
Confidence comes with experience, but it also starts with the courage to seek out that experience in the first place.
No one is a rockstar when they first start training, but everyone has at least ONE THING that they feel “confident” in teach or demonstrating. “¨”¨
How do we build confidence from this? Bust out the pen and paper again, and write down that ONE THING you would feel confident showing a client in a session.
“I really know how to teach bench press”.
Okay, that’s great. Now, from that ONE THING what’s a related thing that you’d feel at least somewhat “comfortable” with talking about? This doesn’t mean with a full on sales pitch, rather something that you could speak to if asked a question.
Possibilities: Training the chest/pecs, how the rotator cuff works, training the rotator cuff, understanding pressing mechanics, the overhead press, history of the bench press, how to use rings to train the pecs.
The goal here is to build confidence “pieces” that gradually add up over time. By building upon your own working knowledge, you’ll create a “base” that you can rely on for training, and to continue learning from.
While this process isn’t overnight, it acknowledges that confidence building is a process. Rather than beat yourself up with outcome based thinking that you’re not a good trainer, reverse your mentality into recognizing all your possibilities to learn and grow. Part of this is self guided, part of this is interaction driven, but all of it will contribute towards your confidence in the short and long term.
Principle 4 – Maximize all of your interactions
Scenario 4 – Missing opportunities during interaction
“I saw you talking to that member, what did they ask you?”
Oh, they wanted to know how to use the seated row correctly. So I showed them how”¨”¨. And that’s it? You didn’t ask them anything else?
Uh, no…They didn’t ask about training though.
So why didn’t you ask them about anything else? It doesn’t have to be fitness related “¨”¨umm…I didn’t really think of that…””¨“¨
Applying Principle 4 – Maximize all your interactions
So far we’ve catalogued all of our opportunities for interaction, we’ve decided we aren’t going to avoid them, and that we’ll be okay not knowing everything.
That in mind, what happens when all our conversations end in hello and goodbye?
The common problem I found with trainers was simply not thinking of anything else to talk about. They might talk to members, but their whole focus of conversation was on training and not “I’m going to get to know this person.”
By learning to maximize the interaction, you interact WITH that person as much as you can and as maximally as you can. If you are approaching conversations with the mindset of talking about yourself, that conversation isn’t going to go very far. “¨
Take out the pen and paper, and make a list of 20 questions you can ask someone while in the gym. Bonus points for questions that are NOT gym related.
If you’re thinking you can think of 20 things, so stop overthinking. Ask someone if they have a pet, their favorite color, where they got their shoes, do they live around here, how long have they worked out for, what kind of music do they listen while they train, whose their favorite artist, do they ever make playlists, do they like to dance.
That’s ten things already, and while I’m sure someone is thinking half of those are silly, consider if I was to ask someone those ten during a conversation, I’ve learned ten things about them that are unique and we’ve gotten to know each other.
The point is not that you are going to grill people, but you’ll have “lead off” questions you can ask the build a conversation from.
If training comes up in the conversation, great, but that’s not the point. Approach people as if you wanted to make a friend first. So you get to know them, and then that trust that’s built can be translated into a “sale” later on.
And if all you can remember is “hi, how are you today, what’s your workout look like?” that’s at least a start. Keep building on it.
Principle 5 – Don’t be dissuaded by failure
Scenario 5 – You failed at interaction with someone, DAY=RUINED
“-I tried to do what you said, but the person totally blew me off.
-Okay, that happens. Did you try to talk to anyone else?
-No, I’ve just been sulking in the breakroom for 3 hours”
Applying Principle 5 – Don’t be dissuaded by failure
Failure is going to happen. People will be rude, you will get blown off, and you might have days where you just struggled with everyone you talked to.
That means you are improving.
And we’re back to our notepad of actionable steps:
Make three columns. On the left, list what your failure(s) was. Write them out and confront them “¨”¨”I failed at ….””¨”¨Now, in the middle, list 3 things you learned.
