Profit isn't that what we all want to achieve? An essential factor in gaining substantial ROI in your business and, in turn, profit, lies in the retention of your existing clients. In fact, it costs four to six times more to acquire a new client or member than it does to retain one. Therefore, fitness professionals can't afford in today's market not to create participation, growth and retention.


The Changing Market

            As a professional trainer looking to achieve real business success, you must take a good, hard look at yourself, your market and your business. Exercise has indeed been around for a long time, but the business of exercise, fitness and developing a healthy lifestyle has only existed for about 25-30 years. In the fitness industry, our culture has changed 180 degrees, and our market today is very different from yesterday. Therefore, our marketing strategies and programs must have new dimensions.

            Traditionally, yesterday's members were between the ages of 25 and 35 and concentrated on the body the definition, lean body mass, weight and measurements. However today, the majority of the market lies in the baby boomer generation who is being driven to the fitness industry by the droves and will soon be the majority of our clients in the next 20-30 years. For this market, the body takes a backseat to the mind and spirit. In fact, the fitness professional's priorities must begin with creating positive attitudes, self-esteem and new beginnings for people that are inexperienced, apprehensive and feeling the physical effects of aging. Most of this clientele hate exercise and have already failed at it. Moreover, this group believes our clubs and our training programs are here to serve the young and make the fit fitter. And as trainers, we have spent most of the last 20 years doing just that. So we are now the victims of the system. How do we change the system? We must first understand that our market of today is far more educated than that of yesterday and far more demanding of professional communication skills, respect and trustworthiness.


The Business of Response

            People ultimately respond to people first, and your clients will respond to you their leader. According to psychologists, people will make 11 decisions about you in seven seconds, so you must be able to give the ultimate first impression when greeting your clients. In fact, it may be the deciding factor in their participation. There are five steps to a "Professional Greeting," which will establish a good relationship between you and your client right from the beginning. 

  1. Smile: Friendliness, confidence and a positive professional personality is a must. The industry has touted the need to make fitness "fun" for the last several years. But in order to make fitness fun, you have to hire "fun" people. Facilities and fitness programs must provide energetic, enthusiastic, fun experiences. Without it, people will quit. In fact, statistics report that although more and more people join fitness facilities year after year, the net number who stay has not changed.
  2. A smile isn't any good if you don't aim it at somebody: Eye contact is the toughest part of the greeting, but it is the most important. Looking straight into someone's eyes tells this person that you are focusing on him or her and caring about what he or she is saying. It also helps you to not be preoccupied with anything else and to learn to give undivided attention to your client.
  3. Introduce yourself first! Take the initiative to show your client that you are there to serve him or her and that you are confident in yourself. Pride and confidence shows professionalism. In the corporate world, this approach is called being "proactive." Many trainers of today want to be "approachable." However, it is more important to be "approaching." Take the initiative, and make a good impression.
  4. Shake hands, as though you mean it. Shaking hands is almost a lost art, but not with the market of today. Your clients have been in business and will be impressed with a professional handshake.
  5. The Conversation: You are now ready to start managing your professional personality, building on your relationship and selling your client into your programs. 

            >> Learn to give a compliment. Be aware of what to say to give your
                        clients a positive feeling of self-esteem and self-worth.


            >> Make a suggestion, and take the role of a leader, not a dictator.
                        Remember that your personality will, most likely, determine
                        whether your clients will "enjoy" the session or not. If not, you'll
                        never see them again. Also remember, leaders can't motivate this
                        market to exercise by dictating to them, simply counting reps and
                        sets or scaring them with threats of health implications. Leaders
                        must create an environment that will make their clients want to
                        motivate themselves. This can occur if you are able to laugh with
                        your clients and are able to create a friendly, social experience. 


            More and more, personal training will evolve into "group personal training." In our world of today, filled with fear, anxiety, turmoil and depression, our industry has the opportunity to create an atmosphere of fun and friends in a fitness environment. If you can put people together in terms of interests, skill levels, schedules, personalities, ages and genders, you will surely be
developing retained members. People quit exercise programs, but they don't quit friendships!

            As you train and implement your programs to your clients, always be aware of your communication skills, how you encourage your members, overcome objections and how you use one program to promote another to achieve retention. Soon, you'll be programming for profit and making a difference in people's lives and in the entire industry.

            Sandy Coffman has over 30 years of experience with professional programming and staff training and presents at most major conferences on these topics. Presently, she is the owner and President of Programming for Profit. For more information, email her at


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