ACSM CPT Chapter 10: The Initial Client Consultation

Chapter Objectives: 

  • Know the attributes of relationship marketing and how those attributes relate to the first and the following appointments with clients.
  • Know the critical attributes of great customer service and hospitality.
  • Find the nonverbal skills that are required to successfully engage clients during the appointments.
  • Get comfortable with using the client centered approach for health and fitness coaching.
  • Know the elements and value the first client contact for a precursor to the first client consultation.
  • Know the preparation and components of the first client contact and how the structure of the appointment will go, and the precedence set by it for the whole relationship with the client and trainer.
  • Find the strategies of recommending and selling training packages and getting commitment from the client.

Aspects of Successful Client Relations

  • Trainers need to create a strong framework for both retaining and attracting long lasting client to trainer relationships. 
  • Customer Service and Hospitality
    • Trainers are considered to be in the service industry and since this is true, they must port forth a service for assisting and guiding while showing good customer service and hospitality to their clients.
    • Giving great customer service includes these types of things:
      • 24 – 48 hour courtesy call before meetings .
      • Be either on time, or preferably early, for their appointments.
      • Be 100% prepared for each and every appointment.
      • Be prompt and courteous when responding 
      • Show good organization and reliability and always give a follow up if you promise to do so.
      • Give programs based upon science and credible sources.
      • Answer questions that clients may have concise and accurately in your scope of practice.
      • Give clients references to the right professionals when the issue is not in your scope of practice.
      • Listen to the concerns and give sincerity when responding.
      • Respectfully speak to clients and other people.
      • Dress both professionally and appropriately.
    • The traits to show hospitality are:
      • Optimistic warmth: There should be a sense of the glass always being half full, having genuine kindness, and thoughtfulness.
      • Intelligence: Be open minded and have a insatiable curiosity for learning.
      • Self-awareness and integrity: This is the act of understanding what makes someone tick and have a natural inclination for being accountable for doing the right thing.
      • Empathy: Have awareness and care for how others feel and how someone’s actions affects other people.
      • Work ethic: A natural tendency for doing things as well as you possibly can.
    • When someone has those qualities, they will be able to do these things:
      • Greet your clients with a good handshake, a smile that is authentic, and good eye contact.
      • Show that the client’s best interests are in your thoughts in all circumstances.
      • Give attention to the requests of clients and do what you can to make it happen.
      • For the end of the session, make sure that you thank the client for their time.
      • Make follow up emails and calls and see how the client feels following a personal training session.
      • Send handwritten cards to thank the client following appointments or when they reach a specific goal.
      • Find opportunities for going above and beyond what is expected.
  • Relationship Marketing
    • The principle of relationship marketing:
      • When personal relationships with customers takes precedence and the sales will usually follow.
      • Keeping existing clients takes precedence over finding new customers.
    • Principles of marketing are essential for successful businesses and it uses many concepts from customer service and hospitality.
    • The goal of marketing is bringing the buyer and the seller together.
    • The first premise of relationship marketing is having and emphasizing the personal relationships with clients. This is supported through the idea that clients have a deep desire for trusting the provider of business and they are just inherently loyal. 
    • The second premise of relationship marketing is focusing on keeping clients as opposed to new ones. 
  • The Power of Nonverbal Communication
    • Looking at and for nonverbal cues is known to be more reliable and essential for getting to know and understand someone else than just listening to speech.
    • Some of the behaviors increasing the body language attractiveness and improving the nonverbal communication skills:
      • Appearance and physique: This is maintaining a good hygiene and a fit and healthy overall appearance. Clothing colors can influence quite a bit also, so be aware of that.
      • Eye contact: Making eye contact as often as you can, but not really staring for more than a few seconds in one time, as that makes people a tad uncomfortable. Blink less also, so that you don’t convey that you have a wandering mind.
      • Facial expressions: Make sure that you smile a lot and appear to be genuinely interested in the client. Widen your eyes and raise your eyebrows to show interest and surprise.
      • Head movements: Keep your chin up and nod a yes for showing interest.
      • Gestures: Express things with your hands and body movements without exaggeration.
      • Posture: When you sit and stand, you should be erect and lean forward, thus showing some interest. Don’t cross your arms and legs.
      • Proximity and Orientation: Be close to the client but not too close as too crowd the client. This is about 1.5 to 4 feet. 
      • Timing and synchronization: Speed up activities, but not so much that they are not effective.
      • Nonverbal aspects of speech: Balance the need for listening with the need to talk. When you let your client talk, it often gives you information you otherwise would not have had.
  • The Client Centered Approach to Coaching
    • Along with the acts of customer service and hospitality, there are behavior change and motivational coaching skills that enhance the client to trainer relationship further. These skills increase the ability of the trainer to change behavior through increases in understanding that the trainer has for the client. It includes these next three bullets in this section.
    • Rapport Building
      • The first is to establish rapport, which we do by building trust and respect in the relationship we have with our clients. Open ended questions is one way that we should accomplish this. This could be as simple as asking them what a typical day for them is like. All in all, this rapport building should see the trainer only talking 10 – 15% of the time and this is focused on pacing the conversation.
    • Exhibiting Empathy
      • We should listen and express our understanding of the conversation and client in order to show empathy. People will develop kinship with someone who relates to them or even has had similar experiences. You should make it a goal to repeat what the client has said and clarify things in the form of a question. 
    • Active Listening
      • This is the act of understand the meaning of what the client is saying. 
    • These things show that the trainer is using the client centered approach:
      • The trainer speaks slowly
      • The client speaks more than the trainer
      • The client talks about changing behaviors
      • The trainer listens intently and directs the conversation when that is appropriate
      • The client makes realizations and connections that were not previously considered
    • The summary of client centered techniques:
      • Asking simple and open ended questions
      • Listening and encouraging with both nonverbal and verbal prompts
      • Clarify and summarize the things you hear and direct the summaries in the form of a question for clarification by the client
      • Use reflective listening which bridges the gaps between the things the client says and the meaning of the statements.

