The following is a guest post by Kasey Esser. If you’re interested in contributing a guest submission, please refer to our contribution guidelines.
THE GYM FLOOR. For trainers working in a commercial gym, this is where careers are made or broken.
You may have exercise science classes and a few certifications under your belt, but nothing really prepares you for the reality of what it takes to build a client base.
Simply put, if you hope to build your business in a commercial setting, you have to be able to win over the members. You can’t depend on your manager giving you leads. You have to grab the bull by the horns, get some clients, change some lives, and make some money!
When I moved out to Los Angeles from Dayton, Ohio last year to pursue my personal training dream, I understood that if I didn’t rapidly build my client base, I would be going home.
Well, I’m still here, and I largely owe my success to the 3 strategies outlined below. My hope is that you use them to better build your business and dominate your local commercial gym.
1. Change Your Mindset
Are you setting yourself up for failure before you even go out on the floor?
I’ve seen trainers reluctantly clock-in and head out for their floor time like they’re on death row. Granted, floor shifts can be a pain at times, but if you approach the floor like a job you won’t have one at that gym for long.
I made this mistake one morning during my first month. It had been a long week, and I just didn’t quite have “it.” And I brought that mentality to the floor. I wasn’t as engaging as I normally was and another trainer called me out on it.
“Kasey, you awake? It’s busy out here, you better get to work.”
It was a huge wake-up call. I vowed to never again carry anything less than an absolutely winning attitude out to the floor. Who knows how many potential clients I missed that day?
Always view your floor time as an opportunity.
An opportunity to meet your next long-term client who gives you testimonials and referrals that keep you busy for life.
An opportunity to positively influence someone who may have gone off on the wrong track without the insight that you kindly offered. Even if they don’t become a client, guess who they’ll think of when they decide they are ready to train six months from now?
Who knows what interaction will change your life? Or more importantly, what interaction will change someone else’s life?
When I think about the floor like this, I get excited. It seems like less of a chore, and more of something that stirs up my passion. It gets me viewing every member that I meet as my next big client. After all, you never know who might be watching.
Case in point, later I was standing on the floor, smiling at everyone I saw and exuding a lot of energy. Suddenly, a lady approached me from the cardio area and said, “Hey, my doctor said I need to strength-train to beat my osteoporosis and you look like a good guy.”
There was client number one! And she’s been training with me ever since and has helped me tremendously with referrals and getting out in the community. All because I was being really nice to everyone else!
If I’d demonstrated a less energetic mood or appeared that I was biding my time until my shift was up I doubt she would’ve felt comfortable approaching me.
The floor can hold the key to your success…if you let it!
2. Start Conversations Better
Attitude isn’t enough. You need to standout from the crowd when it comes to approaching members and actually starting a conversation.
Unless your gym is brand new, you’re most likely following a long-line of trainers who’ve attempted to talk to the very members that you need to approach. Chances are, they used the following lines:
The standard, “Hey sir, how’s it going?
Or the other staple, “Hey, how’s your workout going?”
The problem with both of these is that they tend to get one-word answers that stop the conversation in its tracks!
You aren’t out on the floor to greet and just be the nice guy. You’re out there to have meaningful interactions. So you need to take a different approach and ask open-ended questions that get someone talking.
The question that I’ve found to work best in my experience (once eye contact and a smile has been given to the member) is:
“What are you training for?”
They can’t really get away with a one-word answer here. More importantly, you immediately get them talking about their goals and why they’re in the gym in the first place!
This creates an easy transition for you to introduce yourself and throw in a few knowledge bombs (just don’t give away the farm) that can establish you as someone that can help.
I was always told that the best way to meet people on the floor was to give technique tips. But it never felt comfortable for me, because, in my experience, no one likes to feel inferior or that they don’t know what they’re doing (especially in LA)!
However, by asking them what they are training for, you eventually will get permission to naturally bring up a conversation about technique, if appropriate.
While I can’t guarantee that question will land you 10 clients in a day, I can guarantee it will help you build your network way faster than the more traditional methods of starting conversations with members.
3. Befriend employees at the gym that are NOT trainers
I have 2-3 clients that I got within one month at the gym that I put zero effort towards landing.
When I started, I made it a point to meet and develop a relationship with everyone at the gym, from the spa, to the gift shop, to the front desk, floor staff, you name it. Within a very short time, everyone knew that I was the new trainer hungry to build business.
Sure enough, on a nearly daily basis, one of them would come up to me on the floor (I was always out there) with a member and say, “Hey Kasey, this is (insert name). He/she had a few questions about personal training, can you help him out?”
I would then have a meaningful interaction with someone already at least interested in personal training. No icebreakers, necessary!
Non-trainer employees (namely, the front desk and floor staff) interact with the members all the time and they probably have a lot more connections than you do.
So by developing those relationships, you can be at the top of their mind whenever a member asks them, “So, who do you recommend I train with?” They know they’ll get the real scoop from non-trainers, so don’t miss out on the chance to be promoted! This was the most effortless thing I did to succeed on the floor.
Don’t Be Intimidated
Too many talented trainers leave the industry every year because they fail to build their business and make ends meet. Don’t let the intimidation of the floor get the best of you. Use the above strategies and separate yourself from the average!
About the Author
Kasey is a personal trainer based in Beverly Hills, California. He is a CSCS and CPT through the NSCA. Check out his blog at www.kaseyesser.com