personal training clients

First Impressions: Tips on Putting Your Best Foot Forward with New Clients

National Academy of Sports Medicine
National Academy of Sports Medicine

 By Andrea Ausmus, NASM-CPT, CES 

It’s an all-too familiar scenario: you see someone in the gym working out, just going through the motions. Maybe they stick to a cardio-only workout or repeat the same exercises each day, avoiding changing up the routine or pushing past their comfort zone.

Your first instinct might be to jump right in and offer your input, but it’s not always the best approach. Getting to know a potential new client can be one of the biggest challenges we face as personal trainers, especially when working in a busy fitness facility. However, it is also one of the most important parts of our job.

It can be frustrating because you know you can help them. I have learned in my years of being a certified personal trainer that being patient and investing time to recognize someone’s potential before approaching them can be one of the best ways to gaining long-term clients. I first came to this realization after meeting Mary.

Mary was what I like to call a “cardio queen” when we met. She came to the gym with her two daughters who had private martial arts lessons. She then hit the treadmill for more than two hours while her daughters trained. For weeks I observed her routine and could tell she was highly motivated. I didn’t want to come off as too pushy by offering my training services right away. I knew though, despite all of her hours on the treadmill, she wasn’t getting the results she desired or deserved.

I finally made an introduction and learned a little more about Mary. I chatted with her each day and finally asked if she’d take me up on a free session. I made this offer a few times before she accepted. I learned that Mary wanted to be healthier for her girls and wanted to be their role model.

Mary has lost more than 100 pounds since we started working together nearly two years ago. .I often think back to our first conversation. Had I been too eager or aggressive, Mary may have turned and run, literally. Approaching potential new clients in the gym is tough.

Here are a few easy to follow tips that have worked for me and helped me build my clientele:

1.    Be personable and approachable. It’s great when a potential client seeks you out. But that’s not always the case. Be friendly and approachable. Also, dress the part. Every gym is different so dress for your clientele. Being well groomed and looking professional can go a long way and give you credibility with potential clients. This includes your personal workout time and when spending time in your community as well. You are always on stage.

2.    Take a minute to observe. It’s extremely tempting to jump in and help someone who isn’t getting the most out of their workout. Pause and take a minute to see it from their perspective, as it could be intimidating. It pays off to be patient, learn more about the person, and then make a casual introduction. Of course, if someone is risking injury, offer your expertise immediately.

3.    Invest the time to make a new friend. Start by introducing yourself. Once the conversation is flowing, ask them what motivates them, why fitness is important, and what their goals are.

4.    Don’t fear the freebies. Most people have never worked with a personal trainer before. Giving away 30 minutes of your time and expertise can translate into a client for life who refers even more clients your way. It can change your life, and theirs, so don’t be afraid to give away a free session from time to time.

5.    Measure results early and often. All clients want results. New clients want results sooner than later. Be sure to hold them accountable, and evaluate early and often so you can highlight hard work and show your value. Set achievable, short-term goals and celebrate milestones.

At the end of the day, it comes down to building great relationships and getting results for your clients, while also building your business. Mary could have easily turned me down and been intimidated by my approach. By the time I offered to workout with her she felt comfortable enough with me to give it a shot. We are personal trainers to help improve lives and empower individuals, so remember that next time you walk up to someone new. If you have a few tips of your own, leave a comment and share – I’d love to read them.

Andrea Ausmus is an NASM-CPT, CES who is also featured in NASM’s national infomercial.

The Author

National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

Since 1987 the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) has been the global leader in delivering evidence-based certifications and advanced specializations to health and fitness professionals. Our products and services are scientifically and clinically proven. They are revered and utilized by leading brands and programs around the world and have launched thousands of successful careers.