Teach Your Health Club Trainers to Sell, Service, & Thrive

Give your health club trainers the tools they need to recruit and maintain clients.

The benefits of having a successful personal training program at your club can’t be overstated. Not only can it become a significant non-dues revenue source, but personal training and retention are closely linked. Members who use personal training services are more likely to renew their membership than those who don’t use PTs, according to IHRSA research.

Problem is, PTs are experts on training not selling. If you’re managing a team of trainers, or you’re a trainer yourself, you’ll need guidelines on how to best identify prospects and then close the deal.

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Get Comfortable with Selling

“Many managers and staff are uncomfortable with selling,” said Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training, during her session at IHRSA 2019. “But the success of your facility can depend upon you becoming a top-notch salesperson. Holding the highest credentials, having the newest machines, or having the most popular classes won’t make any difference if you can’t get clients to invest in your services.”

McMillan built her award-winning Vancouver, WA, personal training business by identifying successful keys to selling PT services. For starters, she realized that selling doesn’t require hardball tactics. For the most part, said McMillan, what makes a successful salesperson is knowing how to handle the fears and concerns of the client.

“You have to be prepared to know what the typical objections are.”

McMillan believes it’s useful to role-play possible scenarios and be ready to disempower an objection before turning the conversation around to your advantage.

“You need to listen to the entire concern without interrupting,” she said. “Then paraphrase and repeat the obstacle back to them. Let their brain hear what they just said. When they hear their excuse coming from your mouth, the brain processes it differently, and often they realize that the obstacle is not valid and they need to stop thinking and take action.”

“But the success of your facility can depend upon you becoming a top-notch salesperson.”

Sherri McMillan, Owner

Northwest Personal Training - Vancouver, WA

After you repeat their objection back to them—for instance you may say, “It sounds like you think you can’t fit an exercise program into your busy lifestyle,” or “It sounds like you’re concerned about the cost of training”—wait for them to respond by agreeing with you or by expanding on their reason. A lot of times the prospective client will talk themselves out of their original objection once they hear it.

Because you’ve opened up the conversation, you can always present convincing reasons why the client’s concerns aren’t valid. McMillan believes this approach is crucial to the process. But it’s important that the people are in front of you to have the conversation in the first place.

“You need to show understanding, to ask questions, and give them information,” McMillan said. “It’s all about connecting. Marketing in our industry is face to face. You have to get people in front of you.”

Make Your Clients Walking Billboards

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McMillan believes that offering free sessions or fitness assessments can be a good way to make sure that trainers have face-to-face exposure to prospective customers. She calls it “test driving PT services.”

Sometimes the type of people you offer complimentary sessions to can make a big difference. McMillan is an advocate of getting involved with her local community. One year, rather than spending a lot of money on marketing in January as many health club owners and fitness professionals do, McMillan instead reached out to local leaders.

I connected with key people in our community who I knew or who I considered to be community leaders. I knew they were the kind of client who could afford our services. They were the movers and shakers.”

She offered these individuals six free personal training sessions with no strings attached. If they continued great, if not, no big deal.

“It’s all about connecting. Marketing in our industry is face to face. You have to get people in front of you.”

Sherri McMillan, Owner

Northwest Personal Training - Vancouver, WA

It was a huge success. Every single community leader who participated in the training sessions stayed on as paying clients after their free lessons. McMillan didn’t just have new clients, she had influential leaders in the community who were walking billboards for her services.

McMillan also had success finding new clients by recruiting volunteers for a four-week fitness study. Of the 31 participants who signed up for the study, 15 stayed on as clients.

Whichever way you get the ball rolling, don’t forget to “ask for the sale” and stay on top of your clients with follow-ups and check-ins, especially in the early phases of the relationship. But keep one thing in mind: It’s easier to sell when you believe in the product.

“You are selling very good things: improved health and fitness, more energy, enhanced confidence and self-esteem,” said McMillan. “You must believe in yourself and your services.”

Get more tips on creating a strong personal training team at IHRSA 2020! This year's Personal Training track offers sessions such as "The Ultimate Sales Consultation Formula for Personal Training" and "Developing a 12-month Marketing Plan for Personal Training Departments."

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org