Selling – One of the most important skills needed for a Personal Trainer

In my mind the heartbeat of running your business. It’s a word that strikes fear in many personal trainers’ hearts and minds. 

Tougher still is when you are trying to sell a monthly service that requires long-term commitment.

Defining a Sale:

A sale in our case, is a service. A sale is solving a problem for someone. So, our job title really is Professional Problem Solver. When you meet with a potential client you are interviewing them to see if they are a good fit for your personality and style of training and you, too, are being interviewed by them as a potential candidate to solve their fitness problems. Certainly, this is a different view to take than a simple exchange of funds.

In fitness sales, the best “closers” that I know have a few things in common. People tend to buy from other people that they like and trust, so it helps to have an attitude or demeanor that wears well, is mature and laid-back and inquisitive in nature. It helps to care for the well-being of others and have their best interests at the forefront of your mind and at the forefront of the conversation. “How can I help you?” NOT “How can I sell you?”. We always encourage all of our learners to concentrate on just helping people first.

A service sale is more so about asking the correct questions at the correct time. It is about getting to know someone and what makes them tick. It’s more helpful to have a flowing conversation than it is to read questions from a sheet and jot down answers that you will never look at again (more on this topic later). 

Solving someone’s problem is less to do with product knowledge and more to do with interpersonal skills, asking questions and actively listening. A skill I have learnt to develop through years of experience. A use of Motivational Interviewing tactics is strongly recommended, as is a professional appearance and attentive body language. Your body language speaks so much stronger than your words or even your tone of voice.

Obstacles to a sale:

There are two sources of obstacles regarding closing a sale from my experience:

  1. The client may have obstacles.
  2. You may be the obstacle.

Let’s begin with 2 – You as the obstacle.

Fitness sales is actually quite simple. You see, the client has already done the hard work. They have decided to take action. They are there with you voluntarily and have already made the choice to act on their goals. Really, all you need to do is NOT mess it up. Maintain the attitude that this person is now your client (until they tell you they are not your client). This allows you freedom to steer the discussion to long-term needs and goals and the plan to achieve and maintain them.

Here is a short checklist to ensure you meet all criteria to position yourself in the best way possible:

  • Are you in a good mood? Minimally, in a positive mindset? Ideally, enthusiastic?
  • Are you dressed professionally? Representing yourself to what you charge?
  • Are you prepared?
  • Is your office cleanish? If not get rid of all rubbish etc.
  • Are your chairs comfortable and available?
  • Do you have a structure and plan for the meeting?
  • Have you created added value to working with you? 
  • Have you built rapport?
  • Is your line of questioning about them? Their lives? Their situation? Solutions for their challenges?

Where you may go wrong is speaking about yourself too much or stumbling when it comes to finances. I used to be guilty of this and to this day still am.

Remember, your client is there to help themselves, not listen to stories about your workout schedule or meal plan. One typical scenario is that the trainer cannot help themselves from becoming a “teller”. “Do this. Do that. That’s not right etc”. All of this destroys rapport and discourages people from wanting to work with you. On the financial end, remember that they are also there already knowing that your service has a cost. You simply need to find a solution that is fair and fits their budget.

Back to 1 – The client.

First, view an obstacle as a hurdle, not a dead end. Next, consider that the client may simply be attempting to slow down the sales process, create space to think, and perhaps, may simply be requesting more information.

Here is a list of the most common objections I have heard in my career as a trainer from potential clients:

  1. It costs too much money.
  2. I don’t have time.
  3. I need to think about it.
  4. Need to discuss this with my other half.

Why do these objections occur? Without getting “salesy” and offering counters to these objections, challenge yourself to hold yourself accountable for the failure to create value to working with you. The best way to overcome an objection is to discuss it prior to their arrival. Bring these topics up during the conversation and they will not be called upon at the close.

A few of the questions to ask during the consult/conversation might be:

  1. How often do you plan to train with me?
  2. How much time are you giving yourself to attain these goals?
  3. Do you have a positive support system for example from your partner?
  4. Are you a patient person, how soon are you looking to see your goals?

This line of questioning challenges the client to think long-term and helps you to “collect a yes”.

Overcoming Obstacles:

For many people, self-confidence is low, and they have a history of failures in this arena (be it adherence to fitness or maintaining weight loss), hence, they become fearful of failing again. This emotion can be unbearable to someone and cause emotional stress. The best way to help someone past this is with patience, understanding and providing direction.

What, How, Why:

An often-overlooked topic of discussion is to have the client find their emotional driver. Plenty of people can make a list of their goals (What) and you, the trainer, can easily provide the plan (How) for those goals. Having them define precisely why (emotional driver) can make a tremendous difference for them to act now and can be referenced often to help their long-term adherence. 

A motivational interviewing tool you can use is called the 4 levels of why developed, by a Japanese founder of Toyota. Toyota still uses it to solve problems today. In fitness, it may look like this:

What brought you in today?
Client – I need to lose weight.
Why is losing weight important for you right now?
Client – I feel tired all of the time and want to be in shape in time for my holidays if this Coronavirus finishes in time. 
How long have you felt this way?
Client – As long as I can remember.
Why is feeling better so important to you now?
Client – I feel awful about myself and improve my confidence.
How would you define success for yourself?
Client – Having more energy and not despising looking in the mirror.
Why do you feel so strongly about these things now?
Client – I put everyone’s needs before my own. Kids, my husbands, parents etc. I tend to worry about myself last.
So, we really need to work on finding “me time”, some stress relief and allowing yourself to feel good about taking time out for you?
Client – Yes. I need to take more care for myself.
Why do you think these things have come to the point where you want to make action?
Client – I feel like if I don’t act now, I may not ever do it. 

What is it that you do want?
Client – I want to be proud of myself for putting me first, for getting into shape and for being a role model to my kids.

The emotional driver is what connects you to the client. It is the “light bulb moment” for them when they know for sure that they are in the correct place at the correct time to change their lifestyle. It provides much deeper meaning than just “lose weight”. Remember, losing weight is only a small part of the goal, it is not the complete goal. Not even close.


Selling a long-term monthly training membership to your personal training etc can be a rewarding experience because you get to be a part of helping someone change their life. A few points to focus on for continual improvement and reflection:

  • The emotional driver is the difference between reaching a goal or achieving success.
  • Prepare for every consultation.
  • If you are not closing consultations, challenge yourself to spend more time building the relationship.
  • Remember that an objection is typically not a personal attack on you, it just may be a way for the client to slow down the process and gain more information.
  • “How can I help you?”, not “How can I sell you?”
  • Your ability to ask insightful questions and be an active listener will do more for your business than any other single thing.
  • Your job description is – Professional Problem Solver.
  • Last thing, if you don’t sell take 5 minutes to reflect on what you did and how you can improve for the next time. It’s never a failure, it’s a lesson.

Written by Kevin Mantle (Managing Director)

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