It can be easy when you're a employed as a personal trainer at a commercial gym to focus on what you think is wrong about the facility, members or management. For example, the layout of the facility may not be ideal for your style of training. Or the fitness director that may not see eye-to-eye with you on training philosophy and/or scheduling. Or you may just be frustrated with the fact that you're constantly explaining to members that you are, in fact, an educated professional who does more than read the latest issue of Muscle and Fitness to stay current in the field.
Despite these potential frustrations, don't lose sight of the fact that the gym also provides you with an enormous personal revenue opportunity. Having so many club members in front of you on a daily basis – all of whom are there presumably to become healthier and fit, and are also statistically more likely to fail to reach their fitness goals without your help – is a huge opportunity. Stop thinking “This place isn’t perfect,” and start thinking “I am a big fish in a little pond!”
Whether you’re a full-time trainer looking to expand your client base, or a part-time trainer looking to cash in on the opportunity of having frequent access to your club's members, there are a number of steps you can to take to better connect with members you encounter in the gym every day and build your training business to where you want it to be.
Step 1: Be the “Go To” Guy or Girl
The first thing you need to do is establish that you are the answer to all things training in your gym. Whenever someone in your gym – it doesn’t matter if it’s a member, client, salesperson, etc. – has a training related issue, they should think of you. In order to do this, you’re going to need to do a few things:
Be the real deal.
You need to know your stuff, period. If you’re not the best trainer in your own facility, it’s not likely that someone will come to you if another trainer there is more knowledgeable than you. In order to do this, you need to get results for your clients. Seems obvious, right? But it’s crucial. If your clients don’t think you’re the answer to all training-related issues, certainly no one else will.
You need to do your homework. The fact that you’re reading this and you’re a PTontheNet member is a good start, but don’t stop there. You should always be reinvesting in yourself by attending seminars, speaking with other trainers, observing what works, what doesn’t work, reading training books, etc. Have the answers for people when they have fitness questions.
Be friendly and approachable.
Even if you are indeed the best, most knowledgeable, and sexiest trainer in the world, don’t be arrogant. Although there may be a small percentage of people who can get past your attitude, many people in your target market won’t find it charming. They’ll find it condescending and won’t train with you.
Make sure everybody knows who you are.
Create an environment in your gym where no one can spit in any direction without hitting something related to you. You need to be everywhere: train people in every area of the gym, not just in the “functional training area.” Do your personal workouts in every area of the gym. Post articles and tips you’ve written everywhere that your facility management will allow. Create a monthly email newsletter with free exercise tips, and place sign-up sheets everywhere for members.
Step 2: Utilize Other Gym Staff
Work with front desk staff.
Employees at the front desk are often the eyes and ears of a gym, and they speak to members all day long. Take advantage of this to attract new clients. Talk with front desk staff about what they can say to members who might be prospective training clients – give them a script if you have to. For example, when they hear a member express concerns with not getting results, they could say, “I had the same problem, but when I spoke/trained with Jon, I wasn’t so confused anymore and it got me going on the right path.
Of course, it’s important to find some way to show your appreciation to the folks at the front desk, even if they don’t need your prodding to help you market your services. If someone is always sending prospects your way, get them a gift card or acknowledge their contribution in some other way.
Ed McKay, former fitness director for Gold’s Gym, says that some trainers in his facility would offer the front desk staff a commission if they booked a member for a consultation on the trainer’s schedule and that member purchased personal training. Imagine you’re the kid who works at the front desk and a member comes in and wants to make an appointment with a trainer. Whose schedule are you going to put them on? The trainer who’s always flexing in front of you or the trainer that gives you a cash commission when the member books training?
Coordinate with sales staff.
Salespeople at the gym are in a great position to market on your behalf for two reasons:
First, they are the ones who sign members up. Since the credit card is already out, it’s a great time to introduce yourself and segue into your personal training services.
Second, sales staff are usually the people that members go to when they don’t get results. When a member tells them, “This isn’t working out,” this is a great opportunity fro them to drop your name. “I’m sorry Mrs. Jones, you know what I usually do in this situation? I speak with Jon. Let me book an appointment for you with him for a re-evaluation. He’s great at narrowing down some common errors, and getting you going in the right direction again.” If your gym is set up like most, the salesperson only gets commission if the member stays a member, so your ability to get the member back on track helps everyone. Regardless, be sure to acknowledge sales staff for their help, just as you do with the front desk staff.
