Personal training is a business. Therefore, a large part of personal training is selling your services to potential clients. If you don’t effectively recruit new clients and maintain those you currently have, you don’t have a product or service to sell. Personal training may be considered “sales”, however, it’s outside the scope of your practice to push products or extended services for financial gains if those products or services are not in the overall best interest or of a demonstratable benefit to the client. Upselling is generally inadvisable, save for certain, ethical circumstances.

Sales Expectations

Some employers may require or strongly encourage their trainers to sell products or services to clients that are outside of the general “fitness counseling” service (i.e. supplements and fitness products/tools, additional paid memberships/services, etc.). This is most often the case with personal trainers who are employed by fitness entities and who do not own their own business or independently contract for their training services.

Before entering into a contract or employed status with any supervisory entity, read the contract agreement carefully and thoroughly. Be sure to inquire about sales expectations to set yourself up for better success and to avoid surprises later.

Consequences of Unnecessary Upselling

Personal trainers can feel pressured to “sell, sell, sell” to their clients. When this happens, and if a trainer’s income depends on additional sales, the trainer can end up talking clients into buying unnecessary items and services that aren’t related to client goals or supportive of clients’ needs. Ultimately, this detracts from the primary service trainers offer – the training itself.

Further, when a client chooses to pay for personal training services, the client has made an investment in his or her health. Clients should not be asked or encouraged to toss money at services or goods that do not directly relate to his or her goals or that do not ensure maximal progress. This is a waste of clients’ hard-earned dollars.

Clients understandably rely on their personal trainers and view them as the experts and “go-to” professionals for health advice. In essence, clients trust their trainers. Trust and the client-trainer relationship can be compromised if the trainer sells the client unnecessary services, supplements, or fitness tools. Upselling is not worth eroding a healthy client-trainer relationship or betraying hard-earned trust.

Exercise Caution with Dietary Supplements 

As any certified personal trainer understands, recommending and especially selling dietary supplements/performance-enhancing substances is inherently a slippery slope and most certainly outside the scope of a trainer’s professional practice.

Supplements are loosely regulated and are not subject to the same regulatory oversight as food and pharmaceutical drugs. Additionally, the body of literature doesn’t conclusively demonstrate the efficacy of all supplements. If a trainer recommends or sells a supplement to a client with the belief that it will improve results or performance, the trainer could be placing the client’s health at risk. Some supplements may interact with medications and/or complicate existing medical conditions.

In short, recommending, selling, and promoting the use of supplements is not a good (or safe) business strategy.

Any supplement should be evaluated by a registered dietitian or the client’s physician. Trainers are also encouraged to contact their respective certifying agency to inquire about any dietary supplement position stand documentation or mention of dietary supplements in that agency’s code of ethics.

Not All Upselling is “Bad”

Upselling can be an effective way to help clients recommit to their goals, introduce new challenges, and aid in faster results. That said, legitimate upselling first and always considers the client’s goals, progress thus far, and the cost-effectiveness of the good, service, or program being sold compared to the client’s budgetary constraints or intended investment.

If a trainer feels a client would directly benefit from an additional service or product, the client should be well-informed of the benefits and should be given an opportunity to examine the good or service from all angles. The client should also have the opportunity to ask questions about the service or product and the trainer should be prepared to offer alternatives if the client chooses to move forward without the additional service or product. If a trainer is interested in introducing a client to a new fitness tool or program, allow the client to try the tool or program for a limited period of time so that he or she can make a truly informed decision.

What to Consider

Before upselling anything to any client, first consider the following:

  • Is it necessary?
  • What does the client stand to gain?
  • What does the client stand to lose?
  • How cost-effective is it?
  • Can the client still progress without it?
  • Are you well informed and practiced with the item/service you’re attempting to sell?
  • Would you use this same product or service yourself? Why or why not?

As with any aspect of your business, be thoughtful and strategic and always prioritize the client’s goals and needs.

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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at