Should You Be Social With Your Clients?

In most personal trainer educational circles and texts, it is often stated that personal trainers should keep their personal information out of any discussions with clients. Meeting a client socially outside of the gym environment would be frowned upon. I would like to say that I think that philosophy is dead wrong. Case in point, I had a client for 12 years who ultimately was my best man at my wedding.

add-as-friendHere’s the thing, and I’ve said this in the past, people hire those that they know, like and trust. If you don’t share some personal information, people won’t get a sense of who you are as a person. Sure, you can come off as a skilled professional, but without the personal relate-ability, why would they choose you above another skilled professional? “Oh, your kids are Boy Scouts, my kids are Boy Scouts!”
I connect with all of my clients and potential clients on social media. That said, you can’t be mindless about your posts. While the posts can share personal information, they should never show things that are not in line with your brand, or what you want to consciously convey to others.

What about going to a social event with clients? Again, with the opportunity to get to know you better, clients will potentially like  and trust you more. Tsocial-gatheringhese events could be activity related, like going for a hike together, or they could be a dinner party. It can bond them to you and your business that much more… as long as you act mindfully. In example, a number of my clients, that I really like as people, have opposing political views from me. I know that and I just avoid talking politics.

Now, not only do social interactions increase the bond between you, your business and your clients, but getting clients to socialize together is another way of increasing those ties. We just held a social/dance for clients and their friends. Germany_WidowsAlong with getting to know each other better, you can hear them talk about what classes they like, what exercises they think are really hard, when they are coming next, etc.

At this point you may think that this sounds really manipulative. Really, it’s no more so than anytime we’re trying to show others the best side of ourselves, and… when it comes down to it, I just really like my clients and enjoy spending more time with them.

Should You Be Selling Sessions, Packages, Memberships or Programs? 

As you begin your business or as you reevaluate your business model, you may wonder what the best way is to present and sell your personal training. In the old days (I can say that because I’ve been personal training since the dawn of time.) personal training was sold as a single session or in small to medium sized packages that were increasingly discounted the more you bought. The idea behind selling discounted packages was that the client would see the savings in the larger packages, purchase those and would be committed for a longer period of time. Since then, a number of problems and potential solutions have come to light.

pricesProblem #1: Larger packages, even with their discounts, could run thousands of dollars. This could put them out of reach for those that really needed the financial discount.

Solution #1: I know some clubs that sold nothing less than a 24 session package, but they offered a payment plan for the amount. This made it accessible to those who couldn’t afford the larger sum up front and got that commitment for a longer period of time.

Problem #2: Personal trainers saw the discounting of packages as a discounting of the value of their service.

Solution #2: Choose one, consistent session price and offer bigger packages as a convenience and/or a commitment, not a money saver. This is not a very popular model as many feel it can lead to clients paying session by session and the fear is that the more often the client has to make a financial decision, the more opportunities they have to decide it isn’t worth it. We happen to offer the pay-as-you-go/session by session because a) it doesn’t devalue by discounting the sessions, b) is an easy financial commitment for more people, and c) I believe that if the skill, the service, and the results are there, the client would have no reason stop. (i.e. I had one client that paid session by session, 6 times/wk for 12 years)

Problem #3: With any session by session package, clients can be inconsistent. This leaves the personal trainer and/or club with an ever fluctuating, unpredictable income.

Solution #3: Clubs and studios are now offering “memberships” (monthly agreements) that are generally priced with a session/wk assumption. (i.e. Members pay $x/month for 2 personal training sessions/wk) What makes this more predictable is that it is a monthly fee that is most often set up as an automatic charge to the member’s credit card or bank account. There is the potential for a secondary problem in that if a client needs to cancel and you allow them to make it up, you can build a backlog of sessions that the trainer will “owe” the client. I knew one trainer that, because the member had a difficult time making up the sessions, ended up owing her client over 30 sessions. One way to handle this would be to allow the client to make up the session within a week or it would be otherwise be forfeited.

Problem #4: Finally, there are clients that only want to commit for a certain amount of time and want the maximum results for that time. This means they have to know the expected outcome, be held accountable, and maybe need more than just the exercise sessions to get those results.

8-week-fat-loss-program-for-busy-people-lose-weight-tone-up-build-lean-muscleSolution #4: The idea of creating goal specific small group programs (such as a preseason sports prep i.e. golf conditioning, a specific health concern focus i.e. healthy back program, or bundled offerings i.e. 2 small group training sessions + 1 nutritional coaching session each week), that have a defined start and end date can be a great alternative to other offerings. This could be a 4 week, 8 wk, 12 wk, etc. Do pre and post program assessments to gather data and then use that in setting program expectations, “In this program, the average participant achieved ….” This also assures the income, because clients sign up for the program, not individual sessions. I think the addition of various programs will be the biggest change in our industry in the near future.

