Gone are the days when a personal trainer walks up to someone in the gym, points out their poor form, and then suddenly gains a client because of that interaction (in truth that never worked all that well in the first place). Finding clients is typically the hardest part of a personal training job. If correcting gym members on the floor isn’t the best method, and I can promise you that standing with your arms crossed at the personal training desk isn’t the best method, then what can you do if you aren’t a marketing wizard or a social media expert to find clients? The good news is I have a solution for you.
Offer a Mini-Workout
I just finished teaching my current class at NPTI the quads and hamstrings. Typically once we learn all the ins-and-outs of a muscle group from an anatomy point of view, we go to the gym and we practice exercises that are beneficial for those muscles. My students had already mastered the basics such as squats, leg presses, deadlifts, leg curls, leg extensions and the like so I wanted to show them something a little different. And because I am normally working with 20+ students that are training to become personal trainers at once, I needed to set something up that works for a group.
To that end I created a short circuit for them to follow. The goal wasn’t to kill or maim them (remember that) but to make them feel the muscles working and to show them something that was likely new to them (remember that too), and I wanted to have a little fun with it (key point #3). Here is the circuit I created:
- Banded Leg Press (8-12 reps)
- Sissy Squats (8-12 reps)
- Reverse Landmine Lunge (6-8 reps each side)
Repeat for 3 total rounds
- Glute Ham Raise (4-6 reps)
- Romanian Deadlift (8-12 reps)
- Slide Leg Curl (6-10 reps)
Repeat for 3 total rounds
Hamstring Circuit: https://youtu.be/UsyDAB3joUE
Each circuit was completed 3 times. Just to make it easy, I had all the females start with the quad circuit and the males start with the hamstring circuit, and then once they were done they flipped. For that sized group it took about 15 minutes to complete each muscle group.
I want to be clear. The magic isn’t in the specific workout I created, the magic is in the little mini-workout and the effect it provides. In my experience this is the easiest way to show a potential client what personal training is all about.
Imagine this scenario. You have been working the floor for a few weeks and you now recognize some regulars. You know their names (if you don’t – start learning them now) and you know their routines. And over there is Mary getting on the elliptical just like she always does this time of day and she’ll go for a classic 30 min workout. She can do better. You know she can do better. Approach her with a warm and friendly smile, greet her by name, and ask her if she has time and if she is interested, would she like to try to a quick 15-minute conditioning workout? If she says no – no worries, leave her be. If she says yes, great, now go show her a fun and effective conditioning workout. It should be something she has not done before; she will feel while she is doing it; but it doesn’t crush her and she has fun while she is training. When that is over tell her you enjoyed working with her and you’d love to sign her up for a full complimentary session where you can complete a proper intake and really understand her goals.
One of the best things about this method is even if a person says no, it is not a permanent no. If you walk up to a gym member and say “Can I show you how to do this?” and they say no, that is a more permanent no. They are really saying “please just leave me alone and don’t talk to me again, I don’t want to be bombarded with sales tactics while I workout.” Once they create that wall it can be hard to get through it. But with this scenario, when they say no they are just saying “I can’t do this right now.” But the idea will fester. While Mary is on her elliptical she’ll be thinking “I wonder if I should have accepted that offer – is there really a better way to do this?” And if the gym members see you doing these types of mini-workouts with other members regularly they will be more receptive to it.
Certain workouts and setups work better for this method than others. Teaching a novice how to properly squat with a barbell often takes more than 15 minutes and I don’t think that is ideal for this type of setting, you want immediate success here. That is better suited as part of a true one-on-one personal training setting. I think the following works very well:
Abs/Core – most people are bored with how they train their abs. Pick 2-4 exercises that are new to them and hit the core in fun, effective ways.
Conditioning – get the person who only does cardio off the machines and onto the turf. Have them use the prowler, battling ropes, med ball slams, and other low risk, highly effective conditioning exercises. If they puke, you went way too hard. The goal is for them to experience success, just get them huffing and puffing a bit, that is all you need.
HIT Cardio – If someone just loves their cardio but only does steady state, hit them up with some intervals, step, or repetition style cardio training. You can finish the last 10 minutes of their regular 30 min workout like this. Show them there is so much more to do on that simple machine and the workout would be so much more fun, if only you were around all the time to help them
Size – if someone is training for size, pick one muscle group and hit it hard and fast paced with some new twists for 15 min or so.
