It’s always easier to keep a personal training client than to find a new one. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Keeping four critical tips in mind will help you retain not only your client base, but also your job as a personal trainer.
1. Always Create Value
You have to demonstrate your value to your personal training clients from day one. But this is no easy task. Your client's perception of your value begins at the initial intake or assessment, so make sure to make your mark right away. Use that first session to discover what that client cannot do on their own, and help them move towards that goal in a tangible way as soon as possible.
Beyond that initial session, the training environment must create ongoing opportunities to add value to each client's experience.
Make every interaction count
At every session, focus on the client’s experience that day:
- In the beginning of the session, ask the client, “How would you like to feel after today’s training session?”
- Identify the feeling the client stated, summarize in a few of their words, and repeat it back to them to confirm.
- Use your knowledge to tie this feeling to the client’s workout for the day and their stated short-term goal.
- Use your skills and tools (such as a trainer self-appraisal) to make workout adjustments accordingly and execute this request.
- Check in during the session to see if the client is on track to achieve the desired outcome.
- Make adjustments accordingly or immediately reinforce the outcome.
- At the end of the session ask, “Do you feel [use the client’s word or phrase from the beginning of the session]?”
- Address the response in a way that highlights the successful session and transfers over to the rest of their day.
Congratulations! You just created positive reinforcement! You delivered a client-centered experience while holding yourself accountable. At the end of the week, have the client reflect on their positive feelings, fitness progress, and achievements during the week. This is where the trainer self-appraisal comes in handy. Make note of the words the client used and comments that they made throughout the sessions. Now get ready to discuss future plans.
Use motivational interviewing
Motivational Interviewing (MI): a semi-directive, client-centered counseling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients to explore and resolve ambivalence.
This technique can be used each session to help the client see the value of training. There are several key points to remember when using MI in a personal training setting:
First and foremost, we are not counselors, though at times we may feel like one with our clients. It certainly is important for a person to be able to vent and acknowledge their feelings, but we must know how to balance the personal-professional components of the client-trainer relationship. Our role includes listening. Our primary purpose is to deliver results based upon the client’s physical goals, so make sure to establish personal and professional boundaries at the beginning of the relationship and reinforce them throughout.
Discuss the future.
Goal-setting is important, but we must also create opportunities for clients to picture him or herself achieving that goal and how it will affect their life.
Elicit/evoke change talk by looking forward.
The questions below are examples of how to compare the current situation with what it would be like to not have the problem in the future (Sobell, 2008).
- “If you make changes, how would your life be different from what it is today?”
- “How would you like things to turn out for you in 2 years?”
Decide how you can apply some of these strategies with a client.
Keep in mind what conversations you’ve had about the future with the client (this may be the first) and how many sessions they have purchased. The number of sessions purchased and conversations about their expectations for personal training will shape how far into the future you will discuss.
Show enthusiasm about your client’s accomplishments and a positive vision of the future.
Take note of current behaviors that conflict with future goals. Avoid judgment and offer understanding. After all, they wouldn’t have purchased personal training if they didn’t want a different future. Your job is to help them bridge the gap.
2. Manage Your Customer Relationships on Their Terms
Rarely will a client train with you because they want you to dictate exactly what to do and how to do it. Customer relationship management (CRM) has replaced customer service, which means you really need to understand what your clients want out of their sessions and work with them to achieve those goals on their terms.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented model for managing a company’s interactions with customers, clients, and sales prospects. The overall goals are to find, attract, and win new clients; nurture and retain those the company already has; entice former clients back into the fold; and reduce the costs of marketing and client service.
Start your customer relationship management by finding out how your clients like to communicate. Is it text, email, or a phone call? Find out the ideal time to contact each person. Some clients appreciate a motivational quote before their morning workout or inspiration to remind them of the journey they are on. A text message (that requires no response) complimenting performance goes a long way. Other clients might want an email reminder about their next appointment or to simply be left alone.
No matter how you communicate with your clients, the goal is to keep them thinking about training with you. The more your client thinks about you, the more those thoughts will reinforce his or her positive beliefs about the successes you’ve had together.
3. Be Proactive with Re-Signing Packages
To avoid unexpected attrition, pay attention to the details of your clients’ training packages. For every client, know how many hours you have trained together and how many hours remain before renewal. Start discussing future plans and renewal options with the client as early as possible. All too often trainers error on the side of “Well, we can talk about renewing next time,” only to discover that there is not a next time.
Don't let that happen to you.
4. Keep Up with Management’s Renewal Expectations
Before accepting a training position, ask the personal training manager what the renewal expectations are. At times this can be a lofty or unclear target, so it’s important that you understand the rules from day one. Some questions to ask include:
- Is there a percentage renewal goal that all trainers are required to achieve?
- What is the average renewal rate at your club and how is it calculated?
- What support will I get from my manager to help me achieve my renewal goals?
As a fitness manager, I expect my Tier 2 trainers to have a higher renewal rate than our newer Tier 1 trainers because Tier 2 trainers have had more time to practice developing client relationships. They have also received more professional development in communication, prospecting and client re-signs from me and other management staff members.
Always know what the rules are, and take advantage of every opportunity to receive the training you need to get and keep your clients over time.
Try to think of getting clients to renew not only as an exciting challenge, but also as the natural outcome of a job well done. Renewals are an ongoing process, not a one-time task. Be sure your every action adds value to each session, and make these actions are obvious to your clients, supervisors, co-workers and members. Know performance expectations for renewals and set personal goals based on those expectations. Open the lines of communication to your clients and communicate in a way that they find most convenient and enjoyable.
If you consistently develop these skills, you’ll watch your client renewal rate – and your performance ratings with your manager – take off.
- Motivational Interviewing. (2012). Wikipedia online. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivational_interviewing
- Sobell, M.B., & Sobell R.L. (2008). Motivational Interviewing Strategies and Techniques: Rationales and Examples. Retrieved from http://www.nova.edu/gsc/forms/mi_rationale_techniques.pdf
- Customer Relationship Management. (2012) Wikipedia online. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer_relationship_management