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Entries in personal trainers (27)


Personal trainers can bring medical wellness community referrals

Frances Michaelson, Ann Gilbert and Anthony Wall give their expert advice for a question that doesn't always have an easy, straight-forward answer. But, if your facility can get the right combination and balance with personal trainers generating referrals from te medical wllness community then that can mean a lot more business.

Q: "What can personal trainers do to generate referrals from the medical wellness community?"

A: This is such a relevant question! There have been some successes in this area– but these successes are small compared to the opportunity for us to really collaborate with the medical wellness community. In fact collaboration is the first thing we need to recognize. If, collectively our goal is to help everyone live their healthiest life, then collaboration has to be central to our relationship with everyone we work with. 

With that in mind trainers need to be proactive on how they approach the medical wellness community. In talking with the medical community we have found that while the concept of referring to a trainer is a viable option people don’t have the time or the means to do this for the most part. It’s often not from a lack of desire. Given all of the different options available I’m going to propose one method that can be very successful.

Start small - if a trainer is working with a client who goes for a medical checkup and comes back with an improvement in their results – i.e. lower blood pressure, cholesterol, a reduction in body fat, etc., then the trainer should ask the permission of that client to contact their doctor and develop a referral through that avenue. That’s a powerful message. Whomever your clients sees – use them to start the network. Whether it be a therapist, doctor, etc., approaching that individual having already been successful with one of their patients gives the trainer a lot of credibility.

As you prepare your introductory e-mail/ letter be prepared to provide the details of your expertise and background. Do you have a demonstrated history of continuing education? Are you an NCCA accredited Person Training or Health Coach. As you build your profile the more expertise you can gain the better. Don’t stop at being just a trainer – continue to grow and develop your area of expertise. As you collaborate with the medical wellness community you’ll be able to demonstrate your level of professionalism through your demonstrated results with more and more clients.

Anthony Wall
Professional Education, ACE



A: There are four factors that will determine the amount of referrals that a personal trainer will be able to generate from the medical and wellness community. The first factor, and probably the most important, will be the trainer’s credentials. More than the basic knowledge of exercise contraindications, the trainer must display expertise in corrective exercise and post rehab programming. Secondly, it is suggested that the trainer has the time and energy to work directly with a rehab facility. Many, having completed a post rehab certification, will volunteer to assist in the facility in return for shadow or internship experience. Trainers, who are successful in generating a steady flow of referral, have established a habit of consistent communication with the client’s medical supervisor. Most send assessment results on a regular basis and always ask for input from the medical pro. Once the professional relationship has been established, it will be easier for the trainer to ask for the referral. Once the medical professional sends the client to the trainer’s facility, there needs to assurance that the facility is equipped with today’s updated functional resistance equipment. Inviting the medical professional to participate in a one on one workout at the facility is a personal trick used by this trainer over the years in the business. 

Ann Gilbert
Executive Director
Shapes Fitness for Women


A: Generating referrals from the wellness medical community is essential, and can do wonders for your personal training business. But it is not always easy! The key to success for any referral program to work is to first establish a relationship. As a licensed Naturopath and personal trainer, I have had the opportunity to view this situation from both sides.

For years, I made the mistake of sending letters to all my clients' medical doctors. This great intention brought little, if any results. I quickly learnt that the personal visit was what was needed to establish credibility and confirm my knowledge and passion for helping people so these doctors could feel comfortable with their referral. I now send updates of my clients' progress to keep the channels of communication open.

As a Naturopath, I must be absolutely sure that a trainer that I am referring a client to is worthy of training and stays current with the latest research and studies. I am more impressed with a trainer that will call me and ask questions about my practice and background so that he or she can get a better idea of who I am before they refer to me.

I know many trainers who simply send off their business cards to practitioners such as physiotherapists, osteopaths, dieticians, massage therapists, hoping for a referral. This rarely works as well. Why should it? Again, we need to establish the relationship. I suggest going for a massage to any therapist that you would like to get referrals from. Show that you mean business and offer a cross referral opportunity. 

