4 Top Truths of Best-Selling Trainers

by Megan Senger on Jan 26, 2012

One of the best sales lessons I ever learned came from watching an amateur 10K race from the finish line. The winning runners made excellent times, easily cruising across the finish line while barely breaking a sweat. The next group had obviously undertrained and overpushed, stumbling to the race’s end flushed and sometimes physically ill. Last were those who clearly embraced the joys of strolling and socializing, but who seemed unconcerned about how well they finished.

To me, these groups of runners make a fitting analogy for sales seekers. Are you in the selling elite of personal trainers? Or do sales make you feel exhausted and undertrained? Or perhaps you amble along, past the point of caring about your results?

Good sales managers know that their top performers—those who cross the finish line first—have key traits in common with elite runners. Learn their secrets as we discover 4 top truths of winners in the race for fitness sales.

Truth #1: Top Trainers Self-Motivate and Resist Blaming Circumstances

Unsuccessful trainers “typically point fingers at a lack of marketing, a poor uniform or a lack of business cards and posters as the catalyst for their poor performance, rather than assessing their own productivity,” says Darren Jacobson, industry speaker and head of product for Virgin Active South Africa in Cape Town.

In contrast, top trainers believe they are the masters of their own destinies, actively approaching potential clients and not waiting for opportunities to present themselves, Jacobson says. A true sales pro constantly works to get the best value out of interactions with every potential client, agrees Lesley Aitken, sales, service and management trainer for Fitpro UK, a London, England–based fitness industry association.

Ensure your attitude matches your ambitions, and know that responsibility for your success lies not with the clients, the economy or your manager. It’s all driven by you and your desire to succeed.

Truth #2: Top Trainers Offer More Than “Likeability”

Trainers should try to be “helpful” instead of just “friendly,” says Thomas Freese, renowned sales trainer and Atlanta, Georgia–based author of Sell Yourself First (Portfolio 2010). People buy from whom they like, but they may like you for reasons other than friendship. Such reasons can include your being purposeful, relevant and professionally valuable, he says.

Top trainers think like a potential client and put themselves in the customer’s shoes, Aitken says. For example, if you approach a new client while feeling supercharged, you can actually intimidate people, Freese cautions. “There’s this out-of-shape or older person thinking, ‘You can’t understand my body, because you don’t know me.’ ”

Freese’s solution? “Verbalize their concerns [back to them]. And the customer will think, ‘That’s right, that’s exactly how I feel.’”

Truth #3: Top Trainers Don’t React—They Consult

There are two ways to discover what customers need, Freese says. One is to ask what clients think they want. The other is to help them understand their needs. He says that in the average client-trainer consultation, most customers won’t raise all their concerns. “What they’ll do is give you some symptoms, [but you] must resist the temptation to chase symptoms. If I was an engineer, that’s what you’d pay me for. If I was an accountant, that’s what you’d want me to do.”

To get beyond symptoms, trainers should offer recommendations beyond the scope of what clients know to ask for. For example, you could offer clear ways to make their goals more action-oriented (running a 5K rather than “getting fit”), or ideas for further success (recommending a specific physical therapist for their long-term back pain). Covering such topics in your initial client consultation clearly demonstrates your consultative value.

“Most trainers ask the customer what they need and then devise a plan based on that. But they just missed an opportunity,” Freese says. “Why would you hire a consultant who doesn’t provide any ideas?” Top trainers make useful suggestions, which ultimately helps them sell more.

Truth #4: Top Trainers Create Credibility and Artfully Manage the Elephant in the Room

In any sales situation, the unspoken elephant in the room is customer skepticism, Freese says. “When you first meet [someone who is selling their services] you don’t think, wow, I bet this person’s out to help me and not himself,” he explains.

However, this elephant must be managed quickly and effectively. “Customers don’t want to know what’s on the brochure. They want to know what’s not on the brochure,” Freese says, noting that making over-the-top promises hurts your credibility and impedes sales.

“You should say, ‘There are a few things in training that are very effective and two or three things you should absolutely avoid. Would it be valuable for me to pull back the curtain and give you the straight scoop here?’” Of course the customer will answer yes, giving you credibility and a great segue to discussing the reality-based value of what you offer. For top truth #5, please refer to the complete article, “The Top 5 Truths of Best-Selling Trainers” in the online IDEA Library or in the September 2011 issue of IDEA Trainer Success.

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About the Author

Megan Senger

Megan Senger IDEA Author/Presenter

Megan Senger is a writer, speaker and fitness sales consultant based in Southern California. Active in the exercise industry since 1995, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and English. Whe...