Why do your clients continue to train with you?
It’s safe to say that most clients are looking for help to achieve a desired outcome, and there’s no question that the initial assessment is a vital link to establishing a baseline that influences the training plan. What’s often not considered, however, is the importance of re-assessments to increasing client renewals. Utilizing the following 4 strategies during a re-assessment will allow you to continually adapt to and provide for the client, and in doing so will increase the prospect of renewals and future business:
- Get FEEDBACK on past experiences
- Re-define the WHAT
- Re-ascertain the WHY
- Re-establish the HOW
As Fitness Professionals, we have the ability to affirm or alter our past approach in a humble way using genuine feedback during a re-assessment. Simple enough to do, requesting feedback on past sessions is extremely important if we’re to continue being successful with our clients in future sessions. Asking your client very simple questions can produce amazing insight about your client’s training experience. If this feedback is immediately transferred back into their sessions, the result is an emotional connection worthy of a client renewal (Sugarman, 2011).
The use of open-ended questions to obtain feedback from your clients can be an extremely effect tool. Sobell and Sobell (2008) state that open-ended questions allow for a richer, deeper conversation that flows and builds empathy with clients. Open-ended questions also encourage clients to do most of the talking and allow them to tell their story or their side of the story (Sobell and Sobell, 2008). It’s this precise mechanism of allowing and encouraging the client to ‘tell their story’ that can make the re-assessment so powerful. It let’s them be an active participant in the structure and implementation of their personal exercise experience.
Here are four open-ended questions that have been utilized by thousands of Fitness Professionals globally with profound results when implementing the received information back into the client’s future sessions (Cappuccio, 2009).
- “What aspect of your training with me have you enjoyed the most?”
- “What results have you noticed?”
- “Is there any thing in particular that you were hoping I would do or wanting me to help you with that I have not yet done for you?”
- “What can I do to make your experience even better?”
As a client, how do you think it would feel to be asked about your training experience and then immediately see your feedback in action? “You love the warm-ups? Fantastic.” “Didn’t enjoy the treadmill work? No problem.” “More time cooling down? Let’s make sure we do that today.”
This feedback is not only invaluable for us to ensure what we’re suggesting is both appropriate and enjoyable, but it can also provide the client with a sense of ownership and contribution to their future training sessions and even increase motivation (Sugarman, 2011; Pink, 2009).
After receiving feedback on your clients’ previous training sessions, the next step is to re-define the goal. It’s imperative that both we, as Fitness Professionals, and the client have clarity on what the desired outcome is. This is goal setting 101. Most of us have certainly seen goals change within clients and we’d be ill-advised to assume their goals are written in stone. As with feedback, asking the client directly what they would like to work towards creates a safe environment for them to communicate exactly what they want to accomplish, and not what we ignorantly may assume.
Another practically applied question that you can tack on to the other four listed above is (Cappucio, 2009a):
- “What goal or desired outcome is most important for you to achieve in the next 30 days?”
Helping our clients re-define their own tangible and measurable outcomes is another vital step in building trust and connection. Allowing the client to set the outcome and the time to achieve this outcome is both important for us so we know what to provide, but also for them to reflect on their past efforts and refocus on their future approach. Weight loss, wellness or strength gains; we can provide the programming to accomplish these goals. Let’s make sure the product we’re providing is exactly what the client’s looking for and determining the what ensures exactly that.
Once we’ve re-defined our clients’ goal with them, our next step is to help the client articulate why this goal is important to them. Think about it – in and of itself, is losing weight or getting stronger what truly matters? Or is it the health benefits, increased confidence, or improved performance what drives behavior? Most importantly, this process helps the client re-ascertain why they’re doing what they’re doing (Sugarman, 2011; Cappuccio, 2008; Pink, 2009). Self-Determination Theory is central to this process, stating that motivation is not only most powerful but also most resilient when it is intrinsic to the individual (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Understanding the why is also extremely valuable for us as fitness professionals to understand why the outcome is important to the client in order to anchor our motivation strategies, and even our program design, to the underlying reasons for the clients’ behavior (Cappuccio, 2009b, Sobell and Sobell, 2008). As a continuation on from the question we asked in the “what” section above, we can ask:
- “Why is this goal important to you?”
- “If you don’t reach your goal, how would that affect your life?” and,
- “When you do successfully reach your goal, in what ways will life be different?”
This technique encourages the client to look beneath the goal and search for the underlying drivers behind their past, present, and future behaviors (Sobell and Sobell, 2008). Asking for the why not only puts the path ahead in focus, but it also places a tremendous value on your services and their renewal.
The last step in preforming a re-assessment is re-establishing the how. Individual clients undoubtedly have differences in training preferences. Some more traditional or typical, others a bit more progressive and still others a combination of each. As true Fitness Professionals, how often do we actually ask the client how they’d prefer to experience their sessions? Think of it this way: When you walk into a restaurant, would you prefer that they cook your the food the way they feel is best for you or would you rather order the food cooked how you prefer?
As fitness professionals, we sometimes are completely oblivious to how we provide our services. Do all our clients receive functional training regardless of their intrinsic, emotional preference? What if they really just want to push heavy weights? Yes, functional training can get them strength gains, but it’s our job to provide the product how our clients want it. And if we choose to either neglect our clients’ preferences (based on ignorance or otherwise) or persist that our way is the best way, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our clients slowly stop coming or start working with someone else.
There are some very simple questions we can ask that begin to answer how a client would choose to experience their exercise. The answers to these questions can help you to immediately develop and deliver programming that suits the preferences of your client, whether that comes in the form of machines, playing games, being outdoors more or all of the above.
Example questions (Cappuccio, 2009b):
- “Do you enjoy exercise more when it involves a routine that you can adhere to or when there is constant variety?”
- “What do you enjoy more when you exercise - challenge or structure?”
- “When you exercise, do you enjoy exercises that are adventurous or exercises that practical?”
Re-assessment provides an opportunity for both, you the Fitness Professional and your clients, to look back and reflect on what you have accomplished together. It provides clarity on what the clients are working towards and why that’s important to them. Lastly, it helps to ensure that the clients’ training experience is enjoyable and beneficial based on their expressed preference for exercise. When re-assessments include these elements, renewals, resigns and referrals are easier to attain and sustain.
- Cappuccio, B. (2008). The power of solidarity. Meeting of the Minds. PTontheNet: Denver, CO.
- Cappuccio, B. (2009a). Personal Training Operations Part 1 (presentation). PTA Global Personal Training Certification and Bridging Course. Retrieved from www.ptaglobal.com
- Cappuccio, B. (2009b). Questionnaire (presentation). PTA Global Personal Training Certification and Bridging Course. Retrieved from www.ptaglobal.com
- Pink, D.H. (2009). Drive: the surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
- Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist. Vol 55: 68-78.
- Sobell, L. & Sobell, M. (2008). Motivational Interviewing Strategies and Techniques: Rationales and Examples. Retrieved from http://www.nova.edu/gsc/forms/mi_rationale_techniques.pdf
- Sugarman, R. (2011). Engaging and retaining clients in healthy behaviour change: a guide to motivation for Personal Trainers and Coaches. Retrieved from http://www.roysugarman.com/engaging-and-retention