PT on the Net Research

Professional Problem Solving - Breaking Down Sales Barriers

Sales....a word that strikes fear in many fitness professionals’ hearts and minds. Sales quotas, sales contests, sales calls, sales meetings, missed sales, working the floor, cold calls.... SALES! SALES! SALES!!!!!

The fear is completely understandable. When the word sales or salesperson is mentioned, typically, people envision the sneaky used car salesman-type that make you feel like you are going to be deceived. Tougher still is selling a high-ticket service that requires a long-term commitment, such as a training membership.

Defining a Sale

The all-knowing Google machine defines sales as:

  1. the exchange of a commodity for money; the action of selling something.
    "we withdrew it from sale"
  2. a period during which a retailer sells goods at reduced prices.
    "a clearance sale"

A sale is an exchange of funds for services or goods. In our case, it's a service. Moving past this definition of a sale, let's define it to fit our needs, matching the important service we provide. A sale is solving a problem for someone. So, our job title really is Professional Problem Solver. When you meet with an individual, you are interviewing them to see if they are a good fit for your personality and style of training and you, too, are being interviewed by them as a potential candidate to solve their fitness problem. Certainly, this is a different view to take than a simple extraction of funds.

In fitness sales, the best "closers" that I know have a few things in common. People tend to buy from other people that they like and trust, so it helps to have an attitude or demeanor that wears well, is mature and laid-back and inquisitive in nature. It helps to care for the well-being of others and have their best interests at the forefront of your mind and at the forefront of the conversation. "How can I help you?" NOT "How can I sell you?"

A service sale is more so about asking the correct questions at the correct time. It is about getting to know someone and what makes them tick. It's more helpful to have a flowing conversation than it is to read questions from a sheet and jot down answers that you will never look at again (more on this topic later). Solving someone’s problem is less to do with product knowledge and more to do with interpersonal skills, asking questions and actively listing. A use of Motivational Interviewing tactics is strongly recommended, as is a professional appearance and attentive body language. Your body language speaks so much stronger than your words or even your tone of voice.

Obstacles to a sale

There are two sources of obstacles regarding closing a sale:

  1. The client may have obstacles.
  2. You may be the obstacle.

Let's begin with #2 - You as the obstacle.

Fitness sales is actually quite simple. You see, the client has already done the hard work. They have decided to take action. They are there with you voluntarily and have already made the choice to act on their goals. Really, all you need to do is NOT mess it up. Maintain the attitude that this person is now your client (until they tell you they are not your client). This allows you freedom to steer the discussion to long-term needs and goals and the plan to achieve and maintain them.

Here is a short checklist to ensure you meet all criteria to position yourself in the best way possible:

Where you may go wrong is speaking about yourself too much or stumbling when it comes to finances. Remember, your client is there to help themselves, not listen to stories about your workout schedule or meal plan. One typical scenario is that the Coach cannot help themselves from becoming a "teller". “Do this. Do that. That's not right, I am.” All of this destroys rapport and dissuades people from wanting to work with you. On the financial end, remember that they are also there already knowing that your service has a cost. You simply need to find a solution that is fair and fits their budget.

Back to #1 - The client.

First, view an obstacle as a detour, not a dead end. Next, consider that the client may simply be attempting to slow down the sales process, create space to think, and perhaps, may simply be requesting more information.

Here is a list of the most common objections I have heard in my career from my potential clients and from Coaches from across the country:

  1. It costs too much money.
  2. I don't have time.
  3. I need to think about it.
  4. COWS: Cannot Operate Without Spouse.

Why do these objections occur? Without getting "salesy" and offering counters to these objections, challenge yourself to hold yourself accountable for the failure to create value to working with you. The best way to overcome an objection is to discuss it prior to its arrival. Bring these topics up during the conversation and they will not be called upon at the close.

A few of the questions to ask during the consult/conversation might be:

  1. How often do you plan to train with me?
  2. How much time are you giving yourself to attain these goals?
  3. Do you have a positive support system?
  4. Are you a patient person?

This line of questioning challenges the client to think long-term and helps you to "collect a yes".

Overcoming Obstacles

For many people, self-confidence is low, and they have a history of failures in this arena (be it adherence to fitness or maintaining weight loss), hence, they become fearful of failing again. This emotion can be debilitating to someone and cause emotional paralysis. The best way to help someone past this is with patience, understanding and providing direction.

Why, What, How

An often-overlooked topic of discussion is to have the client find their emotional driver. Plenty of people can make a list of their goals (What) and you, the Coach, can easily provide the plan (How) for those goals. Having them define precisely why (emotional driver) can make a tremendous difference for them to act now and can be referenced often to help their long-term adherence. A motivational interviewing tool you can use is called the 5 levels of why developed Sakichi Toyoda, founder of Toyota Industries, in the 1930s. It became popular in the 1970s, and Toyota still uses it to solve problems today. In the fitness arena, it would look like this:

What brought you in today?
Client - I need to lose weight.
Why is losing weight important for you right now?
Client - I feel tired all of the time. I want more energy and I want to feel better.
How long have you felt this way?
Client - As long as I can recall.
Why is feeling better so important to you now?
Client - I feel awful about myself. I need to gain some confidence.
How would you define success for yourself?
Client - Having more energy and not despising looking in the mirror.
Why do you feel so strongly about these things now?
Client - I put everyone's needs before my own. My kids, my husbands, my parents. I am always last.
So, we really need to work on finding "me time", some stress relief and allowing yourself to feel good about taking time for you?
Client - Yes. I need to care for myself as I care for others.
Why do you think these things have come to the forefront now?
Client - I feel like if I don't act now, I may not ever do it. I don't want to be the old lady on the sidelines.
What is it that you do want?
Client - I want to be proud of myself for putting me first, for getting into shape and for being a role model to my kids.

The emotional driver is what connects you to the client. It is the "light bulb moment" for them when they know for sure that they are in the correct place at the correct time to change their life. It provides much deeper meaning than just "lose weight". Remember, losing weight is only a small part of the goal, it is not the complete goal. Not even close.


Selling a long-term, high-value training membership can be a rewarding experience because you get to be a part of helping someone change their life. A few points to focus on for continual improvement:

  1. The emotional driver is the difference between reaching a goal or achieving success.
  2. Prepare for every consultation.
  3. If you are not closing consultations, challenge yourself to spend more time building the relationship.
  4. Remember that an objection is typically not a personal attack on you, it just may be a way for the client to slow down the process and gain more information.
  5. “How can I help you?”, not “How can I sell you?”
  6. Your ability to ask insightful questions and be an active listener will do more for your training career than any other single thing.
  7. Your job description is - Professional Problem Solver

Here are a few of the training tools we utilize in Staff Training. Question lists to help guide discussions and a consult "cheat sheet" to ensure all necessary topics are covered and all appropriate steps are taken:

First Consult Cheat Sheet


DISCOVERY Discussion with personality (The BODY)

Coach & Close

Points to complete during session: