If you're a club owner who employs Personal Trainers, here's a very simple test you might try. Choose any one of your members and get him or her started by beginning the exercise yourself. You begin at fifteen. Just recite the number aloud. Then, with your knees slightly bent, eyes fixed in a strong and willful gaze targeted right at the pupils of your member's eyes (concentration is essential here), go down one. I mean drop down one number.
"The focus needs to go far beyond rep counting…"
You've taken on "fifteen" already. Now recite the number "fourteen" with just as much authority and conviction as you did the first number. Drop down one more. Take it to "thirteen," and then (here's the test), ask your client to continue! Go ahead. Try it with every member you come across. My educated guess is, almost all of your selected members, given this test, will proceed to handle the countdown from twelve to zero without your help! The astounding outcome will no doubt lead to the realization that your members can count backwards from fifteen on their own!!
OK. Forgive me. I'm being just the least bit sarcastic here to open up an issue that I feel gets right to the heart of the true role of the Personal Trainer. It seems that most trainers believe their roles are to "take people through workouts." Watching such trainers in action creates the illusion that their clients can't count! C'mon now. You know what I'm talking about. If the trainers in your facility are not guilty of this, you've certainly witnessed it.
"OK. Here we go (hand clap). That's it. Fifteen more. Fourteen more. Good. Thirteen more....." and then, the climactic conclusion, "Good Job. Take a break and we'll do another set." Soon after money changes hands, the client leaves, and a new client begins to perform to the familiar countdown.
If people are willing to pay a trainer to count their reps, I guess there's nothing wrong with accepting that donation, but if you want your fitness amenity to be supported and operated by true professionals, the focus needs to go far beyond rep counting. In working with trainers with aspirations to rise to the top of this noble field, I've found it essential to identify the challenges inherent among aspiring trainers. I've identified five primary such challenges.
The Challenges Inherent Among Aspiring Trainers
- There isn't any clear cut career path for fitness professionals
- Certification isn't standardized in the fitness industry
- Clients often see the trainer relationship as "friendly" and feel cancellation is acceptable
- A standard of a reasonable "rate" has not been established for the consumer considering Personal Training
- Most people fail to get what they pay for and failure is accepted allowing fraud and deceit to thrive in the fitness field
While initially these appear to be challenges, I've learned to see each and every one as an opportunity. Let me share a bit of this insight so you are positioned to begin elevating your staff to climb the ladder of the Personal Training Elite. It all revolves around a very simple concept, the concept of value. There is a distinctive difference between cost and value. When shopping for fitness options, people want to get what they pay for. That doesn't necessarily mean they want to pay less money than anyone else, it simply means they want to make each investment fruitful. When consumers invest in fitness options, they're not investing in memberships, treadmills, weight sets or trainers. They're in fact investing in the hope of bringing about change.
Did you ever have braces on your teeth? If so, you didn't invest in braces. You invested in the hope of straight teeth. Get it? You, therefore, won't be offended if I tell you "People Don't Want A Health Club Membership. They Don't Want A Trainer! They Want A Change." Be the vehicle for that change, do it consistently and massively, and the sky is truly the limit for your business growth potential!
In looking at the first challenge, the fact that the industry lacks a clear cut career path, it at first glance appears as if we're in a sea of lost sheep, each one wondering what the next move is. Should an established trainer seek work in a health club? Go to people's homes? Open facilities? What is the best way to market for clients? How can rates be increased to levels in line with Professionals in other fields? There isn't any career counselor or definitive manual with widespread acceptance.
In starting out as a trainer, this challenge left me frustrated. I made plenty of mistakes, but as I learned to do a few things right, I reached an awakening. "I don't want everybody to know how to do this!" In other words, while the bulk of aspiring trainers flounder in indecision, if I have a mission, a vision, and a plan, I can jump right out in front of the pack. So can you! You can become the model for "what works." We're in a great place in time. Personal Training is now accepted as a viable option for fitness, yet the masses of trainers don't know how to grow. That leaves every door wide open for you and your training staff.
I'll give any new trainers a very simple and powerful piece of advice. Find one client. I know he or she wants more, or perhaps already has many more, but the next move should be to find "the one." The trainer should decide in advance who that client should be. Affluent? Athletic? Deconditioned? Female? The trainer should decide first, and then target his or her marketing toward finding that single client.
This client should be the precise demographic, fitness level, and profile of the trainer's perception of the "ideal client." The next step, once that client has been found and captured, is to deliver far more value than that person could ever expect! Read that last sentence again. It may very well be the most beneficial sentence you'll ever read. That very simple piece of advice will open every door for you in growing a lucrative personal training profit center.
The second challenge is just as opportune as the first. No standardized certification. Most trainers put some letters representing a certifying agency on their business card along with the word, "Certified." You may know the difference between N.S.C.A. and Joe Musclehead's Fitness Certification (although in my experience many club owners do not), but the general public doesn't!
