Are your relationships in trouble?

by Andrew Griffiths

There are two critical skills that will ensure any professional in any industry can build a successful business. The first is the ability to attract new clients and the second is the ability to keep those clients for as long as possible. Being good at one of these things is handy, but for financial success you need to be great at both.

This article focuses on building solid long term relationships with your clients, because there seems to be a lot of information and advice out there about getting clients, but not as much about keeping them.

The most important place to start is with the realisation that when a client engages you, it is the beginning of a relationship. As with any relationship, there is the initial honeymoon period when everything is wonderful. After this, however, you have to work at it and put effort into making the relationship grow. If you tend not to keep your clients for very long, you need to learn new ways to build relationships that last.

Following are the key areas that I have used to grow long term solid relationships with my clients, some of them for up to 15 years.

We all know that keeping relationships healthy takes work, and the relationship between a fitness professional and a client is no different. To keep it interesting you have to be prepared to try new things, to keep moving forward, to listen to what your client is saying and to make mental notes of what is going on in their world (such as birthdays, hobbies, jobs, etc). You need to be good at reading when your relationship needs an injection of ‘interesting’ and then you need
to act accordingly. A completely different, unplanned training session – something out of the ordinary and fun – can be just the thing to spice things up.

There are many little things that you can do to strengthen your client relationships. Sending daily motivational tips by e-mail or SMS, pointing them towards relevant articles in magazines or online, or giving them a bonus session when they reach a target or complete a certain number of sessions are all very simple. The key is to keep coming up with ideas that provide extras for your client without increasing your expenses. This only takes a little imagination and even if the ‘giveaway’ does cost you some money, consider it a smart investment. The more you give the more you get. Stingy trainers don’t have long term relationships with their clients.

My partner and I have a standard line that we share along with a good laugh – ‘we don’t do nothin’. While the grammar needs a lot of work, it sums up how we feel at times. We all get caught on the treadmill of going to work and coming home, day in day out, and it feels like we don’t do anything fun or exciting. In reality, we have a sensational life filled with travel and new experiences, but the day-to-day seems to block this out. So we make a point of spending time talking about all of the things we have actually done recently, and it is surprising how much we forget. Hence our line, ‘we don’t do nothin’ means that we have a laugh about all of the things we have done and how we have progressed in recent times. This is exactly the same with your clients – you need to show them that they have progressed and achieved, especially if it is not overtly obvious. This means you need to get good at finding ways to show progress.

We all want as much word-of-mouth business as we can get because it’s a free way of increasing our client base. However, it is also a good barometer of the health of our relationship. If our clients don’t refer others to us, the odds
are they won’t be around for long. Interestingly, the more our clients refer us, the more likely they are to stay with
us. After all, it looks a bit strange if they tell their friends to use our services but stop using us themselves. You should
aim to get them referring new clients to you and keep them doing so throughout the entire relationship. Take note if they
stop – use it as a warning sign.

It’s your job to be easily contactable, not your client’s job to stalk you. Market research shows that the number one
reason for client dissatisfaction, across all industries, is poor communication from their consultant. Specifically, they get
tired of chasing the person that they are paying to do a job. You need to stay one step ahead of your clients when it comes to communicating. You need to ring them before they ring you, you need to give them their new program before
they ask for it and you need to always appear as if you are in total control, organised and ready for action.

Any relationship that is fun is destined to last longer. Clearly this can be a challenge when your job is to whip
someone into shape who is resisting and struggling with the task at hand. But I have to say, I have had some of my
best belly laughs with Kelly, my personal trainer. We have both rolled around in fits of laughter when we have been
boxing and I have ‘accidently’ bopped her on the nose, or when my pants have split while doing yoga... Kelly is a master
at making our sessions fun and before I know it the workout is over. So how do you do this if you are not a fun person or
if your clients are not the laughing type? Everyone has a sense of fun and play, you just have to coax it out of them. The
more you get to know them the more their sense of humour will come out. So get to know them, let your guard down,
be silly and laugh at yourself. Eventually you will crack them!

Last, but not least, I suggest that you review your relationship with each of your clients and give it a score out of 10 after
every session. Put extra energy and time into those relationships that need work and get them back on track as quickly
as possible – and try to keep new clients on track from the start. By developing excellent relationship building skills, your
business will be more profitable and you will have a much stronger connection with your clients.

Andrew Griffiths
Andrew is Australia’s number one business author, with ten books sold in over 50 countries. A serial entrepreneur, and a leading mind in the world of small business, much of his subject matter is based on his own personal experiences. Andrew is passionate about helping people build the business of their dreams and his advice is simple, practical and real. For more information visit

• PP16-17