These are not all of the issues and they are certainly not all of the possible solutions, but they are some of the most prevalent concerns. This post is meant to be food for thought. There is no wrong answer if your choice is working for you.

 

Presence; a Book Review

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is probably classified as a self-help book, but it’s a lot more than that. In essence, social psychologist Cuddy, reveals the science behind creating personal power and presence and where and how that can be used in our lives. presense

A large part of that power and confidence can be controlled through our conscious attention to our body language. Cuddy discusses “power poses”, body positions that, when adopted, can leave us feeling empowered, confident and in the moment (present).

I’m sure that you, as do most of us, “read” people’s body language to gather insight into their personality. Hunched and averting direct eye contact may mean they are shy or wary. So, the emotional state creates the posture… unless it’s the other way around. Cuddy goes on to describe research that shows how changing your posture can also change how you feel, becoming happier, more open, more social.

I say that it’s a lot more than a self-help book because I can see how I can utilize some of the principles to help my clients. So many of the people we see have poor self images. If we can, through a few simple exercises, make others more confident and happier with themselves, wouldn’t that be a wonderful ability to have.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are

If this interests you, I highly recommend reading Presence. As a teaser, check out Ann Cuddy’s TED talk on the topic.

KPIs and the 80/20 Rule

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the business acronym, KPI, it stands for Key Performance Indicators. These are the numbers that you can track that tell you how your business is doing. kpiAs a personal trainer, these numbers could be how many sessions you have per week, how many phone inquiries you had, of those, how many came in for an initial consultation, how many initial consultations you had, how many of those consultations became clients, the average dollar amount spent by each client each week, month, year, and so on. You can track almost anything, but should you?

80-20-rule_The 80/20 Rule, or the Pareto principle, originally referred to the fact that 80% of the population’s wealth was held by 20% of that population. The principle has since gone on to represent almost any situation where a smaller number represents the greatest percent of another. In business it might be that 80% of your business’s income comes from 20% of your customers, or that 80% of your referrals comes from 20% of your clients.

Back to KPIs. Of all the numbers that you can track, you want to focus on the roughly 20% of them that will have the greatest impact on the success of your business. Which ones are those…? That… is the big question, there is no one answer to that as it depends on any number of factors.

When you have an initial consultation or meeting with a potential client, what percent of those actually sign up with you (that’s your closing ratio KPI)? If you are really good at this, the fastest way to build your business may be to simply get more people to sit down for a consultation with you. Track where your consultations come from (another KP). Are they referrals? Did they come from a conversation you had with them in the club? outside of the club? from a public presentation that you did? If you got most of them (it doesn’t have to be 80%, BTW) from presentations that you do… do more presentations. Right? Rather than spending your time trying to improve everything, focus on the KPI that gives you the greatest return.

Say you have plenty of people sitting down with you, but your closing ratio is not good. Worrying about getting more people to meet with you is a waste of time. Your focus should be on getting better at closing in the consultation. This means, get help, study, learn and keep tracking you closing ratio. If you are not improving that, you may find that the best way to build your business is to deliver amazing service, but hire someone else that is really good at it to convert clients for you.

I’ve hardly touched on the number of KPIs that you could track. The key (pun intended) is to narrow them down to the 20% (or thereabouts) that have the greatest effect and work at improving those numbers. As management expert, Peter Drucker, has said, “What gets measure gets managed.” If you don’t measure the variables, you won’t know what actions to take.

 

Public Speaking 101

why-the-heck-would-i-want-to-speak-in-public

When one of people’s greatest fears is the fear of public speaking, why would you want to? Well, the answer is simple. It is one of the best ways for people to get to know you, what you’re about, your expertise, and your personality. Here are some tips that will help make your speaking engagement as successful (and painless) as possible.

Make some friends before your talk. In the moments before your presentation, introduce yourself to some of your audience. Welcome them. Ask their names and what brings them to your session. This will give you a few friends to connect with later during your talk.

They are not there to judge you. Attendees are there to hear what you have to say and find out how that can help them.

Choose a topic that you are passionate about. If you don’t really care about the topic, neither will your audience. Your passion will make up for any lack of polish.

Make sure you know your topic inside and out. It’s one thing to be passionate, but if you are spouting unsubstantiated “hearsay”, people will see through you and tune you out.

