Distinguishing yourself as a personal trainer isn’t so much about the training as it is your versatility. Most people in the general population don’t want a fancy workout or diet program. That’s where most trainers exceed expectations. They want a trainer who can help them achieve modest goals without wanting to pull their hair out. That’s it. This revelation wrecked my ego early in my career. I thought every client wanted to realize their peak physical form. That’s why they were paying me. I was dead wrong. Most, if not all of them, wanted to learn from me. They wanted to create consistent exercise habits with the added layer of accountability.
Remember that your clients are the highest priority. Your job is to adapt to their needs while setting aside any preconceived notions you may have. Many trainers get discouraged if their clients don’t have dramatic transformations. You have to let this go. If you are saddened, it means you care. This standard of care means more to your clients than any transformation.
Trainers can be successful for a myriad of reasons. I’ll delve into some practical techniques to bolster your value. It won’t be an exhaustive list, but it will be enough to know you from a crowd. Apply these tactics and send them to another trainer. After all, it is our responsibility to share. There is plenty to go around.
Connect with Trainers and Gym Staff
I put this first because it was my biggest mistake as a beginner. Learn to get around. Converse with the sales staff, and share best practices with other trainers. Show gratitude to the cleaners for keeping your equipment tidy. These people will be responsible for your continued growth. They are not your competition. We should all be in this for a common goal: to help our clients and advance the profession. Other trainers are essential resources to discuss business, training methodology, and nutrition. They will be your mentors to troubleshoot any client concerns. The support staff can affirm your character leading to continued revenue for your business.
Speak less. Far less. If this topic makes you quiver, you might be in the wrong career. Listening is the bulk of the job. Clients want a sounding board. They want an intelligent, free-thinker who will listen to their thoughts, problems, and other abnormalities of the human experience. The ‘active’ means you detect speech undertones for further discovery about the client. That’s the essence of good conversation. Display your investment in the relationship. Clients will speak freely and elaborate on their issues.
Clients will see you as the model for health and wellness. In their eyes, you can do no wrong. Remove this veil of superiority that protects this facade and encourage your clients to loosen up. Technically it is our job to have some degree of objective judgment. We are constantly judging form and exercise adherence. Yet, you can still do this without being pretentious. That is, you can still perform the job essentials devoid of harsh assertions. Clients are keenly aware of their inadequacies. Probably to an unhealthy point. You don’t need to posture at them any more than they do to themselves. Instead, articulate the value of fitness in their terms. It’s not the “that’s not how I do it” or “you don’t want it bad enough” mentality. Get rid of that. Your clients are the most important, not you.
Be a Conversationalist
I was positive that this didn’t matter in the beginning. Because clients only hire us for our expertise, right? I figured if I mastered the subject material, I’d have clients lining up to train with me. Albeit partially true, expertise might only get you the client. Retention is due to the results and your personality. There’s an abundance of quality trainers who struggle to keep business because of their lack of social prowess. The best way to combat this shortcoming is by reading. Read broadly and deeply. Educate yourself on diverse topics of interest, such as the art of communication and body language. You should have a working knowledge of pop culture, science, and politics. Bonus points if you learn about specific client interests.
Take Every Client
At least early in your career. Be available. 5 am client? Yes. Long injury history? You bet. Elderly? Absolutely! You will never understand the populations best suited for you until you get the requisite experience training different groups. The first 1-5 years will look like this, especially in a public gym. You’ll discover your preferences while building the skills to showcase to prospective buyers.
Here’s a short story:
It was day one at L.A. Fitness, my first training job. I was young and eager to prove myself. Jimmy, the training manager, calls me to say he has a new client for me. “His name is Tom, he says. He wants to train with you three times per week at 5 am”. I said yes, immediately. The truth is, no other trainer wanted to take him on. Not me, I thought. I was just grateful to have a client!
Gym goers saw me first thing every morning training Tom. He helped shape my reputation. Thus, increasing my business and retention. Find yourself a Tom. It will be the best decision you ever make.
Coach the Person
Coach to the individual in front of you, not the person you want to be coaching. Nobody sees training as their full-time job. They’re lucky to leave the house for an hour. I want you to be the person they look forward to seeing because you make them feel accomplished. You adapt the training to account for their daily fluctuations in mood and stress. You’d do well to ask because stressors aren’t always visible. Have your workout ready, but be prepared to trash it just as fast. That’s high-level customer service.
I don’t know many coaches that join this industry for fortune and fame. We’re here to serve people using fitness as the vehicle. Judge your success not on financial growth but through your impact and legacy. The irony is that when you commit to service, you’ll generate financial success anyways. Continue to refine your craft. When you care about your clients, your business will be worth its weight in gold.