By Jason Urbanowicz

This blog is where we uncover and explore what it really takes to build a successful long-term personal training business. This topic – how to effectively approach prospective clients – is mainly for people who work at a big chain gym or out of a gym. So if you run your business at a facility where you’ve got members there using the gym (it’s not a PT studio, outdoors, etc) then this is really aimed for you guys.

During the last month or so I have had the same question pop up again and again: how do I approach prospective clients on the gym floor? How do you do that effectively without feeling like you’re annoying somebody, interrupting somebody, hassling somebody, etc?

When Brad Sheppard and I look at individuals who work at a big chain gym and are struggling to make a decent living from it or run their business effectively, the number one question we always ask is how many hours throughout the course of the week are you trying to approach prospective clients? Usually the answer is very little or none.

For most humans the feeling of being rejected or feeling “I am not really good enough” is the number one thing that we try to avoid, be it known or not. Most humans have had that experience of putting ourselves out there, and it not going our way. Rejected. Unless we can overcome that concern or fear or rejection, no matter how many good tips anyone gives you to approach prospective clients on the gym floor, you won’t be successful. It’s okay if you feel a bit nervous or anxious when you approach prospective clients. Don’t try to fight it; just acknowledge it.

Unless you have a great enough desire, or a clear enough goal, or you want it bad enough, normally when you get into an experience where you feel a bit of discomfort, where you are out of your comfort zone, you’re not going to win. 

If you want to approach prospective clients on the gym floor – let’s say you noticed an individual and his training style – remember that you have something to offer. Just go and make conversation. Even if he isn’t interested in getting a trainer right now, you can say something like, “Would you be interested in me following up with you at a later date? Maybe sending some really good tips and info on you how to increase your strength in the bench press?” If they say Yes that’s a really important thing because you’re actually trying to build a database. You need to look after your database. And by ‘look after’ I mean sending them regular information (hints and tips and content), so that at some point they will contact you and they will be ready to do business.

If you have a few sessions drop off, you should have a database of a people you can go and make an offer to. These are two to three hundred people who have been sitting there that are ready to go. You won’t get all of them, but out of two or three hundred people in your database, you only need three or four people that are ready to go right now.

Let’s get to it: how to approach prospective clients on the gym floor

Firstly, remember that when you first approach prospective clients, your job is not to sell to them. That’s not what you’re doing and so if you are going in with that mentality, you are going to be stiff, you are going to be uncomfortable, you are going to put more pressure on yourself and it will come across in that fashion. Someone can read it as though all you’re trying to do is get their wallet from their back pocket.

I’ll give you an example from a time when I wasn’t even a trainer any more (I was solely working for Create PT Wealth and running this company).

I was on the treadmill at a gym and I looked over to my left. I could see a lady on the lat pull down and you could tell she was new to the gym. She was doing a lat pull down but her technique was highly ineffective. And for me, even though I’m not training anyone, if I see someone who I can tell is really keen to get into it, really wants to get results but is struggling, I feel obliged to go over and help them out. So I stopped my workout and walked over to her. She had just finished a set and I introduced myself. After we’d exchanged introductions I said, “Look, looks like you’re really getting stuck into your workout. It looks like you’re really having a good go here.” And she said, “Yeah, I’m really enjoying it”. And I said, “Look, I couldn’t help but notice, when I was on the treadmill, the way you are doing that exercise, you might not be getting the most benefit out of it as you could be. I was wondering if you’d be open to me giving you just some suggestions to make sure that you’re really maximizing this particular work out, this exercise?”

I asked how long she’d been at the gym for and at this point this was only her second week.  I said, “Excellent, congratulations”, and I asked her, “What got you here? What got you to join the gym? What was her main motivation?” and she told me her goals of getting in shape. So I started to get this information from her about why she was here and I said, “Okay, that’s excellent!” And I asked her, “Have you been given any guidance?” and she said, “No, not really. I thought that I would just give it a go on my own first and see how I go and if I need any help I will get a trainer and all the rest of it.” I said, “Okay, cool. Look, let me just show the exercise.” I explained the exercise to her and showed her how she had doing it. I explained the concerns and issues around that and the tension and damage it could cause. Then I explained the purpose of the exercise, using what I believed would be of interest to her, from she had told me about her goals: trimming up, toning up, getting a smaller waist, etc. I painted a picture of what the exercise would do for her so that she could visualize that to, number one, get better results, but also without me knowing I was doing it, I was really selling the benefits of using someone who knows what they are talking about.

