Initial Personal Training Consultation [Step-By-Step Guide]
Almost every personal trainer can relate to new client jitters. Like an awkward blind date, both trainer and potential client are trying to read cues and determine if they can work with the other person. If the personal trainer lacks a poised and confident demeanor, potential clients often exit the fitness center and never return.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Keep reading to discover the keys to a successful first consultation that converts waffling customers into committed clients.
Don’t forget to check out the secret weapon to winning over your customers: Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Platform! It’s easy for both trainer and client to use and helps the client get the results they want! Book a demo to learn more!
As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Clients want a trainer who is confident and prepared to meet with them.
After you’ve booked an initial consultation, send one or more questionnaires to the client via email that covers topics such as reasons for seeking out a personal trainer, personal and family medical history, or any previous experience with exercise or personal trainers. Personalize survey and questionnaire templates like these to fit your preferences!
These questionnaires don’t have to be lengthy but indicate commitment, motivation, and gives a glimpse into the client’s life so that you can address their needs and land a sale.
Having as much information as possible allows you to calmly and confidently converse with your client. This establishes your professionalism and experience without the ego. Reviewing the questionnaire answers should give you ideas on how to help your client. But don’t assume you know everything based on the questionnaire. Clients often don’t share everything on paper, so be alert for inconsistencies and be prepared with follow-up questions.
Get to Know Your Client
The door swings closed behind your client and it’s go time! Check out the video below for how to make a solid first impression:
Greet your client with a genuine smile and a firm handshake. Use their name and express sincere excitement to work with them. Your client might feel intimidated about their upcoming consultation, and these simple touches ease tension and initial awkwardness.
Welcome them into your fitness center and find a comfortable place for their consultation. Some clients prefer to be in the open gym, while others prefer to discuss their health history and goals in a private area. Giving your client the choice of space helps alleviate discomfort or anxiety about their session.
Plan Time for Them
Most people won’t share their personal history and hopes for the future with a stranger in the first five minutes of conversation. Take some relaxed time to get to know them. Utilize good listening skills to express genuine interest in your client so they feel comfortable sharing about their life.
Ask conversation-starting questions about family, work, school, or hobbies, like:
- What do you do for a living?
- What is your family like?
- What is something you do for fun?
- What do you hope to do with the degree you’re working on?
Focusing the conversation on the client sets the foundation for building rapport throughout their training. It’s alright to share bits of your life if it’s relevant (for instance, if you went to the same school), but remember their session is about them, not you!
Don’t be fooled; these intentional questions aren’t a waste of time! Consider how their answers might affect their health or training: is their job sedentary or laborious, stressful or require overtime? If they have kids, do their kids have crazy extracurricular schedules? Are their hobbies adaptable to personal training? Does their educational background offer clues to structuring their workouts or explaining exercises? Asking these questions will both bring you up to speed on their personality and jump-start success.
Learn Their “Why”
Everyone has a reason for seeking out a personal trainer, and it’s your job to find their driving motivation. Maybe it’s a medical diagnosis about themselves or a family member. Maybe it’s because they want to stick around to enjoy their grandchildren. Maybe it’s to run a marathon or reach the next level in their sport.
Ask simple, open-ended questions that allow the client to share their story. Keep the conversation going or clarify any confusion with follow-up questions. If possible, affirm and empathize with their reasons for a lifestyle change. Discovering your client’s motivation is key to understanding how to set effective goals and motivate your client in later sessions.
After discussing their reasons for change, many clients are ready and willing to move forward with their personal training.
Get a Medical History
Because personal training can bring dramatic changes to a client’s lifestyle by means of exercise and dietary changes, it’s crucial for personal trainers to get a thorough medical history for every client. Here are some key categories to keep in mind.
Major Risk Factor Identification
Most personal trainers do not have the qualifications to design a program for individuals with certain medical conditions without the consent and involvement of their physician. Before going any further with your client, ensure that they answer ‘no’ to the following questions:
- Do you have diabetes?
- Are you clinically obese?
- Do you have a history of high blood pressure?
- Do you have a family history of coronary disease prior to age 50?
If your client answers positively to any of these, it’s best to get consent from their physician before continuing with their consultation. While this may be inconvenient (and most likely lose the client), it is far better than the alternative of potentially injuring an individual through rigorous exercise their body can’t handle.
To avoid an awkward halt to your consultation, send these questions in your questionnaire email or ask them in your initial phone call with the client. This allows the client to obtain consent from their physician before the consultation. During the consultation, confirm that there are no major risk factors or ask for a copy of the physician’s consent form.
