How to Keep Your Clients beyond New Year's Resolutions
Trainers are almost always happy to have new clients. But most will admit a sense of dread when the gym floods in January. These are often the fly-by-night clients, the ones who will give up after a few sessions, which can be frustrating for the trainer just starting with them.
Client retention is a year-long challenge for personal trainers, but in January it really hits home. Instead of being irritated by all these newbies, consider them as potential long-term clients. If you can engage them, help them set better goals, and motivate them, you can make a big difference. And, you’ll get more business.
Fitness and health resolutions are particularly popular with people who set these annual goals. This give you a great opportunity to help people and extend your client roster. The people who make the resolutions and actually make it to the gym to exercise are ready to change. They just need guidance and a little push.
What is a New Year’s Resolution Client?
New Year’s resolution clients are different from your steady clients. They may be determined now, but they often lose interest, get frustrated, and quit. They don’t necessarily have the same drive or intrinsic motivation of your regular clients.
There are two ways you can look at a New Year’s resolution client, one hopeful and positive, the other more cynical:
- A one-time client who will give up quickly. A lot of people set resolutions and fail. It’s a fact. It’s no wonder many trainers view these January visitors to the gym as one-time clients. Maybe you can count on them to stick with a few sessions or even a few weeks.
- A potential long-term client you can motivate to make real, lasting changes. What the more optimistic among us see is potential. Clients coming to you in January are already taking some concrete steps toward making positive changes. What they need now is the support and encouragement to keep it going. That’s where you come in.
Unfortunately, a New Year’s resolution client has the deck stacked against them. According to statistics, they are likely to fail to stick with their goals. One study found that the failure rate is as high as 88 percent (1). This doesn’t mean there is no hope. Understand the failure rate and why it’s so high. Learn how to motivate clients to make real changes and you could convert January clients into lifelong clients.
Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail
To better understand these January clients, what their mindset is, and how you can help them long-term, first you need to know why so many people fail at resolutions. Your goal is to help those people who set fitness resolutions keep them and become long-term clients.
Studies and surveys of people who set New Year’s resolutions have found some important patterns. These provide some insight and showed that those who fail were more likely to (1,2):
- Set unreasonable goals or set no goals at all, just general hopes for the future
- Fail to keep track of progress
- Forget about their resolutions after a couple of weeks or even less
- Set too many resolutions to be able to focus on achieving any of them
- Not have a plan for how to achieve resolutions
- Keep their resolutions to themselves and not share with friends or family
- Have unreasonable expectations about what they can do
How to Handle New Year’s Resolution Personal Training Clients with Better Goals
The failures that people experience are good lessons for those who want to succeed. Some of the most important reasons people fail to stick with resolutions are related to goals. New Year’s resolutions need to be more than vague aspirations, such as losing weight or getting healthy. They must be realistic, specific, and measurable.
Goals that people actually achieve have certain characteristics. They are:
- Specific. Losing weight is not a useful goal. More useful is to set a goal to lose ten pounds or twenty pounds. To get fit or be healthier is also too vague. Talk to January clients about what they want to achieve specifically. Do they want to gain muscle mass? Run a 5K? Stop eating junk food? Make goals specific and detailed for greater odds of success.
- Measurable. Part of being specific about goals is ensuring that you can actually measure progress and success. Otherwise, how will you know if you’re meeting those goals? Losing a certain amount of weight is measurable; changing out two unhealthy meals for homemade, nutritious meals per week is measurable; being able to lift a specific amount of weight is also measurable.
- Achievable. Some people set New Year’s resolutions that are far too challenging and set them up for failure. Help clients find goals that they can achieve, and then keep setting the bar higher with each success. If they do have one very ambitious goal, for instance, to go from non-runner to finishing a marathon, break it down into smaller, more reasonable short-term goals.
- Relevant. The best fitness goals are relevant and personally meaningful. Just aiming to be healthier isn’t personal. It’s something we should all hope to achieve. Find some personal reason that a client has this goal and they’ll feel a greater drive to work towards success. For example, maybe a client wants to get healthier and fitter because they watched a parent struggle with diabetes. Wanting to avoid diabetes is meaningful for them and a good motivator for keeping up with fitness and healthy food choices.
