PT on the Net Research

Personal Trainer Sales - Part 3

This is the third article in the sales series. We will cover the orientation session. By orientation I am referring to the initial workout that many health clubs provide to the new member.

The Goal of the Orientation

In most facilities an orientation is NOT a personal training session. The new member is shown how to operate some of the cardiovascular machines, and how to take themselves through a workout. This is frustrating to many personal trainers, as they don't see this as an opportunity to gain a new client. WRONG! It is a great opportunity for you.

The challenge with an orientation is that you must show this new member how to set up a workout for himself, and at the same time get the message across that you are able to give him a much better program if he works with you as a client. It is a fine balance between giving the required information, and showing how valuable you are! The first thing you need is the right attitude.

Personal Trainer Thought Process

The number one thing people want to know is that you care about them. This new member doesn't care what you know, they want to know you care. This is crucial in developing rapport with your new member and potential client. That way, even if this person doesn't buy personal training at the end of this orientation, he will have a very positive experience, will come to the club and use his membership, and refer his friends to you if they are interested in training.

You should think about the environment to which you are contributing – the experience you want every member to have. Each time this new member walks into the health club he should be reminded that you are there to help him. As I talked about in the previous articles, this is your place, your environment. You are creating the perfect experience for this member. This concept of the experience is a good way to approach our profession, since it influences every component of the entire health club, and the individual personal training session. Future articles will focus on the personal experience.

When you do an orientation for a new member, it is helpful if you have completed the health history and the assessments for this person. If you are in the position of setting the protocols for your organization I would suggest you do this. You should set it up so that the same trainer does the assessment, orientation and even the personal training session(s). It gives credibility to your process, and consistency to your training program. The new member will quickly feel that he is being cared for by your team.

The orientation should be a balance between the standard workout your facility has decided to give new members, and the member's goals and assessments. If the workout your facility has designed as the orientation workout is not appropriate for this member, you should feel empowered to change it. You must also have the knowledge to change it. For example, if the new member has limited mobility at the shoulders and has difficulty in doing the shoulder press machine that is part of the orientation workout, you should be able to give them another option, such as using dumbbells for example, allowing whatever range of motion is necessary for them to complete the movement.

Communication Skills

Be honest as to what you can get done in one hour of training. Tell the client that your goal is to get him to feel comfortable coming to the gym on his own, and that based on what you found in the assessment and in his goals, there is much more that you would be able to do for him as a personal trainer.

It could sound something like this:

"…Ok Bob, I would like to explain what we do in this orientation. Our goal is to help you feel comfortable coming to the gym and working out on your own. Today I will make sure you can do that. Obviously we can't cover everything in one hour, so I will cover as much as I can. I am also a one-on-one personal trainer and you can ask me questions if something is not clear whenever you see me. And I am available to work with you privately, but we can talk about that more whenever you want. Does that sound good?"

Speak in the Long Term

Another valuable communication skill is to speak to the member using language that indicates a long-term context. For members to stick with an exercise program and make a commitment to fitness, they need to start thinking of this as a long-term habit. This also reinforces in the client the fact that you are there to help him. Talk to him about how he should change his program over time for variety, and to address specific goals he may have in the future.

For example:

"Bob you told me how you wanted to change your workouts often so you don't get bored, is that right? (Get confirmation). You might want to change your program every few weeks, or even more often. One thing some of my clients do is to hire me for a personal training session every 3-4 weeks to check their form and give them another program, so you might consider doing that as well."


Too many times trainers feel as if they need to justify what they are saying or get an answer right away. This is not necessary and certainly not effective!

Another way to think about the long-term concept is with goals and commitment to the program. Talk to him about the results he can expect after 6-8 weeks of consistent exercise, and explain that in later phases of training he will be ready to address more specific goals (which he told you about during the assessment and health history!).

For example:

"Bob, you said its been awhile since you were consistent with your exercise program, but you definitely have some great goals. What I would suggest is you start with this more basic program, and do that for several weeks. After that, I can do a personal training session with you to help you get more specific with your program.

You mentioned you want to run more (get confirmation); well after you get a few weeks into your program, I can give you some great training sessions in the group fitness room, where we can work on your sprints and agility drills. That sounds like fun, huh?"

The beauty here is that once he understands that you sincerely care about him and not just concerned about selling training, he will relax more, open up and tell you what is most important to him, he will have confidence in you and your skills (if you can also demonstrate that you know what you are talking about!) and there is a great chance that during or at the end of this orientation, he will say "Can't I just hire you now? I don't want to wait a few weeks"!

Sample Orientation

Many health clubs have set up an orientation workout that primarily uses machines. I would encourage you to rethink this if you are in management. It goes back to what kind of philosophy your organization embraces (a whole other article!), what kind of environment and experience you are creating. There should however, be some component of the orientation that addresses integrated and functional training.

Let's assume this is your suggested orientation for a new member:

One of the most effective ways to increase your personal training revenue is to use concepts of integrated and functional training. The more creative you are as a trainer without always using machines, the more your members will want to train. After all, if all you do is work on machines with them, there’s a good chance they will feel like they don't need to work with you after awhile.

One simple change you can make is to explain to the new member that we, as an industry, are beginning to understand the non-traditional and more progressive movements that are important for our bodies. You can show the client a core exercise, such as drawing in the deep abdominal muscles, and then a simple rotation movement. Or you can talk to him about moving in different patterns, and show him a multi-directional lunge exercise.

You could explain it this way:

"Bob, one of the biggest changes in fitness these days is the concept of training our bodies in directions and movements that are more real and practical for life, instead of just sitting on machines and lifting weights like we have done for years. It’s called functional training. I would like to show you just one or two exercises based on this concept, and if you want to learn more about this kind of training, you could let me know and we could do a personal training session specifically geared toward it. Here, let me show you".

Finally, always remember that with your help and a consistent exercise program, this person has the potential to drastically improve the quality of his life. Show him that you care about that mission in general, and be sincere with how you can help him specifically. The rest is easy because there is no reason why he won't want to hire you to help him!