I've been at the Y for a little over a month--and, yes, it took me a little over a month to land my first client. I've gotten a few through my own business, but I've had to be patient and persistent with getting one at the Y.
At my particular YMCA, I'm not required to sell training. When I work floor shifts, I'm not required to prospect. It is these reasons that I work at this particular Y. When there's no pressure for me to sell or to approach people with an ulterior motive, I can be more genuine in my interactions with people and feel much more comfortable letting them know I'm a trainer and then asking them what they're training for; I then let them know that if they ever need help with anything, they can feel free to speak with me, even when I'm working out. Does this mean my business is being built more slowly? Yes, but it also means I'm neither miserable in the process nor do I feel like I'm compromising any of my morals or ethics by approaching people with the intention of selling something to them.
It was this impersonal process of selling that made me quit my previous gym as a consultant. Do I wish I were brave and skilled enough to hit the floor and come away with a client every time? Yes, but it's not me, and I'm not going to force myself to be that way. So if you're someone who absolutely detests the idea of selling anything, I'm going to tell you all of what I did to land my first client--and I didn't have to prospect for this client, either.
Being out on the floor and talking with the members did not land me my current client. Do I speak with the members on the floor anyway? Yes. Do I try to find ways to help them? Yes. Do I give everything away? No. Do I hope one day these members will approach me for training? Yes. So if it wasn't the floor that helped me land my client, what was it?
What I do behind the scenes is what helped. At the same time, what I'm about to tell you isn't anything I set out to do deliberately with the knowledge that this would help me land my first one. Doing these things just happened to produce this result.
First, you want to become cordial not only with the members but more importantly the employees of the gym--yes, even the trainers, as it was a trainer who gave me my first client. Let them know who you are and that you're looking to fill up your book of clients. Be willing to go the extra mile for them. Learn from the trainers. Ask them how they got their clients. If you work floor shifts and someone needs you to take their shift and you're able, do it. Let the employees know that you're happy to help out wherever you can. This leaves a good impression in their minds so that when a member asks about training, they'll immediately think of you. And for the trainers not looking to take on anymore clients, let them know you're looking and that you'll take any clients anyone throws their way.
If you work the floor, do more than what is asked of you. For example, we have a binder of the cleaning schedule. I do a lot of stuff that isn't even on the list, like wiping down cycles in the spin room or wiping down the mats in the group exercise room. Granted, I do them because I want to stay busy, but members will perceive you as a hard worker the busier you make yourself seem. Plus, they're more likely to approach you for help. While my busyness hasn't won me any clients, it has won the admiration of several members who note how hard I work. Even if I've wiped the machines the day before, I'll do them again the next day. You are never too good to do the little things.
This next point seems obvious, but smile at every person you make eye contact with. Bid them a hello, how are you, and have a good day as they exit the gym. The friendlier you make yourself, the easier it'll be for people to approach you with the intent of holding a simple conversation that can eventually lead to one about personal training.
When you land leads, you need to follow up with them. I have a few right now that I intend to follow up with. One lead I received because my dad let a woman at his work know that I'm a trainer, and this woman wants her mom to have one. I got another lead because the front desk called me up to introduce me to someone interested in training but still needed to talk it over with her spouse; however, I was called up because the woman at the front desk knows how much I want to build up my book. And I got another one through a wellness appointment by simply showing the member my value and letting her know I'm a trainer (she had a trainer previously and is interested again).
If you are on the clock, let the front desk know that you'd like to do all of the tours, just so members meet you as the first trainer before any others.
Work out in your trainer shirt. Take group exercise classes in your shirt. Pay attention to the people on the floor. I noticed one member was wincing in pain as she was getting off an ab machine. Turns out she was having gluteal pain. I showed her a simple stretch, and the next day she told me she felt so much better as a result. Little things like this help, especially if you keep following up with the member you helped. They'll then start talking about you. It's all word of mouth. And when you finally do land your first client, put all of your efforts toward making them happy. Be especially enthusiastic/energetic when you're out on the floor training them so that members take note.
It's hard. It's rough. Being a trainer is for the privileged. I have had to take on another small part-time job, but it's a job as a pt aide, which will greatly support my career as a trainer.
It is such a rewarding career, one I will never give up on. I'm being patiently, politely persistent.
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, nutrition coach, young adult author, moody ballerina.
I help people perform without pain.
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The views expressed on this blog are entirely my own. Any advice I offer is not to be taken as medical advice. If you think you have contraindications to exercise, please see your physician before implementing any sample workout plans I present on this blog.
All images are either my own, from Canva, or Creative Commons