By Matt Cicci
Complimentary sessions are the building blocks of any good personal training trade. Even the most qualified and credentialed trainer will need to provide a free sampling of her services before she can expect to build a sustainable book of business. Far too often I have seen trainers try either too hard or too little during these critical 60 minutes and ultimately end up with conversion ratios that look more like the General’s winning percentage over the Globetrotters than a healthy business. There is hope, however. So let's break down the session piece by piece and discover what it is a trainer could be doing better to convert a lead into a revenue producing client.
Before the day of the session even arrives a good trainer will have already been in contact with their potential client. Even if the appointment was scheduled by the sales staff, it is incumbent upon the trainer to actually introduce herself and provide some general information about what to bring, what to expect and what will hopefully be accomplished. Failing to do this creates a scenario where the trainer is merely providing a service and failing to deliver an experience. People may need services but they will pay for experiences.
There are also many preliminary tasks to be performed the day of the session as well. I will preface this by stating the obvious. Professionalism in all it’s many forms; appearance, punctuality, preparedness, knowledge and presentation are all more important in many ways than the actual workout itself. Sit with your new client, go through their exercise and physiological history, explain what lies ahead while simultaneously allowing them the opportunity to tell you what they want. That last part is so important. Trainers who fail to listen to their clients and continue down the road of cookie-cutter sessions will end up selling long distance plans at T-Mobile rather than pumping out 45 sessions a week. This is a personalized service. Even if you have a standard workout for these sessions (or one that has been implemented by the club you work at) you will still need to address the challenges and opportunities of the individual sitting in front of you to be successful.
A little lite stretching, some cardio a few basic exercises and some core/low back work to finish it off, right? Wrong. This isn’t 2005, and the buffet style comp session doesn’t convert potential clients, it only confuses them and often times makes them feel like they need to workout after their workout. The trainer’s job here is to instruct, inform and program sound and practical exercise technique that addresses to that specific person’s abilities, agenda and preferences. You need to make the client sweat but not hurt. Push but not break. Confident but not content. And mostly importantly, a prospect should feel accomplished after 60 minutes and not apathetic. How do you do this? By confidently convey the message that this session is a foundational appointment by which future sessions will build upon. Make it hard and safe, but more than anything make it a first step toward something more comprehensive.
The session has ended and so too has your responsibility as a physical trainer. You now become a sales professional. Simply put, you need to ask for the sale! That prospect wouldn’t have agreed to the session in the first place if there wasn’t at least a small shred of interest to begin with. As a trainer, you need to understand that and direct the conversation going forward. Listen, after my dentist finishes cleaning my teeth and says I need to have a cavity filled, I don’t look at him and say; ‘I can take it from here, doc.’ The same applies to comp clients. They need your help, they just sometimes need to realize that they need it.
There are plenty of techniques out there like; sell results not packages, get client ‘buy-in’ with a series of leading questions, overcome objections and ‘get to the pain’. All good stuff, but pointless unless you personalize the pitch. Remember, it’s about selling an experience not a service. A solid trainer will know after one session the proper plan that her client needs over the next 10, 20 even 30 workouts to get her from where she is now to where she has stated she wants to start heading.
Here’s the bullet point version in case you skipped to the end:
This simple yet rarely followed plan works. I’ve seen it many times. A great trainer who knows her craft will exude confidence and convince people to be part of what she is creating. New clients want that, they crave it! It’s up to the trainer to take control and make it happen. Exercise science knowledge is great, physique is cool and personality will win you points. But if a trainer can create an experience for their new client that will pay off in both sessions and results.