// PT Manual for Success: How to get your first crucial ten clients

by Kellie Sanders & Jeff Osborne

Ten is the magic number of clients that most new personal trainers strive for. It seems to be the point at which a trainer feels like they have made a good start, giving them the confi dence to proactively build a successful business. With ten clients you have some money coming into your business – perhaps not enough to pay all the bills, but enough to feel like you are making progress.

At around the ten client mark something changes; you now have enough people who love what you do for the word to get around and for people to start asking you to train them. It is the tipping point, and from here things will start to accelerate. Now that you are paying the bills and starting to get busier, your ideal lifestyle of training some people, having some of the day free and making good money is looking more like reality. This Manual for Success looks at how you go about getting that first crucial ten.

Assuming some basics

This Manual will work on a few assumptions. The first assumption is that you are good at what you do, not just from a technical point of view also from a socially engaging one, i.e., you are the kind of person that people want to spend their time with as well as being one who can get results. You must believe in what you do; not only do you need to really believe that everyone can benefi t from what you do, you need to lead by example and look after yourself physically. You can’t expect your clients to respect you if you don’t exercise regularly.

When you are explaining to people how good it is to be fit and healthy, and you are fi t and healthy, it comes through in your voice. It is hard to sell a service you don’t use yourself.

The next assumption is that you look and dress like a professional. Some trainers complain that they don’t get treated like a professional by doctors and other medical health professionals, yet they continue to dress like they are off to the gym for their own workout. Consider who earns $100+ an hour for their time. How do they dress? Your dress needs to reflect your level of professionalism and be functional. If you are outdoors running with your clients then at least wear a smart, clean polo shirt; singlets are not professional. If you are in air conditioned comfort and you are not working out alongside your client, wear some smart pants and some formal shoes.

The fi nal assumption is that you are qualifi ed and continue to update your knowledge, hence you are reading this Manual. It is also wise to use the services of a fellow personal trainer, either paid for, or as an exchange of services with a friend. You may think ‘why would I do that?’ – here is why; when a client says to you, ‘I don’t think I can afford your services any more’, you can respond with a genuine answer and tell them how much value you
see in having a trainer. Your words pack an extra punch because your belief in what you are saying is backed up by your actions.

Now, let’s look at what needs to be in place before you start looking for those first 10 clients.

The Red Velvet Rope policy

If you plan to have a long and fulfi lling personal training career, you need to have a red velvet rope policy in place. In his book Book Yourself Solid, Michael Port describes the red velvet rope policy as you line up to get into a prestigious night club. The bouncer at the door, based on his judgment, either pulls back the red velvet rope and lets you in or, if he thinks that you will not suit the club, pulls the rope in front of you and refuses your entry. You should be a little less dramatic in your application of your red velvet rope policy but the principle is the same.

At the beginning of your journey as a trainer you may think it is counter-productive to turn people away when you need every client you can get. It can be, but you do need a clear idea of exactly who your perfect clients are, not by their demographic but by their characteristics. This is an important step to prevent you acquiring clients who require enormous effort and drain you of the energy that you need to apply to other clients who deserve your best every single time. This is where your red velvet rope policy needs to be in place; you must cut these clients loose or they will hold you back from getting to your ten client tipping point. Once you cease training these people, you will have more energy to pursue the kind of clients that leave you feeling energetic and wanting more.

Not to be mistaken for your target market, which is purely demographic, your red velvet rope policy is based on the client’s characteristics and personality. This means you will have to give everyone a chance, but you cannot put up with clients who suck the life out of you. The smart thing to do is to decline their custom; the lazy thing to do is put up with it.

Consider whether there is someone you need to cut loose.

Do it now. Give them a call and explain that you don’t feel you are supplying them with the service they need and you have someone in mind that would be better suited to help them. You will feel relieved, and inspired to fi nd more of your ideal clients.

Your target market

It is amazing how many trainers resist this advice, no matter how many times they are told about it. You are not choosing one type of person that you are going to train for the rest of your career, rather, you are choosing who you want to advertise to. You can train all different types of people, but you don’t have the budget to advertise to all of them. Get a clear picture of exactly who you want to attract. You need to know and understand the driving force behind your target market and their pain and pleasure.

