Personal training directors and personal training studio owners often struggle with how to educate and encourage their staff to continually ask for referrals and prospect for business. Keeping a full training schedule requires an entrepreneurial mentality. It requires leadership from the personal training director and a reason for a personal trainer to take full ownership of their schedule.
- Various ways personal trainers can increase the number of paid training sessions and appointments in their training schedules,
- An incentive and bonus structure that has positively affected the productivity and performance of personal trainers,
- A system that allows personal trainers to feel comfortable when asking for referrals,
- 2 intiatives to help a personal trainer or business capitalize on 'word of mouth' referrals.
Here are the keys to keeping the training schedule full and rounding up referrals:
- Give your trainers a ‘carrot’ – a monetary reason to consistently prospect and ask for referrals
- Teach your trainers HOW to ask for referrals – it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable!
- Have specific initiatives in place to increase and capitalize on word of mouth referrals – being prepared and proactive will pay off
- Keep Up the Good Work – don’t let up on prospecting when business is good!
Give Your Trainers a ‘Carrot’
In my personal studio, the trainers’ revenue goals are based on an 80% capacity schedule – that is, 80% of their shifts should be spent with paid training clients. If a team member hits this goal, they receive a $50/month bonus. In addition, if as a team we hit our company revenue goal, department revenue goal and company retention goal, the trainers receive an additional $25/month per item for a total of $125/month in available bonuses. In addition to these revenue goals, we also incentivize them further to hit 87% productivity per payroll period and reward them with an additional $100/2 weeks if they achieve this 87% mark.
By adding this ‘carrot,’ trainers who used to hover around 80% productivity, with a small amount of effort and ownership of their schedule, now regularly achieve 87% and $100/2 week productivity bonus. That’s an extra $2600 per year just for watching their schedule closely.
Keep in mind, an 87% productivity goal will not work in every business. Because we have a centralized, automated system and a full team of customer service reps to support our trainers, the only primary responsibility for the trainer to focus on is paid training time and filling their schedule with clients and appointments. So for example, if our trainer works an 8 hour day, 7 of those hours will be spent with paid private or group training sessions and they will have one hour to perform administrative duties. In your situation, if your trainers are required to perform more of their own administrative duties (i.e., scheduling, pulling files, phone calls, point of sale, etc.), then you will need to adjust the goal accordingly to account for more down-time so these activities can be completed in a timely fashion.
To help our trainers see how 87% productivity is feasible, we direct them to fill their schedules in the following way:
The best way to fill your schedule is:
- Service your current clients so well that they brag about you to everyone they know.
- Consistently review your schedule to look for openings so you can make people aware of them – i.e., “John, would you like to start training 3x/week, I just had a time slot become available on Fridays.”
- Let other trainers and staff know to refer clients to you.
- When you receive an appointment cancellation, take the initiative to fill that time slot – i.e., “Sally, normally I’ve got Joe before you but he’s out of town next week so would you like to train an hour session instead of just a half hour session”….or “Sue, we normally see each other once per week, but next week I could see you twice because Sam is out of town. We could spend some extra time working on your nutrition.”
Teach Your Trainers How to Ask for Referrals
One of the best ways to fill a schedule quickly is to ask for referrals from your current clients, however, we’ve found that most Fitness Professionals are uncomfortable with asking for referrals. They often feel content enough that their present clients are training with them let alone, asking them for more business. We encourage our trainers not to be shy and to remember that their clients train with them because they like them. And of course, clients want to see us succeed. Asking for referrals is not at all overstepping your boundaries. Personal Trainers provide an exceptional service that most people, or clients, would want to share with their friends, family members and colleagues. You can either wait for your clients to refer you, or you can be a little more assertive and initiate these referrals.
We train our trainers on a system that will help them comfortably deal with asking for referrals:
1. Start with praise, recognition, and admiration for your client.
“Samantha, I was just reviewing your file earlier today and do you realize we’ve been training together for 2 years now. I was looking back at our earlier workouts and programs and I was astonished at how far you’ve come. You are so much stronger. In fact, you’re lifting double to triple some of the weights you first started with. Your cardiovascular fitness has improved dramatically too. You used to be able to only do Level 4 on the elliptical and now you’re at Level 12. Wow, I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate you on all your successes and to tell you how much fun you are to train and how much joy I get out of seeing you accomplish so many things.”
2. Inform your clients of your present situation.
Focus on either increasing your client’s training frequency if you believe they could benefit (that’s the easiest referral there is), inquire about an individual you’ve had a previous conversation about, or speak in general about anyone they would recommend. For example:
- Increased Frequency: “Samantha, I’ve been thinking that you’ve achieved these results on two days per week of training and I’ve actually just had an opening in my schedule on Fridays. I was thinking how amazing it would be to have you start training three days a week. I think this increase in frequency would really take your fitness program to a whole new level. Have you thought at all about training three days per week?”