Strength – if someone is training for strength, pick one main exercise and come up with a creative and effective set/rep scheme for them to follow on that exercise. Maybe try negatives or paused reps or the like and provide tweaks on their form as needed.
To summarize this point, offer a short workout – 10-15 minutes. It should be fun, they should feel it, but you should also leave them wanting a bit more. Even if it is going well don’t turn this into a grueling 60 min session, just end it there and tell them you are available if they want to sign up. I find this to be extremely effective because the workouts are easy to create, clients are willing to give it a try, even an initial no often turns into a yes, and the simple act of asking someone to do this is much easier than feeling like you are approaching someone with a quick goal of asking them for a sale.
Give Free Classes
The second best way to get clients in the gym is to offer free lecture style classes. These are typically done in the group exercise studio but it can be anywhere that can accommodate the attendees and is reasonably conducive to you teaching about a topic. Pick any fitness, health, or nutrition related topic you want. Attacking myths or controversial issues works well, but so does simply addressing the basics. Just because it seems super simple or obvious to you, a professional, doesn’t mean everyone knows it.
If you aren’t used to public speaking this can be a little daunting but suck it buttercup. You are a fitness professional, you should have the ability to talk to a group of 5-15 people about a topic of your choosing. If you can create a 1-2 page handout that is better for you and them. Open it up to questions and the like. When you do this you automatically create the impression that you are the expert, you are the one who knows the answers to the questions. Gym members and class attendees will immediately turn to you for advice. At the end of the seminar let them know you are a personal trainer and you would be happy to answer any questions that they have.
The educator and the teacher in me is hesitant to mention this but the most important factor in these presentations is NOT how factually accurate you are. For the good of the nation and the field, yes, I implore you to do your due diligence on the topic; but the reality is you don’t have to be a foundation of knowledge or even master the basics of science to be good at marketing and to get yourself clients. If this was the case the Food Babe and Tracy Anderson wouldn’t have much of a following. If you speak with passion and authority and have any sort of results to back up what you are saying, clients will believe you. I only mention this because you don’t have to an international expert or possess 10 yrs of experience in the field to give a presentation in your gyms group ex studio to 5-15 people. Just get up there and do it. If it sucks, cie la vie, you’ll get better at it the more you do it, just like you did with demonstrating exercises. If it is great, now you likely just earned yourself a client or in more simple terms, you just earned the opportunity to make a few thousand dollars from someone.
To help ensure that at least a few people show up, especially to your first couple of presentations, feel free to invite friends, guests, etc. No one wants to be the first person to sit down for a random lecture. But if there are already 3-4 people there, then more will come in. Of course advertise in the gym (over the urinals or in the stalls, plus at the front desk) about when the talk is, what it is, and why it would benefit someone to attend.
Become a Group Exercise Instructor
Group exercise is a great compliment to personal training. I certainly don’t think that one can become a good personal trainer by simply buying a book, doing some self-study, and taking one test on a computer – if I did I wouldn’t run a brick and mortar personal training school. But I think for group exercise – especially after one becomes a personal trainer – that can be fine. Become a group exercise instructor. This will help you by:
Adding to your toolbox various skills you can use with your clients
Make you more comfortable leading small groups for training
Revenue generation – you can teach a class in that session it was hard to fill with personal training. Most group exercise instructors make $25-35/hr, on par with running a PT session at a gym.
Lead generation – each time you run a class you are in front of 10-30 people who like fitness, and you have a full hour to show them how awesome you are. If you are good very often 1-2 of those people will come up at the end and pay you a compliment. This is the perfect time to mention you are a personal trainer and you would love to work with them more individually.
Some trainers, particularly males, poo-poo the idea of becoming a group ex instructor. I would strongly urge them to reconsider. Indeed, because the vast majority of group exercise instructors are females, actually being a male would then be unusual and the trainer would stick out more in their memory, which is particularly valuable in this instance. Showing someone you are not just a “meat-head” but you have a variety of skills can be just the icebreaker a potential client needs to start talking to you.
All it takes is about 20 clients, working out two times a week, and you are a full time personal trainer. In the DMV area a full time personal trainer with that book of clients is easily earning 50k+, and I’ve had lots of students in the 60-70k range with about 10% cracking the 6 figure number. The clients are out there and need help, what are you waiting for?