Connect with other personal trainers and their clients.
As odd as it may seem, can also provide great opportunities to market your services. It just has to be done in a subtle – or what some would call passive aggressive – manner.
(Note: being subtle and passive aggressive has a negative connotation. Actively pursuing another professional’s clients goes against any business ethics that a respectable trainer would have. That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. I’m only suggesting that you be nice and share your knowledge, which pays off from a marketing perspective.)
It’s imperative that you treat the other trainers on your staff with respect and integrity. Yes, even if they’re still using the inner thigh machine with their clients. Take the opportunity to chat about training with the other PTs whenever you have the chance. Make the conversations as detailed as possible to show you’re someone who takes their job seriously and does their homework. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the methods they use with their clients.
For example, don’t be afraid to ask, “Hey, I noticed you using [insert exercise movement] with your client. What made you choose that move?” Even if you think it was the worst possible exercise choice, be respectful and make it clear you respect their opinion even if you disagree. They’ll probably be interested in why you never use it with your own clients and will ask why. This is your opportunity to display your knowledge (see also: Step 1 – Be the "go to" guy/girl. This is your chance!) Explain the rationale behind your exercise choices and why you may not use the moves they use.
Your demeanor toward other trainers’ clients in the gym is just as important. Never directly sell yourself to another training client, but do take the opportunity to market yourself. Always be nice, friendly, and acknowledge them by name. Don’t be afraid to make small talk about the weather, their kids, sports, whatever.
Why is this so important? Because the turnover rate for personal trainers is astronomical. The chances of personal training clients having sessions left on their agreements and needing another trainer due to the trainer leaving, being dismissed, etc. is pretty high. If you’re a personal training client, and you find out your trainer isn’t around anymore when you show up for your Monday morning session, who are you going to ask to work with? The trainer who ignored you and doesn’t seem like they’re sure what they’re doing? Or the trainer who always said hello to you, seemed interested in your success even when they weren’t training you, and seems more knowledgeable than your last trainer anyway?
Clients who are suddenly left without a trainer are gold mines. Being familiar with them and maybe getting a good word from their last trainer is a great way to start a new training relationship. Market yourself to them from day one.
Step 3: Foster Positive Member Relations
Fostering relationships with all members, even the ones who will NEVER purchase personal training is worth it. Yes, even the guy who benches every Monday night and certainly doesn’t need your expertise on corrective exercise or undulating periodization.
There are a few things you can do:
Make friends with everybody.
Anyone you see more than once or twice, make sure you get their name and remember it. Even the guy on the bench who’ll never utilize your services may find you to be intelligent and trustworthy and may refer someone to you.
Offer free seminars.
Find a time where there are many people around that may have the same goal and hold a quick informational talk or demonstration about those goals. For example, if you notice the Monday 6pm “Calorie Explosion!” group fitness class always seems full, hold a fat loss seminar immediately after. Talk about additional things that can be done both in the gym and outside of it to keep burning calories. Advertise it with flyers at the front desk and in the locker rooms and check with the group fitness director to see if you can make announcements before and after the classes to the members.
Offer free sessions.
Don’t like working for free? Nobody does. But if you do it right you’ll never have to work for free ever again. The millisecond you notice that you have an opening in your schedule, fill it. Call somebody – anybody – and get them in the gym so you can train them. Friends are good for this, off duty staff are also good candidates. Often you meet someone in the gym either through orientations, or just idle chitchat as we mentioned before, that you can tell really would enjoy your training. These may be people who truly are financially strapped, or haven’t been able to make a commitment for one reason or another. Call them and get them in to fill your open spots. This creates good feelings with many people and makes you look busy, which is highly attractive to the people on the treadmill going nowhere.
Grab a mannequin from the pro-shop and throw it on a stability ball if you have to, just be training somebody. Nobody wants to train with a trainer who doesn’t train other people. Being booked is great marketing. Standing around and waiting for your manager to give you busywork is horrible marketing.
Be the trainer who’s always training. Members notice this and you become a significantly hotter commodity when they do.
The Bottom Line
As a trainer, you are always on display in the gym. You are always marketing, whether you are aware of it or not.
Make sure to control the things you can control: Be knowledgeable. Act professionally. Be friendly and approachable.
But also address those things over which you can have some influence, including your environment, as well as other employees and members. Knowing how to use these resources is crucial to stacking the odds in your favor, and getting a piece of the financial opportunity in front of you in the gym every day.