The consultation process can be a daunting necessity for new PT's. Hell, even some seasoned PT's still hate it. I remember when I started out and booking in a consultation for a few days time. It was all I could think about for 3 days.
Well, over the years, while I still felt slightly nervous, I got much MUCH better at handling consultations. So much so, every consult turned in to a client. What's more, there were no complicated sales techniques or psychological tactics to remember!
This process worked specifically for me because of my introverted but logical and analytical personality type. It doesn't mean it will work for you but most of what I did during the process had a purpose and I'll be explaining that in detail below.
How it Starts: First Contact
The consultation process usually starts with an email and sometimes a phone call. Around 90% of mine started with an email which was probably due to the fact that my website at the time positioned well on Google and the website invited visitors to get in touch... gently.
My phone number was clearly listed for anyone who wanted to call but a contact form on a website is familiar to people so this seemed to be the default option. I think the fact that clients always got in touch via email has something to do with the clients reservations. They were wandering in to the unknown and from their perspective, they're getting in touch with someone who is more than likely going to inflict pain. That's just how they see it.
Here's a typical email you might recieve from a prospective client, which also just so happens to be the same exact email a client of mine asked me to help him with. Names changed of course.
At this point, I was always aware that the client was in "fear" mode. This means defenses are up and it's real easy for them to back out. So my job at this point was to reduce fears... even if that meant NOT inviting them for a consult. I might say something like:
They sound like some very achievable goals. I'd be more than happy to help.
What you're asking for is possible and I'm the person that can help you.
My services aren't super cheap but I'd be happy to work a payment structure with you in exchange for an awesome testimonial and a before and after pic when we get you the results you're hoping for.
I value my time but I also understand that you have bils to pay. Let's work something out. I'll also be asking for something from you later on.
Shall we book in for a free consult so we can see if I'm the right guy for you?
I'm suggesting I might not be the right guy but if I'm not, it won't cost her anything.
We'll have a chat and I'll show you some very easy exercises that you can takeaway with you even if we're not a good fit.
I'm reducing fears by letting her know the first meeting won't onvlive what she fears, pain.
Ending on a qestion always got a better response rate.
At this point you'll genrally either book in for a consultation or the client won't reply because she just isn't ready yet. If she doesn't reply, send an email the next day (don't leave it too long) asking if she got your message.
If you book in for a consult be sure to remind the client on the day what time it is and how to find you. If the client doesn't show, try one more time to book in. After that, leave it until they're ready to get back to you.
I never went for the pushy sales techniques. From my perspective, I wanted long term clients that I'd have a long term relationship with and a psuhy sales talk was not how I wanted to start that relationship. That method just didn't serve my business well.
The Consultation Process: Introductions
It's always a bit nerve racking waiting for your new potential client to turn up. I remember sitting outside the PT studio on the sofa trying out different sitting positions and poses to look as professional as possible. I even borrowed lifting chalk to rub on my hands so they wouldn't be sweaty when I shook the clients hand (<-- pro tip).
Meeting new people is never fun if you're a bit of an introvert like me but it's necassary and probably good for personal growth... or something.
When the client arrived I would stand up, offer a chalky handshake and ask the usual obligatory British questions:
How are you?
These questions break the ice somewhat and there are loads of textbooks that can teach you how to break the ice with new people, including a great article by Jonthan Goodman on the Personal Trainer Development Center called 5 Ways to Break the Ice With Clients, but in reality I always found it easier to cut to the chase.
So, what made you come to see me today?
I asked that question specifially because it allows the client to respond to you with something about you. Like:
I heard you were the best at...
These are the types of answers that position you as the expert without YOU having to say you're an expert. They also make your client confirmation bias, which will make her search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs.
After she tells me why she's here I'd often ask:
And what have you done so far to fix the problem?
I ask this question to find out what hasn't worked for her in the past so I don't offer that as a solution. If I didn't know this information and then offered her exactly what she thinks doesn't work, she'd lose trust in my services.