Be authentic. That’s a bit of a jargon way of saying, be yourself. Don’t try to be some slick pitchman when that’s not you. Your honesty and sincerity will make people root for you, even if you struggle.

Know that you don’t need to fill every second. It’s not only ok to pause and say nothing while gathering your thoughts, it’s sometimes desirable to let an idea sink in to the audience’s mind. Give them a moment to think about what you just said.

If you’re using Powerpoint, don’t read your slides. First you should try not to have a great deal of text on your slides. Pictures are always better. If you do have text, it should serve only as a highlight to your talking points and the audience can read them for themselves.

Leave them with a takeaway. Always make sure you give your audience something that they can take with them that they can use right away. “So, with this information in mind, go out and…”

Plan on finishing early. Respect their time. If you have a few moments left over you can answer a question or two, but running long can leave people checking their watches and not listening to you. As they say, “Always leave them wanting more.”

Public speaking is one of the best ways to get your ideas across, demonstrate your expertise, and get known by you target audience. With practice and by following a few simple tips, you can make your presentations a success for both you and your audience.

One of my favorite presenters, Ken Robinson. (See him on TED)

Is Tech Taking Our Clients?

We are in an age where technology is an integral part of our lives. Everyone is attached to a smart phone or other device that can monitor our every move, our steps, our heart rate, even our sleep patterns. There are apps that will map our ride (or run), take us from the couch to 5k, and act as a personal trainer making recommendations for an exercise program that includes showing us how to perform the exercises. Many in the fitness industry are concerned that these devices, apps, as well as online training, streaming and on-demand classes, are taking business away from the clubs, studios and personal trainers. No real surprise here… of course they are.

tech-trainer

The world has changed, as it always does, and we need to be able to adapt to the changes. Let’s look at who the people are that we could lose to technology? In my opinion, it’s very likely to be the same people you would lose if a low-cost club moved in next door. You lose the people that are self-sufficient and exercise savvy because they don’t believe they need your help. You also lose the people that will choose the cheapest option possible, whether it is the best choice for them or not. If that describes your client base, then you may want to reconsider who you are trying to attract.

The people who need our help, the non-exercisers, the unsure, the afraid, (which is the majority of the population), not to mention the broken and diseased, are not going to start a random program online that doesn’t provide the answers to all of their questions and walk them through an individualized program and exercise progressions. If you focus on attracting them, by getting to know them and letting them get to know, like, and trust you, you can offer them an introductory program that promises a safe start to a healthier life. There’s no technology (at least to date) that can offer that kind of caring attentive service that you can personally. I believe that if you choose to help those just starting out, you will always have plenty of clients to keep you busy.

Having said that, we can introduce our clients to the technology that will enhance their ability to succeed. Teach them how to use apps that help track their nutrition and activity that you can review together. Create personal exercise videos that they can take on vacation. Use a video conferencing app to train them if they move away. Show your clients how tech can add a new layer to your relationship and they won’t leave you for it.

Above All Else, Listen

“To understand music, you must listen to it. But so long as you are thinking, “I am listening to this music,” you are not listening.” – Alan Watts

I took a wellness coaching certification from Wellcoaches about 12 or 13 years ago. I had already been in the fitness industry for 25 years and, while I was curious about this newly emerging field, I didn’t actually expect to learn a great deal. To my surprise, one of the first things I learned was to “listen until you don’t exist.”

Woman leaning her face on her hand and listening to her co-worker

In the process of sitting down with a client, going over their medical health history, their goals, their challenges, etc, I would catch myself finishing their sentences. Sometimes this was when they hesitated, seeming to be stuck, and sometimes (more often than not) in my head because I “knew” where they were going with it. I would also find myself planning their program in my mind while they were still talking. Obviously, I was not fully listening. I had my own agenda and, no matter how well-intentioned, I was not giving the client my complete attention.

What’s the harm in “helping” them along with their thought process or getting a jump on planning, you might ask. If they hesitate, they could be looking for the right words or how (or if) to state something very sensitive. They could be telling you things with their eyes, body language, the strength (or lack thereof) of their voice, and if you jump in blurting out your assumption of what they are going to say, you could lose all of that information.

To truly understand a client’s story (or anyone’s story), you need to shut down your own mind, open your ears and eyes, and truly hear what they are saying. You will be amazed at how much you may have missed and how much stronger your connection with them will be.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

Pre-suasion; a Book Review

Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini, PhD is a fascinating book on the science of how, what people experience before a message, influences their receptiveness to that message.

presuasionWhat it presents, in essence, is the use of priming techniques to get the consumer (whether it is a product or consuming information) to respond in a in a particular, predictable way.