That means anyone who has taken any one of over 400 certification tests available in the U.S. can call themselves certified and the average person on the supermarket line will not know the difference between a highly credentialed trainer and a novice with a mail order certification. I encourage trainers to get the most credible certification available, but not for the purpose of marketing! It won't give any trainer any advantage at all! While others promote those little letters with periods between them, your training staff can market far more effectively.
I often draw the line, in marketing between "features" and "benefits." Nobody wants the "features." In order to compel people to invest in your "for-fee services," marketing must revolve around "benefits." You'll recognize the concept of "certification" as a "feature."
The braces are the features. Remember, nobody wants braces. They want straight teeth. Nobody wants a certified trainer. Your members want to change. Rather than attempting to sell Personal Training services based upon certifications, stand out by marketing the results your training force brings about! Make your success stories the marketed credentials! Remember, your arsenal of success stories starts with one!
In looking at the third challenge, I find a common mistake from a business standpoint. Since the client:trainer relationship is so informal, friendships often develop. I'll encourage trainers to remain friendly, but avoid becoming friends. You would expect a friend to understand if you just didn't feel like keeping an appointment. The same expectation wouldn't apply to an important business associate.
I have every one of my trainers establish relationships with clients where they are paid for their time and they leave when that time is up. Since, if you offer Personal Training you are without question in a service business, your "Professionals" should be paid for their service time, and in order to keep that line clearly drawn, they must be aware of it at all times. During time with clients, trainers should strive to deliver more than clients expect, and they should do so in a friendly manner, but they should avoid making clients "pals." Pals get to hang out together for free!
In fact, I've gone a step further by requiring every client to pay a retainer in advance, and in the event that the client doesn't provide adequate notice for a cancellation, the retainer, equivalent to one session's fee, is forfeited. We don't have cancellations!
Let's move on to the fourth challenge. A reasonable "rate" has not been established for the personal training buying public, so if your facility can offer a high level of service, your fees should go to the top! Why should someone pay you $75 per hour or more for the training services you offer when, with a bit of time spent with the local Yellow Pages, they can get a trainer for $15? Simple. People don't want a trainer. They want to change.
They Don't Need You Just to Count Reps
Remember I mentioned that a trainer should be paid for his or her time? The "value" of that time is vital! In order to bring about a change in anyone, from a health, fitness, and aesthetic standpoint, there are three synergistic components that must be considered. The right nutrition, moderate aerobic exercise, and a concern for muscle. Once members know how to perform a seated alternate dumbbell curl, do they really need a Personal Trainer to stand over them during each session? I've learned it's far more valuable to take a position of educating and empowering people, and in that the value of your specialty service offerings is far enhanced.
Sure, someone might pay $15 for a rep counter, but that rep counter shows up every workout, three or four times per week, and over the course of a year, the investment might exceed $2500. If all annual reps have been counted, but the client has not learned to match a nutrition program with the exercise routine, it's certain results will be limited. In fact, it's quite possible results will be non-existent! What, then, is the value of the time spent?
If you were to charge $100 per session, your professional trainer were to meet with that same client one day per month, and in that monthly session educate and update the client's synergistic program, is that client more likely to get results than if he simply went through the "five more, four more" routine? Of course! There's more value! In the course of a 12-month period, a client can pay you $100 per monthly session, get far greater results than they might with a $15 rep counter, and wind up with an investment of less than half as much as they would have paid Mr. Three-More! Of course that $100 is divided into "club profit" and "trainer compensation." Most of the health clubs I've worked with initially crippled their trainers' abilities to earn.
"…your Personal Training revenue knows no bounds!"
With a shift in the recognition of the value of the trainer, and a willingness to give up the lion's share of per-session revenue, weekly and monthly profitability can be enhanced dramatically, provided of course there is ongoing support and a driven focus to continually grow the training program and improve upon the caliber of service delivered.
Moving on to the final challenge, I must mention that I used to be so frustrated by the insanity of the idea that this fitness industry is the only industry in the world where people fail to get what they pay for, and they blame themselves. People invest in diets. Six months down the road, without any concept of how calorie deprivation shifted them into a catabolic state and damaged their metabolism they're fatter! Here's the criminal part. They blame themselves! "I shouldn't have eaten those cookies."
Now, with a few modifications in my approach toward the Personal Training business, that frustration has turned to elation! You see, if we are to excel in an industry where failure is the standard, we become true heroes if we simply deliver results! Give somebody what they paid for, and their investment is not only justified, but you have a thrilled member, one who will remain committed, one who will renew repeatedly, one who will be instrumental in new member referrals, and one who will happily spend money in your facility on a consistent and ongoing basis. Lots of things can happen between now and the end of time.
Set out to create a small group of thrilled Personal Training client/members and before you know it you'll have a virtual army of living, breathing, testimonial advertisements for the "value" you deliver, regardless of your profit center pricing.
Once you know and accept the fact that people don't want a trainer, and you learn to tap into and deliver what they really do want, your Personal Training revenue knows no bounds! There's plenty of room at the top. Position your trainers to claim their position at the pinnacle of Personal Training Success and watch your revenue grow!
About Phil Kaplan
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