Next up I would find out if the client had any injuries to make sure what I had her do wasn't going to hurt or damage anything. Then explain that we're going to warm up on:
The Consultation Process: The Session
Assuming everything was OK and no injuries, I'd put the client on a treadmill with a view to doing some ascending sprint intervals. We set off walking and the conversation might go something like this:
Ok, so what we're going to do on here is give your body a quick warm up using something called sprint intervals.
I did this to drop a little science bomb and let the client know that I know what I'm doing. And saying "We'll talk more about this in later sessions" assumes you're confident she'll hire you.
After a 5 minute warm up I'd take here through the ascending sprint intervals starting at 10kph for 1 min, 1min rest. 11 for 1 min, 1 min rest etc
After running at 12 for one minute, say:
Ok we've hit your previous best. Now that we're headed in to no mans land I'm going to ask you what your RPE is. Your RPE is your rate of perceived exertion. It's how hard you think you're working on a scale from 1 to 10.
The client might say she's at a 6 out of 10 on the RPE scale.
6. That's good. Today we might hit an 8 and we can always stop if you feel too uncomfortable.
We'd then move on to 13kph... 14kph... 14.5kph... I keep checking RPE. If it starts drifitng toward an 8 then I'd increase the speed on each interval by smaller increments.
The next step is to get the client to volunterr for more punishment. Unless they're really REALLY uncomfortable this should be quite easy.
Wanna try 15 for one minute?
This demonstrates that you can get your client to push herself. Something she probably struggles with and possibly the reason she's hiring you in the first place.
After completing the final sprint:
See you're fitter already!
Now that the client is warm and feeling empowered we'd move on to some basic moves just to see how the body was working anatomically.
I'd get the client to do a bodyweight squat and then based on how well she can do the exercise I'd either progress to a barbell or regress to a goblet squat until we have the correct movement.
During the 3-4 sets of squat, this was my spiel:
So, the reason we're doing squats is because your goal is general health and a toned bum. The squat is a big exercise that uses loads of muscle groups and therefore burns more calories than a smaller exercise like a crunch or sit up.
This whole speech is purely to provide Jen with a positive view of the future and fo course, drop some more knowledge.
The last thing I do in the session is a stretch of their whole body so they leave feeling all enlightened and what not. I ask the client to show me how flexible they are with a hamstring stretch and if they're a few inches off the ground I promise them they'll be ablt to touch the ground befoer we leave.
The stretch sequence goes like this:
If the hamstring looks particulary tight I might do a propriceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretch while explaining the geeky science.
Then I'd help the client get up and we'd check the toe touch. The hamstring flexibility would always be much better and the client would be pretty impressed. I'd explain that the hamstring flexibility would have temporarily improved and we'd need regular stretching in order for it to be permanent.
Then came the dreaded conversation... money!
The Consultation Process: Money
This is where I did things a little differently to what most people would recommend. You get told you should make the sale there and then and do whatever it takes, but even from the beginning of my business I never did that.
Instead, I'd ask questions like:
How many times per week can you commit to a session?
With the answers to these questions I used to just tell the client what I think she needs, how it fits in with her goals and how long it would take to achieve her goals should she choose to work with me.
Then I'd say this:
It's been really great working with you today.
Seriously, that's it. No pressure sales or time sensitive offers. And everyone, literally everone, booked in sessions with me either later that day or within a day of the session.
Why it Worked
I think this process worked for me because I'm extremely confident in my craft. Even though I haven't PT'd in a while I can still easily explain the Krebs Cycle. This confidence and ability to simplify complex mechanisms was one of my strong points. So much so, it was something I'd hide behind.
Sales just never worked for me. They never have. I back away when I sense someone is pushing a sale on me and I know other people can sense it too to some degree. It's uncomfortable and that's not how I want to start a long term relationship with someone.
This process also probably worked because of the way I qualifed leads on my website. I was always quite clear about the way I worked and had tonnes of articles explaining complex health and fitness topics. The people that came to me knew I was the guy for long term health improvements, not short term fads.
Will it Work For You?
Maybe not the whole process, but I'd suggest cherry picking the bits that make sense to you so you can improve on what you have already. This worked for me because it was me doing it.
If you prefer a more systemised and pschological appraoch to sales then I'd recommend reading How to Sell in Consultations.
If you have an awesome consultation process, hit me up in the coments :)