We all understand how valuable client retention is or at least I hope so. So I’m not going to explain too much in that department (that’s an entirely different discussion). Instead, we are going to focus in on the “HOW” of retaining clients. There are so many variables that go into client retention but if I had to sum it up in one sentence it would be: “You have to be the best trainer you can be all the time!”
First, and probably the most important in any successful business, is to maintain integrity. This is especially the case in the fitness industry where we are over-run with Joe Schmoe trainers who just laid on their coach and printed a $25 certification offline instead of actually opening a book and studying. Integrity is doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, in the method that it is supposed to be done, and doing it all the time, no matter who’s watching or what other’s think. So personally I would break all those down into questions and ask yourself: Am I doing WHAT I am supposed to do as a “Fitness Professional?”
- Am I doing WHAT I am supposed to do as a “Fitness Professional?”
- Am I doing this WHEN I am supposed to do it, as a “Fitness Professional?”
- Am I doing this in the METHOD I am supposed to do as a “Fitness Professional?”
- Am I doing what I am supposed to do CONSISTENTLY as a “Fitness Professional?”
- Do I do what I am supposed to do all the time, even when nobody is around?
- Do I do what I am supposed to do even under the judgment or peer pressure from others?
Confidence, not Cockiness. Stand for Something, & Embrace It So You Can Stand Out!
As a growing professional you must have your own set of personal values and morals. These should be the things that are “deal-breakers” in your life and career. These should also be the things that define your character, personality, and that differentiates you from the crowd. For me, these are things like never becoming a slimy sales person, never crossing client boundaries, and always keeping my image professional. Things that set me apart are my nerdiness and never-ending desire to learn anything and everything under the sun. This will also determine your niche which is what will set you apart. My niche is nutrition and holistic wellness which developed from my passion for studying, reading, and learning how to heal your body naturally. This leads us to be confident. If you are not confident in your abilities, you will get eaten alive. The fitness industry is a huge ocean of sharks waiting to chew up the rookies, partially because of so many of the “Joe Schmoes” I mentioned earlier. However, this being said, you must remain humble and never become arrogant or cocky. Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And if you’re all biceps and no brains, you won’t make it either.
Develop Client Relationships
Whether you are an introvert or extrovert as a fitness professional you will have to develop and hone your personal social skills. You must be able to mirror clients, relate, find common ground, connect, and build rapport. You will have to do all of these from the moment you first meet a potential new client. If you cannot mirror someone, connect, find some common ground to start building rapport on, then they will likely never book an appointment with you or come back. Mirroring someone means to be a chameleon with clients and potential clients. If someone is soft spoken and you are a loud abrasive speaker you must be able to tone it down to their level or you will scare them off. If someone has an erect tight posture and body language and you are slouching and laid back, they will likely think you are unprofessional and move onto the next person. Finding common ground and building rapport means that sometimes you might just have to fake it, till you make it. This means if you can’t find anything at all in common with your potential client (which is very rare) then you must fake it. An example is if it’s raining outside and you hate rain, but your guest says “I love the rain, it’s so calming!” Then you should never say “I hate the rain!” Instead, you should say “It is very relaxing and soothing!” This will go over much better than if you stated how you really felt.
Other Ways to Build Client Relationships are:
- Always send cards (thank you, birthday, congrats!)
- Give Rewards & Small Gifts
- Create a Loyalty or Referral Rewards Program
- Build Comradery with fitness games, weight loss contests, and challenges
- Keep It Fresh, be Creative, and Teach Them Something New
- Have Periodic Sit-downs and Converse to Show that You Genuinely Care
- Build and Send Professional Communications like Blogs, Educational Articles, & Recommended Readings
- Take Surveys, Collect Feedback, and be Open to Criticism
Creating Client Experiences through Customer Service and Professionalism
The experience you create for every client at every session will determine your success. You should build client relationships and train in such a way that your session is the best part of your client’s day and it keeps them coming back for more! You should never be driven to train people to the point of passing out or puking (excluding medical or physiological reasons). If you train people to this extent they will not enjoy it, nor will they want to come back, and they will build a negative psychological connection to exercise and training. Educate your clients about what you expect, how they will feel, the changes that their bodies will go through and how long things will take. When you set the expectations from the beginning the clients are less likely to get frustrated and then it builds more value in you as a trainer because they experience it! You should always deliver the best customer service and act professional no matter what. You never know who is watching or listening. Imagine in your head that you are always on stage when you are training. The client might have had a bad day and needed to vent but if you handle it in the most professional way instead of letting your inner brat come out, you might just get future referrals. You never know who your clients will send your way.
Delivering Results & Social Proof
You have to be able to deliver results, period. We’ve all had those clients that for whatever reason are uncoachable and have too many self-limiting beliefs, and cannot achieve their goals until they change themselves personally. Not everyone gets results, and that is ok. However, you must produce a high percentage of clients who do get results and you must obtain proof. You need to track client’s statistics like weight, body fat, circumference measurements, blood pressure, blood sugar, etc. and always take before and after pictures or videos. For the clients who don’t get results visually as far as weight loss or fat then you need to find something they can get results at, such as fitness testing. If you are consistently screening and testing all of the clients for movement screens, flexibility tests, balance, ROM, and initial fitness levels then you will be able to show them all the areas they DID get results in. To some people, this actually matters more than the pictures or the numbers on the scale.