- Specific Individual: "So Samantha, I've actually just had a time-slot open up on Tuesdays and Thursdays and I remember that you mentioned that your husband has really been thinking about starting a fitness program. I would totally love to help him achieve similar results that you have had. I know how much I love training you, and I’m sure he’d be just as fun. So I was thinking I would love to give you and him the first right of refusal for those time slots before I open it up to everyone else. Should I give him a call and offer a complimentary first session so I can show him how I can help?”
- Generic Invitation: “Samantha, I also wanted to let you know that I’ve just had a few time slots open in my schedule. So I wanted to see if you know anyone who is wanting to get in shape. I’d much rather train your friends and family because I know how much I love training you, and I’m 100% confident that anyone you hang out with is going to be just as much fun. So I wanted to offer you the first right of refusal before I open my schedule to everyone else. Do you know anyone who has said they want to start exercising and get in better shape?"
3. Now it’s time to ask for the referral.
First, get the potential client's name and phone number. Next, inform your client of the process and ask them what they would feel most comfortable with. The conversation might go like this:
Trainer: This is so great. John will be so pleased that you have thought of him. Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to call John and let him know that you've arranged a complimentary Personal Training session for him and book him for an appointment. Are you comfortable with that?
Client: That sounds great. But let me tell him first.
Trainer: Good idea. I'll write it in my day-planner to ask you about it at our next session and then I'll call him once you've informed him to expect my call.
- Or -
Trainer: This is so great. John will be so pleased that you have thought of him. Here's what I think would work best in honor of the approaching holiday. I’m going to put together a really nice folder that outlines my services and a gift certificate for a Private Training session that you can give to him. Of course, I’m not going to charge you anything for that gift certificate but it’ll be a great gift that you can give him. Then after you give him the information and gift certificate, I’ll wait a few days and then call him to schedule his first session with me. Sound good?
4. Show your gratitude.
Your client has just helped you grow your client-base and you will want to display your appreciation. A thank you card is all that you need to do. If it happens regularly though, you may want to consider a small gift as a token of your appreciation. We offer a 30 minute massage, facial or private training session to all clients who refer new clients to us. It’s a small price to pay to have all your clients acting as an ongoing sales force for your business.
Have Initiatives in Place to Increase and Capitalize on Word of Mouth Referrals
Most Personal Trainers agree that they receive the majority of new clients from word of mouth referrals. But rather than just waiting around for clients to think about sending you new clients, try developing initiatives that regularly encourage your clients to help you develop your business. Here are a couple of word of mouth initiatives we have found to be successful.
Learn a lesson from the real estate or financial advisory industries and ask each new client for 3 referrals so that you can send each a gift card. Or ask existing clients if you could send a gift card in their names to 5 of their friends who might be interested in personal training. Each person they name receives a complimentary gift such as a fitness evaluation or training session. Here's an example of wording that may work for you:
“Since you are such a valued client of XYZ Personal Training, we would like to give you the opportunity to offer one complimentary session to your loved ones. You may be the inspiration for them to start moving and experiencing many of the results that you've achieved! Since it's a busy time for us, we'd like you to please limit the gift to three of your closest friends or family members."
We created plastic $100 gift cards (shown below) that we hand out to clients, bring to community events and give to our local partners. We want as many of these gift cards circulating around our community as possible. These gift cards are for new clients only and can only be used for an initial Personal Training or Pilates training package. They also have no cash value. Gift cards like these allow your clients to pass on great value to their friends and family and allow you to meet new potential clients!
Requests for Clients
Include a "request for client" statement on your client feedback forms or client information packages.
Here is the “request for client” statement from our client feedback form:
“At Northwest Personal Training we rely on "Word of Mouth" referrals. We believe that if we service our clients so well, they'll brag about us to everyone they know. So we're not shy about asking for referrals - we really do want to help your friends, family members and co-workers. Do you know anyone who could benefit from Personal Training and would appreciate information about our services?
| Yes No
Here is the “request for client” statement that we include in our client intake form:
“The Gift of Fitness: As a new client, we offer you the opportunity to give two friends a gift certificate for one complimentary training session and one week membership to our studio. We may both be able to make a huge difference in their lives. Please take the time to jot down the names of two friends, family members or co-workers whom you believe are ready to take action and achieve their health and fitness goals. We’ll let you give them this gift and then we’ll call them to schedule them for their first session.
Keep Up the Good Work
Now that you know how to incentivize your team to actively ask for referrals and prospect for business, your team knows HOW to ask for those referrals and you have systems in place to ensure you capitalize on those referrals….keep up the good work. Don’t let up on your referral initiatives and don’t let your team let up either. It is tempting to ease up on asking for referrals when business is good, but don’t do it! Keep those steady new referrals coming in so that your business STAYS at the top. Remember, referrals are your #1 way of getting new clients, keeping your trainers schedules full and ensuring a successful business!