Over my 11 years as a Personal Trainer, I've noticed many differences and many similarities between trainers at various gyms.
Many big box gyms quite often have a high turnover of trained fitness personnel - for many different reasons - but some of the reasoning behind this can be:
- Trainers criticising other trainers.
- Trainers undercutting other trainers' prices.
- Individual trainers playing to their 'averages' and not playing to their strengths.
- Inexperienced trainers: unsure of how to position themselves in the marketplace.
By looking at these 4 cons that personal trainers face and how we can remove these obstacles, we can make training our clients a much better experience - for them and for us.
Negative #1 - Trainers criticising other trainers.
I tend to see this as a mix of dirty tricks and insecurity, and it can be potent if unrecognised. I've had this happen to me when I was new to Personal Training. It started off as small, niggling comments here and there - a small question about my personal trainer certifications followed by elaboration on their own training background; asking what I might do with a client in a certain situation, followed by being told what I should do (in their opinion) - and so on.
This is more due to the other trainer's insecurities and lack of confidence about their own position rather than anything you have done.
Over time, this method can successfully undermine your thought process (if you allow it to) so that you almost automatically defer to someone else instead of trusting your own judgement on matters.
We all start somewhere. Everyone has to develop their own system and routine that works for them. What works for one trainer likely won't work as well for another - if you had two trainers doing exactly the same workout but with different personalities then it will come down to rapport with your client.
How do you interact with people? Always be true to your personality, and never try to be someone you aren't. People put their trust in you because there's something there that they like. That's why they aren't with the other guy.
Do some personal trainer reading whenever you have time, whether that's fitness or nutritional articles/books, or business/self-improvement books. Anything that can help to improve you personally, or the service that you provide will make you a better, happier, more confident trainer - and that's a much better place to be.
Negative #2 - Trainers undercutting other trainers' prices.
This can be a prime reason for people moving on. We all love what we do, and I know loads of trainers that would do it for free if they could, but we all have to earn a personal trainer salary. We've all got bills to pay unfortunately and this ensures we put a price on our time.
When first starting out, many people discount their sessions, or even offer free taster sessions in the hope of getting lots of clients. This has a knock on effect with other trainers in the same working environment, who may then feel that they have to discount their sessions, or the situation is reversed and you feel that you need to be discounting.
Alternatively, if someone is purposely undercutting, then it says more about them and their insecurities if they feel that they need to charge less to get clients.
Either way, this is not the best approach, even if it feels scary to be charging for the first time. Discounting, or doing work for free will plant the suggestion in people's minds that you can be knocked down to a lower price, and this can undermine your confidence in your ability to be an effective trainer.
I do not offer free sessions, but I do offer taster sessions with a nominal fee to go to a charity. I usually set one day aside, which allows me to publicise it more effectively as a charity day and to gauge interest. People rarely value things that they're given for free, but by allowing someone to try something and help a good cause at the same time, there's the opportunity to test you out and ask questions to determine if the two of you can possibly work together.
Collect e-mail addresses and/or telephone numbers with an ideal time of day to follow up with people and catch them whilst you're fresh in their minds a few days later on. You're worth your price, and it should reflect the quality of what you're offering.
Negative #3 - Individual trainers playing to their 'averages' and not playing to their strengths.
What's your niche market, your speciality? What sort of client do you love to train? If you don't have this already in mind, then chances are you are playing to an average. We can probably all train people for weight loss or weight gain, but imagine if every trainer was advertising that? How would we stand out? What would we do to encourage people to train with us?
If everyone wanted the same thing then they could choose us based on our personalities to see whom they get along with best, but even if someone says, "I want to lose weight..." then their reasoning would most likely be very different from the next person. So where does your expertise come in? What do you love about training?
I have two areas where I focus most of my work - helping people rehabilitate through massage and specific training, and the Over 60s. My niche work has come about purely because I love to read up on rehabilitation, and my personality seems to sit well with older adults.
I can do many of the other things that we can offer as Personal Trainers, but I want people to be successful, and whilst I could help them achieve their goals I would prefer to refer them to someone who is more specialised in that area who could be the difference between simply achieving the goal and absolutely smashing it.
What interests you most about being fit and healthy? Are you your own success story? Imagine your ideal clients. What would they be like, and what would their goals and aims be? If you've been training clients for a while, then is there anything that they have in common - age/gender/goals - that maybe you haven't picked up on because you have been working with them on something else?
Being specific about what you do will attract clients to you because they want an expert in that field, rather than General Jack (of all trades).
Negative #4 - Inexperienced trainers: unsure of how best to position themselves in the marketplace.
Being the newest trainer can feel awkward. Seeing where you fit in, finding out what the other trainers do, and trying to work out what you want to do as you gain experience is all a big learning curve. Seeing other trainers who are already established getting on with it can feel overwhelming for some people. However, you can learn more from this situation than you think.
This can be a great time for being a trainer - lots of opportunity to see what works best for you: what sort of clients you want to work with, what sorts of training philosophies grab your attention, and the ability to learn from actually doing Personal Training rather than theory work.
You have the chance to watch other trainers as they work:
- What do they do well?
- What would you do differently?
- Is their client base similar/different to what you want to do?
- What are they doing in-between clients? Are they doing something to further their business?
- What can you offer to clients that will make you stand out as the 'go-to' trainer in your area of expertise?
- What type of person would you like as a client? We all have a type that we prefer to work with. Go for it from the beginning and set the standard from the start.
- Don't be afraid to turn people down if they don't feel like a fit with you. Enjoy what you do and it will never seem like work.
You can also commit to continued learning, and so what you do on a daily basis will be of benefit to you and your clientele:
- Make time for personal trainer marketing - don't rely on other people to recommend you as a sole advertising strategy.
- Know where your clients are coming from. This will allow you to see which marketing is working well, and which may need reconsidering or reworking.
- Read regularly. Look at books on personal training and articles on fitness or nutrition and business/self-help, and be reading something in these fields daily. Keep a book on hand in case of client cancellations and have mp3's, podcasts or audiobooks to listen to on your way to or from work - or at any time you have a few minutes to yourself.
- Make time to re-evaluate and set your own personal goals every few months. What do you want to achieve personally and professionally that will help you to help yourself and others? Are you still on track to achieve goals that you have already set?
By working toward being the best trainer that you can be then you won't need to worry about what other people are thinking and doing. You'll value yourself and you will be working with people who value your knowledge - and who will pay you well for those skills.