Creating Better Connections with your Clients

Kevin Mullins | 29 Mar 2019

Your clients care about your credentials, but only to a point. More times than not, a client is hiring the person they meet. They are hiring you; your personality, your physical stature, and your confidence. They need to feel like they can trust you, will enjoy working with you, and are getting good value.

It is important for a fitness professional to ensure that they are demonstrating just how good of a person they are in addition to their skills as a trainer. It is called “personal training” after all. The person always comes before the training.

With that in mind, this article explores the ways that you can create better connections with your clients and demonstrate the type of person you are, which in turn can help improve your lead conversion, your retention, and the number of referrals you receive. This article also explores how to improve the person behind the training modalities, which improves the business.

There are plenty of sales strategies out there that rely on catchy science, social psychology, and emotional buying behaviors. They have their place, sure, but they always leave you feeling a bit manipulated.

The best part of the sales strategy we will review? There are no tricks, no manipulations, and nothing to feel ashamed of. If you are successful in connecting with your clients and building your business, it is because you are a good person who demonstrates authenticity, empathy, and excitement – all things that any personal trainer should be proud of.

Authenticity

One issue within the fitness profession is the need to present a flawless image. Scroll through your social media feeds and look at many of the fitness professionals you follow there, especially on Instagram. You’ll see only their best workout footage, pictures of their healthy meals, and professional photos that make them look their sexiest.

  • Are we to believe that these individuals never have a clunky workout that feels off?
  • Are we supposed to believe that they’ve never woken up and eaten cold pizza for breakfast?
  • Does their hair always look that perfect?

Part of it is the peer pressure of an industry built on the superficial aspect of fitness. It’s all about muscles, low body fat, great skin, and a physique that looks good any day of the week. “All the other trainers are   posting these photos, gaining followers, and building brands,   so now I have to do that too”.

The other half is something that Jonathan Goodman talks about in Viralnomics: selective-self-representation (SSR). SSR is the idea that we only post what we are proud of and what makes us feel that beautiful rush of dopamine when people like, comment, or share our posts.

This way of life will work for some people and we must own that. They are just too attractive,   too clever and too committed to their brand image that they’ll succeed even if it is all hollow. For the rest of us though, it will behoove us to be more authentic with our clients, our media channels, and ourselves. By being true to who we are, by owning our own struggles, and by admitting that we aren’t the all-seeing-eye in fitness we’ll improve our business.

Be who you are

Some people love comic books and others love reading Malcom Gladwell. Some of us need social time with others while some would rather climb mountains and hike peaks with nothing but our thoughts and a few supplies. It is this sort of diversity that makes the world such an incredible place.

If you want to connect with your clients, then it starts with being open about who you are.

Own your struggles

The chances that you’ve always been a ripped-up model are pretty much zero. Even now you are probably reading this and feel you can improve your own workout habits, your diet, or your sleep.

When your clients talk about issues that they are having in their lives, be sure to listen to everything they say and share parts of your own story when you can. By showing to them that you aren’t some barbell-lifting, kale-eating, nine-hour-sleeping robot, they’ll be more trusting of your advice because they’ll feel like you understand them.

Admit you aren’t the only

One of the hardest things to do for trainers is to admit that we don’t have all the answers. Our clients are paying us to be a well of skill and knowledge, and so we feel obligated to have all the solutions in our brains . Yet, even your clients know this is impossible because they aren’t the only expert in their own fields of interest.

Be humble with your clients by acknowledging the talents of others, especially your coworkers. Share that you attended a workshop and learned something incredible, talk about the blog you read, and create energy around your growth too.

Empathy

Your clients don’t want to feel judged. No one does. Your clients want to have the type of relationship with you that is built off trust and openness. If they have a tough week at work and skipped a few workouts, or had an extra glass of wine, then they should be able to tell you without you ripping into them like they were your child.

One of the best ways to show your empathy with clients is to ask them a series of “why, what, and how” questions. For example, if a client tells you that they’ve struggled with getting to the gym when they aren’t meeting you, then you should ask why. They’ll tell you a story or two about being busy, needing to take their kids somewhere, or whatever else. At this point, you’ll ask what they think they can do differently to help them solve their problem. When they answer that question, then ask them how they plan on implementing it.

Your client will feel your empathy as you worked to drive them towards solving their own problems. They’ll appreciate the time you took out of your day to help them find solutions. They’ll see you as more than just a trainer. They’ll look at you as a coach.

Excitement

This one comes natural for most fitness professionals, but it still needs discussing. Our excitement must be more than the simple ra ra that so many coaches bring to the table. Excitement needs to be a genuine sense of happiness and pride for the moments in which your clients achieve things in their lives.

Here is the real catch – it must extend beyond the gym. A great coach is someone who can celebrate the life events of the client, and not just the ones that deal with their health and wellness. You should be excited about their job, their family, their birthday, their team winning a big game (unless of course it is your team that took the loss), and every single point of growth that happens under your watch.

The excitement doesn’t need to be fake either. Don’t make a scene when your client tells you that they ate their vegetables. Save that for the new deadlift PR. Instead, give them a high five and let them know how proud you are of them for picking a goal and seeing it through. Maintain eye contact and smile to ensure they know you are being authentic.

Your client should feel like you are excited to be with them, work with them, and see them achieve their goals. They should be excited to see you too. Express to them that this could be the best part of their day if they let it.

On Making Connections

Above we’ve outlined three things you must do in order to build better connections with your clients. These core factors are behaviors and tenants of good people who can also be good trainers. Some other quick tips for making connections:

  • Send thorough emails after assessments and complimentary sessions that outline your path and provide answers to common questions
  • Send a monthly email to your clients that recaps their success and highlights certain aspects of your own life that are pertinent.
  • Ask two to three questions for every answer you give. Continue to ask open ended questions too. Avoid standard “yes and no” situations.
  • Ask your clients for their opinion on your workouts. You don’t have to change everything you do to satisfy them, but you should at least consider their thoughts.

Closing

Your business is dependent upon two factors: your skill as a trainer and your personality. It is easy in the modern fitness industry to pour money into your training ability, your knowledge, and your qualifications. It is harder   to invest in yourself as a person. It takes time and a commitment to face your own demons, answer your own questions, and find a place of satisfaction and confidence. However, once you do that,   you’ll be better prepared to be authentic, empathetic, and excited for your clients.

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Kevin Mullins

About the author: Kevin Mullins

Kevin Mullins, CSCS is the Director of Product Development for The St. James in Springfield, VA. The author of Day by Day: The Personal Trainer's Blueprint to Achieving Ultimate Success is a former EQUINOX Master Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Group Fitness coach. He has presented for the NSCA, SCW Mania, and contributes content to PTontheNet, other websites, and his own page: KevinMullinsFitness.com.

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