When it comes to selling my personal training, I am as awkward as the Z-shaped piece in Tetris. Over the years I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who feels this way about selling.

In Daniel Pink’s wonderful book To Sell is Human, you as a personal trainer are involved in what Pink calls “non-sales selling.” It means you’re selling even though you aren’t in “sales” per se. Whether that sale entails dollars, effort, or time, just about all of us are trying to convince someone of doing something at any given moment. The first step in breaking down this fear of selling is to re-frame it.

As coaches, we are in a perpetual game of selling our clients on adhering to sound nutrition and more activity. The goal of this article is to help you get more comfortable with selling by getting you in the right headspace when you sell your services.

1. Sell emotions, not rationality.

Selling would be far simpler if humans were rational beings.

While it’s logical to assume that we gather all the information we need to make a purchasing decision, the truth is that we gather information to justify a decision we’ve already made.

The vast majority of coaches offer a very similar list of “features and benefits.” These vary slightly depending on niches but typically read the same. Who doesn’t want to lose fat, get fit, and be stronger? Regardless of how amazing your services are, one of the biggest mistakes is going after a prospect’s brain when you should be going after his heart. In other words, sell on emotion:

Invoke the feelings of success: Rather than taking a metrics and numbers approach, get your prospects to visualize how great they would feel when they are under your guidance. Get them to picture themselves with boundless energy and more confidence. Have them conjure up images of them playing with their grandchildren (if they have children themselves).

Create a sense of belonging: We are born wanting--not needing--to belong. When you sell your services, you are selling yourself first, then your company. It’s important that your potential clients feel as though they are entering into an exclusive club. They are becoming part of a team, a group of like-minded people who are looking to change their lives.

Establish trust: Trust in any relationship is crucial. Make no mistake, you are after a relationship here: tone of voice, a reassuring demeanor, and confidence in your approach help establish trust. But be sure to ask questions and show genuine interest. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and speak about your own experiences or relate to an experience of a client.

Give freebies for a bit of “instant gratification”: The instant gratification angle may also come in a physical form, like receiving a water bottle, T-shirt, or some other freebie upon signing up. In other words, do not leave the prospect empty-handed. Offering instant gratification in other forms, like convincing your prospect that they will feel better almost immediately after their first workout or only a few days of more healthful eating, can be a sound tactic to tickle the emotional centers of the prospect.

2. Be the “best option” for your client.

This one may raise an eyebrow. You may wonder why anyone would not strive to be the best. Of course, striving to be the best is admirable, advisable even, but the prospect doesn’t care.

I’m reminded of one of the basic tenets of buyer psychology: People do not look to make the superior choice; they want to avoid making the bad one. This phenomenon is referred to as loss aversion, where losses hurt more than wins provide joy. That means your prospect wants to feel confident that they are not making a bad decision.


In other words, focus less on convincing your prospect that you are the best and focus more on convincing them you are the best option for them. To do that, make sure you:

Be responsive: Be prompt when following up with people. This is a very good way to show them they are a priority.

Be empathetic: Many of the people who are seeking guidance from a coach are struggling in some way and may feel a bit anxious about the experience. The best way to put someone at ease is to listen with an empathetic ear and respond in a way that exudes empathy. This goes a very long way in assuring your prospect that you won’t be a bad choice.

Be authentic: Authenticity is crucial when it comes to being an excellent choice. People are generally very perceptive, some quite skeptical. You can dissolve skepticism by being your authentic self. This means being honest but it also means being yourself. People buy ALL of you. If you’re perceived as authentic, you will gain trust.

3. Solve problems instead of “selling.”

One of the best approaches to get over the fear of selling is to re-frame “selling” as finding solutions. Be confident in knowing you can provide solutions to your prospects’ issues.

What’s the best way to solve problems? Ask questions. It’s that simple. Probing, open-ended questions will give you the most insight as to how best to help your prospect. Here’s what a typical conversation might look like;

Coach: “What do you think is your biggest obstacle to success?

Prospect: “I snack a lot in the evenings.”

Coach: “Why do you suppose that is?”

Prospect: “I guess I’m just bored and it’s become routine. I watch TV and find I have the munchies later at night.”

Coach: “Would it be fair to say that you would like to find a solution to late-night snacking?”

Prospect: “Yes, I think that would help a great deal.”

As in any relationship, seek first to understand, then to be understood. The root of problem-solving is to arm yourself with as much information as possible.

4. Build a relationship, not a pitch.

A dear friend and mentor of mine, Brian Grasso, etched these words into me a couple of years ago:

“You are not a marketer or even a coach, you are a relationship-builder.”

Ever since hearing this message, I strive to live it through my approach to connecting with people. In my experience, there are three primary ways to build and nurture a lasting client relationship:


Be genuinely concerned for their well-being: Showing care for someone by simply asking how they’re doing, asking about something you know is important to them, and listening intently to their response will go a very long way in establishing and maintaining a relationship.

Ask what you can do for them: Ask even if they don’t sign-up with you that day. This leaves the door open for them to reach out if they have questions. You will solidify yourself as the go-to guy, even if the prospect doesn’t commit right then. There have been many times over the course of my career that seemingly cold leads have turned into thousands of dollars worth of coaching. Even if it’s not that prospect, it’s not uncommon to get a referral through that prospect.

Keep in touch: It’s important to have a system for communication. Keep yourself top of mind in the eye of the prospects. Put a note in your calendar to contact your current as well as prospective clients. Have an email list, but also reach out individually to former clients or other prospects. Simply ask how they’re doing. A simple “Hey, it’s been a while. How are things going? How are your (kids, dog, etc) doing?” This takes very little time and costs nothing and yet can go a long way.

5. Focus on your “why”, not your “what” and “how”.

One of the most influential books I’ve read on entrepreneurship was Simon Sinek’s Start with Why. Sinek argues that many of the most iconic brands are so prominent because they start with the why. Sinek argues that every company knows what they do. Many know how they do it; whether it’s their unique selling proposition, their modus operandi, etc. But very few know why they do what they do.

What is your purpose? What is your cause or belief? Why do you exist? Be able to clearly articulate this. In essence, the idea is to turn the regular what to how to why inside out. A typical personal training sales pitch might look like this:

We offer awesome personal training that will get you results! (What)

We discover your goals and needs and our awesome trainers will guide you towards your best self (How)

We live, breathe and are committed to your progress. (Why)

Now, let’s turn this inside out…

We live, breathe and are committed to your progress.

The way we honor this is by having one of our personal trainers design a tailored program to help you achieve your best self.

Would you like to work with one of our trainers to achieve some amazing results?

The latter example is more purposeful, and arguably, far more inspired. Sinek states very authoritatively:

"People do not buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it."

This circles us back to the first point about selling on emotion. The “what” and the “how” are essentially data, or features and benefits. These do not resonate with our emotionally-dominant brains. Communicating from the why first, forms a direct connection to the emotional centers of the brain, a.k.a. the part of the brain that will buy. Focus here first and then move to the how’s and the what’s of your business.