Let's imagine you're on the market for a hot, new vehicle - a convertible sports car. Would you make the investment without a test-drive? No way. You've got to get a feel for it. How's it ride? Does it handle the corners well? How fast does it go from 0 to 60? Does it satisfy all your needs? Do you look good in it? These are all important questions that need to be answered before you start dishing out the cash!
Why would personal training be any different? Most people in the market for personal training are confused about what personal training is all about. I'm always surprised by some of the questions I get from a potential client. They just aren't aware of all the personal training options and may honestly believe that personal training is still just for the rich and famous. Offering a complimentary session will allow you to educate a potential client and give you the opportunity to "strut your stuff". A complimentary session will enable you to thoroughly impress a potential client and open a long-term client/trainer relationship.
How to offer a complimentary session: There is no perfect way to offer a complimentary session. Everybody does it differently and all are pretty successful. Here's a number of options:
- Complimentary 1st Personal Training session - You can advertise that you offer a Complimentary 1st Personal Training session. It's important to note that the word "complimentary" is preferred in comparison to "free". Free implies a lower value than complimentary, and although it's just a word, impressions and positioning definitely count. This session will begin with a consultation and will finish with some movement.
- Complimentary 1st Personal Training consultation - The reasoning behind this session is the same as above, however, during this session, the entire time would be spent on establishing SMART goals, program outline, obstacles to success, and training recommendations. There would be no movement involved in this first consultation. The advantages of this session are that you spend a lot of time developing a solid program, however, the disadvantages are that your potential client doesn't actually get to move in the session.
- Complimentary Fitness Assessment - A number of Personal Training businesses have found success with offering a Free Fitness Assessment to attract clients to their services rather than a free Personal Training session. This enables them to develop a relationship with the potential client without actually providing any program design. Once the Fitness Assessment is completed, the trainer can then point out the client's strengths, the areas that need to improved and how the trainer can help them achieve their goals.
- Discounted services - Many Personal Training businesses have decided to not offer Free sessions because they believe it devalues their service. Instead they have attracted clients to their business by offering gift certificates of a specified value. For example "Bring this Gift Certificate to XYZ Personal Training and receive $40 off your first session" or "Call XYZ Personal Training today and receive 75% off your first session". Providing this type of Introduction to your services places value on the session because the client does have to pay something for that first session. This session can take place as a full consultation or 1/2 consultation and movement.
Interestingly enough, I have tried all of the above options and they all seem to work. I do, however, tend to prefer providing some movement during the first session. The key is that you provide some type of offer that will encourage people to test-drive your Personal Training services.
First impressions count!
I'm sure we all realize the importance of that first contact with a potential client whether it's by phone or in person. Let's review the key concepts just to make sure they're fresh in our thoughts:
- People are coming to us because they want more energy and a positive, new prospective on life. They will be attracted to someone who exudes these qualities. You must demonstrate an energetic, positive, upbeat and caring personality! The first time you meet your client, be sure to smile, introduce yourself, give a firm handshake, use appropriate touch and be conscious of your body language (55% of the communication process) and your voice (38% of the communication process).
- A potential client knows very little about you and you know very little about them. That's why it's always best and safest to be on your best behaviour. For example, with some clients I may use more "slang" language and goof off with them after having trained with them for a while and figured out they respond to that type of style. With others, I may take out my "whip" and be much more aggressive because they respond to that style. The key to being a successful personal trainer is being able to adapt your style depending on your client. But you can only do this after you've got some history with a client and they begin to trust you. In the beginning, it's always best to project ultimate professionalism in your speech, attire and hygiene. I'm not at all suggesting that once you get to know your clients, you can be less professional, but in the beginning it's best to be more conservative.
- Make a professional promotional package. Include a business card and a flyer or brochure that lists your services and information about your philosophy, experience, credentials, and client history.
