It’s 10:02 a.m.
You wave goodbye to your previous client and take a long, slow breath, nervous for your next meeting.
With a brief stop at the office for some fresh client-intake forms, you put on your happy face. Chest up, big smile. You greet the potential client with a strong handshake. The sales meeting has begun.
After the small talk, almost every personal training sales meeting starts with a variation on one of these questions:
· “How much does it cost?”
· “How often do I need to see you?”
· “What do I need to do to lose X pounds?”
· “I just want a program to do on my own. Can you do that?”
Don’t answer any of them. Not yet. You’ll only lower your chance of making the sale, or hinder your ability to sell a bigger package than the client thinks she wants.
Instead, follow this five-step system for selling your personal training services:
Selling personal training step 1: “What do you want to achieve?”
Taking early control of the conversation is key. The simplest way to do that is to ask questions, starting with this one: “What do you want to achieve?”
Listen carefully to the answer, and take notes. (You brought a notepad and pen, right?) Active note-taking is important to make the client feel you care.
When the client stops talking, wait in silence for a count of two. You may feel more confused than Han Solo when he learned Leia is Luke Skywalker’s sister. But hold those thoughts. Chances are, she’ll start talking again, perhaps divulging a deeper purpose. Awkward pauses have an uncanny way of opening people up.
If she stays silent, ask her reasons for coming to you.
Pay special attention to emotional reasons, which may help fuel motivation during training. Never forget that emotion drives action.
Keep prodding until you understand what the client wants to achieve, and why. To make sure you heard right, paraphrase back to the client what she just told you. This assures the client that you’re paying attention, and trying to understand what she wants. Sometimes all I’d do during the first meeting with a client was ask questions and then paraphrase the answers.
Other questions to ask before moving on:
1. Have you been a member of a gym before?
2. Have you had a trainer before?
3. Why did you quit (or not achieve success) previously?
4. Any injuries that keep you from reaching your goals?
5. What are your expectations of me?
Selling personal training step 2: Sell results, not packages
Once you know what the client wants, you can sketch out a training plan. It doesn’t need to be perfect; you can fine-tune it later. The point is to write it down on paper so the client can see you already have an idea how to help her get the results she wants.
Some clients will want more detail than others. Let the client lead. If she asks about soreness, you can briefly explain how delayed onset muscle soreness works. If she wants to know more about your programming methods, share a few of your guiding principles. Stop when it’s clear she’s losing interest, and move on. Nobody wants a monologuing trainer.
Besides, your goal here isn’t to expand her knowledge of exercise science. It’s to give her an idea of what it will be like to train with you. If she can already see herself in the gym, the next few steps will be much easier.
Selling personal training step 3: Address objections
Objections are opportunities to close. You want objections. If you miss an objection or fail to adequately address it, you’ll lose the sale.
So be proactive. Say something like, “What do you think about the plan?” The client may say “great” or “good,” or raise an objection, or ask a question. It’s okay to answer questions about the program or clarify anything that’s unclear.
If the client says “good,” ask if she foresees any obstacles to training. Make sure you deal with all objections before asking for the sale. A sales meeting is a series of buy-ins and closing doors. Don’t leave any doors open.
Money is the biggest objection. But you’re not ready to talk price yet. If the client asks what you charge, say that you offer a few packages but aren’t sure yet which is best. Share your price sheet with the client and say, “Once we figure out what you need, we can land on the best package.” She’ll feel more at ease, and you’ll have more time to gather the information you need to offer the best solution.
Don’t bring up price before you’re ready. The cheapest trainer in the world is too expensive if the client isn’t yet sold on your value.
As the client begins to picture working with you, she may start selling herself on the idea, figuring out solutions to her own objections. At this point, your job is simple: Shut up. Let her talk through it.
Some objections you might hear when selling personal training:
· “No time”
· “I have to think about it”
· “Too expensive”
· “I have to ask my spouse/partner”
· “I’ve had a bad experience with another trainer”
For a solution to each objection, click here and go to category two: On Marketing, Getting, and Keeping Clients.
