Make More Sales by Discovering Your Prospect’s Underlying Motives


Behind every action we take is an underlying motive—an emotional trigger that compels us into action and prompts us to move in a new direction. As a personal trainer, part of your ability to convert prospects into clients relies on uncovering these deeper motivations and capitalize on them to convince your prospect that you are capable of helping them meet the specific internal goal they’ve set for themselves.

While lots of people might say the same things when you ask, “So why are you interested in personal training?” It’s your job as the trainer to dig a bit deeper and find out what the prospect is really looking for—whether that’s more self-confidence, more strength, to be more attractive, or even some control over their own lives. When you can connect with that deeper meaning, then you’ll start building a much stronger relationship and be in a great position to convert your prospect into a paying client.

You don’t buy a Rolex to tell the time

People don’t rush out to buy the latest pair of Nike’s because they desperately need a pair of shoes. They buy them because they want to send a social signal that they’re up on the latest fashions.

Diners don’t make a reservation at a Michelin-starred restaurant because they’re hungry and want a quick bite. They want an experience,a feeling of luxury, and to send a signal that they’re of a high status.

Similarly, gym-goers don’t decide to sign up for a gym membership or enquire about personal training based purely on logic—there’s a deeper motivation driving them to act, and it’s your job to uncover this.

Why is it essential to uncover prospects’ underlying motives?

There are two primary reasons to uncover a prospect’s underlying motives:

  1. By getting to the heart of why they’re sitting in front of you, you’ll be able to create a more targeted training program, as you’ll have a more detailed understanding of what they want to achieve through training and why.

  2. You’ll be much more likely to convince them to sign up for training further down the line. In his phenomenal book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, Chris Voss suggests that if you can figure out what people are really buying, then you can sell them a vision of their problem that presents your service as the perfect solution.

The best time to try and uncover your prospect’s underlying motive is during the initial interview, which is part of why the initial consultation is the most crucial element in the entire sales process. Unfortunately, most trainers completely overlook this opportunity to bolster rapport and therefore limit their chances of closing the deal.

Here’s a typical exchange between a personal trainer and prospect during an initial interview:

Trainer: What are your goals?

Client: I want to lose weight.

Trainer: How much weight would you like to lose?

Client: I need to lose 10kg.

Trainer: That’s a great goal. Do you have a timeframe in mind?

Client: Yeah, I’d really like to lose it by next summer [6 months].

Trainer: That sounds like a reasonable goal. Okay, now that we’ve discussed your training goals, let’s move on to…

At face value, there’s nothing wrong with this conversation; however, because the exchange lacks depth, the trainer only gets surface-level information about the prospective client’s goals.

If you want better information—ask better questions

Not all clients are aware of their underlying motives, and those that are don’t generally offer them up to strangers when they’re enquiring about personal training or signing up for a gym membership. To get beneath the surface, you’ll have to ask prospects intelligent questions that prompt reflection and elaboration.

What I’ve found helpful is to approach the initial interview as though I’m in investigative journalist. I’m not there to grill the prospect, just to help them open up a bit about their feelings and motives around working out.

As a rule of thumb, use open-ended questions when interviewing a client, or questions that open with ‘What’, ‘Where’, ‘When’, ‘Why’, and ’How’, as these will encourage your prospect to answer with more detail.

The next time you interview a prospective client, challenge yourself to only ask open-ended questions. You’ll notice a difference in the quality and depth of the answers you receive, and the person you’re interviewing will appreciate the added curiosity you’re showing.

Also, after a prospective client shares what seems to be their primary fitness goal, hang out for a little while and ask some follow-up questions, such as: ‘What makes that goal important to you?’ or, ‘May I ask why you’ve settled on 10kg as a weight-loss target?’

While this skill can take some practice, you’ll be amazed at how much additional information your prospective client volunteers.

Tone is everything

When throwing your detectives’ hat on and interviewing your prospect, always bear in mind that tone is everything. Nobody likes to be grilled, so make sure that you’re demonstrating a genuine sense of curiosity and tact. Also, some people are more reserved and may not be comfortable opening up right away. If you feel like your prospect is putting up the shutters, don’t take it to heart, leave it alone or consider trying your luck a little further down the line once they warm up to you a bit more.

Let’s consider the same exchange between a trainer and a prospective client with the addition of some strategic open-ended follow-up questions:

Trainer: What are your goals?

Client: I would like to lose weight.

Trainer: How much weight would you like to lose?

Client: I want to lose 10kg.

Trainer: That’s a great goal. What’s made you settle on 10kg as a weight loss target?

Client: I’m 85kg now, so losing 10kg would get me back to the weight I was at before I got married.

Trainer: Right, I see. Would you be able to share why getting back to your pre-marriage weight is important to you?

Client: Well… before I got married, I was playing sports every weekend and was probably the fittest that I’ve ever been.

By asking thoughtful questions, the trainer manages to discover that losing weight is not the sole motive for this prospective client. He wants to lose enough weight that he feels as strong and confident in his body as when he used to play sports regularly.

Not only do open-ended questions help you understand your prospect better, they send a signal to your prospect that you’re interested in engaged in hearing about their lives. It makes them feel comfortable and safe and builds rapport between you. They will feel heard and will be significantly more likely to not only seek your services, but to recommend other people to you as well.

Final Thoughts

Discovering your prospect’s underlying motive will benefit you by helping you foster a stronger relationship and by giving you a distinct advantage when it comes to an eventual sales conversation.

By coming from a place of openness and curiosity and using thoughtful, open-ended questions, you can coax a prospect into trusting you with their motivations and ultimately their training.


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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