Men and women, adults and teenagers, wealthy and struggling, single and family people all have different drivers, so you need to decide who you are going to target to. However, if your ad targets overweight females in their 40s, and someone who the ad wasn’t designed for contacts you, an overweight guy in his 20s for example, you don’t have to decline him as a client. You can train him, as long as you are happy to let him past your red velvet rope.

Needs and desires

It’s not what you do, it’s what they get out of what you do.

One of the biggest marketing mistakes in our industry is personal trainers advertising what they do; ‘1-on-1 training’, ‘strength and cardio’, ‘personalised programs’, ‘personal trainer’. The truth is, nobody wants a personal trainer. In fact, if you offered them a pill that gave the same results as training with you for double the price, almost everyone would take the pill. People don’t want a personal trainer – they want what a personal trainer can do for them. Do not advertise what you do, advertise the results your clients will achieve with you.

All great business ideas stem from one common place; they all fi ll a need or desire in the market place. So what need or desire do you fi ll? This is why you need a target market, you need to work out what their common pain is, and through your advertising speak to them about it and offer solutions. When a client feels that you truly understand what they are going through and knows that you can provide the solution, they will come to you. They don’t care how you do it, as long as you do it. Once you know what their compelling reason for action is, you have the formula to get clients in the door. In relation to your target market, consider; what are their needs and desires, what options do they have to solve their problem and what opportunity exists for you to be part of that solution?

The following seven steps will help you to get your first ten clients faster.

1. Think benefits, not features

It is crucial to understand that you and your prospective clients are very different people. If you were the same then everyone would exercise and live healthily and the demand for your services would be practically non-existent. The reality is that most people hate exercise and if they gave in to their inner sloths, they would probably never do it. So, talking to them about the process rather than focusing on the result is silly. It would be like a baker advertising to me about the process of how they will make me a banana cake – I don’t care! Just showme the moist and tasty end result and I’m in!

What you do

Before you start advertising, you must establish how to talk about what you do. Remember people don’t care about the process, just the result. Rather than answering the question ‘so what do you do?’ with ‘I’m a personal trainer’, which may kill the conversation, answer ‘I help people who feel tired and lethargic get some more life in their life’. To which the reply is likely to be a far more promising, ‘so how do you do that?’

2. The easiest way to get clients... your network

Think about five people you know who could really use your services – friends, family members, anyone you can think of that would love what you do. Each of those fi ve people know fi ve other people who each know fi ve people who could all use your service, many of whom would be willing to pay for it if only you were recommended to them by someone they could trust. To set this chain in motion, the fi rst thing you need to do is organise a group session to which you invite the five people you know – with the invite extended for them to bring along their five people. Call them up and tell them you are having a fun group exercise session, giving a date and location, and that you would love them to come alone and bring a friend. Tell them what they will be getting out of this fun session with you and that the more people that come along the better. And best of all, it’s free!

If you really want to go all out, go through all of the contacts in your phone and call each one – even if they are not in the local area, they will know someone who is. Then plan and host a really fun exercise class; Boot Camp-style circuits work best, allowing you to group people together who don’t know each other and getting them to work on circuit-style activities. Afterwards, while you guide them through their stretches, ask them all what their favourite part was. Explain that you will be holding the session again the following week, and that it will cost just $10 (or something close) and that the fi rst session will always be free for any newcomers. Then explain that you would love to take each of them through a personal training session within the next week, and book them all in for either a complimentary PT session or the following week’s Boot Camp right there and then while they are still on an exercise high. But don’t rest there; as soon as the session is over, let everyone who didn’t attend know how much fun it was and that you would love them to turn up next week. Keep this up until you are booked solid.

3. Using Facebook

Facebook is an application for connecting people so they can communicate, and the ideal scenario is for them to be communicating about you! The key to doing this effectively is not to sell yourself on Facebook – people hate that. Rather, the key is to be interesting. There are two ways to do this. Firstly, ensure you have a regularly updated and interesting status and post links to interesting pages you fi nd on the internet. To make the URL’s shorter, check out www.snipurl.com Secondly, create a group and post information on there that people will fi nd interesting, funny or informative. By posting photos of your training sessions and tagging the people in them, you can ensure that existing clients receive the pictures and that they will show their network of friends and contacts what a fun time they have with you.

