Photo credit: Darcie Kennedy Model: Robin Kennedy
Want more personal training clients? The answer may be as simple as using client testimonials to help transform a “potential” client into a new one.
But too often trainers ignore testimonials, assuming that they’re too time-consuming or difficult to gather. Or they do use testimonials, but the ones they choose are vague, general, and unlikely to spur someone to hire you. Here’s why testimonials can help you nab new clients; how to request them; and how to ensure that the testimonials you gather will help transform someone from a prospect into a client.
Why Use Testimonials?
A testimonial is more than a recommendation; it’s a “proof element,” or a tool that helps you sell your personal training services to potential clients.
Any trainer can make big promises—and most of us do. A testimonial, though, goes beyond a promise. It offers proof that you can help people transform their lives—and proof that you’re the trainer to help this prospect do just that. Better yet, as you’ll see below, the testimonials can actually help make the case for the prospective client to hire you before you do so!
Testimonials also offer you a chance to connect with potential clients by showing them that you’ve already worked with people like them. Let’s say you’re a 26-year-old female nurse named Tina who is about 30 pounds overweight; you’ve tried to establish a workout routine before but have never been able to stick with it. You work a changing shift schedule, which makes it hard to have regular sleep and food habit
You’re considering hiring a trainer, and chances are you’ll look for someone who’s either been personally recommended to you or who has worked with someone similar to you. A testimonial from someone who has had similar challenges will catch your attention.
In addition, a compelling testimonial can:
- Help you build self-efficacy, or your belief in her your ability to get fit and lose weight, thanks to social modeling, or seeing others achieve something.
- Make you believe that this trainer is the one who can help you with your fitness issues.
That’s why testimonials are so important. They act not only as proof elements, but as connecters to help your soon-to-be clients believe in both you, and in themselves, even before you sign a contract with them.
So how do you get these testimonials? Start by considering what kind of clients you want to attract. Based on the clients you’ve already worked with, and your “ideal” client, write out three or four “avatars,” or a description of the person you’d like to train. Consider what issues these avatars have that make it a challenge to get fit, whether it’s lack of time, specific health issues (diabetes or low back pain), trouble sticking to a routine, or a demanding work schedule, and how you’ve help them overcome those challenges. These are the aspects you want your testimonials to reflect.
The next step is to ask your current (and former) clients for testimonials. Instead of asking for a recommendation, I suggest you ask clients questions like the following:
- What’s one thing that you’d like me to start doing?
- What’s one thing that you’d like me to stop doing?
- What’s one thing that you’d like me to keep doing? (The first three questions are suggested by author Scott Stratten in his book UnMarketing.)
- In one to three sentences, can you describe any reservations that you had before we started working together?
- In one to three sentences, can you explain how I was able to help you with your reservations?
- What were your two most important goals when you started?
- Can you list what specific changes you’ve achieved through training with me so far? (For example, “I’ve lost 15 pounds; I’m sleeping better; I’ve dropped two sizes in pant.”)
- Is there anything you’d add about training with me that you’d want someone else to know?
Specific questions tend to produce more higher-quality answers. To make it easy for clients, create a simple document questions and spaces to fill out that you can simply print and hand to a client; you can also email the form. Be detailed not only in the question you ask, but in the length of response you’d like. You can then take the answers to write up a paragraph or two for your testimonial.
Make sure to get permission to use the testimonial for promotional purposes in writing or email and keep a printed copy of that permission on file. You can include this on a form (use language like, “by checking this box, I agree that this testimonial may be used for promotional purposes”) that the client signs and dates.
To maintain a continual supply of testimonials, set a reminder three months after a client starts training with you to request one. This is enough time for the client to have experienced noticeable changes and to have met all, or at least some of his initial goals. One additional benefit of this method is that instead of asking for a testimonial, you’re asking for feedback – meaning that you can ask once every 3 months.
Make sure to thank your client for his or her time in filling out the testimonial, and consider using a “before” and “after” photo if your client is willing—pictures often speak louder than words. Then add a brief descriptor to each testimonial, like “Suzanne, 31, real estate agent” or “Roger, 48, engineer and dad of four.”
While having any testimonials is better than having none, aim to have specific, emotion-driven ones.
Here’s an example of a poor testimonial:
"I’ve been working out with Jon for three months. He’s great.”
That doesn’t tell the reader anything about you, or about the client who wrote the testimonial. The more specific you are, and the more information you give about the client (within reason), the better. Here’s an example of a testimonial that might catch the eye of the fictional nurse client mentioned above:
“When I started to train with Jon I wanted to lose at least 20 pounds. I’d been to the gym on and off for a few years without much to show for it. And it’s hard for me to keep a workout schedule because I work different shifts—sometimes the midnight shift—and have trouble getting enough sleep.
What I particularly liked about Jon was that he looked at me as a whole. I’d thought that a personal trainer would just give me exercises to do and count out sets and reps, but he did so much more than that! It took time, but he helped me establish better sleep habits and helped me identify what foods I could live without. The result was an almost immediate weight loss. I’d recommend Jon to anybody.”
Notice that this testimonial is direct; specific; and personal. Someone like Tina will read this and think, “hey, this guy has helped someone like me before.”
There are two primary places to use testimonials—on your website, and in a binder at your gym. Every trainer should have a binder of testimonials from past and current clients; keep your binder sitting in the waiting area for potential clients to flip through as they wait for a tour, complimentary session, or sales meeting.
Gathering testimonials does take some time, but they’re well worth the effort. Having your satisfied clients share their stories, and how you’ve helped them, will help you transform prospects into clients—and make for a full training schedule for you.