Have you taken a sales training course?

Many personal trainers are uncomfortable with selling. They’d like the client to hurry up and buy the sessions so they can get going on what they know and do best. Trainers are scared of pushing the “hard sell” or being too aggressive. Unfortunately a solid marketing campaign will be ineffective if you’re not skilled at selling your services once you’ve got someone in the door.

To succeed as a personal trainer, you must become a top-notch salesperson. Holding the highest credentials will make no difference if you can’t get clients to purchase sessions with you. Possessing an exceptional personality and an amazing ability to motivate will not matter if you can’t convince clients to invest in your services. Developing sales skills not only enables you to generate a higher income but also allows you to impact more people’s lives.

Let’s start off by correcting a misconception. “Closing the sale” is the term used to describe the process of asking for the client’s money. The term can have a negative meaning to trainers who associate it with pressure tactics. But in my philosophy you do not need to be a high-pressure salesperson or use unsavory tactics. If you enter communications with a potential client with “closing” as your primary goal, you will quickly lose the client. To me closing the sale is, in fact, opening or developing a relationship. That is how you sell with integrity.

A good salesperson does not focus on “selling” a person but rather on servicing the person. Before any interaction with a potential client, ask yourself, “How can I help this individual? What are her needs?” Once you have identified her needs, simply decide whether your services can meet those needs. If so, then tell her about your services, or offer a sample. That’s it.

I know you are not a personal trainer because you love selling but because you love helping people. But you need to sell to get people to experience your services! Remember that selling is not a bad thing! You are selling very good things: improved health and fitness, more energy, enhanced confidence and self-esteem, longevity. You must believe in yourself and your services. Remember that if a person has called you or inquired about your services, she is interested. She is just waiting for you to explain how you can help.

Focus on the Client

When you decided on the types of clients you wanted to serve, you undoubtedly identified their needs and developed messages to explain how you could meet those needs. The focus was on the clients. Carry that philosophy through when you talk to potential clients.

Here’s an example of how you could approach an individual in a club setting with the purpose of addressing her needs:

Trainer: “Hi there. My name is Sherri and I’m a personal trainer here. Are you new to the club?”

Prospect: “Yes, I am.”

Trainer: “I thought so. What’s your name?”

Prospect: “Karen.”

Trainer: “Well, welcome to the club, Karen. Hey, I know when you first join a new club, you sometimes have questions about the equipment or where things are or proper club etiquette. I’d love to take you through a complimentary personal training session—all new members get one. Have you always exercised, or are you just getting started? Do you have any injuries? What are your goals? Why don’t I book you for some time in the next few days to get you started off on the right foot?”

In this interaction you enter the conversation with the assumption that this individual has some needs you can serve. Focusing on her needs makes it very easy for you to communicate. A first encounter that does not intimidate someone or make her feel pressured to buy is critical. Your role is to welcome the new member and make her feel comfortable and safe with you.

Remember, your knowledge of physiology will be wasted unless you immediately connect with your potential client and develop her trust. She will know if you are only trying to sell her or you genuinely desire to help her. Just telling a potential client what she wants to hear may sometimes help you close the sale in the short term. However, if a person perceives you have “pulled a fast one,” you will quickly lose that person. Success as a personal trainer depends on your ability to keep your clients, not just sell them.

Phone Power Skills

Since much of your business is initiated on the phone, it’s imperative to understand how you can use this tool to your advantage. I have been fortunate enough to receive extensive training on using the telephone to complete business. Here are a few guidelines I’ve learned:

  • Place the phone where it is the center
    of attention. It is difficult to perform
    well on the phone when distractions and
    disruptions are occurring around you.
  • Pay attention to your posture while
    talking. Sounding energetic is not easy
    if you’re reclined in an easy chair or
    slouched on the couch. Try putting a
    long cord on the phone or use a headset
    or cell phone so you can move around
    while talking. Remember, your body
    language can be heard!

    • Consciously attempt to add more tone,
      animation and energy to your voice.

  • Make important calls when you’re
    feeling most upbeat and energetic.
    Perhaps you’ll find making calls right
    after a workout or first thing in the
    morning works for you. Get yourself
    psyched up.

    I’m not quite sure whether answering
    machines make life easier or more
    difficult. Many personal trainers com
    plain of “playing tag” with answering
    machines and telephones. Here are
    some suggestions to help you use
    answering machines to your advantage.

  • The message you leave on your own
    answering machine may be the first
    contact a potential client has with you.
    In an upbeat, energetic and positive
    voice, tell callers a little about your
    business and how you can help clients.
    Perhaps finish with an inspirational
    quote or message.
  • When leaving a message on a potential
    client’s machine, tell the person who
    you are and that you’d like to talk with
    her in detail about her goals. Leave
    your phone number/pager number and
    a specific time you can be reached.
    Convey excitement, enthusiasm and
    energy in your voice. Also leave a time
    when you will call back—and be sure
    to call back at exactly that time.
  • If you are experiencing the frustrating
    “Tag, you’re it!” scenario, ask a “now”
    question. For example, if leaving a
    message with a secretary, spouse or
    roommate, ask if there is an alternative
    cell phone, work or home number at
    which to reach the person you are
    calling. It is best to speak directly with
    that person.

Preparing for the First Phone Call

Do you remember the very first time you had to call about a personal training inquiry? If you weren’t properly trained on making a first phone call, you probably felt very awkward, and stumbled over many of your words.

You can evolve from a trainer who lacks confidence and the right words to a trainer who is confident, eloquent and effective in that initial interaction. All it takes is practice. Role-play the telephone call, using your friends, family members and colleagues to develop your systems and scripts. It will take hours of your time at first, but you definitely don’t want to practice on your clients! Role-playing telephone conversations is well worth the time invested.

On the first phone call, spend time developing a relationship and a connection. This will increase the chances of clients starting with you immediately and decrease the chances of their making similar calls to numerous personal trainers.

Some sales training experts suggest that you get a potential client off the phone and into the gym as quickly as possible. I disagree. You’ve got a potential client on the phone. This is your first opportunity to develop a relationship with her, so take advantage of it. Invest some time and energy in getting to know this person. Do you honestly think you have to be with someone in person for a relationship to develop? Not at all! How would you explain all the marriages that have occurred as a result of e-mail connections?

The worst mistake salespeople make is talking about themselves. If you want the potential client to like you, avoid talking about yourself and instead spend the majority of the time asking the client questions about herself. Ask guided questions, but let her do the talking. Listen and paraphrase. Your goal is to listen to the client 60 percent of the time, give her information 25 percent of the time, and spend only 15 percent of the time getting her commitment.

Be sure you have close by a script to refer to (see sample script on page 16), paper for notes, and your personal training promotional package and price list.

Keep Your Momentum Going!

Now you’ve got a clear picture of some of the things you can do before you actually book an individual for her first session with you. By practicing and perfecting some of the tools outlined here, you can become a great salesperson who naturally turns each encounter into a business opportunity. Begin by building relationships with your prospects and you’ll be well on your way!