Get More Clients By Asking Better Questions


It is fundamentally important that all personal trainers have the ability to sell effectively. Most articles on teaching personal trainers how to sell better focus on areas such as closing techniques and overcoming objections. However, most personal trainers would have an easier time getting more clients by asking better questions at the beginning of their relationship with a prospect.

This article will teach you how to create a deeper rapport with your prospective client by adopting the right approach at the beginning of the sales cycle.

The sales cycle is a term that is used to describe the timeline from when you first interact with a prospective client up to the point of closing—when the client decides whether or not to continue with you.

The sales cycle for personal trainers starts when you speak to a prospective client for the first time. This is normally during their initial interview, but it can be over the phone if you are an online personal trainer.

Imagine the sales cycle as a straight line. The beginning of the line is when we meet the prospective client; the middle third is when we are taking the prospective client through a physical assessment or trial session; and the final part of the line is when we sit down to ‘close’ by establishing a suitable training option moving forwards. The information that is circulating on educating personal trainers in how to sell more effectively most commonly focuses on the events that occur from the mid-point to the end of the line.

Personal trainers need to turn the sales cycle on its head.

Your prospect needs to buy you as a person before they buy your coaching

With strategic questioning techniques, we can establish a level of trust with our prospective client and collect as much valuable information as possible to position ourselves as the expert they need to work with to help them achieve their fitness goals.

Most personal trainers are one dimensional when it comes to their questioning during the initial interview. This is mainly because they haven’t been taught how to ask good questions and don’t have a plan regarding what to ask during an interview.

Normally, once a prospective client’s basic training goals, training history and physical health have been noted, the personal trainer proceeds to a physical assessment and then pitches the most suitable style of training based on the information—albeit limited—that they have available.

There are four major problems with this:

  • Everyone loves to be listened to and connected with on a deeper level. This builds an immense level of trust. Without asking the right questions in the right manner, it is challenging to achieve this level of connection and rapport.
  • Without having a deeper understanding of your prospective client’s underlying needs, you won’t be positioned as the expert and the solution to their needs.
  • Well-crafted questions will help you gather more information to qualify the prospective client and determine whether you are a good fit and they are in the financial position to buy.
  • Most prospective clients will be a little shy or aloof during their initial interview. Asking one-dimensional questions does not prompt them to provide anything more than superficial answers.

Here are five common questions that most personal trainers would ask during an initial interview with a prospective client:

1. What are your training goals?

2. What training have you done in the past?

3. Are you dealing with any injuries at the moment?

4. Have you worked with a personal trainer before?

5. How long have you been thinking about starting a training plan?

You need to think like an investigative journalist

There is a direct correlation between the quality of question you ask and the quality of answer you receive. The questions above are not inherently bad, but they are one dimensional and uninspiring. They won’t prompt the person sitting across from you to think laterally and elaborate on their situation—and in the context of an initial interview, you need this to happen. Here’s why.

Every person that walks into your facility or sends you an online enquiry has a deep underlying motive for doing so. There is something inside them that has driven them to take action. We need our prospective clients to open up to us—at least a little—about these deep visceral and emotional reasons for desiring change.

We have all interviewed prospective clients who have told us they have aesthetic goals they want to achieve, such as losing weight or building muscle; however, these are only the means for achieving their underlying motives or satisfying their pain points. They are not the pain points themselves.

You will regularly meet with prospective clients that want to lose weight and/or body fat. Some examples of common pain points associated with a person who is overweight are being embarrassed to go to the beach in the summer and being worried about what other people think of them during family events.

When interviewing a young man who tells you that he wants to build muscle, a pain point that may have driven him to have this goal could be that he wants to look more attractive in order to get a date. It is emotional drivers such as these that cause action, yet they are often not revealed during the conversation.

Here is a real-world example. Recently, I started working with a young woman who was referred to me by another client. During our initial interview, she told me that she wanted to build strength through her lower body and lose body fat around her mid-section. Although this was usable information and provided me with the basic framework from which to create a training program for her, I didn’t feel that I had extracted the real reason that had driven her to acquire my phone number. When I tactfully probed a little more about her longer-term goals, I discovered that she had recently gone through a relationship breakdown and that starting a training program was one of her strategies for managing stress.

In terms of positioning myself as the expert person she needed to work with to achieve her goals, my game plan in this case involved moving from a focus solely on how to achieve fat loss through training to a discussion of the associated benefits of exercise for stress management.

Discovering deeper underlying motives such as these is the golden goose when it comes to building relationships. When you are able to extract information such as this, it helps you develop a deeper connection with your prospective client and puts you in a powerful position where you can tailor your services towards satisfying their pain points.

That said, just subtle improvements to common questions can have a surprisingly profound impact on the quality of responses you receive.

Practical Examples

Here is a series of well-crafted discovery questions designed to persuade your prospective client to elaborate more on their situation. I have also included strategic follow-up questions to encourage further conversation.

I’m not sure if our process would suit you. Would it be OK if I asked you some questions to better understand your goals in order to determine whether what we offer would be a good fit for you?

This question helps to build trust early on, as you are asking permission for to see further insight and not simply assuming that you will be a perfect fit. This is also a pre-emptive nudge for the client to open up and elaborate further down the line.

Can you share with me what you hope to accomplish from a fitness perspective over the next 6–12 months?

Follow-up example #1: What makes this goal important for you?

Follow-up example #2: Can you prioritise your goals?

What are your thoughts on your current level of fitness?

Follow-up example #1: How does that make you feel?

Follow-up example #2: How long have you felt like this?

What do you see as the biggest hurdle you face in meeting these fitness goals?

Follow-up example: If we start a training program, how do you plan to manage this?

What do you feel you need to change immediately to start seeing progress?

Follow-up example #1: Why did you choose that first?

Follow-up example #2: How do you think you can improve on that?

What do you think your life will look like twelve months from now if we achieve your fitness goals?

Everyone tends to love talking about the future, and this strategic question, which most people don’t often asked themselves, puts the prospective client in a position where they start to imagine the positive results they will achieve under your guidance. This provides the perfect segue for discussing how you will progress with the client from there.

These are just a few examples of how asking thoughtful, well-crafted questions can help you develop a deeper level of rapport with your prospects—and ultimately help you win more clients.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article has illustrated to you how asking better questions can help you get more clients by helping you to obtain more usable information from your prospects, and to help position you as the expert than can help them achieve their fitness goals.

Keep in mind that every time you speak with a client or prospect, it’s an opportunity to practice asking better questions—which will help you connect on a deeper level.

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James McDonald

James is the founder of PT Blogger. He helps personal trainers grow their client-bases, earn more money and thrive in the industry.
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