When bills are paid by the sweat of signing new clients, being choosy seems to be a path to certain death for your training business. However, being selective about whom you work with and having a system for selecting clients are imperative to a trainer’s success (and sanity).
Simply, doing so cultivates the right environment for business growth. Consider where things can go wrong if you’ve picked up an “ill-fitting” client:
- You’ll be drained mentally, even physically. Your lost valuable energy will negatively impact the results you’re able to deliver to the rest of your clients. Conversely, your ideal client invigorates you to propel your mission.
- When a client-trainer relationship isn’t ideal, a client’s results aren’t easily achieved, if at all. This is detrimental to your fitness business, the growth of which is contingent upon you producing and replicating results.
- Time spent with the wrong client keeps you from finding the right one. It’s likely the clients you don’t mesh with are hanging out with more people you don’t mesh with, and that can pose a problem to the growth of your business. At the same time, that means your ideal client probably spends her time with five people just like her.
It’s important to understand that the “wrong” client isn’t a “bad” client. This process is about how well you and a prospect mesh. Think of it like dating: You may meet a great guy or girl, but that doesn’t mean every date is a fit for marriage, or even a second date.
And similar to dating, a good client-trainer relationship starts with knowing what you’re looking for in an ideal client.
1. Find your niche market.
In her book, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest Denise Lee Yohn says:
“Great brands… succeed by maintaining their brand integrity and accepting that the brand is not for everyone. If you identify your best target customers and focus on the unique value you bring them, you strengthen your brand as well as your ties to these customers.”
When you know what group you’re targeting, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your brand and whom you’re trying to reach. Your brand and target market will direct your decisions and help you steer your business.
Essentially, this is your USP, or unique selling proposition, or the answer to “What do you do?“
Try turning this into a 30-second “elevator pitch” to help keep you focused on what you’re pursuing, but also ensure you actually deliver what you’re selling. For example, I help busy moms and professionals gain energy, increase self-confidence, and achieve their dreams without giving up their favorite foods or spending a lot of time on exercise.
To do this, take out a blank sheet of paper and do the following:
- Write a list of all the services/products you provide.
- Determine what the client gains, what value is delivered, and what emotions are tied to these services. Ask yourself why someone would work with you instead of with someone else.
- Turn these phrases into an all-encompassing one- or two-sentence statement that flows smoothly off your tongue. Practice in front of the mirror and on your friends and family until you can rattle it off without thinking.
Don’t be afraid to leave people out.
It’s important to note that a niche market is not just a demographic. It’s also about values, personality, and expectations.
To this end, I don’t work with women focused only on a six-pack or those who want a quick weight loss fix. I work with moms wanting to create a sustainable lifestyle that will help them thrive in their life stage and raise kids who don’t have body image issues or unhealthy habits. Notice how specific I get with whom I want to work with–this is my niche market!
Knowing this for your own business hones your focus, which is determined by asking a lot of questions, such as:
Why do you do what you do?
What do you want to accomplish?
Why is this important to you?
Keep asking these questions until you have a clear understanding of where you stand and what direction you want to take.
2. Identify your perfect client.
Your “perfect client” is the person within your niche market to whom you direct all of your marketing and sales efforts. Without this person, you’re speaking in generalities; your marketing is best received when specifically tailored.
Your marketing is best received when specifically tailored
Start by taking a look at all your clients–past and present–and picking out the ones that have been your best, or those who were as excited to work with you as you were with them. One great exercise is a process I learned from the guys at NOW Academy.
Put 90 seconds on the timer (for each of the upcoming questions) and identify:
- What did each client gain from working with you?
- What could have been lost if they hadn’t worked with you?
- Who is this client? (list neighborhood, hobbies, profession, etc.)
Ideally, you’d take this process a couple steps further and spend some time with each of these dream clients one-on-one to learn everything you can about them. Take her out to lunch and really listen to the types of words she uses. Ask why she chose to work with you. What was her “snap point,” or her reason for taking action to fix whatever issue she had? What was her overall experience with you? Keep the questions open-ended and say as little as possible.
This has helped me zero in on whom I’m trying to work with and how to best reach more “dream clients”. Now when I write a blog, I write it in the language that this Jane Doe speaks. When I think of new services to introduce, I think of what she would want to do. This is how you market your services to attract the highest number of potential probable matches. If you’re ever in doubt, just ask.
