By Eric Bach, CSCS is a personal trainer, author, and fitness business coach in Denver, Colorado. Eric’s passion is on simplifying the process of building an online fitness business and helping trainers overcome information overload to a build a successful fitness brand. For free marketing, sales, and content tips join the Bach Performance Hybrid Fitness Business Community here.
Once upon a time, there was a young trainer. With his Kinesiology degree and certifications in hand, he was stoked. He would spend his days wearing sweatpants, helping men and women lose fat and take back their health.
But like many trainers, Ryan had struggled as a kid. He wore “husky jeans” and had to endure jabs from the jocks in his class. He wasn’t confident and hated the way he looked. He looked in the mirror and shuddered at what he saw. He wondered if he would feel this way forever. Then, after a rough day, his favorite high school teacher, Mr. Jacobs, pulled him aside and said:
“Ryan, bring a pair of sweats tomorrow and meet me in the gym after school.”
Ryan got that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. After all, the gym was where s where the dickhead jocks who gave him shit hung out after practice. So even as Ryan packed his bag that night, he didn’t know if he’d actually show up to meet Mr. Jacobs.
When he arrived at school the next morning, it was the usual story. Ryan took a shoulder to the chest from one of his tormentors, Derek, who said: “Move it, Tubby.”
Ryan caught his breath then staggered into a nearby locker. His skin flushed as his hands curled together. He was furious. “Enough of this,” he muttered under his breath as he raced towards Derek.
Then, an arm stopped him in place. “Who the h….”, he thought. Ready to snap, he whipped around, stunned to see Mr. Jacobs, who said:
“Save it for the gym after school.”
Little did Ryan know, but this was the beginning of a new chapter. The pain and suffering from the incessant teasing lead him to dedicate himself to the gym. That afternoon was his first serious workout with Mr. Jacobs. Soon, he became obsessed. His body changed. His confidence grew along with his biceps. He found the gym to be his sanctuary, a place he could grow mentally and physically, improving all aspects of his life.
What Happened Next
Three years later, Ryan had been transformed from a chubby kid to strong, confident guy headed to college. He wanted to help others transform his life the way Mr. Jacobs helped him: by becoming a trainer.
He went through school, studied his ass off, and even become a certified personal trainer (CPT) before graduation.
After graduating, Ryan was ready to roll. He had all the book smarts and a good amount of experience, considering his age. He began working at a local big box gym.
Soon, he was grinding away. He hustled from 5 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. working the split shifts and taking every client he could find. And the clients he worked with?
They made incredible progress. They stuck with him for a long time and loved how their bodies changed.
But after six months, there was still a problem. Ryan was getting only 40% of what clients were paying to the big box gym. It wasn’t enough…especially with college debt to pay off. And Ryan couldn’t believe the high rent he had to pay for his shared (but small) apartment in a big city.
And what did the future hold? Ryan’s best buddy was another trainer at the same gym who had worked himself up to “master trainer” and a 60% revenue share. But when his buddy took a week off at Christmas to visit his family, he fell below his monthly quota and his compensation was cut to 30%. Instead of making $3,000 that month, he made only $1,500!
When Ryan’s friend complained about getting screwed, the local big box manager (who had become a friend and workout buddy) was sympathetic. But he said there was nothing he could do because “this comes straight from the head office.” Then he invited him out for a beer.
But he didn’t need a beer.
He needed to make more money as a trainer.
This comes down to any combination of three factors:
1. Train more clients.
2. Charge more per client.
3. Make a greater percentage per session/per client.
Ideally, Ryan would be able to do all three. That’s what we teach trainers in our Hybrid Fitness Business Mentorship Program.
But Ryan was a smart guy. He decided the first thing he needed do was to train more clients and gain more experience and… you know…become and awesome trainer.
But here’s the problem: Ryan had no idea how and where to get more clients. He worked the floor at the gym and knew pretty much everyone. Here’s the flaw in Ryan’s thinking: you don’t always need to make new connections to find new clients.
Chances are, you’ve built all the connections you need to have a full book of business as a trainer.
