As a personal trainer, it is essential to be continually replenishing your client base. No client, no matter how loyal, will stay with you forever—and most clients will go through periods of not training due to holiday, social or work commitments.
Prospecting is the act of looking for new clients. There are several methods of doing this. If you work inside a commercial gym, the method known as ‘walking the floor’ is a timeless way of building relationships and finding new clients.
If you have done any prospecting on the gym floor before, you know that it can be nerve-wracking to walk up to someone you don’t know, introduce yourself and ask great questions in an effort to learn more about that person, all the while keeping them interested and eventually selling them your services.
Thankfully, face-to-face prospecting is a learnable skill. With a proper strategy and some practice, you will be able to dominate the gym floor and find new clients in no time.
Below, I have outlined six simple steps you need to be aware of before hitting the floor and looking for new clients. The first three are mindset-oriented, while the following three are more tactical.
Think like you own the gym
Adopt the mindset that you are the gym owner and so have the right to speak to anyone that walks through the front door. It is the same mentality as if you were working as a shop assistant and someone walked into your shop—you should be eager to greet and serve them.
Remember: gym members are on your turf, so when you spot someone that you want to speak to, approach them with a smile on your face and air of confidence that says you own the gym.
Set yourself KPIs
KPIs (key performance indicators) are a great way to set goals and track your prospecting performance. For example, you can set goals for how many people you would like to meet on a daily or weekly basis. This keeps you on track and is a great tool for remembering people’s names, especially if you are new to the industry and meeting new people every day. Simply set a goal for how many people you would like to speak to; then, every time you meet and get talking to someone on the floor, note down their name and training goal.
Quite a few personal trainers have told me in the past that they dislike walking the floor, as doing so can come across as ‘salesy’. You certainly don’t want to come across as a cheesy salesperson on the gym floor. That’s a bad look. But an easy way around this is to think about prospecting not as selling but as serving.
You are serving the people in your gym by meeting them—and then learning more about them to see if you can be of some assistance in helping them achieve their health and fitness goals. This is a simple change in mindset that subsequently has a profound effect on your body language and how you are perceived when you speak to others. Remember: people don’t like to be sold, but they love to be served.
Build rapport before sharing advice
When sparking up a conversation with someone on the gym floor, it is always wise to explain why you have stopped to speak to them. My usual strategy is to greet a potential client and say, for example, “I’m trying to meet some gym members, and you caught my eye as you’re working out pretty hard there”. From this, you can easily segue into asking them some open-ended questions about their routine and training history.
Generally, people enjoy talking about themselves, and most people will be happy to share their training goals. Be natural and act genuinely interested. If the conversation is flowing well, ask them what their routine looks like on a weekly basis and how long they have been training for. Also, make a point to ask if they have made any progress so far. If, for example, they say that they have been training for two months but haven’t yet seen much noticeable progress, this is a green light for you to add some value to their journey by sharing some of your expertise.
A good rule of thumb is always to ask permission to give advice or share insights. This is both the polite thing to do and also acts as a tool to help you determine if you should continue the conversation. If they are happy to hear what you have to say, you may have a genuine prospective client on your hands. If not, thank them for their time and mention that you are always open to a conversation if they would like any advice in the future.
Present an alternative
Once a client shares with you their fitness routine and progress, if you believe you can share some advice or insights with them, present an alternative approach to their current program or way of thinking.
For example, take the case of a middle-aged woman who has been training with the goal of weight loss for the past three months but hasn’t seen any noticeable reduction in weight so far. If she has only been doing aerobic exercise, you may want to present the idea of doing some strength training to build strength and muscle mass to accelerate her metabolic rate. This is now a fantastic chance to excite this person by walking her through some of the movements she needs to be doing to improve her results. This gives you the opportunity to show off your coaching skills and how much value you can add.
My favourite scenario was when a gym member said they were trying to build core strength but were frustrated with their lack of progress. I would show them how to perform a stability-ball plank or banded Pallof press and would watch their eyes light up as they suddenly started to feel the right muscles working. This often resulted in the prospect asking about on-going training.
Make sure you offer a complimentary session
Don’t forget that you are not only aiming to serve this person by adding value to their gym experience, but you are also aiming to build your client base. With that in mind, don’t forget to ask the person if they would like to learn more by meeting for a complimentary personal training session.
My favourite way of pitching the idea of a complimentary session is: “look… I don’t quite have time now—as I’m just about to see another client—but I would love to meet with you another time to show you some exercises/different styles of training that will better help you achieve your goals. How does that sound to you?”
This serves as another tool to help you determine if this is a likely client. If they agree to meet you for a complimentary session, this demonstrates that you have piqued their interest and that they are keen to learn more about what you have to offer.
It is important that you set the terms for the complimentary session on the spot by organising the day and time you are going to meet and, most importantly, capturing the potential client’s mobile phone number. Capturing a contact number is crucial, as doing so forms a commitment between you and your prospect and enables you to contact them in the future if necessary.
if you work within a commercial gym, prospecting by walking the floor is one of the most straight-forward and timeless ways of finding new clients. I encourage you to use these six principles to help you meet new people, build stronger relationships and to ultimately find more clients.
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