// Unleash your sales potential

by Ish Cheyne

Why is it that some trainers are really successful in the fitness industry and others just plod along and go nowhere? It can seem that those who are at the top of the industry were always predetermined to be the best. You know the ones I’m talking about, that small group of brilliant individuals who are socially confident, have great work ethic and would be the managers or top performers in whichever industry they chose to work. But how do we improve and coach those who are not naturally part of that elite group to achieve high level results? What is the ‘silver bullet’, that one piece of advice that pushes a trainer over the line from, ‘I can’t sell’ to ‘everyone I talk to wants to train with me’. The answer to that question comes from recognising why so many personal trainers can’t sell in the first place. There are three reasons personal trainers can’t sell;

1. They don’t know what they are selling

2. They charge more than they believe they are worth

3. They prefer listening to themselves than to prospective clients.

So, let’s take a closer look at these reasons.

Reason 1: They don’t know what they sell

Ask a personal trainer what they sell and you will most likely hear ‘training sessions’, ‘results’, ‘health and fitness’ or similar. But these are all incorrect; they are just what every personal trainer should be delivering anyway – after all, that’s their job! If trainers are all the same then it is just about price, which is why trainers often can’t tell you why you should train with them and not another trainer and continue to do deals or offers to attract new business.

The answer is; personal trainers sell an experience with health and fitness.

The reason a client trains with a PT is simple; it’s because they enjoy the experience while they are getting their results. I hear trainers say ‘I charge $60 and I give really good service and a trainer charging more than that is just ripping people off’. However, there are trainers out there charging four times that amount and doing great business because they understand that it is all about the experience. A good way of looking at it is thinking about flying. I can fly Economy, Business class or First class, but why would I fly First class?

It’s often ten times more expensive than economy. In fact, the result is exactly the same as well; you end up in the same place as those paying less than you. People pay more for the experience of flying first class. When a trainer understands that concept, they will understand what they sell.

Reason 2: They charge more than they believe they are worth

This is a common rookie mistake among trainers. When they start their business, trainers charge the same as other PTs because this is what they have been advised to do, and this can cause subconscious sale reluctance because they don’t believe they are worth the same as their counterpart trainers with more experience. They sometimes think ‘I wouldn’t train with me’ or, even worse, ‘I wouldn’t pay a PT that amount to train me’.

A good way to start a PT’s business is with the ‘10 – 10 – 10 rule’. The first ten hours per week of clients, the new trainer should sell at a rate they feel confident selling at. This rate may only be $50, but it causes their confidence to go up while also increasing their experience. For the next ten hours (taking their business up to 20 hours per week), the trainer should increase their rate to $60 (leaving those paying $50 on the same rate for now), then once they have sold those ten hours they can increase their rate to $70 or $80.

When they hit 30 client hours per week, they can go back and increase the rate of the first ten $50 clients by $10, all the time increasing their confidence and sales conversion rate. This is one of the best ways to get your business started and sustainable, without burning leads for the club.

Reason 3: They prefer listening to themselves than to prospective clients

How high is the trainer’s ‘oblivion factor’? Sometimes the reason a trainer is not selling (and this applies to salespeople in any business) is that theylive in their own little universe and relentlessly pursue their own agenda, oblivious to the reactions and needs of people they are supposedly interacting with.

People judge you in the first 30 seconds they meet you, after two minutes they have made up their mind about you, and after this point they just continue to look for evidence to back up their opinion of you. If you fail to positively engage someone within the first few seconds of meeting them, then the chances are you have lost the possibility of a fruitful relationship. We have all met sales people who have a high oblivion factor. The most common cause of this is a failure to listen to a prospect and respond accordingly, instead ignoring their needs and blindly pushing their own agenda. For this reason, they struggle to relate, which means they struggle to build rapport. Remember, there are only two reasons people don’t buy; they don’t see any value in what is being offered, or they don’t like the person doing the selling.

When there are trainers in our clubs who are not selling (and therefore not retaining club members), the personal training manager often gives them more leads to ‘help them out’, but why? Surely the trainer is part of the problem, not part of the solution. This is not to say that a struggling trainer should not be assisted with sales training and mentoring, but when money is being spent to drive business through the door of a club, I believe that a trainer who is not converting does not get those leads until they prove they can retain them for the club. In a nutshell; the ‘worst’ trainers get the ‘worst’ leads until they prove themselves. End of story.

The best way to address the issue of ineffective selling is by assessing a trainer’s consultation with a prospect. Most trainers will meet with a prospective client to have a chat before they take them for their initial workout. The quality of this chat will make or break a sale. It can sometimes seem like the trainer is just asking questions for the sake of asking questions and then moving on to the workout which they hope will impress their prospective client. But how can it?

It is often the same workout they give everyone, and the trainer just hopes it will convince the prospect that they know what they are talking about. At this stage, the trainer is often thinking, ‘I just want to get them into the gym to show them what I can do’. Meanwhile, the potential client is thinking ‘do I like this trainer?’ and ‘have they listened to me?’. Trainers need to ask good questions and build a relationship in order to sell.

A great quote is, ‘Ask questions with the intent to understand and not just because it’s an opportunity to talk’. You can only recommend a solution to someone’s fitness goals if you know the answers to the following questions.

• What is their fitness goal?

• Why is it important to them?

• When do they want it by?

• What is their past experience with exercise?

• Does this person even want a PT?

• Can they afford a PT?

All questions asked in a consultation should have the aim of generating the answers to these questions. I get so frustrated with trainers who get their clients to fill in the screening form from hell (you know the one, it’s eight pages long and covers every injury they have had since they were a foetus), but then still can’t tell you why the client wants to achieve their goal or, crucially, if they like you or not (this is what the sale is based upon).

So, if we look back to our elite group who are excelling in the fitness industry, the ones with the best business who are always busy and making the most money, we can now appreciate why this is the case. It’s not because they do the best bench press or the best posture analysis; it’s not because they have a great screening form or have a degree in exercise science. The reason they are so good at what they do is that they are not oblivious, they provide a great experience with exercise and they know that they are worth every cent.


Ish Cheyne

As New Zealand’s South Island Personal Trainer of the Year 2008, Ish is highly regarded for his motivational, entertaining and informative seminars. A leading international presenter, he assists Les Mills New Zealand and Les Mills International in the area of training development, having written and presented DVDs seen by over 80,000 group exercise instructors worldwide.