Working in a commercial gym, I hated walking the floor, touting for clients and trying to sell them standard price personal training sessions. I'd only do it when I had to - when I was broke, a client left or I plucked up some motivation to grow my business.
So the thought of selling high end personal training sessions was one I'd rather not explore. I'd go home every night and read for hours about training, nutrition, behavior change...to become a better trainer.
But I also always recognized the need to learn business skills, to be successful as a self-employed PT, so I studied marketing, sales and business stuff too. The problem was, the sales stuff just didn't feel right. It didn't resonate with me - it was all uncomfortable and overly complicated. So much thinking about body language and 'hypnotic speech patterns'. Does this sound like it's necessary to sell a client a service that is going to benefit them in life-changing ways? Of course not!
People will want to train with you when you are authentic and build a connection. No tricks needed. Problem is, we're never taught how to do that.
Note: Selling high end personal training is a completely different ball game to selling $50-$70 per hour PT sessions. It requires a different client qualification process and a pro-sales mindset.
How to Sell Personal Training the Right Way
The first and most important thing to understand is that selling, when done this way, is not sleazy or bad. In fact, it is the only morally and ethically right thing to do. If you do not gain the commitment of the client, you cannot help them. When someone needs your help, it is your duty to help them. To do so, they need to become a client!
That's a very different perspective to most 'sales training' where it's all about the numbers. Hard-selling people, bullying them in to buying. Focusing on conversion rates, profit maximization and getting them out the door so you can start selling to the next person, as quickly as possible.
Personal training is a collaborative effort. You're not selling a product and then forgetting that person exists. The sales conversation is the start of a long and mutually beneficial relationship. Of course the way it is sold is going to differ.
The sales process - when done this way - is actually one of the most valuable things you will ever do for that person. Whether they become a client or not, you will leave them in a significantly better place at the end of this conversation.
When you know this, the whole process is much more relaxed - it is just another instance of you helping someone - if they become a client, great! If they don't, no problem, you have both benefited from this interaction.
The 'sales conversation' is actually the last part of the sales process. Before someone ever meets you for a consultation or gets on the phone with you, a number of things need to happen.
Your marketing efforts should focus on finding the people who are a good fit for your business. We have discussed this at great length throughout this website; the importance of having a clearly defined niche, a 'perfect client' avatar, and then speaking directly to that person in your marketing efforts.
Here are a few related courses from our Institute of Personal Training Academy to read later:
Doing this will polarize your audience - the people who are not a fit are going to recognize as much and move on, while the people who are a great fit will enthusiastically follow you and want to do business with you. There is nothing worse, in the marketing world, than being vanilla. If you try to cater to everyone, you end up catering to nobody because it weakens your messaging so much. Choose the perfect audience and then speak to them directly.
This alone will stop you having 90% of the awkward conversations with people who are simply never going to be right for your business, which are a waste of your time and can knock your confidence. Speaking to the perfect people is a joy, you naturally have rapport and are aligned towards the same goal. No trying to fit square pegs in round holes because you need the money.
So someone is interested in what you do. They've responded to your marketing messages and figuratively put their hand up, indicating that they are interested in working together.
"Great! Lets set up a meeting straight away, this will be a new client for sure!"...not quite.
First you should have a qualification process. This is to weed out the time wasters and anyone who is not serious about committing to working together. Here's how to do it:
You can use Jotform, Wufoo or Google Forms to collect this information. We use Jotform because it is free AND has a lot of functionality for automation.
The purpose of the questionnaire is to have them invest time, thought and emotion in to you. If they're not willing to spend 10 minutes answering a few basic questions, do you really think they're going to become a client? Of course not. Don't waste your time chasing people around who are going to be a headache.
The questions are for you to find out a little more information about them and if they will be a fit for your business. Questions should start off easy - yes/no, multiple choice or basic demographic information like age and gender that doesn't require thought.
As the questionnaire progress, the questions will become more open ended, deeper and more emotional. Here is an actual form I used when I was selling high-end online group coaching:
Note: the questions you ask are going to depend on the service you offer, the problem that you solve and the person you are speaking to.
The person who writes the most in the open-ended questions, and writes most emotionally, is the most qualified. They are the person most in need of your help and most likely to buy.
The best way to utilize this form is simply to have a re-direct when someone submits their details in a contact form signalling they want more information about your service, have the page automatically open the questionnaire.
Explain why you are asking the questions and encourage them to complete it. You might write something like this:
Thanks for your application for the [Your product/service] program.
After they have completed the questionnaire, you will want to arrange a consultation.
Here is where most people come across as needy and desperate for the business. They make themselves too available and give the client the option to pick and choose when they can meet. This causes a few issues:
What you should do instead is offer the option of 3 or 4 times when you are available and let them choose which is best. This way you remain in control of the process, things get done on your schedule and the client feels comfortable and well looked after. Think of it like a nice restaurant - the server will recommend the best food based on the patrons tastes, and then the wine which best accompanies the dish, based on their expert knowledge. This is good service. The benefit of choice is an illusion. Most people prefer direct and clear instruction.
Thanks for completing the form.
Simply put, frame refers to who's court the ball is in. Who is leading the interaction and who is following.
At every point from first interaction to last, frame is important. The whole point of the qualification process is that they are 'buying in' to your frame and qualifying to you. This positions you as the expert. When you're the expert they respect you, value your time, trust you, believe you and want to work with you.
If you lose the frame, they are going to lose interest in working with you. If they perceive you as anything but an expert, they will assume you can't help them.
