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ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, How to Build Better Relationships with Your Fitness Clients

How to Build Better Relationships with Your Fitness Clients

Reading Time: 5 minutes 32 seconds


DATE: 2021-03-23

The fitness industry is a people business, first and foremost. Whether you're a personal trainer or a group fitness instructor, your relationship with your clients can often determine whether they stay or go. Sometimes, and surprisingly, this can even be more impactful than your client reaching their fitness goals.

Physical activity is a difficult habit to get people into. If you put yourself into the shoes of a prospective client who doesn't have an extensive background in working out, regular exercise can be difficult. At the very least, it likely will not be fun for them for a while. They'll likely be sore, tired, and unsure.

This is where the relationship building comes into the picture. It's more than just you giving someone a program, a meal plan, and then yelling at them. There are many people who believe that this is what fitness professionals do. And, whereas some fitness trainers and fitness instructors are very successful with this approach, it doesn't mean that everyone will want that.

Whereas you need to demonstrate results to likely keep a new client long term, if you aren't building better relationships with your clients, you might end up losing them to someone who does.

Why Building Strong Relationships Matters

Most of you know why building relationships on social media can help you to expand your fitness business. The better you relate to others in the industry, the better you will look to potential clients.

People in your gym or fitness studio will likely see your positive relationships and realize that you are a trainer that they can trust.

Building rapport isn't always easy. It all boils down to communication. Working on your ability to communicate and handle vulnerability will be key to developing more intimate relationships with your personal training clients. Great relationships start here.

Different clients will have different expectations, no different than having different fitness goals. It's essential that you be mindful of where people are coming from and meeting them there.

Turning Prospective Clients into Happy Clients

Remember that it's always easiest to start relationships on the right footing. Accomplishing this is as simple as following through on what you say that you'll do.

It's shocking how many trainers end up spoiling their relationships with clients by simply not following up on what they say they'll do. So, it's a good idea to have a checklist for each client. How often do they expect you to contact them? Do they have everything they need? Have you checked in with them to see how they're feeling a few hours or the day after a workout?

How you operate things is completely up to you, but keep in mind that personal training is a service business. As such, packaging matters.

Restaurants are a great example of this. Whereas fast food will simply put out information about their food, nicer restaurants have to do more. It isn't just about the food. They are selling you an "experience."

Some will roll their eyes when they hear this, but it's true. There are exceptions to every rule, but at the end of the day, most people have expectations of the experience they will have.

Always remember that a great experience can save a poor session. This isn't to say that your programming, workouts, etc. shouldn't already be great. But their overall experience is what most clients will remember. Every session is showtime.

Building Strong Client Relationships with Existing Clients

If you have a less than stellar retention rate with your clients, meaning that they never seem to last longer than a few weeks or months, then there is likely room for improvement here. All it takes is a little humility. It's a learning process.

If your clients aren't sticking around, then there's something that you might want to rethink in your personal training practice.

The good news is that if you already have regular clients, you can absolutely boost those relationships.

In this case, what you need to do is look at the reasons that previous clients have left. But here's the kicker—you should do this without the client's actions in mind. In other words, even if they told you that they were moving, couldn't afford it, etc., these are likely a way of politely ending the relationship without ruffling any feathers.

So, you need to take a look at what you're doing. How are you demonstrating that you're listening? If they hate something about their training, like a particular exercise, have you looked around for another? Are you following up with encouragement? Are you praising them for sending food logs?

There are always ways of strengthening your existing client relationships. This is how you survive as a fitness professional.

There's another reason to focus on building these relationships as well — business growth.

The Right Clients Can Grow Your Client Base

When you provide a quality service, people will remember. In fact, they won't just remember, they will absolutely tell their friends. And this is where putting in all that work pays off.

The quality of your relationship determines whether someone will recommend you. In fact, when you have a solid relationship with a client, they won't need any prodding to sing your praises.

When people see a difference in your client, they will want to ask how the transformation happened. And often, the question that concerns prospective clients is whether or not they will be heard. They're likely concerned that it will be too hard, they won't have the time, or they'll have some sort of drill instructor for a trainer.

If your clients feel like they can trust you to help them find results, then they will trust their credibility to their friends to recommend you.

It's also important to mention that the opposite is also true. If you are unrelenting, lacking compassion or empathy, and just don't seem to acknowledge their concerns and deal with them in a healthy way, they will likely tell people why they chose to stop training with you.

Trust, Empathy, And Effective Coaching

Trust is one of the first things you must build with any client. It might be a cliche, but every relationship begins with trust.

The way that you build trust is through empathy. Your ability to understand and feel what they're feeling is of the utmost importance. Trust, the foundation of the relationship, requires vulnerability. It isn't easy for a client to admit that they need help getting fit or achieving their goals. As such, empathy is the most important way you can respond.

Be understanding. This doesn't mean you have to accept excuses, but instead, you can find a more effective way of dealing with them. It can be frustrating, but you know that a life is more than what one eats, or the exercises one performs. When life gets in the way of accomplishing fitness goals, that's when your coaching needs to come in.

You have to be more than just a repository of information. You need to listen to their concerns. Remember what's important to them. And take the time to really analyze the incentive structure. They might one day lose the weight or gain the muscle they're looking for. But what about today? What in the "here and now" is keeping them hooked?

If your client has a long road ahead of them, what are you focused on in the short term to give positive feedback? For instance, do they have more energy after working out? Do they get a sense of accomplishment? What's the more immediate benefit in the short term?

Lean into your coaching ability. Or, see this as an opportunity to develop those techniques. They will serve you well throughout your personal training career.

If you would like to learn more about retaining more of your clients, check out our article here!

For additional strategies for being a more successful personal trainer, sign up for the ISSA's Transformation Specialist course! Learn the skills and techniques required to truly coach and influence behavioral patterns as they relate to your clients physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

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