Before I could even go further into it she said to me, “Are you a trainer? A personal trainer?” I said, “I am, but I don’t work as one. I don’t live in this state, I’m here with work.” She said, “Oh that’s a shame.” And I said, “Why is that?” She said, “Because I would really consider getting you as my trainer.” I said, “Okay, and why is that?” She said, “I liked that fact that you took the time to come over and, in your own workout time, saw me and gave me that help and that guidance. It really helped me.” And I said, “Well, there are a couple of trainers just there and I know them because I came here to this gym when I’m traveling, and so I can go and introduce you to them if you like.” And she said, “Those guys? They’ve been there this whole time I’ve been training and just chatting to each other and didn’t take the time to come over and help me out even though it was obvious I was doing that exercise incorrectly.”

If I was for a trainer at that gym, then she would have been a new client, and that’s without me even trying to approach prospective clients.

I then said, “Look, have you ever joined a gym before and not stuck at it or got the results?” She said, “Yes.” And I said to her, “What makes you think this time it will be any different?” And she said, “Well, look I don’t really know.” That was problem number one and I said, “Look, the stats show, and it’s been an issue for a long time, that people who come to the gym with no clear goal, no real idea how to train effectively and efficiently, no idea or very little idea about how to structure their training to get the results, will lose motivation really quickly and give up.” And she goes, “Yeah, I can relate to that.” I said, “Well, look my advice would be why repeat that cycle or repeat that pattern when there is a solution for it?” And she said, “Okay, what’s the solution?” And I said, “Well, the solution is really getting someone who understands what you need to be able to change. Someone who has got expertise and knowledge.” And so I was selling the whole idea of getting a personal trainer, even though there was nothing in it for me. So she’s going “Yeah, okay. It definitely makes sense.” And I said, “The next thing is, the reality is that joining the gym is probably ten percent of the overall solution for you. Ten percent was the first step – it’s great that you are in the gym but the gym is not the answer. The gym is a feature where you’re going to try to achieve these results. Not try: you are going to achieve these results. However, unless you get another piece of the puzzle in place, unless you really understand the most effective way to train and get the results you are after, have someone to keep you on track, some guidance to make sure you are training effectively, check in regularly to make sure you’re on the right path, the chances are you could fail again or it will take a lot of time to do it and that would be a shame if that happened again.”

And you know what? She ended up signing up with a personal trainer elsewhere. The trainers at that gym missed out on an opportunity because they didn’t approach prospective clients on the gym floor.

What does this mean if you want to approach prospective clients at your gym?
  • If you are on the gym floor or you are working on the floor, spend an hour once a day when you have got time, just looking for the people that really are needing help.
  • Allocate time in your diary to do this.
  • Figure out your approach.
  • Look for who would really be your ideal client. Look for people who are training incorrectly, who aren’t getting the results they want.
  • Introduce yourself and give some praise in order to build a rapport.
  • Ask permission to give the person feedback on their technique or training style.
  • Phrase it carefully – ask someone if you can show them how to get the best results from what they’re doing.
  • Find out more information about your prospective client – goals, problems, potential roadblocks, etc. Find out as much about them as you possibly can.
  • Give professional guidance regarding the exercise and their technique.
  • Explain the benefits of the exercise to the client, based on their goals etc.
  • When you approach prospective clients, you need to offer them a solution.
  • Talk about your mission. (For example, what I’m really passionate about is helping people that have joined the gym before, or attempted to do exercise, only not to get the results they want.)
  • Call to action: book them in for a consult. “Look, what I’m doing is I’m offering you the chance to sit down with me. You can book in for a thirty five to forty five minute conversation where I run through your goals and objectives you want to achieve in more detail in order to find out how I can provide a solution for those problems. And if that feels like something that feels right for you and right for me at that same time then I can explain how I’ve helped other people just like yourself get into shape.”
  • Make sure you get the details so that you can follow up. A day before they are going to do the consult, send them an SMS. Show them really good customer care and customer service.

The next part is making sure that your sales process is in place.

I hope that this post has given you some great tips, fuel to go and approach prospective clients in a big chain gym. And I really hope one day I will see you at one of our business building workshops.