fbpx Skip to content


The Top 5 Sales Phrases Every Trainer Should Know

Use these phrases for quality conversation with potential clients.

You stock your training tool kit with uber-adaptable equipment for every fitness level: a TRX® Suspension Trainer™, a stability ball, maybe some tubing or a yoga mat. Since you can never be completely certain what your fitness client will need on any given day, your go-to gear adapts to any training trial. But what about the tools you use to gain new training customers—do you have a stash of stand-by sales phrases that adapt to diverse personalities equally well?

If you feel tongue-tied when talking prices and programs with prospective clients, you may wish you had a selling-sayings tool kit for new-customer conversations. Luckily, the phrases that generate the most sales also help the most people, since both results are based on uncovering individual motivations and goals. Put the top five sales phrases every trainer should know in your back pocket, and never be speechless in a selling situation again.

1. The Text: “What does ___ mean to you?”

The Subtext: Don’t assume. Ever.

I once sat my size-4 self down with a personal trainer and told him I was looking for new exercise ideas. His response? “So, you’d like to lose a few pounds then?” (Insert cringe here.)

Presumptions (such as “All women want to lose weight” or “All men want to bulk up”) are a swift dagger through any budding trainer-client relationship. Still, potential trainees often give goals a vague voice, saying they want to “tone up,” “shape up” or “get fit.”

What do these terms really represent? More important, what precisely do they signify to your prospective customer? Push yourself to uncover more meaningful motivations and ask:

“What does ‘toning up’ mean to you?”

“When you say you want to ‘shape up,’ what exactly do you mean?”

Ditch any cookie-cutter language and use this phrase to avoid faulty fitness assumptions.

2. The Text: “Tell me more”

The Subtext: Let the customer do the talking, and really listen.

When potential trainees are asked to elaborate on their needs, they may even talk themselves into buying your services—if you give them the listening space to do so. Use this sales phrase to guide customer conversations and dig deep into your prospective clients’ needs.

“Phrases like ‘Tell me more’ or ‘What do you mean by that?’ are useful because they help salespeople get deeper than the surface,” agrees Jeb Brooks, co-author of Perfect Phrases for the Sales Call (McGraw-Hill 2010) and executive vice president of The Brooks Group, a sales training and management firm. “Use them to get the other person in the sales interaction talking more.”

For example, if potential customers say they want to “get toned,” encourage them to elaborate:

“Okay, well, tell me more.”

“Hmm, go on.”

“How is that, exactly?”

Prospective customers don’t always tell you their complete story on the first pass, Brooks says. “Phrases like ‘Tell me more’ make it okay for them to keep talking in order to bring you clarity.”

3. The Text: “Why is that important to you?”

The Subtext: Emotions drive fitness decisions.

There is an old sales axiom that people buy emotionally but justify their purchases logically. For example, if you ask your current clients why they hired a trainer, they will likely give a logic-based rationale (“A personal trainer helps me get results faster” or “I needed more exercise to get my blood pressure down.”).

Yet the real reason clients hire you is likely more complex and emotional: they feel insecure about how they look, worried about their health or anxious about looking clumsy in the gym. The underlying feelings—not logic—are what motivate people to buy.

Because of this, understanding a customer’s emotional reasons for wanting to start an exercise program is key to gaining new business, says Mike Bates, MBA, owner of Refine Fitness Studio in Windsor, Ontario, and co-author of Health Fitness Management (Human Kinetics 2008). He uses the question “Why is that important to you?” to better understand a trainee’s motivation. “Then I can cater my services [to each client’s goals] and build urgency for them to get started right away,” says Bates, who also lectures in the department of kinesiology at the University of Windsor.

Better yet, this question will allow you to create a plan targeted to each individual’s unique motives, both in a sales conversation and later in the gym—because in the struggle of feeling versus thinking, feeling most always wins.

4. The Text: “What this means for you is …”

The Subtext: Highlight the benefits the client actually wants.

Whether it’s with “toning up” or “losing weight,” potential trainees already have emotional connections to exercise-related expressions. So for your initial client interviews, toss the technical terminology and mirror the client’s own words. So says Rachel Cosgrove, author of The Female Body Breakthrough (Rodale 2009) and co-owner of Results Fitness personal training studio in Santa Clarita, California. Her techniques have proven so profitable that she now mentors fitness entrepreneurs in sales and business techniques through her company, Results Fitness Biz.

Trainers who get caught up in technical jargon make a classic business blunder, Cosgrove says. Rather than speaking the client’s language, she notes that they are inadvertently putting their own agenda first.

For example, how often do prospective new trainees ask you how to “get improved lumbo-pelvic stability and a tighter transverse abdominis?” Probably not as often as you are asked about “flat abs.” Avoid jargon, but don’t give a customer-to-be a cursory notion of what to expect (“So I’ll write you a really great exercise program.”). Instead, try Cosgrove’s benefit-focused approach: “So what this means for you is that you will get the flat belly you were talking about.”

While there is room in the trainer-client relationship for educating and passing on scientific know-how, the initial sales conversation is not necessarily the best place. Show customers that you can speak their language by repeating back their benefit-specific words.

5. The Text: “Picture yourself” and “Imagine”

The Subtext: Help trainees envision exercise success.

Throughout your client meeting you’ve discussed your prospective customer’s goals. You’ve uncovered the emotional reasons for being there. You’ve dug deep into the personal motivators. Now, you need to give your potential trainee a sense of exactly what results to expect from your work together.

To do so, Cosgrove uses the phrases “Picture yourself” and “Imagine” to hammer home what hiring a trainer will do for the prospective customer. For example, she might say, “Picture yourself coming in twice a week, meeting with me as I take you through a workout that was specifically designed for you and your goals. Then imagine how you’ll feel after a month when you’ll have already lost a clothing size!”

Using a visual vocabulary allows trainees to connect with future progress, Cosgrove says. “When you use these types of words, the client can’t help but see him- or herself as a someone who is getting in shape.”

Your Words Are Your Work

Your ability to really help people in the gym is based on understanding each individual’s needs and goals, and that is exactly what the top five sales phrases are designed to discover. Brooks explains: “These phrases and questions allow prospective clients to share their experiences. As you gain a sense of what they like, don’t like, would like to change and so on, you can then present your unique offering to them in the way that they’d like to hear it.”

Stock up on these go-to selling phrases and become a sales sleuth, uncovering the unique motivations of each trainee. Practice effective exercise “phraseology” and improve both your business and your clients’ training results.

SIDEBAR: Avoiding a Wheel-and-Deal Daze

As a consumer yourself, you’ve probably had the unhappy experience of listening to an (unhelpful, undertrained) salesperson push you through a canned pitch while stuck on some trancelike sales autopilot.

Similarly, trainers have to be very careful about being too “scripted,” because buyers don’t always stick to the same script, Jeb Brooks says. He sees slick or manipulative approaches to selling as unprofessional sales-killers. Instead, you should approach sales consultations as interactive, personal conversations that uncover if and how you can be of genuine help. Stay connected to your client and use the top five phrases as a helpful starting point and guide, not a script written in stone.


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.

When you buy something using the retail links in our content, we may earn a small commission. IDEA Health and Fitness Association does not accept money for editorial reviews. Read more about our Terms & Conditions and our Privacy Policy.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay up tp date with our latest news and products.