3. “Speed date” your prospects.
Once you’ve found your client, it’s time to screen him or her, which will inevitably be a combination of many steps that will help you determine which prospects you’ll work with.
If you realize a prospect isn’t a good fit, move on to the next step.
First, determine how much time and effort you’re willing to invest into each prospect and what you expect to get in return. For example, the “free assessment” is often an attractive method for gyms and studios to “hook” prospects, but it is a risky investment if you’re going to be strict about whom you’ll take on. An hour is a lot of time, after all.
A smarter use of your time is to have systems to screen prospects. Offer very little of your time up front for free. You have to provide value without selling yourself short, or wasting yours or the prospect’s time.
I have all prospects complete an online client application, which includes a free “metabolic classification” profile. This captures several data points about a prospect’s needs and goals and includes several open-ended questions, such as what goals they’re trying to achieve, why they have struggled to achieve them, and what it would mean to them to achieve this goal?
This first step allows me to get a basic understanding of who each prospect is, what they’re about, and what kind of help they’re looking for.
At the end of the application, prospects schedule a 10-minute phone chat where I’m able to learn more about them, their mindset, and personality. I once told my brother that he didn’t need to know when a girl was “the one;” he just needed to know when she wasn’t. The same is true for a prospect. Ten minutes is typically plenty of time to determine whether you’re a good fit. In this time, I’m listening for cues that we’d be a poor fit, such as her desire for a quick fix, or a tendency to blame others for lack of results.
If scheduled properly, I can get four to six prospects in the time I’d spend in one free 60-minute assessment. If it seems we may be a good fit, I invite the prospect to schedule a “transformation assessment,” which is a stand-alone session that provides a movement analysis, nutrition counseling segment, and a full workout. It’s the domestic partnership of prospecting.
I charge the full single-session price for this time and explain that the fee is necessary to provide the comprehensive analysis and reporting they receive. If the client enjoys the session and buys a package, I apply the fee towards that investment. If the client opts to not sign up, they’re still leaving with a complete plan for addressing their nutrition and flexibility and movement issues, as well as getting a workout program they can follow on their own.
4. Refer out (if needed).
Okay, I know you’re thinking, “Really? Not only should I not sign every prospect who wants to work with me, but I should give them away to my competition?”
It’s time to stop seeing other trainers and professionals as the enemy.
If you’re running your business with true success in mind, you want to do what’s best for both you and your clients. It’s not about the next contract you sign, but the hundreds (hopefully) that come later.
My network consists of a mental health professional, chiropractor, massage therapist and acupuncturist, so when clients or prospects have a need beyond what I can provide I have a viable option ready. These particular relationships were cultivated through BNI, an international business networking group focused on building business through qualified referrals.
Joining a local chapter or similarly structured group is a great way to build these relationships on your own, but it can be as simple as Googling “massage therapist” and reaching out to everyone on that list within a certain proximity to your studio to forge a connection.
When people know you’re not just out for their money, you gain something much more valuable than a few bucks in your bank account. You build rapport, which blossoms faster than wildflowers do in summertime. You become “the guy” (or gal) whom people come to first, because they know they’ll get a clean shake and matched properly.
The bonus is that your network and reputation multiply exponentially.
Just because a date wasn’t a good fit for you doesn’t mean they’re not a good match for someone else. Your ideal client could be another trainer’s nightmare, and vice-versa.
Build a referral network of trainers in your community and learn who they are looking for – a friendly workout or coffee provides great opportunity to chat in a low-pressure sphere. Ask them what they look for in a client, what qualities they hate and which ones they’re attracted to.
If you can agree on a referral bonus, you’ll be able to generate income for yourself while providing value to the members of your community. (For referrals within the training sphere, I typically ask for at least 10 percent of the initial package.)
A successful business has a culture all of its own, and it is what sets you apart from your competition. Successful prospecting is about creating the right environment for your business, bringing in people that are passionate about your message and who share your vision for carrying out your mission.
More articles to help your fitness business grow
- The Simplest Way to Get a New Personal Training Client Today With No Money by Jonathan Goodman
- The Uncomfortable Truth About Getting More Personal Training Clients by Brett Jarman
- How Do I Get More Personal Training Clients? by Jonathan Goodman