To conclude, I think the focus should be on establishing a working relationship with the medical wellness community . For example, if you have an injured client and refer them to a physio, take the time to go to the appointment with your client. This would be a great opportunity for you to ask the therapist to assist you in designing the patient's rehab exercise program. This could be the start of an ongoing positive referral program!

Frances Michaelson
Muscle Up Inc.


Editor’s Note: One of the most frequently consulted sections of IHRSA’s Website,, is “Best Practices,” which features answers from industry experts to a wide range of thought-provoking questions. Beginning this month, we’ll highlight some of them in this new CBI column.

Visit to read responses to more than 100 questions such as these or to submit a question of your own to be answered.


Is it better to hire a sales rep or have a trainer sell training?

Phil Wendel and Phil Kaplan discuss discuss the pros and cons of hiring a sales rep to sell training in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "What are the advantages and disadvantages of letting my trainers sell training vs. hiring a fitness sales representative?" 

A. Thomas Plummer is a strong advocate of having a 'selling specialist' be the gatekeeper to 'personal training'.  His thinking is solid:  trainers are necessarily skilled at providing personal training skills and not necessarily at selling.  We, at ACAC, do not have a 'selling specialist' but are planning on trying this approach in order to improve Personal Training revenues.  You will likely find that your more successful trainers also have strong selling skills.  Another approach might be to invest in training your 'trainers' to become more effective at selling. 

Phil Wendel, Owner - ACAC Fitness & Wellness Center 

A. Because personal trainers are typically altruistic by nature, and because salespeople are perceived as selfish and perhaps greedy (not a truth, but a widespread stereotype), trainers often reject the idea of selling. The interesting paradox is, people are more likely to buy from an expert with strong rapport skills than from someone who appears to have a self-interest.  I recognize and value the potential of the trainer:client relationship and believe it’s best if the initial “sale” is made by the trainer.  There are two prerequisites.  One, you have to streamline the process so the “capture” part is simple (no hard negotiating, just determining whether this is the right decision now).  The second is, you have to train your trainers to understand sales, not as conventional selling, but as persuasion and influence.  When you help them understand the disservice they’re doing by failing to help people grasp the value and virtues of retaining a personal trainer, they become not only open to, but excited about the idea of recruiting and influencing.

The downside is, what I’m suggesting takes a great deal of front-end work.  The easier path is to get a seasoned salesperson to sell training as a commodity.  Given the choice between “easy” and “long term valuable,” I’m passing on easy.

Phil Kaplan

This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


Motivate Trainers to Understand Their Role in Membership Retention

Fred Hoffman, Scott Lewandowski, Mark Miller and Anthony Wall discuss leardership ideas used to motivate trainers to understand their role in membership retention in the club in this week's Best Practices

Q: "What are some leadership ideas I can use to motivate my trainers to understand their role in membership retention in the club?"

AI believe that whatever takes place in the club is a reflection of the company and it’s management. Policies, procedures, suggestions, etc. must be based on the company’s mission statement and should represent the company’s core values. The following should help motivate trainers to understand their role in membership retention.

1. If not already done, determine the company’s mission statement (or re-visit it if one already exists). The mission statement should be a precise description of what the company does and should speak to the company’s culture and how that is demonstrated on a daily basis. It should state the company’s core values: what they stand for and how actions are taken and shaped to obtain results with customers, suppliers, and staff.

2. During the interview and hiring process trainers should be clearly informed of the mission statement, and what their role in membership retention is. Responsibilities should be clearly articulated in the job description and trainers should agree to all before they sign a contract. Their responsibilities and related actions should be reinforced during the orientation process post-hire.

3. Communicate with trainers on a regular basis, and if needed, refer back to the mission statement and company policies and procedures concerning membership retention. Review and update those policies as needed, and inform trainers of any changes. Remember that trainers can only be successful with clear direction from the company and its management team, and when provided with the means and tools necessary to accomplish what is expected of them.