- When interacting on the phone, demonstrate professional phone skills. This includes ensuring that your voice gives off the right message. Remember your body language can be heard! Make important calls when you're feeling most upbeat and energetic. Get yourself psyched up. Be sure that your tone and words are energetic, positive and animated. Try to stand and move while chatting on the phone. These tips are also important when leaving a message on an answering machine or recording your message on your machine.
- Demonstrate exceptional follow-up skills right from the beginning. For example, call to confirm your first appointment, return all inquiries promptly or call clients back when you said you would. These will all demonstrate exceptional organization and business skills.
- Arrive early and prepared for your first session. The only way to be prepared for the first session is to have all clients fill out a Client Information Package before they see you so you can get detailed, documented information before the session. You can get some information over the phone but you'd be surprised at how much more information you get from a client when you ask them to write it down. I've always had clients complete a comprehensive 5 page questionnaire relating to healthy history, injury status, nutrition and stress concerns, present fitness level, goals and past obstacles to success. They return the questionnaire 1-2 days before their first session so I can review it and start to structure the program. By following this process it allows you to thoroughly impress your new client by coming to their first session with completed program design forms and educational articles relative to their goals. Be prepared to fax or email the questionnaire if they can't pick it up.
- 24 hour thank you call. This will only take you a few seconds and the impact is worth it. You don't even have to actually connect with the client. It could be as easy as leaving a message on their answering machine that says "Hey Joe, It's Sherri calling, I just wanted to call and tell you how much I enjoyed our Personal Training session yesterday. I hope you're body's feeling pretty good. I can't wait till our appointment on Thursday - I've got some great ideas for your program and I've come up with a couple new stretches to really help you with your golf game. Give me a call if you have any questions about anything and have a great day!" This type of call is important whether you've actually sold the client on more sessions or not!
- 1 week thank you letter. Again, this is a small gesture that you don't have to do, but the fact that you do it, will really set you apart from other trainers. I like to send a generic letter that to all new clients that discusses my appreciation for choosing me to help them achieve their goals and my commitment and responsibility to them and their fitness program. A generic letter does not, however, impact on a client as much as a personalized letter. Most people know that letters received from businesses are computer generated and that everybody gets the same one. So, I always include a hand-written personalized "ps" at the bottom of each letter. For example, "Sally, I can tell from your positive attitude that you are ready to make the changes necessary to improve your health and maximize fat loss. I commend you for making this commitment to yourself and I'm so looking forward to helping you achieve all your goals! It's me and you every Tuesday and Thursday at 9:00am from now on. Here's to reaching for the stars!" Again, this letter should be sent to a client whether they signed up for more sessions or not.
From start to sale:
- Develop a relationship - make a connection with them. If you make a connection, they are going to be less likely to want to shop around elsewhere. So talk to them. Ask them about their health history, injury status, fitness goals, nutrition and stress status. The worst mistake sales and personal training staff make is to talk about themselves! Ask guided questions and then listen to your client. Your goal should be to spend 60% of the time listening to the client, 25% giving them info and only 15% trying to get the commitment. There are fitness company consultants who have suggested to personal trainers that the number one goal of the inquiry phone call is to get that potential client off the phone and into the gym. I completely disagree. I firmly believe that personal trainers should invest some time into that first phone call. Why wait until they get into the gym or until you meet in person to develop the relationship. Try to connect the first chance you get!
- Treat all clients equally - even free clients. And they responded "No, just a comp session." With that attitude, you can expect that's all that client will ever be. From the very beginning, you've got to treat all "comp clients" like they've just purchased 50 sessions. Whether you are conscious of it or not, if you believe that your comp client will not purchase further sessions, you will treat them differently and decrease the chances of closing the sale.`
- Make them feel at home. During the first session, take the time to introduce your potential client to other staff and other clients and give them a full tour of your facility so they feel comfortable and at "home" with your organization. If you're training in-home, take the time to meet their family or show interest in their family photos so they feel comfortable with you.