Health History Form
Everyone has a health history, and you need to know the pertinent details in order to safely and effectively train your client. It’s critical to have a personal and/or family history for:
- Illnesses and diseases
- Heart attack
- Cardiac surgery
- Extreme chest discomfort
- High blood pressure (over 140/90)
- Heart murmurs
- Ankle swelling
- Any vascular disease
- Unusual shortness of breath
- Fainting spells
- Asthma, emphysema, or bronchitis
- Excessive drinking (more than 1-2/day)
Additionally, information can be helpful regarding:
- Previous surgeries
- Current medications
- Pain, including location, intensity, and frequency
- Poor sleeping habits (less than 8 hrs/night regularly)
- Dietary nutrition and eating habits (both what they eat and when they eat)
Having these in your questionnaire email gives the client time to reflect over their answers and not be pressed to give an immediate answer. Consider having the client keep an honest food journal for one or two days before their consultation.
Cardiovascular (CVD) Risk Profile and PAR-Q
The CVD Risk Profile is an extra step to ensure your client is safe to perform regular exercise and undergo dietary changes without consent from their physician. A score of over 32 would indicate physician consent is necessary.
PAR-Q (short for Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) is a quick survey that identifies red flags to exercise in a simple Yes/No format. Any positive answers would indicate caution for exercising. Both of these forms are easy to use and provide objective data. Watch this video to learn more about PAR-Q:
- Body composition (body fat vs. lean muscle)
- Circumferential measurements of the neck, chest, upper arms, waist, hips, forearms, thighs, and calves
- Range of motion restrictions in joints
- Muscle flexibility
- Muscle strength
- Functional Movement Screening
You won’t need to use every measurement and can omit ones that aren’t necessary after learning your client’s medical history.
These questionnaires can helpfully measure the client’s motivation, self-efficacy, and any barriers to exercise. Understanding these variables can help craft a truly tailored personal training program for your client.
The results of their medical history, measurements, and motivational factors will give you a clear picture of the next step in your consultation: writing goals.
This is the exciting step where you motivate your client by casting a captivating vision!
Give a Summary
Before jumping into writing their goals, take time to explain the tests and measures you performed and their results. This will allow you to quickly gather data, build rapport, establish your expertise, and involve the client.
Help the client see their need for change and areas to improve using the objective data from the measurements and tests. The results are a neutral ground that allows the client to feel you are their helper and not their judge.
Give the summary with a positive outlook; you don’t want to demotivate your client before starting! If the client’s results are concerning or make the client anxious, encourage them that committing to a personal training program is the best thing they can do for their health.
The Basics of Good Goals
It’s best to set both short and long-term goals, as seen in the video above. The short-term goals will add additional motivation and show progress along the way to the long-term goals. Don’t fly solo on writing goals! While you should give suggestions based upon your expertise, your client must be motivated by the goals in order to achieve them. Listening to and including the client as much as possible builds your rapport and trust.
Your client’s reason for recruiting a personal trainer is the ultimate long-term goal. But outlining one or two other long-term goals they can achieve at the same time will provide more opportunities to encourage and motivate your client towards success.
As a personal trainer, your passion is to see clients find lasting and fulfilling change as a result of their program. One of the best long-term goals you can set for every client is for them to enjoy or find purpose in their lifestyle change, whether it’s establishing routine exercise, a dietary change, or both. This goal allows you to regularly reinforce the benefits and enjoyment of healthy lifestyle changes.
Many leaders across occupations use the acronym SMART to establish goals.
- Specific: Well-defined with clear expectations.
- Measurable: A quantifiable progression.
- Attainable: Challenging but not burdensome or impossible given the client’s life demands and schedule.
- Relevant: Stems from and impacts the client’s reason for a lifestyle change.
- Time-bound: An appropriate time frame that keeps the client focused without stressing over achievement.
Take these components into consideration and set goals that are motivating and inspiring to your client!
Make a Plan
If you’ve established goals correctly, most clients are excited and motivated to get to work. But before you can do that, you must establish a plan of action and mutual expectations. Check out the video above for another look at how to design a training plan.
Start by suggesting one to three lifestyle changes and ensure the client has a high level of commitment for each one. Success breeds success, so it’s best for commitment to be rewarded so it can be channeled into further motivation.
If they can’t commit to a certain lifestyle change just yet, save it for later. For example, it might be ideal for a client to exercise five to seven days a week, but this is intimidating for many clients or might not be feasible. But once they experience success and further trust your expertise, they might be more motivated to increase their workout frequency.
However, if the client starts balking at your suggestions or can’t commit to lifestyle changes, it’s important to not falsely assure them that change will occur. If a client wants to lose weight but can only commit to exercising two days a week and cut out energy drinks, they must understand they won’t lose a great deal of weight.
Some trainers find it helpful to have the client fill out an unavailability schedule. This determines how much time the client can reasonably commit to training. Other trainers suggest signing a contract so clients acknowledge their commitment and stay motivated to adhere to their program.
For a complete guide on how to design an effective program, check out this article.
Unveil the Software
Most fitness clubs use digital software for billing, scheduling, and program creation. But not all programs are created equal! If you want to increase your profit and your client satisfaction, it’s time to book a demo for Exercise.com’s All-in-One Business Software!