Fred Hoffman, M.Ed.
International Fitness Consultant, Speaker and Author


A: Trainers must first understand why the retention of members is important, the club’s retention goal, and how retention will improve their business of training.  It costs approximately 3 – 5 times more money to attain a member than to retain a member due to advertising and marketing costs and sales team compensation.  Retaining members adds money to the bottom line.    This additional money as a result of improved retention pays for new fitness equipment for the trainers to use with their clients, potential club growth and promotion opportunities, or increased compensation and bonus. 

Trainers need feedback.  Send an online survey to members who have worked with a trainer for their feedback.  Share the favorable surveys with the trainer.  Use non-favorable surveys to create training tracks to improve service. 

Trainers need to realize that the scope of their business is beyond just their clients.  Trainers need to service not only their clients but service all members who will be future clients.  Servicing all members through consultations and seminars will result in higher retention number for the club.  A recommended incentive for a Personal Trainer is a bonus for recruiting a first time client.

Keep the trainers engaged in all club activities, communicate their impact on your business, and retention will grow.  

Scott Lewandowski
Regional Director
Fitness Formula Clubs

A: Well great question.  Motivation is a tricky thing – it’s an internal value that one needs – the old carrot and stick ideas no longer work with long term motivation.  Read Daniel Pinks book – Drive.  So to offer some leadership advice here goes:

  1. First Hire for the right person – the player that embraces the us mentality, not me. The player that understands their job is not a one dimensional thing, but a multi one. The player who sees the interconnections of everything they do on the success of the business first.
  2. Be crystal clear in what the expectations are and role they play in all they do.  Make member retention just that – job 1
  3. Give them the tools to deliver – educate how to interact and build rapport,  empower them to solve problems and inspire them to a great purpose of “why “ they do what they do.
  4. Model the way for them and course correct in the moment when you see them not doing it and celebrate in moment when you see them do it.
  5. Lastly be the energy driver, the needle mover – go model the way set the example.  You’re a retention driver now.  Have fun


Mark Miller, VP
Merritt Athletic Clubs Corporate


A: Trainers may simply not be aware of their role in membership attrition – i.e. it has never been discussed in their training and the club never spends any time focusing on it. The flipside to this issue is that other trainers believe that their role is pivotal in membership retention and that without personal trainers a gym cannot survive. Both of these perspectives have long term effects on how members are influenced by trainers.

An effective strategy is to give trainers an understanding of the relative contribution that they make to the organization as a whole. Typical personal training contributes somewhere from 3% - 12% of the gross revenue of a club.  

Membership retention is about making the member feel valued, by providing a positive experience and creating positive relationships with the staff. The more positive interaction they have with members the better the retention will be. Obviously training a member on a regular schedule is going to create that desire to come back again and again. I tell trainers not to forget the rest of the members, even if that’s encouraging them to do something other than personal training. Long term that philosophy always pays off.

Anthony Wall, MS
Director of Professional Education
American Council on Exercise (ACE)


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


How to Retain Clients When a Personal Trainer Leaves Your Club

Photo: hellojenuine.

Phil Kaplan, Mark Miller and Nicki Anderson discuss how to retain clients after a personal trainer quits or leaves your club in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "When a personal trainer quits or is fired, what's the best way to inform/approach their clients so they stay at our club rather than following the trainer to a new club?"

A: Well, the best way, is the way that prevents the “oops I wish we had done it differently” and that is to build a culture of community among the training staff.

Prior to employment, every new hire should sign a document that clearly spells out a no solicitation policy (you cannot solicit any members to train outside of the facility) and that document should also clearly explain the agreed upon policy related to client transfer upon trainer exit. However, or whenever a trainer leaves, it should be clear that the clients are clients of the business and not of that individual who worked as an employee.  

I’ve found the absolute best way to retain clients is to have the trainer, together with the fitness director, spend 5-10 minutes meeting with each client explaining that the trainer will be leaving and together they will make every effort to find another trainer who meets the client’s needs.  Under those circumstances the client is typically very open to the trainer recommendation.  

