Not everyone has a “sales mindset.” That’s understandable—we’re primarily trainers, not salespeople.
When I was an assistant fitness manager at a big downtown gym, I remember listening to a colleague complain about being told to “sell more.”
I let him rant, but told him the only thing to do was care about the client, do his best work, and ask for the chance to do more.
That’s what I believe: Service leads to sales. Some call this “consultative selling.”
Here’s a few things I’ve learned, and coached, when it comes to the “sales” mindset.
1. You never lose. You either win or you learn.
Imagine how a new member feels, or a current member who’s never had personal training. They know very little, and what they know might be wrong.
They need a test drive. It’s like buying a car.
Let’s look at some numbers from a typical big gym. Try not to freak out.
- In one hour of service or prospecting time, you might talk to or call 20 to 30 people.
- Maybe five or six of those will agree to try a complimentary session with you.
- Half will show up.
- Out of 10 complimentary sessions, one client will purchase training.
Freaking out yet? Don’t. Here are some more numbers:
- Most full-time trainers will carry 15 to 20 active clients.
- You’ll have to do 150 to 200 complimentary sessions to get to full-time.
- That means you’ll have to book 300 to 400 complimentary sessions.
- That means you’ll have to work 60 to 80 hours of service or prospecting time.
- So let’s call it a total of 450 to 600 hours of work to get to full-time.
And here’s the most personal number of all:
YOU’LL PROBABLY HEAR “NO” 400 TO 600 TIMES ON THE ROAD TO FULL-TIME.
You can look at that as 600 slaps in the face (a.k.a. rejection).
Or you can look at that as 600 relationships, 600 chances to share what you love, 600 opportunities to practice your craft, 600 hours of service, 600 potential life-changing interactions.
Virtually every client I’ve had started with a complimentary session or intro package.
And they’ve accomplished incredible things: 100-plus pounds of weight loss, athletic scholarships, overcoming the effects of cancer treatments. Boundlessly gratifying stories.
2. Sometimes “no” means not right now
Let’s walk through the process of getting clients to commit.
If you get a “YES”:
- Are you clear about your client’s expectations? Goals? What’s important to them?
- Time to deliver!
If you get a “NO”:
Did you actually ask for the sale? Too many new trainers finish off a consultation with a fluffy “So, what do you think?” Or worse, “Okay, thanks for coming in. Good luck with your workouts.” And then they run away!
You have to ask. If you did, and it was a “no,” do you know the real reason for the “no”? Fear of the unknown is natural.
Sometimes “no” is actually “I’m not sure.”
They need encouragement and your confidence that getting started is going to be worth it and help them reach their goals.
Here are some objections that aren’t real “no’s”:
- “Not sure I have the time.”
- “I want to train on my own.”
- “Let me talk to my spouse.”
- And the classic “Can I sleep on it and call you tomorrow?” usually results in radio silence, and awkward eye contact and avoidance in the gym.
A real (and good) “no” sounds like this:
“I really enjoyed working with you and I wish I could sign up but I have six more payments on my car and I can’t rack up any more debt on my credit card. I’m going to try to do everything you’ve told me to do, I’m going to start taking your spin class on Saturday and I really want to start saving some money so that I can train with you in the future.”
Here’s what I ask to test if a “no” is real:
- Is there anything you feel like I missed in our session today in relation to your expectations? (e.g., learning circuit machines, squat technique, getting a nutrition plan)
- If your membership included five free personal training sessions, would there be anything holding you back from wanting to use those sessions with me?
- If your boss gave you two paid hours a day to work out, would you choose to work with me?
These questions can feel scary because you’ll get a really direct answer. But, it’s a “no” already, right? You might as well learn something.
In my career, “no” has often meant “not right now.” So what happens in the next interactions is crucial. (More on that in a bit.)
That said …
3. There’s nothing wrong with “no”
It can be hard for a client to say what they actually mean, which might be:
- I don’t like you.
- You don’t get me.
- You don’t listen.
- I don’t trust you.
- I don’t understand you.
- I felt confused and frustrated by our session.
- I don’t like the sound of your plan.
- You didn’t address my concerns.
- I don’t feel safe.
- I don’t feel seen.
- I don’t want to spend any further time with you.
- You’re smart but I don’t feel any “spark.”
- You don’t inspire me.
- I don’t agree with you.
Ouch, right? But none of those mean you’re a bad person or that you failed.
Chemistry between a client and a trainer is much like chemistry between people who are dating. We don’t like everyone. Not everyone will like us.
If you let “no” from someone who was “never meant to be” get in the way of meeting all the people you will help in the future, that’s a huge loss.
Remember, I’ve started from zero clients many times, and I’ve been told “no” over 4,000 times.
You’ll hear “no” less as you get better at screening, communicating, and “selling,” and as you get better educated over time.
I don’t want to even imagine where I’d be if I’d given up in my first three months (that’s where we see the highest attrition in the PT industry).
4. What you do after “no” matters
We’ve heard about the awkward avoidance after a complimentary consult that didn’t close. And about clients who started off saying “no” but eventually signed up.
So how do you go about getting those future “yes” clients?
Here are five steps:
1. Thank them for coming in to work with you
You learned something. Hopefully they did too. This ends the session on a positive note.
2. Give them something to walk away with
They showed up for a reason. Did they get what they came for?
At minimum, I give them a copy of what we did together and offer recommendations about FITT (frequency, intensity, time, type) for anything they could repeat on their own.
3. Book a follow-up
They have a goal. If they are going to train on their own, that goal still exists. We want to circle back and either celebrate that they are succeeding or revisit our options.
Say something like:
“It seems like you’re ready to get after your goals! Would it be okay if we reconnect in three weeks to see how you’re doing? I’d love to book you for a follow-up. We can redo your body composition scan and take a look at the progress you’ve made with your cardio and strength.”
Then propose a specific date and time.
4. Send them an email or a text the next day
Check to see how they’re feeling after the session.
5. Be friendly the next time you see them in the gym.
Say hello, address them by name, ask how they’re doing. Give them some encouragement. Help them realize it’s not weird.
You want them to feel good about seeing you—that a “no” is not a reason to feel bad or embarrassed!
I believe that anyone who gets into a fitness career does so because of enjoyment, excitement, passion, and the positive impact fitness has had on their own lives. What an amazing industry to be a part of!
That being said, it’s still a job. It still takes WORK.
If you want to make it, you’ve got to accept and work past the long days, the outpouring of energy—and the “no’s.”
My favorite boss used to say, “You’ve got to have the grit to not quit.”
See you out there!
For more tips on how to get clients in a gym, check out part one: “Get Noticed.”
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