- Learn the ebbs and flows of your business. When are the busy times versus when do you need to look for clients for the less busy months.
- Keep your clients accountable.
- Prioritize on-going education through your career.
- Build a relationship with your client.
Success with a new personal training business comes when you understand how the daily operations work. Starting as a personal trainer herself, VP of Studio Fitness at Movati, Kelly Thorne has seen a lot in her 20 years in fitness.
Thorne speaks to DTS Fitness Education Director of Education Ben McDonald about best practices and how to build and retain clients (listen to the podcast here).
#1) Learn the ebbs and flows of your business
The most important part about starting a new business is understanding the nuances of the business itself and then prioritizing your time accordingly.
“As a new personal trainer in your first year, you’re getting to know the ebbs and flows of your business, when your clients are coming up for renewal, what the renewal rate is, the time of year where you might have the bulk of your clients going on vacation,” says Thorne. “How often you need to spend time looking for clients and how frequently your clients are coming in. If you know all of those things it’s important to then take the action to impact them and move your business forward.”
Key points in running a successful business includes understanding when clients are up for renewal and how as a trainer you can impact their continuation in a positive way. Other areas include knowing when one needs to gain clients during certain times of year, like the summer, so you can replace the handful of clients that go away on vacation.
“With our personal trainers (at Movati), we really drill down the idea, ‘what do you want to make on an annual basis, or a monthly basis, in order to stay as a personal trainer and this amazing career.’ Then you work backwards from there,”explains Thorne. “If you want to make a certain amount each month, how many clients does that mean, how often do you have to see those clients, how frequently do they need to come in to train. All those things are equally important to know then track and measure to see if you’re improving on them and what you’re doing in order to improve those metrics.”
Part of business is money and it is necessary to talk about it to keep trainers happy.
#2) Keep your clients accountable
One of the main reasons clients sign up for personal training is to have the accountability to adhere to a set schedule and regime.
Thorne says the biggest thing is for trainers to focus in on the number of sessions a client is showing up for training and scheduling out their sessions.
“A lot of times we make focus on all other areas of our business, but at the end of the day, if our clients aren’t showing up for the session, and we’re not helping them make fitness or training a priority in their life, a) they’re not going to be your client for very long; they’re not going to renew and b) you’re not going to be able to make the amount you want to be making,” she says. “In part, it’s recognizing that as a personal trainer you’re that constant in that client or members life.”
Keeping clients accountable also includes understanding what is important to them in life. Aside from their job, husband, wife, kids, or socializing with friends, what is it in life that keeps them happy and how can you make the gym a priority.
“It’s incredibly important at the end of every month, sitting down face-to-face, not just assume we’re going to continue training Monday-Wednesday-Friday for the next six months. We’re sitting down and talking about the obstacles, what’s working, what’s not working,” says Thorne. “What do you have going on in your life, are their work trips coming up, kids events, vacations, and how do we work around it so that we’re keeping training a priority and we’re staying on track to the periodize plan when we first committed to training.”
A study in 2010 based out the UK took three different groups of motivated gym members. The first group was just motivated, and the second group motivated but they also supplemented them with education in forms of leaflets and documents marketing the benefits of training. The third group had a personal trainer who asked them, ‘When are you coming into the gym and what time are you coming in. If there is something that comes up in your life, what is an alternate day.’
The third group, and although they were all motivated, the third group showed up to their sessions three times more frequently then the other group who was just motivated or handed education.
“Accountability is huge and that’s why so many of our members and clients invest in our services because they need that appointment, they need someone to hold them accountable to ensure that they have that voice to revisit their goals and making sure their goals remain a priority in life especially now that they invested into these services,” Thorne concluded.
#3) Prioritize ongoing education and investing in growing your knowledge
In order to keep your business optimally running, it is absolutely key to invest in ongoing education and increasing your knowledge, says Thorne.
“Ensuring that as you plan out your year, you’re setting aside some funds, whether it be an amount you put aside monthly or biweekly where you are reinvesting in your own knowledge,” she adds. “I see a lot of long-time personal trainers that have been fairly successful with one-on-one training so their circle of influence is small. So they have a good solid base, a good, solid foundation with their business but there’s an opportunity to increase their circle of influence. By investing in different areas of your business, or areas of courses, certifications, education, that circle of influence will start to grow.”
Though it is good to maintain a dedicated group of clients, trainers want to think about expanding the business and social circle to affect more than those immediately in their reach.
“It might start off by taking something like Precision Nutrition. All of a sudden you gain a little more knowledge on behaviour change and nutrition. It might be taking DTS Level 1, you’re learning a bit more about how to assess,” explains Throne. “When you start to look to gain clients, you’re learning a little more on how to assess and what to look for, and add value to a member trying to achieve their goal. It might be that you start to expand out and look at the ability to teach or offer small group training. If you have clients who aren’t ready to continue training with you but they’re willing to join a group training for a discounted rate, again you’re going to be able to keep those clients for longer, your reach is going to be that much larger.”
Time and time again, Thorne says the biggest effect of education is noticing how a trainer’s confidence skyrockets, which is important for trainers to stay engaged.
“You very seldom see long-term personal trainers who seldom invest in their own knowledge and own education,” she says. “If you do find them, over time they will be left behind. You have to stay current, you have to stay relevant, even just building your network because there’s far more than what you’ll get than just learning from a textbook or hearing a course provider speak. The amount you learn from your peers at a course, the connections you make, there’s so much more you can learn at a course.”
#4) Build a relationship with your client
Finally, one has to build their empathy.
“Make it about the person in front of you or across from you, not about you,” Thorne says firmly. “When I started as a personal trainer, I attempted to share everything that I knew, everything that I learned and all the education that I took. Where I should’ve been spending the time is getting to know the person across from me. Again, going back to what their world looks like, what’s important to them, and gaining as much information as you can about what has brought them to this appointment because already that’s a massive win.”
Nerves aside, most members or potential clients recognize that the trainer they’re sitting with has something that will benefit them.
“They could have gone on the internet, they could have gone on Google and looked up how to train, or they watched a YouTube video. Instead, they decided to meet with you,” says Thorne. “Take the time to really get to know them, what they need and how you can add value to their life and how you can help them go down that route of achieving their goals.”
Be present when connecting with members on the gym floor or attempting to gain clients. Get to know the person sitting in front of you and try to understand their world.
“You have someone who is in front of you who is absolutely interested in everything you say, is taking notes, asking questions of what you just said,” concludes Thorne. “(Don’t be) thinking, how am I going to overcome this objection, how am I going to sell this person, you will be far, far ahead of any personal trainer who is working alongside you.”