And finally on the right, list 5 things you will do differently next time. “¨”¨
Don’t cut corners on the numbers. What we are doing is confronting our failed experience, evaluating it to learn from it, and creating actionable tactics that we can use for our next experience. “¨
We are not sitting on the breakroom couch feeling bad about ourselves. Failures are part of the process, and if you aren’t failing all the time, you’re not improving as a trainer or as a person.
Fail Forward, and use your failures to always move ahead.
Principle 6 – Adopt an abundance mindset
Scenario 6 – Scarcity mentality ruins everything
“I’m trying to talk to people, but I just want that first sale so bad. Everyone I talk to, no one wants to buy training.
-It’s going to come when you stop trying to get them to buy training and just talk to them.
-That doesn’t make any sense….”
Applying Principle 6 – Adopt an Abundance mindset“¨”¨
Trainers are afflicted with a guilty but broke mentality. We want to train people, but we don’t want to ask for money, but we need to get paid, and we need clients.
All of this results in what’s called a scarcity mindset. This mental state creates anxiety, people are excessively harsh on themselves, and it shades all their interactions. You entire outlook on everything is that you never have enough of anything.
Now, often times it happens that when a trainer does finally get those first few clients and confidence rockets up, suddenly they tend to find themselves relaxed, happy, and the “sales” come much more natural. And this isn’t an accident.
How to get into an abundance mindset means pen and paper time. “¨
To go from thinking you don’t have enough to recognizing all that you have, write it out.
Three columns: “¨”¨
-Left column what you need”¨
-Middle column, all the ways you can create opportunity for it”¨
-Right Column, all the things that you could give thanks for that contribute to those opportunities “¨
Maybe you think this is silly? If you’ve got a fully booked schedule, keep on doing what you are doing. But if you’re freaking out about being broke every month, shift your mentality and recognize that your thoughts ARE affecting your actions.
When you look at your paper, which columns are more filled? Its likely that your needs are few, but what you HAVE is much greater.
Rather than focus all your energy through your perceived shortcomings, redirect through what you do possess and have control of. Empowering yourself this way will have a profound effect on both your short term and long term success.
To give an easy example that most people will understand, think of online training. Maybe you’ve thought of trying it but decided against it, for lack of confidence or audience.
Now, consider that there are over 2 billion online. And that the PTDC is followed by only 162,000 people (lets assume we are all personal trainers).
So that means if each of us had our own website and equal audiences, we’d all be reaching 13,513,000 people each.
So why should anyone think that there wouldn’t be a potential audience for the website? Scarcity mentality. Reality shows that there is enormous potential abundance for everyone. But you’ve got to recognize it first.
Principle 7 – Enjoy the process, not the outcome
Scenario 7 – Not Enjoying the Process”¨”¨
Applying Principle 7 – You’ve must enjoy the process
There’s no scenario for this one, as there are too many to list. Personal trainers burn out, stress out, and generally just get tired of training much of the time. The attrition rate for the industry is damn high – I’ve seen statistics that suggest around 80% of personal trainers quit after only 1-2 years.
Why is this? I could cite many reasons, but above all else, people stop enjoying it. It becomes arduous, taxing, and whether its scarcity mentality, becoming bored, or just being disillusioned, people quit all the time.
If training isn’t something you find joy in, and you never find a way to sustain that joy, you will eventually leave it for something it.
Going through all the principles, while there are certainly actionable ways of applying all of them, above all else they are ways of thinking.
They’re foundational principles that can apply to an entire mental paradigm, not just interacting with potential clients.
If you can only pick up ONE thing from this article
Without enjoyment, without finding that joy, training isn’t going to mean anything.
If there’s one actionable step to take from this, it’s that very question —
“¨”Do I find joy in training?”
If the answer is NO, then you are probably in the wrong line of work.
If the answer is yes though, you’ve got the potential for a future. And hopefully you’ve seen the necessary skills to pick up along the way.
Influence Expert Reveals the Best Way to Approach Clients off of the Floor – SharÃ Alexander
A must read here if you work in any kind of commercial facility with an opportunity to get new clients by canvassing the floor. I’ve never seen a better breakdown of how to do it than this. – Coach Jon