#5 Successful Personal Trainers are Specialists

Successful Personal Trainers realize that you will draw more attention when you own a niche, a specific, narrowly defined market. Whether you are a weight loss specialist or a youth fitness specialist, you need to narrow your market in order to get more business. This stumps the average Trainer. They think, “By narrowing my market, I decrease my chances of picking up new clients.”

NicheTargetThink about this, in a sea of Personal Trainers that “do everything” how exactly do you stand out? You could claim that you offer “the best” training, but who doesn’t make that claim? Being a generalist says to potential clients that you specialize in nothing. What if I’m looking for someone to help me continue getting my newly replaced knee back in shape (after I’m through with physical therapy), and none of the Trainers at my club list post-rehab as their area of expertise, I might as well roll the dice to find someone to work with, IF, I don’t simply decide to go elsewhere. However, when one Trainer states that they are post-rehab conditioning specialists, they will stand out dramatically to me and will be the one that I hire.

The fact is, the more specific that niche, the more likely you are to be found. If you are a senior weight loss specialist, even among senior fitness specialists, you stand out for those older individuals where weight loss is their primary concern. I will throw in this caveat, your niche has to have enough of a market in your area to be viable. In New York City a Bridal weight loss expert has vast potential for clients, where in a small, rural town, with a handful of weddings per year, it might not work as well.

Maybe you don’t want to only work with that specific population (although you should really love the niche you choose). That’s OK. Having a niche does not restrict you from working with other populations if you want to. It is a way to get a specific market to find you. I am a post-rehab conditioning specialist and that accounts for the majority of my training.  The rest of my training clients see me for weight loss, bodybuilding, general fitness, sports conditioning, etc.

So, while many Personal Trainers think that it diminishes their market, having a niche actually increases your chance of being found, building your business. What is yours? Let me know in the comments below.

For more on the need to niche, see Jack Trout’s book Differentiate or Die: Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition for more.

Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #4

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#4 Successful Personal Trainers Have a Business Vision

“As you climb the ladder of success, make sure it’s leaning against the right building.” – ? I can’t remember who said that, but it is the truth. In order to know if you’re doing the right things for your future, you need to define what you want that future to be.

What’s your business vision of where you want to be 5 years down the road? 10 years? 20 years? What’s your end game? We all have a balance of things that we want. Financial security, family, influence, enjoyment, fulfillment, recognition, etc. are all possible ingredients of our ideal life. What’s important to you?

Exercise: take 30 seconds (no more) and list the top five things that are important to achieve in your life. Ready… START.

With a timed test, we don’t have time to debate in our head what and why things are important. It’s a gut reaction, and a lot can be learned from that. What did you come up with? Did any of those surprise you? In example, let’s say financial freedom is one of those. What does that mean to you? Do you want to build a business, sell it for huge money, and never have to work again? Or, do you want to make “X” amount of dollars per year as long as you chose to work? By when do you want to achieve this goal? How does it fit in with your other goals? Where’s the overlap and the balance?

It’s sort of like periodizing your life. Define when and what you want the results to be. Then you can back track and label the timeline with the steps that will take you to your goal.

Successful Personal Trainers have a clear vision of where they are going, when they want to be there, and what steps are necessary to get them there.
Check out the full series.
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #3

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#3 Successful Personal Trainers Love to Sell.

It’s interesting how many Personal Trainers hate to “sell”. When talking about sales, what typically comes to mind is the sleazy car salesman who will say anything to get a sale. I, myself, as a club manager in the early ’80s, went through a sales training program that emphasized selling multi- year membership contracts and hoping that they wouldn’t show up. There were club salespeople that would sell memberships for classes that we didn’t even offer. Needless to say, I resigned shortly thereafter with a stong dislike for anything to do with sales. It wasn’t until years later when a friend pointed out to me that I was the biggest salesperson around, that I was able to re-define my ideas of what “selling” really was. My “selling”, that my friend pointed out, was my enthusiasm for fitness and my belief that I could help make others’ lives better.

In essence, that’s what selling is for us. used-car-salesman When we sit down with a potential client, we use our motivational interviewing techniques to uncover what their needs, wants, and what obstacles they have. Then, not unlike a doctor or physical therapist, we make an honest recommendation as to what we believe is the best course of action for them to reach their goals safely and effectively. The financial aspect, at this point, shouldn’t even come into play. This recommendation is our best case scenario for them. It may sound something like this, “Based on what you’ve told me, that you’ve had difficulty sticking with a program, become easily bored, and tend to get injured when working out on your own, I recommend that we work together ___ times per week. That way we can build your initial program, gradually ramp up the intensity while constantly monitoring your form for safety, and change it up before you get bored. It’ll keep you accountable and help you stick with the program, not to mention get you the results you want faster. Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?” That’s the idea. Specifically address their situation, make an honest recommendation, relate specifically how your recommendation will address their issues and get them to their goal, and ask if they’d like to have your help in changing their health/fitness.