Ideally, if the trainer is concluding employment with two weeks notice, within those two weeks the sessions are either shared with the recommended trainer, or are handed off.  The key to making this work is a sense of team and a strong fitness director who is empathetic and a strong communicator. The client need not feel pressured, but should be led to trust that the same caliber of service will be maintained, even after the familiar trainer exits.

With that said, if a trainer leaves in anger, there often is an attempt to take the clients and the reality is legal action is often more costly than it’s worth.  I’ve found it valuable to identify the point where a trainer is going rogue and immediately terminate his or her employ.  The fitness director would then contact every client and invite him (or her) in for a comp consultation session to determine what trainer would be best to take over the client program. 

There are those clients who will leave the facility out of loyalty to a trainer (even without blatant solicitation), but if all else is handled professionally, the number of clients who leave should be insignificant.

It’s a great question and there really is not a “best way” to handle it after the fact as much as there is a “best way” to prepare for it.

Phil Kaplan, Founder
Be Better Solutions, Inc

A: The best approach is to make it clear upfront that clients are members of the club and not owned by the trainers. Periodically have other trainers train clients and personal training managers should have relationships with all clients so there is a rapport built.

In the event that trainers leave, it is best that the manager who has the relationship and rapport with the client to schedule the next workout, meet with the client, do a reassessment, temperature check on where their head is and facilitate a two-session transfer program to another trainer or two.

Usually I find it best if the client experiences two trainers and can make the decision so they are part of the solution. The key at the end is to not really ask if they want to continue it is to assume that they are staying and just moving to the next phase of their program advancement. They are the clubs client and the club will ensure their success.

Mark Miller, Vice President 
Merritt Athletic Club

A: If a trainer quits, clients will usually take it a little easier.
If the trainer is fired, it becomes a very sensitive issue because clients can take it personally - “How could you fire my friend?” 

I will typically call them as soon as the trainer leaves and let them know that so-and-so will be leaving. I try to set up a consultation with them so that I can reconnect and then place them with another trainer. If a trainer has two weeks before leaving, I will do the same thing: call the client, share the fact that their trainer is leaving the company but I would like to meet them. Setting up an appointment with them shows them that you care about their success.

Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT, President
Reality Fitness


This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


How to Incentivize Personal Trainers: Hint, It's Not Always Money

Dr. Haley Perlus, Richard Synnott and Michele Melkerson-Granryd discuss creating incentives for personal trainers in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Our trainers' performance is lagging and we think it may have something to do with our incentive scheme (hourly pay plus incentives for training sessions). What are some other effective incentive schemes that might get this group motivated again?"

A: Although we would like to think that ‘pay per performance’ is enough incentive to increase work output from our trainers, monetary rewards are often not enough to spark the fire. I recommend experimenting with the following three methods often used to motivate employees:

  1. Public disclosure. Friendly competition is a powerful mechanism to increase productivity. Place a white board in the trainer’s quarters that keep track of each trainer’s responsibilities and individual progress (e.g. number of new members he/she signs each week). At first you may encounter some resistance, but public disclosure will increase the probability of goal achievement. 
  2. Autonomy. Allow your trainers to feel a sense of control and determine their own course of behavior. Your trainers need to have ownership and feel they have a say in decisions affecting their involvement. Otherwise, they feel pressured or obligated to act. Allowing them to choose from a group of tasks and then selecting from a group of rewards they can receive once they complete the task will foster high autonomy. High autonomy encourages wanting to participate, whereas low autonomy means having to participate. 
  3. Develop competence and success in your trainers. Individuals who doubt their ability to perform are called failure avoiders. Rather than striving to demonstrate success, they focus on avoiding failure because they doubt they can compare well with others. Be sure to highlight your trainers’ strengths, provide positive constructive feedback, and always give them tasks they perceive are within their capabilities.  