Selling personal training step 4: Get the buy-in
Before you talk price, book the person into your schedule. If you get clients to commit to times and dates first, they’ll be less likely to balk at the sale. In The Art of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar calls this the foot-in-the-door technique. Convince somebody to commit to a smaller decision, and the person is more likely to agree to whatever you propose next—which in this case is the money.
Remember that sales sheet you handed the client? It should have three options: a cheap option, a middle option, and a pricy option with all the bells and whistles. This is pricing theory 101. If you want to sell folks on your middle option, they’re more likely to choose it if it’s sandwiched by the other two.
See for yourself.
Compare this price sheet:
1. 3 sessions – $300
2. 20 sessions and 2 assessments – $1,800
3. 50 sessions, 3 assessments, a grocery store tour, and 5 massages with the therapist down the street – $4,800
To this one:
1. 3 sessions – $300
2. 20 sessions and 2 assessments – $1,800
Without that third package as a reference point, $1,800 seems like a lot of money, right? But with that option, the middle price seems a lot more reasonable, and most people will now choose it. Plus, believe it or not, some people just want the most expensive thing. And for those customers, you have a high-cost option, just in case.
Of those three options, highlight two—your first and second choices. Always present one as better, but say there’s a second option available. This takes it from a yes-or-no decision to an A-or-B decision.
So you might say something like this:
“Well, Sally, based on what we’ve talked about, I think the best way to achieve your goals is to see me three times a week and work out twice a week on your own, with my guidance.
“The most cost-effective option is the 50-pack of sessions. That’s about four months of training, more than enough time to get measurable results.
“If that’s too big a commitment right now, we also offer a 20-session package. Please also remember that if something comes up and you have to back out, the sessions are fully refundable, no questions asked.”
Offering a guarantee helps reassure the client that you’re a straight shooter, and not like others she’s heard about, or perhaps even dealt with. (Unfortunately, too many people have been ripped off by the many bad actors in and around the fitness industry.)
Selling personal training step 5: Get creative if necessary
Your client has agreed to your plan and been impressed by your value. Good work! All that’s left now is to fill out the paperwork, ask for a credit card, and take payment. It should be that simple.
Unless it’s not.
Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve sold your value, the client just can’t afford to train with you as often as your plan requires. If that happens, it’s time to get creative.
I had one client, Vlad, who was recovering from rotator cuff surgery and didn’t have much money. Having done physical therapy, he wanted an exercise routine he could do three times a week with a focus on strengthening his shoulder and improving functional strength. He couldn’t afford to train with me that often, but he still wanted a program that changed frequently enough to keep him interested.
We agreed to meet once a week for seven weeks. Vlad’s form was already pretty good, and I was confident that, if I demonstrated new moves, he could emulate them the following week. He also knew that he could contact me with any questions.
I devised a workout plan for him that included seven categories:
3. Mid-back/shoulder stability
4. Core stability/anti-rotation
5. Core rotation/flexion
6. Legs (hip dominant)
7. Legs (quad dominant)
I included four or five exercises in each group and instructed Vlad to choose one or two from each category per workout. Our in-person sessions focused on making Vlad comfortable with the exercises and teaching him how to know when to increase the weight.
By the time we were done, Vlad had a large assortment of workouts to choose from. The exercises were specific to his needs, and he knew how to progress. He reached his goals while staying within his budget.
He later referred his wife and daughter to me, and they ended up buying more than 100 sessions altogether.
The biggest mistake trainers make: prejudging clients
Always present the best option for the client’s goals, regardless of appearance, age, or anything you may think you know about the person.
I’ve trained high school students three times a week because they begged their parents after speaking with me.
I’ve sheepishly presented an older client with the cheapest option, only to later discover the client was well off. By then, I’d already set a precedent of training once every two weeks, and switching to multiple weekly sessions was impossible after that.
You are the product. Believe in your value and learn to communicate it to a client. Selling personal training is about confidence. Never miss an opportunity again.
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