Successful Personal Trainers love “selling” because it is offering the potential client their best chance at success. Wouldn’t you love giving everyone that chance? Embrace that moment and make them the offer that can change their lives.

Check out the full series.

Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #2
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1

P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.

#2 Successful Personal Trainers are Coaches.

Gone are the days when a personal trainer just gave workouts. The best trainers now seek to help clients achieve greater results by implementing a coaching relationship. Coaching begins by using Motivational Interviewing techniques that use open-ended questions to uncover a client’s beliefs and values and is a way to get your clients to create and sustain change. Coaches don’t tell a client what to do. They are a facilitator that allows the client to discover their own path of change. In other words, coaching gets them to come up with their own solutions. When the client comes up with the answers for what they need to do and are ready to do, they are more likely to follow through with those actions.

coachingThe coach helps clients clarify their goals and uncover past and potential future obstacles. The coach will then guide the client to come up with viable solutions, help them define action plans, and create a system of accountability.

A coach offers the client safe, open, and honest dialogue without judgment (something many people are missing in their lives), as well as ongoing support and encouragement. With the right guidance, you can help them to accomplish more than they believed possible.

Successful Personal Trainers utilize coaching techniques to get and keep their clients engaged in their programs. While some Trainers inherently use many of these skills, a formal training program will take you to the next level.

FYI: New York Times 2010 article Approach May Matter In Advice On Weight

Recognized Coaching certification organizations:
Wellcoaches (the Wellness Coach program I went through)
International Coach Academy
International Coach Federation (ICF)

A good resource to get started:
 Lifestyle Fitness Coaching

Check out the full series.

Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers #1
P.S. Also, follow my Business of Personal Training page on Facebook.


#1 Successful Personal Trainers – Know the Up-to-Date Exercise Science.

Now, this is #1, not because it’s the most important (although it is essential), but because it’s often what Personal Trainers think is the only thing they need to be successful. So, I just want to get it out of the way and move on.
Yes, if you’re a Personal Trainer, you need to know your science. In fact, if you are going to position yourself as an expert in exercise, you had better make sure you can bring it. Your clients will never reach the results they could if you can’t create safe, effective programs to get them there.
Whether you have a degree or a certification or both, your education should never end. Research changes the answers more frequently than many of us care to admit. i.e. Fact: the way to lose body fat is to do cardio… Not any more. Fact: HIIT is far more effective in fat loss.

Successful Trainers know the science. They are perpetual students, go to conferences, clinics, take classes, read journals. Never assume that exercise science is static and that you know enough.

Stay tuned for out the full series. It starts here: 
Top 10 Traits of Successful Personal Trainers

In all of the years that I have been coaching personal trainers, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for them is getting a potential client to commit to a training program. This is often rooted in the trainer’s mindset about… “SELLING”. The act of selling, asking for people’s money, conjures up images of used car salesmen, telemarketers, and  late night infomercial pitchmen. How can an honest, idealistic trainer, who only wants to help others live healthier, happier lives stoop so low as to “SELL”?

recommendation value


This is where the mindset needs to change. Sales doesn’t need to be this evil thing. Selling is doing what is best for the person sitting in front of you. It’s recommending the best course of action for that person to reach their goals. Let’s see… You just greeted them in a warm, friendly way, went through their medical health history and lifestyle questionnaire, helped them clarify their goals, uncovered obstacles that have stopped them in the past, you may have done some health and/or fitness assessments on them. What do you do now? You’re the specialist. You’re the professional. So, you need to tell them what you believe is the best way for them to succeed. “Based on your goals and the information that we’ve gathered here, I recommend that you participate in the _________ program. It will teach you ______, take you through ______ step by step, and help you to pre-handle those obstacles that got in your way in the past (list the obstacles). How does that sound to you?” That’s it! That’s selling your service. The only time you need to discus price is when they are actually paying for it.

One last thought on this. What happens to them if you don’t get them to sign on? Do you think they will succeed as well as if they were working with you? They might not succeed at all if you don’t help them. Go forth now and make some heartfelt, professionally-based recommendations that will change people’s lives.


Recently, I had some major difficulties with my old website host of 7 years. So, I’ve finally cut the cord and am in the process of moving my site onto WordPress. I hope you will hang in there with me as it will be a time consuming process. Along with adding new material, I will be reposting content from my previous site. This will actually be a great exercise because it will allow me to make sure that the content is still timely and allow you to revisit the topics. Thank you, as always, for being part of my online family. Great things are coming. Best wishes, Mark. wordpress