- Time-based. Finally, make sure your new clients have goals that have a time limit. Open-ended goals give them too much room for procrastination. Break bigger goals down into smaller milestones and set completion deadlines.
Take enough time when you meet with your New Year’s resolution clients to work on goal setting. Spending time on it now will pay dividends when they find success and decide to stick with training.
Keeping New Year’s Resolution Clients Motivated
Setting the right kinds of goals is the first important step to helping these often-short-term clients stick with a fitness program. But the next challenge is that you need to keep them motivated. There are many ways to do this, and you’ll probably need to spend some time figuring out which strategies work best for individual clients.
Be a Good Listener and Show You Care
This starts with your intake and goal-setting sessions. Get to know your clients, what their lifestyle is like, the personal reasons behind their goals, and the challenges they face trying to meet them. The more you understand where clients are coming from, by really listening to them, the better you will be able to help them.
Understanding your client makes goal setting easier, helps you plan individualized sessions, and shows them that you care. A client will be more motivated to stick with your program if they believe you care about their progress. Listen to their concerns and hopes, understand their challenges, and be compassionate.
How to Handle New Year’s Resolution Personal Training Clients with Small Changes
Changes that are too big are unsustainable for most people. To make big, life-altering changes stick, you need superhuman motivation. Manage your January clients’ motivation levels by helping them take baby steps.
Small changes are more likely to lead to wins. And wins are motivating. Failures are de-motivating, and when changes are too big, they are set up for failure. Celebrate those small wins and help your new, potential long-term client see how even these baby steps lead to improvements in their lives.
For example, maybe one client decides to switch from a high-calorie, cream-filled coffee drink each day to black coffee with a splash of skim milk. That’s doable. And after a week or two they probably notice they feel less sluggish in the morning and may even have lost some weight.
Recognize and Celebrate Achievements
When your clients get those wins, both big and small, recognize them. We all get motivated by praise, so don’t be stingy with it. Hitting milestones is worth celebrating, even if it’s just a pat on the back, or a kind word.
Encourage your clients to celebrate their own achievements as well, if the rewards don’t sabotage their hard work. Looking forward to a night out at the movies, for instance, is a good motivator for the week and much healthier than a food reward or a cheat day.
Variety is Your Friend for Motivation
Not everyone is excited about working out, especially after doing the same routine day after day. Simply varying what you do with clients is motivating. Change up the types of workouts, the exercises within each workout, and even the order of exercises to make each session more interesting. When your clients are never sure what to expect walking in the door, you’ve already motivated them.
Convert January Clients into Long-Term Clients
All this work leads up to conversion. By working on goal setting, helping new clients overcome the typical resolutions failure rate, and motivating them through the slumps, you’re turning them into long-term clients. Here are a few other things you can do to seal the deal.
Keep Track of Progress to Show Clients Results
People come to you because they want to achieve their resolutions. The want to see results. Start every new client out with a full evaluation, and update it regularly. Go beyond weight, and use metrics like weight lifted, inches lost, changes in diet, and their overall mood and feelings about success. If you can show them solid results, you’ll get clients for life.
Work with Their Schedules, So Time is Not an Excuse
It’s so easy to come up with excuses to skip a workout. Time is the biggest one. Your clients have work and family responsibilities. They get tired and prioritize resting at home over the gym. An important way to keep these clients coming back is to remove these barriers and nullify the excuses. Be flexible and work with their schedules so they can’t use your availability as an excuse.
Sell Clients on Multiple Sessions
New clients in January want to make a commitment to health and fitness, but it’s too easy to fall off the wagon. One way to keep them on track is to upsell long-term packages. Getting a client to sign on for 12 weeks rather than a few training sessions at a time is a win for both of you. They get a reason to stay motivated, and you get a long-term client.
This year, instead of looking at those New Year’s clients as a hassle, people who won’t be on your radar for long, see the potential they have. They can be long-term clients and with your help they can meet those goals and beat the New Year’s resolution odds.
Do you want to change your career and do something you love? Try the Self-Guided Certified Personal Trainer program available through the ISSA.