This post has nothing to do with making you a better trainer. Instead it’s about how being a trainer makes you awesome at life.
As many of you know I no longer work on the floor. What I’ve found is that I am able to do things that many others seem to struggle with. My productivity is high, my energy is fantastic, and my business skills are surprisingly good. I never had formal schooling to teach me how to manage time, negotiate, sell, or network. Yet it comes naturally to me to do these things. So much so that I’m approached daily with inquires to consult on business and marketing.
Let’s face it. Most of you will not be personal trainers for the rest of your lives. The job’s awesome but isn’t conducive to a prosperous life for two major reasons:
1. It’s difficult to juggle a family and a thriving personal training career (working early mornings and nights gets in the way of the times that really matter).
2. You will never make a lot of money training (trading time directly for money is not a good way to generate wealth. Read Rich Dad Poor Dad for more on this).
Personal Training Prepared Me For Business
The lessons that my years on the floor taught me have prepared me for every obstacle thus far I’ve encountered in my journey deeper into the world of business. Whether you follow an internet entrepreneurship path or venture out in a different direction my hope is that this will help you. I want you to identify the skills you’re learning through your experiences more than the books you read.
Here’s the skills that I learned personal training that have proved priceless as I move on and battle other arenas:
1. Creative Problem Solving
On the floor the piece of equipment you wanted to use for your program is taken. You stare at your client and need to decide in an instant whether to stand there and wait or find a reasonable alternative.
Your client calls you and says that money is tight. They can only train once a week from here on out. You had programmed a 3x/wk workout split but they aren’t ready to take on two days on their own yet. You must figure out what the best option is moving forward. Giving them the same program and sending them some pictures or veering from the plan while not losing site of their goals.
In my journey into business I encountered (and still encounter) a ton of problems. Most I had no idea how to deal with but training gave me the tools to take a step back and see every angle. Instead of only looking at what I needed at the moment I had learned to weigh all of the outcomes and formulate my plan. Because of this I was able to figure out ways to constantly publish content when both time and money was tight, develop an audience to market a book to, and avoid annoying ads on this clean and pretty site. I only wanted to make money by offering you stuff that’s going to help you. I also wanted to give you the tools to do the same thing. That’s why I created the passive income page.
In personal training there is a session. Surrounding that session is preparation, paperwork, reflection, and sometimes minor changes. There is a different boss to answer to and appease in each session. You are paid for the work you produce and promptly fired if you become complacent. You are not allowed to slack or browse Facebook because nobody happens to be looking at that moment in time. If you’re on the clock, you’re on.
I’ve no idea what happens in offices having never worked in one. Maybe it’s bragging on their part but I’m dumbfounded by the stories of massive inefficiency from almost everybody I know that works in one. A couple weeks back I was invited to a bar in the middle of the day because my friends boss wasn’t in but would be there tomorrow. He wanted to make sure he had work to do so that he looked busy when she was in. What a joke. Time should not be substituted for productivity.
My practice in having to be on my game every hour I worked has allowed me to focus. It has prepared me for making every minute or every hour count. Because of that my output has and will always be high.
I had a nasty canker sore on my lip. So bad that I couldn’t walk outside because the wind irritated it. My doctor misdiagnosed it and the medication didn’t work. My client (who was the head of his department at a hospital) took one look and called me a prescription. I picked it up on my way home and applied the medicine that night. The next morning I woke up and it had closed up. Within 2 days it was gone. At that moment I knew that my network was the most valuable asset I could ever have.
ThePTDC is built on an incredible network of industry elite and neighborhood trainers alike. It’s incredible. In the Race to the Top I said that an experts power doesn’t come from knowing. It comes from knowing where to find. My biggest business asset is my network. Within minutes with an email I can find out anything, have access to, or discover the expert in pretty much anything. It all was because of this seemingly insignificant kind deed performed by my client.
Me: “10 reps”
Client: “How about 6”
Me: “10 reps and I’ll do burpees while you rest”
Every session is a negotiation and I got really good at it. What I realized was how important it was to make sure the client got the most out of their workout. I was willing to negotiate and even do burpees as long as their workout didn’t suffer. Every client was different but they all tried to pull a fast one over me, usually jokingly. No matter what there was always something I could offer so that their workout didn’t suffer.
In business everything is a negotiation. I’ve found that people are irrational. It seems to be uncouth to accept a deal as is. Everybody needs to feel that they are getting something special. So I use the lessons that I learned from training and give them something. It’s almost never a discount or increased price point for me. Training taught me that money is usually secondary. As long as the price is adequate a little more or a little less doesn’t make much of a difference. Instead I figure out something else that will make them happy and use it to sweeten the pot.
