The beginning of the year brings a flood of new gym enthusiasts, which means trainers are up to their ears in new member consultations. This provides the opportunity for trainers to evaluate themselves and think critically about how they execute a consultation. What’s working and what isn’t? How sure are you that you are conducting quality consultations?

Cementing the Business Relationship

Consultations are the first step to any continuing relationship with a client. A well-seasoned trainer could do a great consultation in their sleep. They should be straightforward, ask-questions-get answers kinds of scenarios. However, facilities that offer free new member consultations require extra finesse. The client isn’t necessarily interested in training sessions, but they are interested in doing something that is free if it benefits them.

Here are some ways to ensure you and the potential client are getting the most out of a new member consultation.

Treat Every Member Like They’re Already Client

Many gyms offer their new members a complimentary personal training consultation. A trainer generally works at a lower wage than a paid session to make it possible for the gym to offer it for free. There are many people won’t turn down anything free, even if they aren’t interested in whatever it is. Meaning, these consultations can be a hodgepodge of individuals who genuinely want to meet with a trainer and those who just want to take advantage of a free opportunity. While there’s nothing wrong with the latter group, you must be able to discern one from the other, yet treat both like they will be paying clients at the end of the consultation.

One potential issue to consider is how this uncertainty affects your attitude as a personal trainer. Do you try harder to make sure you close the sale, or do you figure that it’s more likely the member is not actually interested in purchasing, and therefore, give less than your best? Maybe you’ve already had some fruitless new member consultations, or perhaps you’re just tired and less enthusiastic knowing you’re not getting paid for the hour. All of this can, unfortunately, result in a lackluster consultation.

Recognize Your Limitations and Those of the Potential Client

Personal Training is a challenging job. Even though it comes with heavy responsibilities, trainers are still human beings who can get tired, frustrated, and may not be at the top of their game 100% of the time. However, bear in mind a new member consultation is a unique opportunity for the trainer to work with someone who could be brand new to the fitness world. The trainer is this client’s first interaction and may possibly shape the ongoing perception of their gym experience.

It is vital that trainers stay mindful, especially during the New Year’s madness. For many people, it is terrifying to be brand new at something and to be physically vulnerable at the same time. It can bring up feelings of inadequacy, insecurity and sometimes middle school flashbacks.

Personal trainers should be helping to inspire confidence and self-assuredness in the client. Personal training is offering encouragement and motivation, knowing how to effectively deflect ego and fear, all the while providing a killer workout aligned with the client’s specific goals. This is easier to do when working with a client who’s already invested in personal training. Not so easy with someone brand new to fitness who may not be contemplating personal training sessions. It is imperative to treat all interactions with clients and potential clients with the same energy, remember that anyone who is not a current client is indeed a potential client.

Ensuring a Quality Consultation

Here are two simple actions that will help create a quality consultation:

Be prepared: Plan the questions that will be asked, gather the clients basic info (age, weight, their perceived fitness level etc.) beforehand, have a little something about yourself prepared that can be easily presented to the client so they believe you are qualified to direct their fitness endeavor. Explain why the client should feel comfortable with the trainer doing their consultation.
Be more than “on time”: In the Marine Corps, if you are on time, you are late. Arrive 10-15 minutes early for every consultation. Be there to greet them at the front door so they feel welcomed and have guidance during the entirety of this new experience. Nothing is more disconcerting for a new gym member than arriving before their trainer. He or she may feel awkward, uncomfortable ,and as if they are an inconvenience to the trainer. The best assurance that they feel you are eager to help is by your positive attitude and professionalism, so bring that energy to the table.

A new gym member who is brand new to fitness is walking into unchartered territory. Everything that falls within your comfort zone in the fitness world is probably completely foreign and intimidating to new members. They may not know what they want or what they are looking for within the gym setting.

Furthermore, there can be this preconceived notion that personal training is only for the rich, the exceptionally unmotivated, or the obese. Often the average individual who took on the complimentary consultation probably thinks he or she does not need personal training. Perhaps they believe it is frivolous, or they can do it on their own, or simply they are “not that bad off”. This presents an opportunity for the fitness professional to relay all that can be gained from working with a professional.

Communication is King

An equally challenging quality of consultations is acquiring all of the necessary information from the client. I know trainers everywhere can relate to this sentiment. How often have you asked about past injuries, told there aren’t any, only to find out during a session that the client was in a major car accident three years earlier that required spinal surgery?

A trainer’s perspective is generally quite different from the client’s: trainers think in terms of anatomy and physiology. We understand that any injury or surgery to the spine, no matter when it happened, is of consequence to how the client will be trained. The client may not know this and won’t always answer questions as needed.

Also, some clients will simply not like to talk about themselves (insecurity), their injuries (inadequacies), or their current fitness level (failures). It can feel like pulling teeth to get an honest conversation going within the consult. This is especially true for those clients who only checked “yes” because it was free. They thought they were just getting a free work out but didn’t realize they would need to talk to the trainer as well.

Regardless of any and all situations, it is your responsibility to gather the necessary information to provide safe and effective workouts.

Here are three ways to gain the client’s confidence and get the conversation flowing:

Begin by asking about the client. Their work, their family, their interests, and hobbies. I always say something like, “Tell me a little about yourself.” or, “What does an average day look like for you?”  This helps to relax the client, and get them talking.

Ask open ended questions. “What do I need to know about your health history?” “What do you think is important for me to know about you before we get started?” When they aren’t restricted to a yes or no answer, there is a better chance of getting a more useful response.

Sell yourself. At the end talk about your qualifications and ask the client if they have any questions for you. I mentioned earlier that a trainer should have a little spiel loosely prepared that they can tell the client, something that will highlight the trainer’s aptitude. This is to reassure the client that the trainer is competent, not an opportunity to brag. This is a fine line to navigate, so be mindful.

The next step? Closing the sale. It’s not as “salesperson-y” as you think. Stay tuned!

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Alex has her A.S in Exercise Science and is a certified Personal Trainer with NFPT and NSCF. She recently traveled to India to gain her 200 hr yoga teacher certification where she studied the ancient practice at its origins. Alex has spent time teaching yoga in Spain while volunteering at a yoga retreat and is currently working at her local college instructing two fitness courses. Alex wants to share with her clients and students the mental, physical and emotionally healing qualities of exercise and movement. She believes everyone should have a healthy relationship with their bodies and strives to thread that concept throughout her career.