This is the second article in a series addressing sales skills and communication for personal trainers. In this article, I will address one of the complimentary services many of us trainers provide to new health club members: health and fitness assessments/orientations.
Start by asking yourself the following questions: what percentage of your assessments/orientations turn into personal training clients? In other words, how many of these services did you do last month? Of that number, how many of those people started personal training with you?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you have some work to do. Ultimately, you need to know this number in order to know where you are in terms of reaching your income goals. If you are a manager of personal trainers, do you know this number for each of your trainers? If you are the overall manager, you should know the average number for your entire staff.
No matter how educated and talented you are as a trainer, no one will find out unless they work with you. In order for them to work with you, they need to buy sessions!
Building your personal training business is a numbers game. What this means is, if you know how many assessments and orientations you need to do to get one new personal training client, then you have two options to get more clients. You can either do more of these services, or you can increase your percentage (i.e., turn more potentials into personal training sales). Obviously, the best choice is to do both. You want to be better at turning the assessment and/or orientation into a new client, and you want to do more assessments and orientations until your book is filled and you don’t need to do any more!
Health and Fitness Assessment
Managers, listen up! How do you prepare your new personal trainers or floor staff to conduct an assessment in your facility? I have seen many trainers loathing the time they have to spend providing these services. Trainers sometimes think this process is something they need to go through before they can get to the real thing, like training. We need to educate the trainers as to the wonderful opportunity that an assessment provides them: the opportunity to get in front of people and help them. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of file cabinets around the United States filled with assessment sheets. They were filled out, filed away and never used in designing a program at all. Every piece of information we get from an assessment can and should be specifically related to the program and potential benefit to the member.
Plan of Action
First of all, your overall facility needs a plan of action. If you work in a private training studio or as an independent contractor for yourself, the same applies. What this means is defining the flow path of new contact or new member to an assessment. If you work in a health club, can the sales person set up the appointment for the assessment at the point of sale? We all know this is the best time to get a commitment from the person who has just paid a substantial amount of money to join the club. This is your opportunity to connect and get the rapport going immediately. If your sales staff feels they shouldn’t have to do this procedure (or not without pay!), you have a whole other issue to address, which will be covered in a later article about the health club environment supporting the personal training efforts.
Setting a date for the first contact is crucial for sales, as well as success in program adherence and retention. You may have a system set up where trainers make themselves available for assessments, or voluntarily sign up for them once a new member has requested an appointment. Either way, when a new member has joined the club, now is the time for you as the trainer to show your stuff!
Confirming the Appointment
How quickly do you call this new member back? Within 24 hours is a reasonable time frame within which to call someone if the appointment is in a few days. However, if the appointment is the next day or two, you should call them back at your earliest opportunity. Literally. Several things to consider with this phone call are:
- Before you make the call, check your attitude. Are you in a bad mood or energy low? If so, don’t even think about making the call. Make sure you are in an empowered state of mind when you make the call.
- Many personal trainers are actors. Act happy, and you may find that you start feeling happy! Smile. Just try it, it works! Record your answering machine message once while smiling and once while not, and you will surely hear the difference. If you are tired, stand up and walk around when you talk. Looking at yourself in the mirror while you are talking also helps you feel more comfortable, and you can be animated as though you are in person.
- Introduce yourself and then ask the person if they have a minute to speak to you or should you call back later. This might sound like: “Hi, this is Annette Lang, calling from Freelance Health Club. I am calling you to set up your appointment for your assessment. Do you have a minute or should I call you at a later?” Showing respect for someone else’s time is powerful. It also makes the person feel less defensive against what they may perceive as a cold call.
- If the new member says they are busy or now is not a good time, give them two options from which to choose. The scenario might sound like this:
- Member: “Yes, I am in the middle of something. Can you call me back later tonight?”
- You: “Sure. It will only take three or four minutes. What’s better for you, before 7pm or after 9pm?”
THEN BE QUIET. LET THEM ANSWER YOU WITHOUT SAYING ANOTHER WORD.
- Member: “Well, after 9pm is okay, but it would have to be before 10pm.”
- You: “No problem, I will call you at 9:10pm tonight. Thanks and I look forward to speaking with you then.”
- Member: “That sounds great. Thanks.”
- Suggesting appointment times at a few minutes after the hour or other than the traditional 15 or 30 minute increments makes them easier to remember.
- When you finally do talk with them about the appointment, be organized and have a list to help you remember all of the points you need to remind them of (such as wearing comfortable clothes, etc.).
Meeting the Member for the Assessment
Before you leave the locker room to meet your appointment, you might do some positive self talk to get into a positive mental state. You may want to say the something like following:
- I am a great personal trainer.
- This member needs my help in their program.
- I am going to give them a great assessment and show them how I can help them.
- This person is going to ask me to be their personal trainer.
- I am convinced that I can be a great personal trainer for this person.
If you have never used positive self talk to enhance your self esteem and attitude, it is worth a try. It is a powerful tool to affect your “hard drive” with and can promote positive change in yourself that transfers to people around you.