Our exceptional comprehensive software allows you to easily schedule or alter session times, receive no-hassle billing, design workouts, track client progress, remotely give new workouts or exercises, and communicate with your client through the web and app.
In this current technologically-driven culture, revealing and giving a basic overview of Exercise.com’s software can win over the client, make their goals more attainable, and get the client excited.
It’s an easy and fun way to stay connected with your clients!
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Pitch Like a Pro
Now is the moment you’ve been waiting for. You’ve done a lot of leg work to set up a proper pitch, and it’s time to make a sale.
Before you even begin to list out packages, pricing, and payment plans, go ahead and put your client in the schedule. This is what Sheena Iyengar calls the foot-in-the-door technique: getting the client to commit to a smaller decision before committing to a larger decision like spending money. If they commit to times and dates first, they’re less likely to back out when you get to the prices.
While it’s important to know the packages you (or your fitness center) offer, it’s crucial to sell the results, not the package. Focus on the value of the client attaining their goals; the package is merely the means to achieve them at the speed and preference of the client.
Be prepared to address objections. Ask the client what they think of the plan you’ve presented. They might say “great!”, ask a question, or raise an objection. If the client affirms the plan, ask if there are any foreseeable obstacles.
If there are other hesitations beyond your control like asking a spouse, needing time to think, or bad experiences with other personal trainers, you may see a sale walk out the door. But that doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. Reflect on the consultation to see if there’s a concern you didn’t address and send a follow-up email, text message, or phone call about a week later.
Watch this video for how to handle objections and give a compelling call to action:
If your pitch doesn’t go as planned and you don’t secure the sale, don’t count it as a waste. See this as an opportunity to fine-tune your skills, learn from other successful trainers, find new techniques, and become a better trainer.
Tips for a Standout Consultation
Once you’re confident in your consultation flow, tests, measures, and sales pitch, it’s time to focus on the details to really sell yourself as a personal trainer.
Although it should be understood that personal trainers should act in a professional manner, it’s common for trainers to slide into unprofessional behaviors as they get comfortable in their position. Simple things like checking your phone, inappropriate wardrobe choices, and intimidating body language can create an uncomfortable atmosphere and hinder building rapport and a trusting relationship with your client.
Keep in mind that as a personal trainer, your behavior is always on display. So while you may not act unprofessionally to your client, they may observe interactions with co-workers or other clients that make them uneasy or distrusting.
Be respectful and considerate of everyone around you. Choose professional attire that doesn’t distract from your expertise. And keep your phone in your pocket so you can fully engage with your client.
Ask Good Questions
Asking good questions doesn’t stop after your initial consultation! Continue to ask open-ended questions throughout every training session. You can build a relationship (which is key to maintaining clients, achieving goals, and getting recommendations for future clients) while learning what keeps your client motivated.
Learn more about asking good questions in this video:
If you ask good questions, that means you’ll need to get good at listening. But listening isn’t simply waiting for your turn to speak. Instead, listen to understand your client.
Be mindful of habits that are perceived as disapproving, like crossing your arms, tapping your foot, or pursing your lips. As best you can while exercising, communicate with body language–such as head nodding and eye contact–that you’re following what they’re saying. Remember details or events they’ve previously shared and follow up during a later session.
When you’re constantly working with people who aren’t at the same physical caliber as you, it can be easy to esteem yourself above your clients. Even though it may seem like this gives off an air of expertise, clients rarely perform well for a trainer when they feel judged or inferior.
Regardless of their current physical state, every client should be treated with respect and commended on their commitment to change their life. You get to be the one to take them through this transformative journey; this should always be seen as a privilege, not superiority.
Give a Facility Tour
While this can be an optional service, most clients enjoy or expect to tour the facility. Be prepared to point out small details, amenities, and unique selling points. Take pride in your workplace and highlight how your facility is better than the next one down the street.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Should a personal trainer charge for an initial client consultation?
Personal trainers might or might not charge for a consultation. It also depends on the fitness center’s policy. A free or discounted consultation can reach client populations who wouldn’t ordinarily pay for a consultation, but charging for a consultation tends to get more committed clients. Both approaches can be successful, so personal trainers can choose which works best for them.
Why is it important to screen an individual before starting a training program?
Screening an individual is crucial for the client’s safety and professional protection. If any Major Risk Factors arise in your consultation, get the permission of the client’s physician before proceeding with an exercise program.
How many sessions per week do personal trainers recommend?
This is all dependent on the client’s needs and goals. In general, it’s beneficial to have two or three sessions close together for several weeks. A few weeks or months later, the client needs less supervision but can have regular check-ins and accountability.
Now that you’ve learned the model for the initial consultation, it’s time to get out there and gain some clients!
Don’t forget to book a demo for our All-in-One Business Software to increase your profit and succeed as a personal trainer. Learn more today!