Secrets to Retaining Clients

Dean Hodgkin | 08 May 2018

The success of any PT business clearly relies upon attracting new customers, but it could be argued a more important factor in the recipe for success is keeping those clients. One method I’ve found works in improving retention is to look beyond the professional supplier-consumer interactions and to think in terms of building and nurturing a human relationship.

Psychology Today suggests that successful relationships are built on 4 key characteristics, so being aware of and controlling how they influence your sessions could be the difference between a good business and a great one.


The route to building trust in a professional arena will come as no surprise to you - deliver great service and be consistent. A crucial action in achieving these targets is measuring your performance, something a lot of trainers seem reluctant to face. I’d even recommend requesting feedback from a client after the very first session, although this should be brief, just to enable you to tweak your delivery next time, if necessary. Elon Musk is quoted as saying, ‘It’s very important to have a feedback loop, constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could do it better.’ Clearly, it’s logical to conduct a review after a block of sessions and this should be both to confirm progress your client has made as well as for you to assess your level of service.

Takeaway Tip

Regularly survey your clients, ask them to rate your service and commit to ongoing personal development to improve your scores.


We are social animals and as such, our brains are hard-wired to connect with other people, particularly those who we perceive to be like us. Unfortunately, this implies that on meeting someone new, in an attempt to establish common ground, we automatically begin to judge them. The danger for us as trainers, particularly those with lots of miles on the clock, is that we could slip into falsely thinking we’ve seen it all before instead of actually investigating and appreciating others’ realities. However, as Mother Theresa once said, ‘The more we judge people the less time we have to love them.’ We should strive to remember the mix of goals, previous exercise experience, work pressures, home life and depth of desire to change are as unique to each client as their fingerprint, so it’s crucial to fight the natural assumptions to which our experience tries to lead us.

Buddha declared, ‘If your mouth is open, you’re not learning. Fortunately, specific skill development here will prove fruitful so take the time to develop your active listening capability.’

Takeaway Tip

Listen not purely to enable you to reply, but with the intent to truly understand.


A study at the University of Chicago established that a positive attitude can significantly affect relationships, so you have a dual role here: assuming a can-do attitude yourself and then encouraging your client to do the same. Keys to achieving it are being grateful for the small joys in life, not making mountains out of molehills, being present in the moment and letting out frustration (I find the punchbag works wonders here).

I love how yoga classes begin by taking a moment to set an intention for the session, something you could ask your clients to try at the start of each workout.

Takeaway Tip

It seems simple, yet how often have you asked a friend or colleague how they’re doing to get a negative reply like, ‘surviving’ or ‘not too bad’? Be a beacon of positivity, tell everyone you feel fabulous and be liberal with compliments, giving your clients a regular boost in their dopamine levels.


You’ll no doubt be familiar with the notion that it’s not what we say, but the way we say it, which is certainly a valid hypothesis, but needs to be qualified. Mastering non-verbal communication skills is essential for establishing common ground with your clients, but this doesn’t necessarily guarantee they’ll understand what you’re asking of them in a particular exercise or perhaps your wider plan. Rather, the subtle use of techniques, such as mirroring, will lead to a much more pleasurable experience during each workout; however, the greatest impact on creating understanding comes from the actual words you use.

The concept of latent semantic similarity provides a way of measuring how similar 2 groups of words are, and whilst body language is of great value in both the recruitment and dating domains, using similar words has been shown to be the key to us genuinely understanding each other. In a previous blog I discussed sensory filters and how this affects the language we use.

Takeaway Tip

None of us are perfect at communicating, but like any skill, practice makes perfect, so commit to constantly experimenting and developing this aspect of your service delivery - and don’t forget to have fun along the way!

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Dean Hodgkin

About the author: Dean Hodgkin

A truly international fitness ambassador, having appeared at both consumer and trade fitness events in 36 countries resulting in being voted Best International Fitness Presenter at the 1 Body 1 World awards in New York. In addition, he recently received the Lifetime Achievement award at the International Fitness Showcase, Europe’s largest group fitness event. Dean has been teaching sport and fitness since 1981, is renowned for delivering a wide range of master-classes and seminars covering many themes and has accumulated a wealth of experience that reaches into several domains.

He has appeared as a guest expert on a large number of television and radio programmes both in the UK and overseas and in trying to preach the fitness gospel to as wide an audience as possible he has filmed workouts on a boat in the middle of Lake Windermere, on the set of Coronation Street, on the end of Blackpool pier, in Times Square, on the roof of a Mumbai skyscraper, in a busy hotel lobby in Taipei and in an Amsterdam park with a Dutch soap opera star. Leading a mass workout in London’s Battersea Park, standing in front of the accompanying Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, is a particular highlight.

Dean has created two unique products for The Great Courses that combine education and exercise to help the viewer to better understand how the body works and how physical activity can positively affect it in so many ways. He has also co-authored two fitness books and regularly writes features for mainstream newspapers and magazines with a list that includes The Times, Sunday Times, GQ, FHM, Men’s Health, Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Health & Fitness, Zest, Women’s Fitness, Slimming and Bodyfit.

His unique ability to create diverse lifestyle programmes also led to him working with major brand names including Reebok, Marks & Spencer, Weight Watchers, RAC, Nike, Remington, David Lloyd, British Dental Association, 3 Mobile, Boots, Aviva and Whitbread.

As a sportsman, he was 3-times World and 2-times European Karate Champion. Coaching experience includes working with basketball, soccer, tennis, golf and American football players.

Dean is currently retained as a consultant by both multi-award winning spa resort Ragdale Hall and Energie Global Brand Management, the leading fitness industry franchise operator.

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