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An Assessment Makeover

Retain your clients by going beyond the assessment basics.

Isn't it frustrating when a client quits? It has happened to the best of us, and there are any number of reasons why it occurs. But the bottom line is this:

  • You just lost an opportunity to change someone's life for the better.
  • You just affected your business negatively in more ways than one.

Many times, clients discontinue training for reasons that are mostly beyond your control. That doesn't make it any easier to see them walk out the door, but at least you know you weren't directly at fault for losing that client.

Examples of this type of reason include the following:

  • Client "doesn't have time."
  • Client can no longer make the financial commitment.
  • Client suffers an injury outside your care.
  • Client moves.
  • Client has a major life‐changing event occur.

I've experienced each of these at least once over the years I've been training. However, I'm still in contact with every client that I lost owing to factors I could not control. To me, that says a lot.

On the other hand, sometimes you lose a client for reasons you could have controlled. This stings, especially since—if you're a good trainer—it doesn't happen often.

Here are some examples of this type of reason:

  • Client isn't getting results.
  • Client was given inaccurate expectations.
  • Client does not enjoy the experience.
  • Personal trainer does not follow through on services or goods that were promised.

Unfortunately, I've experienced a few of these losses as well. On the bright side, the mistakes I've made have turned into some of my greatest learning experiences. The only true mistake is the one you let happen twice.

The big takeaway here is that if you want to be an elite performer in your profession, you must become a master at controlling the controllable factors. Every detail of your service that you have control over should be constantly pushed toward perfection. Things outside of your control are already destined to derail you at times. If you also let controllable items have an impact, your business is much less likely to succeed.

Get ahead of the game by employing one of the most effective protocols I've ever added to my business model: a comprehensive client fitness assessment. Giving your assessment a makeover, or simply conducting one, is the biggest game changer. It can win you more clients, get your clients better results and earn you more business revenue. Here's how.

Improving Your Assessment

For most high‐level trainers, the client fitness assessment is the first step in the personal training process. If you're not already implementing some sort of assessment, start today! If you are already assessing new members and clients, here are some ways to improve the process.

What baseline info are you collecting for each client? Age, weight, height, health history and other basic data are mandatory—but if that's all your assessment consists of, it's not enough.

Consider these examples of deeper information to collect:

  • in‐depth SMART goals
  • previous exercise experiences
  • typical dietary habits
  • hobbies, activities and passions
  • perceived stress levels
  • perceived health levels
  • accurate body composition
  • movement and mobility testing
  • challenges or obstacles the client anticipates
  • Enneagram personality testing

Whether you write it down or just casually talk about it, the information you obtain on day one is going to help you understand how you can give the client an incredible experience. The more you know, the more you can help. The list above is a general umbrella of terms and topics that you can cover; how you implement them will be unique to your style and personality.

The moral of the story is that gathering more info up front allows you to retest tons of data later in the client's training career. This goes far beyond fat loss or aesthetic goals. You have more ways at your fingertips to prove your value to your clients. Not only does this keep your clients satisfied that they're getting an excellent service, but also they're more likely to refer people to you and continue to invest their time and money in the results you undeniably help them achieve.

Trainers who do a run‐of‐the‐mill assessment can look at the scale and tell clients they lost pounds, and these trainers may be lucky enough to have had their clients need to buy new, smaller jeans—but that's about it. With advanced assessment techniques, however, you can show clients that they lost body fat; that they increased their skeletal muscle mass; and that they have a higher perceived health rating, a lower perceived stress level, greater aerobic capacity, a more well‐rounded blood panel, additional functional range of motion in their extremities, a higher vertical jump, a faster 40‐yard dash time or any combination of those measurements. Do you see the difference? Your clients definitely will.

A Free Assessment

I feel strongly that you should provide new clients a thorough fitness assessment at absolutely no additional cost. Build the cost into your pricing structure if necessary, but position the assessment as an added value of your training services.

In fact, I offer the assessment completely free to all prospects—not just signed‐up clients. Use this service as a way to get people in the door. Offer your free assessment to every person you meet who shows the slightest interest in training. Wow prospects with the above‐and‐beyond experience that you offer, and use that to turn them into longtime clients.

Think of the assessment as your interview. By revealing exactly how you can help your clients, you'll show them why they should hire you. Again, I highly suggest that you never charge extra for this service. Be confident in your system and your skills, and the assessment will easily pay for itself over time.

Assessment Dos

Apply these simple dos (and the don'ts in the next section) in your fitness assessments; it will make the experience more rewarding for everyone involved.

Be positive and welcoming. Clients may be a little uncomfortable. Use positive body language and upbeat remarks to communicate with them.

Collect as much appropriate information as possible. Within your scope of practice, you want to gain tons of quantifiable info that gives you a pretty solid idea of who the people are and what their lifestyles are (i.e., what their lifestyles are) like.

Be timely. Your assessment needs to be thorough, but cap the time at between 45 and 75 minutes. Any amount longer than that may turn off your clients.

Be firm. Remember, the reason you are assessing people is so you can have the absolute best opportunity to help them. If prospects try to talk their way out of or around foundational pieces of your assessment, find a way to collect the essential info from them while staying within their comfort level. Always let clients know that you are collecting this information to help them.

Do your ABCs! Always be closing. This intimate one‐on‐one time with clients or prospects is a great chance to close a deal. You've just showed them how well‐versed you are at your craft and how much you want to help them. If it fits the flow of the conversation, go ahead and attempt to sell the package or product. You are a service provider. If people need your service, you should be confident in your skills and show them that you're the right fit for them.

Assessment Don'ts

While you want to focus on the positives, also make sure to avoid these stumbling blocks.

Don't be negative. The fitness assessment is your first impression, your one chance to show prospects or clients what you're all about. Don't blow it by having a sour attitude. It doesn't matter what's going on in the outside world; don't bring the negative energy near clients during the assessment—or at any other time, for that matter.

Don't skip the assessment or do the bare minimum. If you are lazy during the assessment, how are you going to perform during a training session? How are your clients going to perform? A lame effort gets a lame result—for you and for your clients.

Don't be late, rushed or unfocused. Remember that you want to be thorough without going overboard. Prepare properly before the assessment so that you can nail it, close the deal and move on to getting results with your new client. Rushing or cutting corners on the assessment will lead to a less‐than‐stellar outcome.

Don't be pushy. While it is appropriate to try to close a deal, don't be obnoxious. A pushy approach is a huge burden on the customer. It makes the situation uncomfortable, and it's usually unsuccessful. People have agreed to let you assess and consult them. Obviously, they are interested in your service in some capacity. Don't push them out the door by trying too hard to sell them something when it doesn't fit the conversation or the atmosphere of the assessment. Your job is to help the client. Show that you can do that, and you'll never feel like you're "selling" something.


You can take your client fitness assessment a step further and refer out for advanced assessment protocols. Consider these advanced options, and know when your scope of practice requires referral assistance.

  • complete blood testing
  • food allergy testing
  • medical imaging for structural reference
  • advanced body composition testing
  • advanced movement and mobility testing
  • sports performance tests, drills and measurements

Concerned about your place in the new fitness industry? We have 40 years of experience supporting pros just like you! Let’s create a new wellness paradigm together—IDEAfit+ is the extra edge you need. Once you team up with IDEA, be sure to take full advantage of all the benefits of membership.

Justin Ochoa

Personal Training & Gym Manager in Indianapolis dedicated to client goals, happiness and appreciation of the journey. NASM certified CPT, GPTS, FNS, SAQS and TRX Level 1 coach with experience working with a wide variety of clients - from elite athletes to post-surgery rehab patients.

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