5. Planning and Execution
3 months in advance I would sit down with a calender and ask my clients what they wanted to train for. We would go over any events during that period that may get in the way and discuss the training moving forward. I’d then go and design a program for the next 12 weeks. It usually took a couple of hours per client but made my life a lot easier from there on out. (Note: To see exactly how I did it and download my template check out my uber popular article called Personal Trainers Shouldn’t Periodize)
Personal training taught me that taking the time to plan and try to forecast any problems makes any job easier.
Writing a book is incredibly tough. Both Ignite the Fire and Race to the Top were made easier by a painstakingly difficult and long planning process. For Race to the Top I took 8 months of research and organized it into sections. 4 times for 2hrs each I reorganized each section. I then cut out each subheading by hand and pasted on cue cards. Again 4 times I laid the 81 cards on my table and reorganized making notes on each for ~ 4hrs each.
The result of this planning is that I was able to write the book start to finish in 8 days. The editing and polishing process took a lot longer but that wasn’t done by me.
(Note: If you want to dominate fitness writing the best book I’ve ever read on the subject (actually read 3 times) was How to Get Published: Writing Domination in the Fitness Industry. I seriously recommend it. It’s an automatic download so you can start reading right when you’re done this article.)
Personal training taught me that sales is not about tricking the customer. Gimmicks are not needed. A sales meeting would consist of listening intently to what the client needed and rationalizing their desires. Usually they had not thought about the emotional reasons that brought them to the seat across from me. Quickly I discovered that a sales meeting was about figuring out what the client really wanted.They didn’t care about losing 10lbs. They cared about gaining more confidence or getting laid.
I don’t sell things face to face anymore although I think that I would find that easier. On the internet I have to create the same emotional response in a potential customer and try to answer all questions in a sales letter with no feedback. Dan Kennedy’s The Ultimate Sales Letter taught me how to take my lessons from personal training and apply them to writing sales copy online. The concepts are the same. Figure out what the client really wants and what their possible objections to buying are. Present your product or service in such a way that it answers all of those questions and leaves no doubt in the customers mind.
6. Show my value
Cold calls suck. I always hated them and thought they were a waste of time. So I decided I would never make one again. Instead I wanted people to call me and ask me if I was accepting clients. I wanted them to feel special I could fit them in. When that happened money rarely was an issue.
I did this a couple of ways. The first was to smile and no matter how I really felt keep positive. Other than that I attempted to become the most popular person in the gym. Instead of sitting in an office in between clients I’d go and hang out on the floor in my everyday clothes chatting up clients. If I didn’t know somebody I’d introduce myself and quickly write down their name. The next time they came in they were greeted by name with a big smile. Everybody wants to train with the popular trainer, nobody wants to train with the guy who sits in an office and browses Facebook.
I realized quickly that nobody knows what type of service to expect from a personal trainer. Clients largely believe what they are told. A trainer is chosen based on perception of skill and deliverance, not actual results.
This was the one concept I am still surprised carries over to business. People work with people they like. They are willing to spend more money and time if it means working with somebody they perceive to be a friend. They buy more expensive stuff if the salesperson is likeable. Being perceived as popular in the gym is the same as being perceived as popular online. Nobody really knows what’s going on. I could be lying about the views on my site, forging reviews for my books, buying followers on twitter and “likes” on Facebook, and pretending I have relationships with important people that don’t exist.
So I’ll admit it. To get thePTDC going I did buy 500 “likes” and I did buy 500 followers on Twitter. I called people friends that I hardly knew to make it seem like I was with the in crowd. And I lied repeatedly about the number of views on my site. (I never and will never forge reviews.)
But you know what? I had a fantastic product. ThePTDC has made a difference in a lot of peoples lives and I still get messages every day from trainers thanking me for Ignite the Fire. If I didn’t create the illusion of popularity early on you might not be reading this.
I’m sure there are more lessons to be gleaned from personal training so help your brothers and sisters out and list yours below. Oh yeah, and all that stuff about liking thePTDC’s Facebook page. Do that too.
Resources mentioned in this article for purchase:
Rich Dad Poor Dad – Robert T. Kiyosaki
Race to the Top: How to Take Over the Social Media Feed – Jonathan Goodman
Ignite the Fire – Jonathan Goodman
The Ultimate Sales Letter – Dan Kennedy
How to Get Published: Writing Domination in the Fitness Industry – Lou Schuler, Sean Hyson, John Romaniello
Photo credit: Darcie Kennedy. Model: Robin Kennedy