Personal trainers, regardless of whether they work for a large fitness chain or have their own private business, work very hard to build their client base. Each client is precious and should be treated as such. Successful personal trainers have clients that stay with them for years on end, while struggling personal trainers can’t keep clients for very long and need to continually find new clients to fill in the gaps.
This has very little to do with the knowledge level of a personal trainer and has everything to do with how they treat their clients in every aspect of their business. For example, you can have a novice personal trainer with an overflowing client list and a phD exercise physiologist (who knows everything about fitness) but can’t keep a client for longer than four weeks.
Human beings are pretty simple. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943), we have five basic needs that motivate more than 35,000 decisions (on average) we make each day.
- Physiological needs (food, water, sleep)
- Safety needs (shelter, employment, potential danger)
- Love/belonging needs (family, friends, intimacy)
- Esteem needs (self-esteem, self-confidence, respect of others, respect by others)
- Self-actualization needs (morality, creativity, acceptance)
Of all those needs, one area in particular benefits a person who engages in personal training (as a service) … esteem needs. People exercise to look better, feel better and build their self-confidence. As a result they are more likely to gain greater respect from others and become more fulfilled with their lives. Personal trainers help clients achieve an improved respect of self and gain more respect from others. So, the word of the day is … “RESPECT”.
When it comes to the business of personal training, you earn a client’s business by earning their trust and delivering on the promise of what they will receive for their money:
If a personal trainer can deliver on these three things, a client has no reason to ever leave (except for when they become self-sufficient and can do it successfully on their own). Failure to meet these needs means one less client paying for personal training services.
10 Ways to Lose a Personal Training Client
Inspired by the movie “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days”, with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey, here are the sure fire ways to lose a personal training client. By implementing a new “bad” habit each day for 10 days, a personal trainer certainly lose their business.
1. Practices poor communication skills
Communication skills are essential to providing a high level of service. This is the ability to effectively communicate thoughts, ideas and feelings to others. Effective communication is much more than being able to talk. It’s the ability to listen and understand others and “read” body language to determine how to best manage a situation. If if a personal trainer is not effectively communicating with their client verbally, in writing, or with negative body language they may not have that client for very long. Examples include:
- Not explaining exercises clearly
- Not paying 100 percent attention to the client during the workout
- Talking about yourself versus asking the client questions to better understand how to better help them
- Mumbling or talking in the opposite direction of the client
2. Doesn’t respond to phone calls/texts/emails in a timely manner
Failing to respond to direct communication from a client is a blatant show of disrespect. A personal trainer is essentially saying to their client:
- You are not important to me.
- My time is more important than yours.
- I care more about your money than I care about you.
3. Shows up late for scheduled appointments or cancels at the last minute
A client pays good, hard earned money to pay for high quality services. Failing to show up on time or canceling an appointment at the last minute is both rude and disrespectful. A personal trainer is essentially saying to their client:
- My schedule is more important than yours.
- I don’t really care about your desire to get results.
- You are a waste of my time.
4. Doesn’t give their client their full attention at all times
A client pays for the time, guidance and attention of a personal trainer. An example similar to this would be getting dressed up and going to an extravagant restaurant and getting served Twinkies and a hot dog. By not providing their undivided attention to a client, personal trainers are essentially saying (in a non-verbal way):
- You’re not important enough to get my full attention.
- Someone (or something) else is more worthy of my attention and respect.
5. Practices unsafe training techniques
Exercise can be scary to many people who are new to fitness. Some seek out personal trainers for their expertise to ensure they are using proper technique to get the greatest benefits from working out. By practicing unsafe training techniques (and potentially injuring a client), a personal trainer is essentially saying to their client:
- I care more about looking good than your health and safety.
- I don’t value you as a client.
- You are a “toy” that I get to experiment with.
6. Uses negative reinforcement as a way to motivate clients
Personal trainers are known as “masters of motivation”. People hire a personal trainer because they need help getting and staying motivated to exercise. Motivation should be positive and supportive, not negative and demeaning. Examples of negative reinforcement (removing a negative stimulus to increase a particular behavior) include:
- Constantly speaking in a negative and demeaning way until a client finishes three sets of each exercise.
- Forcing a client to exercise in an unpleasant environment and rewarding them by finishing their work.
- Promising to reward a client for hard work in a session by removing the 5 minute plank exercise at the end.
7. Diagnoses injuries
A personal trainer is not qualified to give medical advice to a client. Diagnosing any injury should be left in the hands of a certified and knowledgeable professional (i.e. medical doctor, physical therapist or certified specialist). A personal trainer is saying to their client:
- I don’t care if you get better.
- My ego is more important than you getting a qualified diagnosis.
8. Doesn’t maintain their certifications and/or insurance
A personal trainer is responsible for maintaining their certification by investing in continuing education to improve their knowledge and experience in the field. By not doing the work to maintain their certification, a personal trainer is essentially saying to their client:
- I have no desire to become a better personal trainer to meet the needs of my clients.
- It is more important to make money than provide the highest quality of service for my clients.
- I don’t care enough about my clients to make an effort.
9. Makes clients feel “uncomfortable”
A personal trainer is supposed to make an uncomfortable situation (i.e. exercise) a positive experience and more tolerable. By creating an uncomfortable experience even more emotionally painful is essentially putting “salt in the wound”. Examples disrespectful behavior include:
- Inappropriate language, offensive and/or prejudiced behavior.
- Sexually inappropriate or lewd behavior.
- Bad hygiene (i.e. body odor, bad breath, dirty clothing).
10. Doesn’t not follow their own advice about fitness, health and wellness
Personal trainers are role models of fitness and health. When he or she doesn’t “practice what they preach”, they are being hypocritical and misrepresenting themselves. Examples include:
- Eating fast food at every meal.
- Smoking and/or drinking heavily.
- Not going to the doctor or dentist for regular check ups.
Final Thoughts …
If you are a personal trainer and want to build your personal training business, use this list as a guideline for “what NOT to do” in your business. If you are a person currently working with a personal trainer (or are looking for one), use this list as a way to evaluate personal trainers as you look for the right one. The overall goal is to ensure personal trainers value and respect their clients in all parts of their business and that clients have a positive personal training experience with long lasting physical results!