Build Value by Under Promising and Over Delivering
Never promise the world to a client if you cannot deliver the universe. Instead, promise a tiny little star and then help them get to the moon! You’ve heard that saying “shoot for the moon because even if you miss you still fall among the stars!” That’s great for yourself, but when it comes to clients you want to promise the opposite and be realistic. If you know that only 1% of the population gets to the moon, then don’t promise that they can get there. Instead, educate them about why 99% of the people don’t succeed and inform them on how they can avoid the mistakes others make. Tell them you will be by their side the entire time to coach them, guide them in the right direction, and give them any support they need (within your scope of practice). Inform them, that in the end, their success and results will rely on their ability to find some self-motivation when you are not around, to maintain some self-discipline and self-control.
Consistent Business Management
If you cannot consistently get your crap together, you are not going to make it buddy. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there was never a successful person who didn’t have their crap together, period. Everything you do in your fitness career revolves around some sort of systems or processes or both. Think about from the moment you got your first client. They came from somewhere. You probably received a phone number, which you had to keep track of, call, collect notes on the potential client, and then hopefully book a consultation. Then, in turn, the consultation developed into a collection of the guest’s data including physical activity readiness questionnaires, medical releases maybe, goals, assessments, and baseline fitness tests. All of this is collecting through a process and maintained in a system somewhere from a binder to a CMS (client management software system). Without systems and processes, you will eventually fail and the better your systems and processes are, the more successful you will be. You will also need to be flexible and have the ability to update, edit, or change processes and systems as you see fit. I call it growing pains. As we grow, as our clientele base grows, and as your business grows, your systems and processes must grow and change as well.
Nurturing & Learning to Always Sow Seeds
Nurturing clients, nurturing guests, even nurturing your leads that you collect will lead to your success in client retention. This is what I call “sowing seeds today so that you can reap the rewards tomorrow.” If you ever heard of the story of the bamboo tree you will understand what this means. For those of you who haven’t heard the story, please google it. To sum it up, it basically states that a boy plants a seed and waters his seed day after day, week after week, month after month, even year after year. Numerous times the boy wanted to desperately give up, however, he stuck it out and did what he was supposed to do (integrity) every day and finally one day his bamboo tree grew over 90 feet in 1 day! Needless to say, I’m not sure if this is true, however, it does have a direct correlation to business. If you do what you’re supposed to do, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, even on the days when you don’t feel like it and want to give up, then eventually you will reap the rewards and it will be very much worth it.
I hope this article brings you clarity and motivation to deliver an exceptional client experience, develop a beautiful relationship with you clients, and prosper through unwavering client retention. I guarantee if you do all of these things with “Integrity” and continue to sow seeds, you will have a bright and promising fitness career!
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● Associates Degree, May 2005, Temple College, Temple, TX
● Bachelor's Degree in Sports Management, Presidential Scholar
● Graduated Magna Cum Laude, May 2011, California University of Pennsylvania, PA
● Master’s Degree in Exercise Science & Health Promotion, July 2012, California University of Pennsylvania, PA
● Doctor of Integrative Health Care, Concentration in Clinical Nutrition, Huntington College of Health Sciences (2016-2018)
● Certified Personal Fitness Trainer, Oct. 2007 International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
● Certified Personal Trainer, May 2008 National Academy Sport Medicine (NASM)
● Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist, April 2010 National Academy Sport Medicine (NASM)
● Total Body Suspension Training Certified (TRX), April 2010 Fitness Anywhere
● Kettle Bell Instructor Certified, 2011 Kettle bell Concepts
● Certified Personal Trainer, February 2012 Smart Fitness International
● Certified Specialist in Speed and Explosion for Sports Competition, National Association of Speed and Explosion (NASE), March 2012
● CPR/AED/ First Aid Instructor Certification-Instructor Certification certifies in all 50 States-April 2012-current
● Certified in Bodybuilding Contest Prep, International Academy of Physique Conditioning (IAPC), Jan 2014
● Fit tour Certified Kickbox Instructor, Certified Yoga and Pilates Instructor Jan 2015
I started in fitness as a way to find a healthy lifestyle for myself. I was always an athlete in high school and college. However, after a year of college, I quickly found myself involved with the wrong crowd and in the wrong relationships. I saw my life slipping away from me and my health suffering greatly as a result. I come from a family that is the polar opposite of my current lifestyle, and I saw myself beginning to follow these footsteps. I knew I did not want that for myself or my daughter’s future. I knew I had to change for the better. Growing up and seeing so many people suffer from self-inflicted, self-destructive habits that have caused them and their families great turmoil and physical stress, I envisioned a different way of life. I determined to do better and become better. With that motivation, I cleaned up my act, left everything behind, moved out of state, started back in school. Became a certified trainer and never looked back. Years later I have put myself through graduate school, earned Presidential Scholar and graduated Magna Cum Laude. Currently, I possess a variety of certifications and will continue to educate myself forever. I am currently working on my doctorate degree and I am excited to bring these tools I learn to our facility, staff, members, clients, and future patients. I have learned that there is nothing you cannot accomplish if you put your mind to it and put in the hard work. Success will come if you will work hard and never give up. The only way you won't accomplish your goal is if you quit. It's that simple. Join us at BEFIT, where we are not just a "gym" and we don't just "train" people. We are lifestyle coach's, lifestyle mentors, and we can help you develop yourself to your optimal physical capacity through self-empowerment, education, and lifestyle changes!
Latest posts by Ashlee Nejtek
- The Importance of Reflection and Planning as a Fitness Professional - April 5, 2017
- Managing everything within the 4 walls of your facility - December 10, 2016
- How to Retain Your Clients (The ones you want!) For Years - November 4, 2016