So, what is the best source of clients for trainers? You’ll face-palm when I tell you.
It’s your previous clients and those who have already reached out for help, even if you didn’t sign them up.
Think about it. As a trainer, you have constant questions from friends, family, and complete strangers about fitness.
“Hey, you’re in great shape, any pointers?”
“Hey, bro. I’m getting back into it but only have dumbbells at my apartment gym, can you send me a workout?”
^^^The second one is an actual text I received this week. Three days later, the sender was a paying client.
If you have an online training system started, you have dozens of unconverted applications from potential clients.
Most trainers give up too easily. If the sale doesn’t happen on the first go-around, that’s it. Game blouses. There’s no follow-up, just another missed conversion or “client who doesn’t know that they need coaching.” And while research varies on the subject, it can take 5+ contacts with a prospect to turn them into a client.
Now ask yourself, how many times are you reaching out to people who ask questions or apply to your training programs?
If you’re like most trainers, it’s one or two. And while that’s not ideal, this is your chance to improve.
Here’s what to do instead.
1. Keep a list of every person who reaches out for health and fitness advice. Use Google Docs, EverNote, or a simple note document on your phone.
2. Reach out each month and check in. Your only goal is to get a response, nothing more, nothing less. Build the relationship.
3. Make referrals a requirement of doing business with you. After you close a sale using our high converting sales sequence (here), simply say this before hopping off the call.
“We’re going to help you continue on and as you’re getting results and you become happy with your body, can you make me happy as well?” As I deliver your results, can you promise to tell friends, family, and colleagues about me?”
This works for a few reasons. First, when someone signs up for your program they’re as excited and hopeful as they’ll be throughout the process.
Because people like to stay congruent with their decisions (which is why we value our possessions so much), they’re more likely to talk about you to their peers. Second, you’re setting the expectation from the beginning.
As a coach, a huge part of your job (ethically) is being a straight shooter and setting realistic expectations from your clients. If you’re able to get the results you’ve mentioned to your clients, they’ll be more than happy to live up to their part of the agreement.
4. Give cash for referrals. I’ve tried giving free sessions, gifts, and (when I was young and stupid) protein powder for referrals. While these were all okay (except for the protein powder) cold hard cash is by far the best reward. Remember, if you’re good and hold onto clients for a long time, then the value of a client can be $10,000-$100,000+ over the years. I think we’d all trade $100+ for $10,000, right?
Remember, You’re in Sales
Like it or not, you’re in sales. Yes, you started personal training to help people, but if you run a business you need to build your skills in marketing and sales.
It’s not sleazy and it’s not unethical.
Remember, people reach out to improve their health and fitness because they have an unfulfilled need, desire, or pain they’re looking to solve.
Ethically marketing to these people and knowing how to sell is simply a vehicle to solving their problems and improving their life. The more people you can reach, the more people you can help solve their problems.
Stop Giving Your Services Away for Free
We value what we spend money on. In other words, if clients are going to value personal training they need to have skin in the game. With no payment, there is no motivation to keep going when times get tough…which they inevitably will. As coach AJ Mihrzad says, “the more someone pays, the more they pay attention.”
Your Best Source of Personal Training Sales is Right In Front Of You
If you’ve helped your clients crush their goals, they’re walking billboards and raving fans for your business. Even more, they’re the most likely people to re-invest in your services.
Think about it. You’ve already created a personal relationship and showed your value and expertise Why chase new leads when you’ve already done the heavy lifting?
Contacting old clients is the best way to re-engage them into new training and drive referrals, especially if you made it a condition of hiring you in the first place. Everything you need to increase your revenue and help more clients is right in front of you. Start today by gathering a list of all potential leads. Tomorrow, email them using the simple emails above. Keep at it, there’s no replacing the hustle.
P.S. Are you sick of information overload, split shifts, and struggling to build a sustainable fitness business?
Enrol in our 12-week fitness mentorship.We’re here to empower you to eliminate the confusion of building your fitness business. You’ll hone your focus, make more money, and retake control of your schedule.