I found this book to be enlightening as to how individuals and societies can be influenced and how, if you look for them, you can see pre-suasive techniques being used in the world around you. In example, it explains those endlessly long landing pages that show success stories, show successful images, use success terms, etc. before asking you to sign up and if you’re not ready, they continue priming you before they ask again. You can even see how this came into play in last year’s election if you look at the different campaigns.

Cialdini says that the hope for the book is that its information is to be used for good and not evil (OK, maybe those are my words, but it is his sentiment). But, obviously, when you set out to influence people, it could be for your own personal benefit or for theirs (hopefully both).

This book is well worth your time and, if you are intrigued by this topic, I encourage you to read his other book , Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. It’s another book based in behavioral science of how we can be and are influenced.

Is That Music I Hear?

There’s quite a bit of research that touts the benefits of working out with music. It can make the experience more enjoyable, easier, and people tend to work harder. Naturally we want these benefits for our clients and members. But, there may be some legal issues that you may not have considered.

I think we are all pretty aware that we can’t record an artist’s music and resell it. That would be piracy. That also applies to playing it for customers. Recently, I had a conversation with my ASCAP rep (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) and we discussed how they represent the artist and how any use of music of the artists that they represent, for the purpose of entertaining members, customers, or clients must also compensate the artist (even if you are simply playing a radio channel in the background). This is true for  fitness clubs and studios, as well as airlines, amusement parks, bars, restaurants & nightclubs, colleges & universities, concert presenters, music venues & clubs, convention & trade shows, hotels, local government entities, radio & television stations and networks, mobile entertainment, websites, retail stores and the list goes on.

ascaplogoWe, as business owners, compensate the artists by paying a licensing fee through their representative agency. ASCAP is one of those agencies and they have over 600,000 artists that they represent. But, they’re not the only agency in town. There’s also BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) and SESAC (Society of European Stage Authors and Composers, although they now handle all types of music). bmi_logoYou are required to pay the appropriate licensing fees to cover all artists music that you play in your space. This amounts to about $300/year to each of these organizations. Now, you could hand select music to play at your facility that is all from one agency, but that’s pretty labor intensive. My recommendation is to pay each of them and cover your bases.sesac-logo185

If you want to use music for projects other than within your facility, such as an online or streaming video, these organizations offer separate licensing agreements for that type of music usage.

As much as we may have music as a part of our lives, free of charge (for us) on the radio, Pandora, at stores, the gym, etc, it was produced by artists. Like any product that has value, they should be compensated for that. It is our responsibility to pay the appropriate fees to them via their agencies. Think of the licensing fees as a thank you to the artists for sharing their creativity and talent.

Meeting Your Target Market

In my last post, The Best Marketing Medium is Personal, I discussed the importance of getting out into your community to meet your target market (desired member or clientele). Of course you first have to define who that is. If you run a T-Shirt company, your market may be any organization or business that wants a fun way to create brand awareness. If you are running a senior fitness program, you should be seeking to connect with seniors that want to improve their quality of life (and let’s face it, that’s most seniors). Once you know who you want to reach, you can start to plan ways to connect with them.

My wife, Heather and I, moved to a new town a little over a year ago. We opened a private fitness facility that offers personal training and group fitness. With fitness, our market is anyone who isn’t already on a fitness program and even some who are. So, our goal is essentially to meet as many people as we can. Get to know them. Let them get to know us. Build a relationship so that they know, like, and trust us and, when they are ready to begin a fitness program, we will be the people they go to.

galleryopening

For us, meeting people means getting involved in almost anything. We are probably more social than we have ever been. We go to local theater, concerts, benefits, gallery openings, belong to the local business association, volunteer for civic events. We’re out meeting people, helping people, and having a ball doing it. It’s a win/win scenario. At the same time, we also know that it helps in creating a positive feeling about us and our company.

What if your target market is seniors? Volunteer at the local senior center or another senior program. Maybe there are programs at your church that you could help with. Attend events that seniors may also attend and strike up conversations with them.

If you want to work with first responders, you could offer to volunteer at their events or offer to give a presentation on tactical fitness. You could create a challenge between the EMT/Paramedics, Police Officers, and Firefighters (i.e. fitness, weight loss, obstacle course).

swat

No matter who your target market is, you need to find the venues that will allow you to get to know them. The quick and simple guide is:

Locate and get out among them.

Volunteer with their various organizations.

Donate prizes to organization benefit events.

Create and/or host benefit events of your own.

Build relationships with them…

and when they are looking for the services that you offer, you will be the one they come to.