Dr. Haley Perlus, Peak Performance Consultant

A: Conventional wisdom often centers on monetary “schemes” as a motivating force. Money, itself, does little to sustain motivation in the long term. If you read enough about motivation it’s about recognition, feelings of accomplishment, approval, camaraderie, and pride. Exceptional leaders know that. You need to re-commit to your core vision of why your club exists and why your trainers do what they do. It has to be about the results the members get, and helping people live a longer, healthier life. So here are the practical ways to start: 

  • Make sure you have a leader who can establish the mission and vales system for the PT team
  • Have a staff retreat to share that vision. Recognize the people who already embrace that vision.
  • Ask the top two trainers to be mentors for others
  • One of the measurements of success is that more people will train so the revenue will go up. Establish a team financial goal, with incentives
  • Find out what motivates each trainer to do what they do, and where they want to be in the long run and show them how they can get there
  • Meet frequently
  • Make them accountable for selling and retention
  • Take quick action to terminate anyone who is not performing 

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club

A: Here are some suggestions:

  1. Run a competition such as a weight loss challenge – the trainers can train teams of small groups (4-8 people) over a designated period of time, for example eight weeks.  The team that loses the most weight wins a prize (for example 6 months membership) the winning trainer wins a cash prize (eg $500). 
  2. Have your trainers teach group ex – something they have a passion for so that they have exposure to a wider group of members.
  3. If incentives aren’t working – maybe the trainers don’t have the opportunities to promote themselves – do you offer discounted initial package to new members? (3 sessions for $99)  These introductory packages allow the new member to try out a trainer – the trainer has three session to prove their value

Michele Melkerson-Granryd, M.Ed., Executive Director
Texas Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association


Unauthorized Training Sessions

Richard Synnott, Keith Callahan, and Linda Mitchell discuss whether or not to pay trainers for unauthorized training sessions:

Q: “Do you need to pay your client based hourly employee their rate of pay if they perform a unauthorized session? I.E. a personal trainer conducts a session without getting authorization and/or making sure that the gym member has in fact purchased a session. Is the trainer entitled to be paid for that session?”

A: The safe/simple answer is yes, pay the worker. Then you issue a written reprimand to the employee to prevent it from happening again and make sure he/she signs it.

...I can guarantee that you don’t want the attention from a labor investigator.

Employment laws vary from state to state, but if the worker chose to file a complaint about it I can guarantee that you don’t want the attention from a labor investigator. The federal Portal-to-Portal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. 251) states that workers must be paid for any of their time that you control and that benefits your business. A labor investigator would probably interpret that the person did the work and it benefited your business, even if you did not authorize it.

In general, if an employee works, they must be paid. Your recourse is to discipline the employee.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club

A: The answer may be yes or no – and it may depend on the state in which you reside. I’d be sure to call my State Department of Labor and run the scenario by them to get an opinion. However, remember that they will almost always ere on the side of the employee.

You want to keep the employee and keep them happy and productive, but they need to fully understand company policy.

Second consideration – is this a one time event and the first time or is it chronic. If it is the first time, I’d pay the employee and then ensure they understand the company policy and procedure – and have them acknowledge same in writing by signing a memo from the Club Manager/Owner. You want to keep the employee and keep them happy and productive, but they need to fully understand company policy. If they are a repeat offender, I would then write a second memo of warning and not pay them. The message will be clear. However, if they raise the issue to the Dept of Labor, be prepared to defend your decision and having the paperwork backup would be key.

Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club

A: In our organization a trainer does not get paid for training unless the client has already paid. If a trainer gives a training session on the “assumption” that payment has already been received, then payment to the trainer is withheld until payment is received from the client. If a trainer receives an hourly rate for being on the floor, then they forfeit that rate as they were not available to the floor at that time. Unauthorized (unpaid) training is never eligible for payment.

Unauthorized (unpaid) training is never eligible for payment.

The best way to avoid this issue is to require that the client present a receipt of payment already made before receiving training. In this way the trainer does not assume the uncomfortable position of having to deny training when a client is expressing interest and the “promise” to pay at a later time. All of this can easily be spelled out in the marketing materials and/or the personal training contract so that there is no confusion.

Linda Mitchell, Director of Marketing and PR
Newtown Athletic Club



Save Money By Letting Personal Trainer Sell

This week, experts Chris Gallo, Sam Berry, and Michele Melkerson-Granryd discuss personal trainers playing the role of sales-people as a cost-cutting method:

Q: “We're looking for ways to save money by having our personal trainers give club tours when prospects come into the club. What are the pros/ cons of having trainers double up as sales people? What are some easy way to train them to make sales?”

