How to Approach People on the Floor Without Fear


You know you should be getting out onto the gym floor to find more clients, but let me guess, you choose not to because you’re either afraid of getting rejected or you don’t quite know how to open a conversation, right?

Prospecting by walking the floor is one of the most effective methods of building relationships with gym-goers, developing your personal brand at the facility where you work and, most importantly, finding more clients.

When I started my career as a personal trainer in 2010, I grew my client base predominantly by speaking with people on the gym floor. Every chance you have to spend some time on the floor is another opportunity to find a new client.

I can’t begin to tell you though, how many times I’ve heard from personal trainers who shy away from prospecting in the gym because they either have a fear of being rejected or they don’t know what to say.

Learn how to manage fear

The fear that you feel when prospecting on the gym floor stems from an irrational fear of the unknown. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you approach that gym member you’ve wanted to speak to. He could be the nicest person ever and be grateful that you introduced yourself; conversely, he might not be interested in what you have to say.

The most effective way to deal with this fear is to make the unknown known. What’s the worst thing that could happen if you walk up to that gym member, introduce yourself, and open a conversation about their training session?

The worst thing that could happen is that they say they’re busy and don’t have time to talk, in which case, wish them all the best with their training and let them know that if they need any guidance with their training in the future they shouldn’t hesitate to ask you.

When you think about it like that, it’s not such a big deal, right?

When you re-frame your fear of prospecting by shedding light on the worst-case scenario—effectively making the unknown known—then whatever you’re worried about will start to feel less intimidating.

Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to speak with people that are wearing earbuds or headphones. Funnily enough, I still remember being out on the floor in 2012 trying to prospect for new clients and watching this guy do steady-state cardio on an elliptical machine. A battle played out in my mind as to whether I should speak to him or not, then finally I conjured up the courage to go over and introduce myself. Since then, he’s been by far my most consistent client and is still training with me twice a week almost 8 years later!

Remember, the gym is your turf. You do great work by helping people get fitter and stronger and become the best version of themselves. You have every right to approach a gym member in your facility and introduce yourself to start a conversation.

Be a sniper

When you hit the gym floor to prospect for new clients, one of the worst things you can do is to approach everybody in sight. This is the prospecting equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Gym members will notice when a personal trainer is patrolling the floor and trying to speak with anyone who will listen. In response, they’ll put their guard up and be less receptive to having a conversation, as they probably think you’re trying to sell them something.

Instead, be a sniper. Survey the gym floor from a distance and take note if you can see anyone who falls into one or more of the following groups:

  1. People exercising with poor technique.

  2. People performing an inferior exercise when there is a better option available.

  3. People who are new to the gym and clearly aren’t working out with any structure.

Speaking with people that fall into the above groups is the best use of your time when you go to prospect on the gym floor. With these people, you can easily demonstrate authority and deliver the most value by helping those who can clearly benefit from your advice, rather than approaching everyone blindly.

Approach with the right mindset

If you remember only one lesson from this article, make sure it’s this one.

When you approach someone on the gym floor, come from a place of warmth and curiosity.

We can all smell a salesperson coming from a mile away, including gym members. So don’t approach with the mindset of trying to sell a prospect personal training. Instead, approach with the mindset of warmth, patience and curiosity about the member’s goals and motivations.

This simple change of mindset will affect everything else, from your tone of voice to your choice of words and even your physical posture.

This change will also encourage more people to engage with you about your services than if you simply tried to sell straight from the start.

Always be busy

Make no mistake; gym-goers notice what personal trainers are doing. Perception is everything and, as we discussed earlier, it’s a bad look to be seen as patrolling the floor, looking like you’re hunting for your next victim.

Clean up equipment and tidy the gym as you scan for opportunities to spark up conversation. This will give people the impression you’re being productive and not just walking around for the sole purpose of finding someone to talk to.

Have great opening lines on hand

The old cliché, first impressions are everything, stands true—especially when you want to break the ice with someone working out in the gym.

The only thing worse than those salespeople who harass you as you walk through the mall (my apologies if you’ve ever been one of those people) are their opening lines! “Can I ask you one question?” or “How’s your day going?” are terrible attempts at opening a conversation. Put yourself in a gym members’ shoes and think about the image—and feeling—you want to create when you look to open a conversation.

Renowned sales expert Harry J. Friedman recommends that opening lines be open-ended questions that encourage conversation. Try and avoid questions like, “How’s your workout going?” or “What are you training today?” These aren’t bad questions per se, but they’re predictable and result in a standard response.

Instead, Friedman recommends getting creative with your opening lines. Questions like “You’re training pretty hard there, what program are you working on?” or “I really like that exercise you’re doing, how do you find it?” are less predictable and encourage further conversation.

Seek to understand before offering value

When you’re speaking with someone on the gym floor, seek to understand before being understood.

Before providing feedback on someone’s technique or sharing guidance, make sure you ask their permission to do so. Nobody likes receiving unsolicited advice, even if what you’re about to say seems dead obvious to you.

Simply asking: “Would you mind if I gave you a suggestion/show you a better way of doing that exercise?” demonstrates humility and respect. Furthermore, if the gym-goer answers positively, it’s a sign that you’ve piqued their interest in what you have to offer and may have a genuine prospect on your hands.

Final Thoughts

Too many personal trainers avoid getting out onto the floor to engage with gym members. Chances are, that person that you’ve seen and thought about speaking to—but didn’t—could be your next client.

Don’t wait any longer. The next time you’re on the floor, go and start a conversation and see where it takes you.

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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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