Rounding Up Referrals

Discover strategies for keeping training schedules full.

By IDEA Authors
Oct 31, 2006

Maintaining a near-capacity training schedule requires an entrepreneurial mentality. The personal training director needs to provide leadership and give trainers a reason for taking complete ownership of their individual schedules. Here’s what works with our business, plus some methods your own trainers can use to increase their occupied training hours by asking for referrals.

Incentive Plan for Our Trainers

What’s our system? Our trainers’ revenue goals are based on an 80% capacity schedule—that is, 80% of the trainers’ shifts should be spent with paying clients. Team members who hit this goal receive a $50-per-month bonus. If, as a team, we hit our company revenue goal, our department revenue goal and our company retention goal, trainers receive an additional $25 per month per goal reached, for a total of $125 per month in available bonuses. In addition to these revenue goals, trainers have a further incentive to hit 87% productivity per payroll period: We reward them with an additional $100 per 2 weeks if they achieve this 87% mark.

Since adding this last “carrot,” we’ve found that trainers who used to hover around 80% productivity now regularly hit 87% and receive the $100-per-
2-week productivity bonus merely by owning their schedules and putting forth a small amount of effort. That’s an extra $2,600 per year just for watching their schedules closely.

Keep in mind that an 87% goal will not work in every situation. Because we have a centralized, automated system and a full team of customer service reps to support our trainers, their only primary responsibility is to focus on filling their schedules with paying clients. So, for example, if trainers work an 8-hour day, 7 of those hours will be filled with paid private or group sessions, leaving the trainers an hour to perform administrative duties. In your situation, if your trainers are required to perform more of their own administrative duties—such as scheduling, pulling files, phone calls, point of sale, etc.—then you will need to adjust the goal accordingly, so these activities can be completed in a timely fashion.

Asking for Referrals

One of the best ways to fill a schedule quickly is to ask for referrals from current clients. However, we’ve found that most fitness professionals are uncomfortable with this. Trainers often feel that they should be happy enough that their present clients are training with them—that asking clients for more business would be too much. But we encourage our trainers not to be shy and to remember that their clients train with them because they like them. Of course, clients also want to see us succeed. Asking for referrals is not at all overstepping the trainers’ professional boundaries. Our business provides an exceptional service that most people would want to share with their friends, family members and colleagues. Trainers can either wait for clients to refer or they can be a little more assertive and initiate these referrals.

We train our trainers on the following system, which may also help your trainers deal comfortably with asking for referrals.

Step #1: Start With Praise

Begin by recognizing and admiring your client. For example: “Samantha: I was just reviewing your file earlier today. Do you realize we’ve been training together for 2 years now? I was looking back at our earlier workouts and programs, and I was astonished at how far you’ve come. You are so much stronger. In fact, you’re lifting double to triple some of the weights you started with. Your cardiovascular fitness has also improved dramatically. You used to be able to do only level 4 on the elliptical trainer, and now you’re at level 12. Wow. I just wanted to take a moment to congratulate you on all your successes and to tell you how much fun you are to train and how much joy I get out of seeing you accomplish so many things.”

Step #2: Inform Client of Your Present Situation

Next focus on (1) increasing the client’s own frequency if you believe this would benefit her (that’s the easiest referral there is); (2) speaking about an individual you’ve had a previous conversation about; or (3) speaking in general terms. For example:

Client’s Own Frequency. “Samantha, I’ve been thinking that you’ve achieved these results on 2 days per week of training, and I’ve actually just had an opening in my schedule on Fridays. I was thinking how amazing it would be to have you start training 3 days a week. This increase in frequency would really take your fitness program to a whole new level. Have you thought at all about training 3 days per week?”

Specific Individual. “So Samantha, I’ve just had a time slot open up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I remember you mentioned that your husband has really been thinking about starting a fitness program. I would love to help him achieve similar results. I know how much I love training you, so I’m sure he’d be just as fun. I was thinking I would love to give you and him the first right of refusal for that time slot before I open it up to everyone else. Should I give him a call and offer a complimentary first session so I can show him how I can help?”

Generic Invitation. “Samantha, I also wanted to let you know that I’ve just had a few time slots open up in my schedule. So I wanted to see if you know any people interested in improving their fitness. I’d much rather train your friends and family, because I know how much I love training you, and I’m 100% confident that anyone you hang out with is going to be just as much fun. So I wanted to offer you the first right of refusal before I open my schedule to everyone else. Do you know anyone who has said he wants to start exercising and get in better shape?”

Step #3: Ask for
the Referral

Get the potential client’s name and phone number.

Step #4: Inform Your Client of the Process

Let your client know what to expect and ask her what she would feel most comfortable with. The conversation might go like this:

Trainer: “This is great. John will be so pleased you thought of him. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to call John, let him know that you’ve arranged a complimentary personal training session for him and book him for an appointment. Are you comfortable with that?”

Client: “That sounds great, but let me tell him first.”

Trainer: “Good idea. I’ll make a note in my day planner to ask you about it at our next session, and then I’ll call him once you’ve let John know to expect my call.”

Or the trainer might say:

Trainer: This is great. John will be so pleased you thought of him. Here’s what I think would work best in honor of the approaching holiday. I’m going to put together a really nice folder that you can give to him. It will include information about my services plus a gift certificate for a private training session. Of course, I’m not going to charge you anything for that gift certificate, but it’ll be a great gift you can offer John. After you’ve given him the information and the certificate, I’ll wait a few days and then call him to schedule his first session with me. Sound good?”

Step #5: Show Your Gratitude

Your client has just helped you grow your client base, and you will want to display your appreciation. Writing a thank-you card is all you need to do. If a client regularly refers people to you, though, you may want to consider a small gift as a token of your appreciation. We offer a
30-minute massage, facial or private training session to all clients who refer new clients to us. It’s a small price to pay to have all our clients acting as an ongoing sales force for our business.

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Achieving 87% Training Capacity

To help our trainers see how reaching 87% capacity is feasible, we advise them that the best strategies for filling their schedules are as follows:

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IDEA Authors

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