4. Make flyers work for you

It has been said that people need to see or hear from a company at least seven times before they are ready to buy – one flyer drop is not nearly enough. Flyers can be a great way to get your name known in your local area, and to generate enquiries. To create a fl yer that will get a response, follow the pointers below.


The most eye-catching and important part of your flyer must be the headline. Think of it as the advertisement for your advertisement. In your headline you have to have a reason to read on. Some of the more effective headlines are questions, apparent contradictions, controversial, direct and pain/hot buttons. For your headline to be effective you need to make sure it is the fi rst thing that people see. Take note: you may have spent time and money designing them, but your business name and/or logo do not make a good headline.

Easy to read

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to make your fl yer too ‘pretty’. Too many distracting graphics or hard-to-read writing will make your fl yer pretty but ineffective. Action shots are good, but clip art is not. Don’t use more than two fonts, and line up everything on the page so it is easy to look at.

Flyer copy

The words you choose for your fl yer need to be carefully chosen. Sometimes changing just a few words can result in a significant difference in response. Speak to the people you are targeting in language they understand and will respond to. With this in mind, here are a few general rules with the words you use.

  • People don’t want a personal trainer. People don’t care about what you do, they only care about what you can do for them. Speak in terms of benefits of using your services and less about your services.
  • You can’t please everyone. Saying you do weight loss and muscle building doesn’t work. People who want to lose weight don’t want to build muscle, they don’t know how it actually works and they don’t care.
  • Qualifications don’t matter. Unless you won a Nobel Prize for fitness people don’t care about your qualifications, they assume you are qualified.
  • Point form works well. People like to read bullet-pointed text; it looks shorter to read and is more appealing.

Once you have a few different fl yers done up, test them out. One option is to ask a group of your target market which one they like best; don’t ask them why, you only want their initial reaction. Another option is to send out two different fl yers printed on different coloured paper, and ask people who contact you what colour their flyer is, i.e., one headline is printed on yellow paper, the other on blue paper.


To make your fl yer effective, you also need to have an offer, something that will get them over the line. Make it different to what everyone else is offering. Extra value works better than discounts, and the fl yer should feature an expiry date or end to the offer to prompt immediate action. Finish the fl yer with a call to action, like ‘Start losing weight today, call Jeff on 0424 58 874’. The fi rst thing that people see should be your headline and the last thing they read should be your contact details.

Finally, although budget constraints may not allow it, it is good to get the designing and printing done professionally. The printing industry is very competitive, so before you get anything printed be sure to get at least fi ve quotes.

Distress space

In addition to fl yers, you may have a budget to place advertising within print publications. Before most publications go to print, they have to ensure they have fi lled every space on every page. Any ‘left over’ space is called ‘distress’ space, and in the final hours before print, they need someone to fi ll it, and that someone could be you. Find out who manages the distress space in publications that you believe will reach your target market and get in contact with them. By having some designed adverts of varying sizes on stand-by, you can act fast when an opportunity arises. Put yourself in the shoes of the distress space manager; you have a deadline closing, space to fi ll and a list of people who could fi ll it. The first person you are likely to offer the ad to is the person most likely to say yes and who you like. So, when they call make sure you say ‘yes’, make it easy for the paper to fi ll their space and keep building rapport with the distress space manager. Generally, you should be able to get a discount of 50 per cent or more on an ad. Like anything in business, it’s all about building relationships.

5. Direct outreach

Think about the kinds of people who are well connected enough to be able, if they knew and loved what you did, to drastically change your business. These might include owners of big businesses, celebrities, community group leaders or sporting clubs. Make a list of 20 of them, and systematically get their details and contact them. When contacting them, remember WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?), as this is what the person is thinking when they read your letter. Your letter should include complimentary remarks about them; it should also be brief and express your genuine interest in working with them and helping them.

You want to have that person experience the service you provide and love it so much that, without prompting, they want to tell everyone they know. You can offer great value by training them for free or training their staff or group members for very little. Remember, you are not doing this direct outreach to make money, just to make contacts and spread the word, so make sure you create massive value. If you group-train 20 employees for $5 each a week, these are 20 qualified personal training leads whose interest in your service is already established. This 20 know another 20 people each who would enjoy what you do – this is a lot of people and should pave the way for achieving your first ten clients.