...your customers would prefer to be toured by fitness professionals versus club managers or salespersons by a margin north of 2 to 1. A: Absolutely! As far as selling what I consider “solutions” there are no better staff-persons to do that than your club’s expert trainers. They usually display passion, execute with verbal mastery and in the meantime are completely believable. This culminates into the perfect scenario in creating an excellent “service sales” culture at your club while also leaving the prospect with a great first impression of your facility. Even if the customer does not buy on that initial club visit, there is a good chance that if the trainer listened to the customer and offered unique and customized solutions based on the client’s needs that the customer will leave with a very positive impression of the club and will at least return for a follow up appointment. [+ Expand]

  • Train these fitness experts on the art of creating urgency and setting appointments
  • Make sure all of the trainers involved are given credit for their efforts and have monthly goals in which they strive to achieve.
  • Track each person’s productivity based on appointments set, show rates for appointments, and of course client conversion ratios (no matter who makes the final presentation).
  • Create a team culture based less on how gets credit for the final sale – but more on the process metrics (appointments, trial memberships, consultations, etc) that drive the end goal of making the final close.
  • Manage this system tightly – no club can ever afford to lose a legitimate lead.
  • Once again, train everyone on the verbal mastery of selling “service” and “solutions” not just club features…practice makes perfect.

[- Collapse]
Chris Gallo, President
Health Club Development Company

A: This is certainly a great way to save money, and for that matter help increase non-membership revenue at the same time! The way that it helps increase revenue is by having the trainers that sold the prospect on membership to sign that person up for personal training services at the point of sale. The initial PT session may not be a paying session; however the likelihood of it being a client is much higher than just having a traditional sales person signing the person up for membership. By doing so, members that invest in personal training average a much lower attrition rate than members that do not meet or work with a trainer on a regular basis. The only cons that I can imagine from having a trainer double as a sales person is their intrinsic motivation to get the member to work solely with them, and not one of the other trainers at the gym that may be better suited to work with that individual or having an inconsistent schedule for giving tours due to their training schedule.

Great educators and resources for teaching trainers how to sell are people like Bob Esquerre and Thomas Plummer. They’re sales systems and expertise in the fitness industry are second to none!

Sam Berry, Personal Trainer Director

A: As I see it there are two primary benefits, payroll savings – not having to schedule a sales person during all operating hours just in case a guest comes in to tour or join; and the relationship that begins between the prospect and your staff, an interaction with someone who can actually help get them integrated into activity, that should lead to enhanced comfort in your facility for that new member or guest.

The cons are many: Personal Trainers often don’t think of themselves as salespeople (a topic that deserves attention on its own) so they may be resistant and uninterested in the tour/sale process and therefore be terrible at it; a lack of follow up with prospects who don’t join right away; a lack of follow up with new members – so that they don’t get integrated into the club activities; the trainers’ discomfort with up-selling other products that might be appropriate; and your guest may feel awkward if you are scrambling to find a trainer available to give a tour.

If you decide that the benefits outweigh the cons - good tour and sales training is imperative so that the trainer feels comfortable and competent with the process. And trainer must believe that there is a benefit too. For example, they should share in the commission their prospect becomes a member (within a reasonable amount of time) and they should be aware of the potential benefit of exposure to new clients. The best training for this purpose utilizes observation of actual tours and paperwork processing as well as role playing (they should have access to script that gives them all the right words to convey your message consistently.)

At BodyBusiness our sales process has gone through an evolution over the past 3 years and we currently use a combination of one Member Services Consultant with our Trainers on Duty (TODs are scheduled during all hours of operation), in conjunction with our front desk staff. Our Member Services Consultant is scheduled to be available during the hours when we experience peak guest traffic and is responsible for conducting follow up with new members and prospects who have visited/toured the club.

Michele Melkerson-Granryd, M.Ed., Executive Director
Texas Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association

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