To be an effective coach and trainer, the other person has to respect you, be willing to learn and follow your recommendations. Even if they are older and 'more successful' than you in every other area, it doesn't matter. You're the expert in fitness and you are in charge.
If you defer to them, you significantly cut the likelihood of them becoming a client, and if they do end up signing up in spite of this, you increase the likelihood of them being flakey, missing sessions and not following your advice. This is not a good place to start the relationship for either party.
The 'Sales Journey'
Finally, we get to the meat and potatoes of it. How the actual sales conversation looks.
The new method for selling takes your client on a journey from the struggle they face now to the ecstasy of achieving their goals. It is a hugely valuable process for them and they will leave the conversation feeling great, extremely thankful for your help, feeling motivated and confident...even if they don't become a client.
This is why the new method is not sleazy or bad. It is, in fact, GREAT for the client. It also has the added benefit of increasing the likelihood of them signing up, and signing up to a large - high value - package infinitely more likely.
The journey takes them - in their mind - from exploring the pain they are in now and the reason they want to change, over the obstacles and barriers that have/are/will hold them back, to the reality of having their dream body and all of the benefits that come with it.
Thankfully, when you are skilled at taking people on this imaginary journey, they know inside their brain that you can make it a reality. They will be selling themselves on working with you. No hard sell or clever closing techniques required.
The journey begins with where the client is now. There's a reason that someone is seeking your help. They currently have a problem that is causing them pain and they would like to fix it. What is the problem and associated pain? This is what we must find out.
You need a good picture of where they are now and the client needs to really feel the pain that they are in. It's usually buried under the surface - we try to ignore it - but it's there alright. You're not being a sadist trying to dig it up. You have a duty to help the client see that they need to take action and make changes. It's much easier for us to do nothing, to suck it up and pretend nothing is wrong. Change is hard. You know this and you need to do everything in your power to motivate the client to make a change that is going to be good for them.
For many people, the pain is the ultimate motivator.
The problem is "I'm 2 stone overweight".
The pain is "my wife thinks I'm disgusting and doesn't want to sleep with me anymore".
Nothing is going to motivate this guy quite like the sting of his wife's rejection and his desire for intimacy, love and acceptance.
Of course, you must use this knowledge in an ethical way. It is your duty to help the client create the motivation required to finally move away from this pain.
Next up is where they want to be. This is their goal and more importantly why they want to achieve that. What does it mean for them? What is different? How is this going to have far-reaching effects through every part of their life?
Confidence...discipline...belief...attractiveness - it reaches far outside of the gym.
You want to future pace them through imagining this position in such graphic detail that is feels real. They can literally feel the feelings that they will experience when they have achieved this.
What do they need to overcome to go from where they are now, to where they want to be?
This is the most important part of the conversation for purely practical application. It is where they - and you - are going to understand all of the things that will stop them from achieving their goals. They know the answers, deep down, but I guarantee they will have never thought about it.
People gain some motivation from somewhere...maybe it's January, or they have a holiday coming up...and they start 'doing'. This is great; but then slowly that motivation wears off and what were small obstacles now become huge roadblocks they are not overcoming. Keeping them stuck in the cycle of making a bit of progress...'falling off the wagon', regressing...getting down on themselves and losing confidence. Often going the opposite way and bingeing to try and feel better...then repeating the process. Only this time, they're already starting a step further back.
What was the problem? What will cause problems in the future? When they can recognize that, you can create a plan that works around, accounts for and creates contingency strategies...so these problems are just temporary struggles. No longer permanent failures.
In this stage they are going to tell you exactly what they need from you. Or to think about it more usefully - what you should sell them. It probably is knowledge and information, but it's also support, motivation, accountability and all of the intangibles that they never think to build in to a plan when trying to change their body on their own.
Now you can create and offer them the perfect solution...because they just told you everything they need.
Now you know exactly what they need from you, to get away from the pain they are in and achieve their goals. All you have to do is make them an offer relating back to everything that they have told you.
You're going to deliver broadly the same product to everybody, but when you term it and repeat back to them in their own language, based on their goals and overcoming their specific problems... it feels like it is a perfect solution built just for them.
In other words, they will have sold themselves on doing this with you, because nobody else has ever taken the time to understand them like you have. You get them. You understand. You must have the solution.
Don't let them off the hook...
When you ask people what their goals are, or what the situation is right now, chances are you will hear something like:
"I just want to tone up a bit".
That means absolutely nothing!
You cannot let people off the hook with wishy-washy answers. You have to facilitate them opening up; to themselves and you. Otherwise, you're not going to be able to help them, and they are likely not going to be able to help themselves either.
Do I Need to be a Master Salesman to do This?
You really don't. When done right, the client will be doing 90% of the talking. Your role is to simply listen, ask the right questions to probe a bit deeper and help them discover things they didn't realize about themselves.
There is nothing to be nervous about, you aren't going to get tongue-tied or say the wrong thing, because you are really saying very little.
Of course, you will get better at the process with practice and as your confidence grows. You're going to see more success in terms of sales - and at higher value packages - than with the old method of selling you have probably been taught on your PT course or picked up from the generic 'sleazy used-cars salesman' products out there.
You're also going to enjoy it more, and so is the client. It feels good to help someone and they will feel that you genuinely care and want to help them. It's incredibly powerful because nobody else in their life will have ever listened to them like this. It takes all the pressure and combativeness out of selling and makes it a collaborative process where the client will usually keenly ask you if you can work together.
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