Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 2017 and has recently been updated and revised for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
You check your watch. It’s almost 9 a.m. You have a prospective client coming to the gym or your personal training studio for an initial consultation. You check your watch again. You play out the initial consultation process in your head and wonder how it’s going to go. Sound familiar?
Whether you’re new to personal training or have already done a lot of consultations with prospective clients, there’s still a hint of nervousness before that first meeting. Before that interested client walks through the door, it’s pretty common to start asking yourself a list of rapid-fire questions like:
- Will you be able to connect with the client?
- Is the person ready to commit to working out and eating healthy?
- Will you understand what the client wants to accomplish by working with you?
- Do you have the skills to help this person achieve his or her health and fitness goals?
- Will the client sign on for one of your personal training packages?
As a personal trainer, your best skill set is developing workout plans, making nutrition recommendations, demonstrating correct form, adapting exercises for clients as needed, tracking progress, and providing motivation and encouragement.
But you won’t be booked with clients if you don’t develop your consultation skills too. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to nail the initial consultation with a new personal training client.
This starts before the prospective client walks through the door. When someone has an interest in hiring you to be his or her personal trainer, have him or her complete a questionnaire first. You can email him or her a list of questions or create a basic form using free software like Google Forms.
You’ll be able to gather important information about goals, lifestyle habits, fitness level, current diet, and any limitations that your client may have to help you begin thinking about how you can help him or her. Collecting this information ahead of time can also help guide the consultation, help you ask questions specific to your client, and build the trainer/client relationship.
Break the Ice
When your prospective client walks through the door, say hello and take him or her to an open area where you can sit and visit. If you’re training in a gym, you might have a lounge or lobby where you can meet, versus a private office. It’s a simple way to help your client feel more comfortable and less nervous about hearing a pitch about personal training services.
Once you’ve greeted the client and found a place to chat, break the ice. Ask about what else he or she has going on with family, work, school, hobbies, etc. Doing this helps build trust, and you’ll also get a sense of what kind of time the client can commit to working out.
Now is also a good time to have your client fill out any additional paperwork like a consent and liability waiver, physical activity readiness questionnaire, and any other intake paperwork. You may also consider requiring these documents to be completed before your first meeting.
Discuss Challenges and Goals
After spending a few minutes getting to know your client better, you can transition the conversation to talking about his or her health and fitness challenges and goals. This is a good opportunity to mention specific details the client shared in his or her questionnaire. Here are a couple of examples of how to guide this part of the conversation:
- “In your questionnaire, you mentioned that you’ve tried a lot of different diet pills and workout programs but never got very good results. Tell me a little more about that.”
- “When you were exercising a lot, what did your workouts and training look like?”
- “It looks like you want to reach your goal weight in three months. What’s your motivation for doing this? And what will it mean to you to shed those extra pounds?”
- “How can I help you achieve your goal?”
When you ask questions specific to the client based on his or her questionnaire and other information he or she has shared earlier, it shows you’re listening, you care about the client, and you want to help him or her. It’s a great way to build trust and show the client you’ll be creating a customized training plan unique to his or her starting point and goals.
Spending time on this part of the process can also help make talking about personal training packages and pricing and asking for his or her business a lot easier later on.
Once you’ve had a chance to review the questionnaire with your client and ask follow-up questions, put your client through an assessment or mini-workout. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Get basic measurements: Height, weight, waist circumference, body fat percentage. You may also want to grab your tape measure and record starting measurements for the neck, shoulders, chest, biceps, hips, and thighs. As you take measurements, explain why the data is useful. For example, “This information provides a starting point to help measure your progress.”
- Measure cardiovascular fitness: There’s more than one way to do this, but the Step Test and One-Mile Walk Test are both effective ways to measure cardiovascular fitness. This will help you identify the client’s starting point for cardio-related programming. If your client has a hard time with the assessment, reassure him or her that your programming will help improve his or her cardiovascular health.
- Measure flexibility: Walk your client through a series of basic movements to evaluate flexibility and range of motion like lunges, squats, and overhead arm extensions. This information will help you identify any issues you need to be aware of when you write your client’s exercise program. Demonstrate each movement using correct form and full range of motion. Talk your client through each movement, point out any issues you notice and recommend adjustments, and explain how your training will help improve flexibility and range of motion.
- Assess strength: There’s more than one way to assess strength. Some personal trainers use a one-rep max, five-rep max, or 10-rep max for various exercises liked barbell squats, bench press, or leg press to measure strength. The Push-Up Test is another effective way to measure upper-body strength and endurance. When you assess strength, demonstrate each exercise with correct form. Then walk your client through the exercise and explain the movement and muscles worked and how your training plan can help your client make strength gains.
The assessment process is a great opportunity to see what your client’s strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to exercise, building rapport, and establishing yourself as an expert. (Here’s another way to wow your client: Give your client a fresh bottle of water and clean towel before you start the assessment.) As you work through each phase of the assessment process, talk about programming strategies that will help the client achieve his or her goals.
Ask for the Sale
Once you’ve completed the mini-workout or assessment, head back to the open area where you started the meeting. Review your client’s assessment results, goals, and recommendations to achieve them.
Then present some personal training package options, like this:
“Based on your goals and the results of your assessment, a couple of different options will work to help you get the results you want.”
Show the client three different pricing options with various levels of personal training sessions. (Note: Have these pricing options ready to present before the client meeting begins.)
Then ask: “Which option makes the most sense for you?” And wait for the client to answer.
If you’ve done a good job from start to finish, it’s easy for a client to say yes.
If you don’t get a yes when you ask for the sale, that’s OK. Many people want to take time to make a buying decision that could cost a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. Follow up in about a week after the consultation with a phone call or email. Ask a question like “Have you made a decision about personal training yet?” or “What’s your next step to achieving your health and fitness goals?”
The Process of Landing New Personal Training Clients
If you want to nail the initial consultation with a new personal training client, there’s more to it than knowing how to design a strength training program or how to help someone lose weight. Take time to get to know your client. Find out what his or her health and fitness challenges and goals are. Get measurements and assess his or her cardiovascular health, flexibility, and muscle strength. And provide value throughout the entire process to educate and encourage your client. When it’s time to ask for the sale, your client will be ready for you to help him or her.