- Use "assumptive" language. For example, instead of saying "If you decide to train with me, I'll do.....", rather, say "Once we decide how we're going to work together, I'm going to....." or "For the first few months, we'll focus on technique so you do each exercise effectively and safely and then we can start to include more advances exercises and techniques". This type of approach displays an exceptional level of confidence in your services.
- Be sure that you come to the first session prepared. Do your homework and initial program design.
- Present them with a New Client Binder. Inside include 3 educational articles relative to their personal goals, your brochure outlining information about you and your services, copies of testimonials and your business card. Quickly review the material with them. They'll be impressed with your attention to details.
- Make them feel comfortable with you. The first half of your session should be spent consulting with your potential client, establishing a framework for success and getting the client to feel comfortable with you.
- Allowing the client to test-drive your services. Now you don't actually have to include the movement portion but I think it's very important. You could do an entire hour of talking but I prefer to get clients moving even if for just 20 minutes. The movement portion will release serotonin and endorphin levels, so you're client will feel better and feel like they've already accomplished something and are moving closer to their goals. But it's important to establish the parameters of what you can actually accomplish in this short period of time. For example, you may suggest "Rick, you've listed 4 goals here that are really important to you. I think you realize that we're not going to be able to address them all in the next half hour so why don't we focus on what's most important to you now. What would you like to focus on in the next bit? Great, we can save the rest for later!"
- Review the entire program and the suggested plan for success. You may say "John, I'm so glad we were able to start you off with 4 key abdominal exercises. You can start on those immediately. You've also told me it's important to you to tackle fat loss. I can definitely help design a program that includes aerobic exercise, muscle-conditioning and proper nutrition - all key components of an effective fat loss program. There's lots of ways that you and I can work together towards your goals. Some of my clients see me as often as 5x/week and others, as little as once every two weeks depending on how much time, and of course finances, they want to commit to their goals. What do you think would work for you?" Stats suggest that we fail to gain commitment to purchase on approximately 62% of prospects because we don't ask them to participate. You've got to resist your fear of asking. Use phrases like "Let's get started immediately", or "We should get started right away so we can start working towards your goals. How's Monday at 7:00am for you?" or "Do you want me to help you get the results you want" or "Based on your goals, I think we should try a 15 session package" or "Most of my clients see my 2x/week. How does that sound for you?"
- Be ready to deal with typical objections. Objections include "I'll never stick to it", "I can't afford it", "I don't have the time", "I want to think about it", "I want to talk it over with my spouse", "I'd like to purchase just one session." Almost any objection can be dealt with in a soft, non-aggressive, but assertive manner. Success with objections starts with showing more value than risk to personal training with you.
- Book them for their next appointment.
- Send Thank You's even if they don't sign up. Complete all follow up activities (24 hour phone call, 1 week thank you letter, Birthday and Christmas Cards) even if they don't purchase any sessions. If they're not ready now, when they are, they will come back to you because of your professionalism.
Keep a record of all the complimentary sessions you've completed and the outcome. For example, if you completed 4 comp sessions and sold 2 of the clients on 20 session packages, the program would definitely be working in your favour. However, if you notice that you aren't selling through on very many of your comp sessions it would indicate that you either need to invest in more sales training or perhaps you should try another comp session alternative.
I realize that most of you are probably not personal trainers because you love selling but rather, because you love helping people. But you need to sell to get people to experience your services. Selling is not a bad thing! You must believe in yourself and your services!! Good Luck!
Sherri Kwasnicki, B.H.K., M.Sc., 1998 IDEA International Personal Trainer of the Year and 1998 CanFitPro Canadian Presenter of the Year. She operates her own business, Kwasnicki Fitness Consulting Inc. and has presented all over North America, Australia, Europe and Asia. She is the fitness columnist for The Province Newspaper, Chatelaine and Go! Magazine and appears regularly on local television. She stands on the IDEA, CanFitPro and BCRPA Advisory Boards.
click here to see Sherri's new book Go For Fit