// You don’t need a business card to be a personal trainer!

Professional ‘extras’ like business cards and websites are great to have, but they are not essential for getting your training business off the ground says Donna Hutchinson. Your best resource is you – so get out there, meet people and make the personal connection.

You’ve earned your certificate IV, you’re buzzing with enthusiasm and you feel ready to start training clients – except you don’t have a business card. You think you’d better hold off until you get one before you start looking for clients. And now you think of it, you should probably have a website and flyer or brochure too, shouldn’t you? Actually, no: you don’t need any of these things to get started, you already have everything you need – you.

While all the professional extras are great, people purchase personal training because of who you are and how you connect with them, not because you have a fancy business card. Actually, it’s never been cheaper or easier to get business cards made up, but the point is – you don’t need to invest in all the bells and whistles at the very start of your personal training career – they can come later. The only step you need to take right now is to go out and meet lots of people, connect with them and start building relationships. Ask any trainer who has been in the industry for a while and he or she will tell you that the majority of their business is generated through word-of-mouth and meeting lots of people.

If there’s so much business to be gained through personal connection, why don’t more trainers do it? Useful though social media can be, it takes effort to pull yourself away from Facebook, Twitter and the online world to meet new people in the flesh. It’s much easier to stick a poster up in a coffee shop than it is to attend a networking event, or to place an ad in your local paper and hope the phone starts ringing. What many trainers don’t understand is that this is actually the hardest way to find clients: it costs money and you have to break through the clutter of other marketing messages that people are bombarded with on a daily basis. An easier way to attract more clients is to connect face-to-face. You get their undivided attention and the experience is fully interactive – and that’s a lot more effective than any poster.

There’s one recurring issue, however, that rears its head whenever trainers are advised to get out there and meet people: the perception that they have to sell. As soon as the word ‘sell’ is mentioned, most trainers panic and say, ‘Hold on, I’m a trainer, not a salesperson. I don’t like to sell’. This is understandable, but how will you pay the bills unless you sell yourself? Selling is a natural part of the process of building a client–trainer relationship. You invested in gaining your qualifications, you provide a service and naturally prospective clients will expect to pay you for your time.

But we’re not focusing on selling here – we’re looking at making the connection with people rather than thinking about selling them anything. Use the following steps to get the ball rolling;
1. Meet lots of people
2. Connect with them
3. Build the relationship.

Step 1. Meet lots of people

The idea behind meeting lots of people is to get yourself out there and start connecting. The conversation will naturally gravitate to what you do. If you can clearly articulate what you do people will be interested and ask questions. This is not a cue to start a sales pitch though! For now, you are a stranger so they would feel uncomfortable with such a situation. Instead, turn that stranger into a friend. If there’s a good fit for your services, then down the road you can turn that friend into a customer. If not, perhaps one of their friends will be interested.

Step 2. Connect with them

Once you meet and start the conversation, your next step is to find a common interest, just as you’ve done in a thousand previous conversations with strangers. When you meet someone for the first time it’s natural to want to find out more about them, so the tendency is to explore a topic you both have in common in order to keep the conversation going. It’s no different when you’re connecting with a person who you hope may one day be a great fit as a client.

Good listening skills and the ability to ask questions are helpful when striking up a conversation. Nobody likes an over-talker who dominates a conversation and doesn’t let anyone else get a word in edgeways. You’re probably thinking of a person right now who does just that. It’s frustrating because you just don’t feel like an equal in the conversation. If you have a tendency to do all the lip-flapping, teach yourself how to listen more actively – people will appreciate it and respond accordingly!

It is also important to be genuine during conversation. People can sniff out a fake from miles away, so if you feign interest it won’t work. Be yourself and be curious to learn more about the individual you are speaking with.

Step 3. Build the relationship

The beauty of building a relationship is that you aren’t hounding people to make a sale; your motives should be purely focused on making a connection. You’re moving through the progression of meeting a stranger, turning that stranger into a friend and, if there’s a good fit, perhaps taking that friend onboard as a customer in due course. There’s no rush.

Connect with that person frequently, maybe over coffee, lunch or even a walk. Seek to help them in any way you can and if they are serious about wanting to train with you, offer them a sample session to give them a taste of what you have to offer. Make the experience enjoyable and memorable and they will want more.

This three step process doesn’t require a business card, brochure, flyer or website. If you are using your lack of these as a reason for not getting started with your training business, you are simply stalling, probably due to fear of the unknown or a lack of confidence about your new venture. As the old saying goes, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.

I’ve never done business with someone just because of their business card, have you? Their card may look professional and give me a sense of the person, but at the end of the day if I don’t connect with them, their card could be made of 24 karat gold and it wouldn’t make a difference – I won’t be doing business with them.

It’s time to get out there to meet people, connect and build relationships. By all means, take your cards with you, but if you don’t have one don’t let that stop you; be innovative and creative and give them a personalised, hand-written VIP invitation for coffee, lunch or a sample thirty-minute session. This will say more about you than a generic business card.

Now go out there and start turning strangers into friends and friends into lifelong, loyal customers.

Donna Hutchinson
Donna is a fitness business coach and author of the How To Guide To Starting Your Own Personal Training Business and the How To Guide To Growing Your Own Personal Training Business. She has over eighteen years’ industry experience and travels the world speaking to audiences about how to grow and develop their businesses. You can contact Donna at www.edgefit.ca