The following is a guest contribution from Kellie Davis.

My first client walked in this morning right on time, doe-eyed and timid with a warm smile stretched across her face. I introduced myself and escorted her back to my desk. As we chatted, I thought of all the possibilities in store for her.

To me, she is the ideal client. A former dancer and gymnast, she, like many mothers, placed her family first as her kids grew in size and in interests. Admittedly, over the years she gave up physical activity, though her love of dance still nestles deep inside the chambers of her heart. And like many fresh faces in the gym, a recent health scare helped her determine those steps into my office.

Today's session was to go over her basic assessments and determine how we should move forward. I shared with her why I do what I do, and we talked about why she desires to improve her lifestyle.

I say she's ideal because she arrived with a clean slate, which allows me to create her first impression of strength training and the weight room. I get to place the tools in her hands that drive her toward wellness and a greater quality of life.

Selfishly, I appreciate not having to erase any former methodologies and not having to explain why I do things differently than the magazines she reads or the trainer she worked with previously. But, we will keep that between you and me.

Just like any profession, personal trainers stretch over a large spectrum of ideals, practices, certifications, and knowledge bases. And as with any other career, it's up to us to determine how to put our skills to practice.

Education's the best instruction

The former teacher in me chooses to function as an educator for my clients. The gym is my classroom and they my students. They show up not to stand at attention between drills from a sergeant, or agonize breathlessly through endless sweat and tears. This isn't to say their workouts are taxing. I just don't consider it my job to beat 'em up and send 'em home.

I bring this up not to debate the right or wrong way to work with clients, but as a means to reveal the importance of branding yourself as a personal trainer. You can choose to lure any potential trainee who walks in the door, which makes for a tough sell. Or you can have them ask for you by name because they know exactly what type of trainer you are and come into your gym confident that you are the right fit.

If you haven't already, it's time to work on your brand. Be it a drill sergeant, a nurturer, an educator. A specialist in pre-natal, geriatrics, obesity, or anyone in between. Define who you are because it allows clients with specific needs to seek you out.

Of course, you can't always be choosy when it comes to whom you train. The bills arrive in the mail without fail each month, and you can't determine whether a flock of perfect clients will swoop through the door with credit cards in hand. It's always good to keep a variety of clientele in the books until you really build up a list of those ideal clients. I think you will find once your niche is known, people will refer friends and family to you because of your training style.

As Jonathan always says, personal trainers also have to function as salespersons. Allow your brand to do the selling for you. If you have a hard time figuring out your brand, think of the type of client that really gets you excited when they come to your facility looking for a program.

Is it someone wanting to lose 100 pounds? Is it the grandmother with bad knees? The new mom? The high school baseball player?

Once you figure out that ideal client, get personal with her. Sit down and write out a brochure or webpage that speaks directly to her as though the two of you cozied up in a quiet café to chat. Create business cards that reflect that branded persona to really show who you are as a trainer.

The goal is to have people walk through the door knowing exactly what you are about. A colleague and friend who knew I would be the perfect fit referred my client from this morning to me.

"The goal is to have people walk through the door knowing exactly what you're about"

When she arrived to the gym we bonded like we had known each other already. This gave us both the confidence we needed to work together toward her goals. There is no greater reward in the personal training business than to have the complete trust of your clients.

Defining Your Ideal Client

Your ideal client is a fictitious person whom you believe is the best candidate for training with you. Creating your ideal client, or what is also known as the customer avatar, allows you to really define your brand and helps to craft the perfect sales material for your business.

Below is an exercise designed to help create this ideal client. I've made it downloadable in word for you to fill out. Once you fill in the questions, begin to construct a brochure or sales material that speaks directly to this person. Think of the language you would use, the tone of your voice, your mannerisms. Make it as conversational and comfortable as possible. The more in tune you are with who you want to be as a trainer, the better response you will get from your community.

Ideal Client Questionnaire for Branding

Download the ideal client questionnaire

1. The first thing you need to do is create a sort of biography for your ideal client. You need to get to know him/her really well. So here is a list of things to think about:

- Age, sex, marital status, location, children
- Household income, profession, hobbies, interest
- Activities, entertainment

2. Once you figure these things out, you need to think about what area of life your services will help to improve for this person. What frustration does she/he face and why does he/she want to change this?

3. Now think about yourself. Why do you provide these services? Did you face the same issues? Did you see a need in the market? Were you tired of similar services with inferior results? Come up with as many as possible.

4. What types of benefits will your ideal client receive? Don't just think in terms of program features. Benefits answer the "so what?" factor. Features don't address the issue on an emotional level. Think about how your program and services will improve your ideal customer's life. Come up with both physical and emotional benefits.

5. What are your ideal client's 3 biggest hot buttons? These are core desires, wants and needs. Come up with several and narrow it down to 3.

6. What are your client's largest fears? List most powerful, and also smaller fears.

7. What are your client's largest frustrations? These differ from fears. Fears are unknown, frustrations are experiences.

8. What will your client gain from this service?

9. What is your proof? Why should your ideal client believe you and listen to you? This is the part that affects them the most because they are deciding to make an investment. Think of what makes you an authority in this area. Do you have an educational background? Research background? Did you solve this problem for yourself? What makes you different? Come up with as many reasons as possible.

10. Who is this service for? Who doesn't need this service? Make two lists. Who absolutely must have it and who doesn't need it at all?

11.What objections will your clients have to buying your services?

12. What is the ultimate goal or dream of your client?

Download the questionnaire

Why spin your wheels training clients with goals you're not passionate about? You have an acute amount of time. Decide on your ideal client and focus on them. Soon many more like them will be banging down your doors, cheque book in hand.

Kellie Davis holds a Bachelor's degree from Florida Gulf Coast University, and works as a professional writer and personal trainer in Phoenix.  She has penned content for personal trainers, strength and conditioning experts, sports supplement companies, online fitness magazine sites, and fitness facilities. Davis is the co-author of Bret Contreras's female strength training manual titled Strong Curves,.