6. Become a writer

Even better than advertising is becoming a source of relevant information by contributing articles to local newspapers, magazines, newsletters and online publications. When you are a reliable source of information, people regard you as an authority and will feel confi dent about using your services.

The key to doing this effectively is to not sell anything within your articles; just provide readers with great information they can use and then, when they consider using the services of a personal trainer, you will be front of mind. Non-‘advertorial’ articles are also far more likely to be published by editors.

Even if the reader does not contact you to use your services personally, they are still more likely to recommend you to friends, having established you as a local authority in their mind.

Make your articles relevant to what’s going on at the moment, linking the subject matter to health and fi tness-related stories in the news and media, such as The Biggest Loser television show or the latest obesity statistics. You will rarely get an immediate response from contributing articles, but if you are consistent and interesting you will get printed and noticed. Find out what your target market reads, establish contact with the relevant people and start submitting articles and ideas.

7. Find a group that will listen

There are many groups in your area, such as the Rotary and the Lions, which meet on a regular basis and are always in need of a good speaker. There may not be many of your target market in some of these clubs, but their members are the kind of people who will know others that are.

Come up with a good headline and then contact potential groups. Inform them that you are a speaker on healthy living and ask when the next available time is for you to come along and chat to the group. Once you have the go-ahead, put the chat together, make it interesting and incorporate some practical take-home tips. By having a lucky door prize of a training session, you can collect everyone’s contact details when they enter the draw, also letting them know you will be sending out your healthy living tips. Be prepared at the end to get bombarded with questions!

Ten and upwards

In addition to the above seven ways, there are countless others you can use to start building your business. The trainers who succeed are the ones that work hard at promoting their business. Find inexpensive and effective methods of promotion and keep at them until they produce a result. The successful people in this business are the proactive ones who don’t wait for things to happen – they go and make them happen.

Ask yourself, how hard would you work to get your business to the point where you can live your ideal lifestyle? 20 hours a week? Forty? Sixty? If you put in three to six months of hard work, do you believe you will get there? Will it be worth it?

Once you get to that magic number you must be careful not to stall, you have to keep pushing until you get your goal number of clients, and even then you will still need to do some marketing to make sure your business keeps healthy. At this stage, when you have established a good number of clients, you can capitalise on the power of referrals, but that is for another Manual. Many trainers stall around the 20 sessions mark, at which point they are making good money and feeling comfortable. By resting on your laurels, however, your business will go backwards, and backward momentum is hard to turn around.

If you fail to reach your fi rst ten clients as a personal trainer, it is because you gave up too quickly. Most new businesses go through an initial building period, and if you are unwilling to stick it out then you should do the smart thing and go to work for an existing, successful business. If you are going to be brave and make a go of it, however, then fully commit to making it work. You will feel the momentum building and before you know it you will have hit that critical mass and your business success will explode.


Kellie Sanders & Jeff Osborne
After years of educating personal trainers in Certifi cate III and IV qualifi cations and getting frustrated with knowledgeable trainers going out into the industry and failing, Kellie and Jeff started PT Business Success. They now spend their time with personal trainers helping them to grow their business and start living the lifestyle they want – which for most trainers means spending more time doing the things they love and earning more money for their efforts. Kellie and Jeff have worked in and run successful fi tness businesses in Australia and the USA. While delivering the Fitness Business Diploma they developed an Advanced Diploma in Fitness Business, the highest qualifi cation under a university degree. They found that trainers are getting qualifi ed and going out into the industry without an understanding of how to run a business and that many are subsequently failing. PT Business Success has had great success with two types of fi tness professionals; the trainers who want to focus their energy on their clients and need help to run their business and make money without burning out; and the trainers who are good with the business side of things but still require motivation to make them more productive and grow their business. For more information, contact Kellie and Jeff at:

8848 Magnolia Drive East, Hope Island, QLD 4212
Ph: +61 404 450 787
E-mail: kellie@ptbusinesssuccess.com
Web: www.ptbusinesssuccess.com

PT MANUAL FOR SUCCESS • Volume 1, Number 4, 2009