Plan to be ready 10 minutes before the scheduled time. You should be waiting for the member when they come to the desk and ask for you. Other important points include:
- Be neat and stand tall with good posture
- Have your equipment ready or know where it is so you can get to it immediately. I often see trainers fumbling for pens and clipboards, trying to find the blood pressure cuff because it is not where it is “supposed” to be. They then blame it on everyone else. None of this leaves a positive impression on the member and potential client.
- Remember the basics. Smile when the member approaches, introduce yourself and give them a firm handshake.
When conducting the assessment, your goals include:
- Performing the components included as designated by your facility or yourself.
- Getting the member to talk about their goals by asking open-ended questions.
- Affirming the member’s decision to start or continue their exercise program.
- Affirming the member’s decision to make positive behavior changes related to their health and fitness status.
One effective communication tool is to first congratulate the person (e.g., “that’s great,” “good for you,” etc.) on their decision to get more fit, and then to get them to constantly reaffirm it to themselves that they want to be successful in their efforts with this exercise program. The new member needs to hear themself say that they want to workout, get stronger, lose weight, whatever. In order for them to be successful and want to work with you as a trainer, they need to motivate themselves! Some of the questions and statements you may want to try are:
- How long has it been since you were in the shape you want to be in?
- How long have you been thinking about losing weight?
- What has happened recently that makes you so motivated now?
Some questions you may want to ask and possibly include in your assessment forms are:
- What specifically are you looking for in a fitness or exercise program:
- cardiovascular endurance
- overall energy
- weight loss
And invite them to expand on their answers.
The answers to these questions are very insightful to the potential success of the program, and whether this person will buy personal training from you. Allow the questions to build in such a way that you reaffirm the positive change this person is making in their life. For example:
- You: How long has it been since you were in the shape you want to be in?
- Member: Oh, its been awhile. I guess since college when I worked out a lot.
- You: That’s great that you want to be in good shape again. What has happened to get you in here today? What was it that made you decide to start now?
- Member: Well, I just saw an old friend a few weeks ago and he was in great shape, so I decided to join here and start working out again.
- You: That’s some motivation, huh? Well, we can get a good idea of where you are right now, and then I can design a good program for you. I can get you back in great shape so the next time you see your friend he’ll be asking you what you’ve done! That would be cool, huh?
- You: How long have you been thinking about losing weight?
- Member: Oh, I think about it all the time, and try all the time. I just don’t follow through.
- You: So, what you’re saying is its hard for you to stick with the program, is that right?
- Member: Yes, I guess so.
- You: Can you think of exactly what happens that makes you stop working out like you should?
- Member: Well, it always seems like I start doing well, and then I go back to my old habits. I lose weight, feel great and then I feel like I don’t have to be so strict anymore.
- You: I completely understand how you feel. Some of my clients have told me the same thing when they started with me. We took a look at what was causing the shift back to their old ways, re-evaluated their goals and changed the program around to keep them motivated. With both of our commitments, we’ve had some fantastic results. I would be glad to help you with that stuff if you want. I think you have already done the most important part - figuring out where you went wrong the last time, and that gives us a starting point. That’s great.
Using the examples above, let’s continue with the assessment. How you can relate the members' scores to their goals and how you can help them? When performing standard fitness assessments such as the number of crunches and push ups the person can do, you have a great opportunity to do a few things:
- Reinforce the fact that the person has decided to make a positive change.
- Gently remind them that their score makes sense, and they probably are not that surprised, since they already told you they were out of shape.
- You: Well, you did eight push ups in good form. That’s ok! Is that what you were thinking you would do?
- Member: Well, I am not surprised that I could only do eight.
- You: This is good, because it is giving us a great place from which to start. When we go over your goals later, you can tell me where you want to be in three and six months from now, and then in one year. Let me ask you this: what was the most push ups you could have done when you were in good shape like you told me you want to be in again?
- Member: I was able to do 20 at any time, day or night, and that is what I want to get back to again.
- You: That’s great! If you want, we can focus the first few weeks on that goal, and you will be there in no time. How does that sound?
- You: Do you want to do a body fat assessment? You told me you know you are heavier than you want to be right now. We can do other assessments instead, or in addition to body fat percentage. It all depends on what motivates you.
- Member: No, I do want to do that now, so I have the number and can work on lowering it.
- You: Excellent. Let’s get going. I think its great how realistic you are about where you are and where you want to be. We can work on your eating habits as well as your exercise program. Or do you have a plan for your eating already?
- Member: No, I don’t. I would like to learn the basics, and then get some specific help as well.
- You: I can help you with the basics, like recommended serving sizes. I also know of some great nutritionists if you want a referral to one. Also, I can help you with ways to set up your exercise program so you burn more calories each session. And we’ll get you keeping your metabolism up the whole day as well. How does that sound?
Remember, the bottom line is to talk about each component of the assessment through in terms of how it relates to the person, how it relates to their entire program and how you specifically can help them.
Keep up the good work!