Preceding the Initial Client Consultation

  • Generating Clients
    • Word of Mouth Advertising
      • One of the most cost effective and powerful ways to market is through this word of mouth style of advertising referrals from happy clients. These are often unsolicited and without any effort that comes from the trainer themselves. But the trainer may also find it helpful if they suggest to their clients that they are looking for more clients.
    • Fitness Floor Exposure
      • Working with clients on the fitness floor is a walking advertisement to people about their style and the services that they offer. This is why you should always give off professionalism and attention for your existing clients when you are training. 
    • Complimentary Consultations
      • Some people believe that offering free services will devalue the service as a whole, but it also could lead to more clients, so it is a kind of give and take.
    • Front Desk Contacts
      • This depends on the size f the gym that you are at, as the front desk and receptionist will be the first to field questions and thus possibly to refer clients in your direction. 
    • Professional Networking and Refunds
      • This is an integrated community network and the referring of mutual professionals. 
    • Internet and Social Media Marketing
      • This highly increases the number of exposure points, which is the main way to increase your business when you are a trainer. The use of social media now allows the easiest advertisement of yourself. 
  • Initial Client Contact
    • This assists the trainer in both gathering and organizing information about clients while also making an impression on clients when you show care and professionalism.
    • Initial Client Contact Process
      • The process basically looks like this: 
        • Assess the compatibility that you have and then refer them as needed.
        • Talk about the health and fitness goals of the client and any of their relevant conditions and limitations that they have in order to ensure experience and scope are sufficient for the needs of the client.
        • Talk about the experience, training style, and the educational background and make sure it is adequate and appeals to the client.
        • State the structure of the fee and make sure that it is agreeable to the client.
        • Discuss the schedule preferences that the client has.
        • Refer to other professionals when the goals and interests aren’t compatible or when it is outside their scope of practice.
        • Exchange information for contacting them.
        • Make sure to schedule an initial client consultation.
        • Provide some kind of service introduction packet.
    • Client Intake Form
      • This should be given along with the previous contact process.
    • Preparing for the Initial Client Consultation
      • The trainer needs to take care when departing the client and make sure to make eye contact and shake their hand, walking the client to the door, and then thank the client and use their name when you genuinely express that you are awaiting the next visit.

Initial Client Consultation

  • Consultation Location and Confidentiality
    • The location sets your tone for the sharing of information and the building of your relationship with clients. The experience should be viewed through the eyes of the client and a hospitable and private environment should be created. Discussing confidential and personal health info needs to be in the strictest confidence and taken very seriously with all clients. Some clients may care less, but all should be treated the same in order to have a warm and welcoming atmosphere.
  • Introduction and Consultation Agenda Review
    • Warm welcomes for the client when you first see them along with shaking hands and smiling and engaging in light conversation will put the client in a good mood. If you also define the structure of the appointment, you will lessen the anxiety that a potential client might have regarding this session. It can also allow the clients to give their concerns and feeling that make them uncomfortable regarding everything.
  • Components of the Consultation
    • These depend entirely on your health club or organization.
    • Personal Trainer to Client Agreement
      • This is a review of the expectations of the client and the trainer and done before they join together in a business relationship. A good thing to include here is the cancel or no show ramifications for the parties. This allows a good mutual understanding.
    • Health/Medical History Evaluation Form and/or PAR-Q
      • This involves going over the health history and it is very important for knowing the areas that need to be improved and the limitations that are present.
    • Medical Clearance Form
      • This is found through the previous form and I is needed when a client meets the criteria for physician clearing prior to starting a program. 
    • Informed Consent
      • This is used for the client to know the risks and benefits of the assessments and the act of engaging in a guided exercise program.
    • Client Goals
      • These are used as a guide for the trainer to expand on the client’s goals with questions and get more responses to ensure you work on what the client desires.
    • Health and Fitness Assessment
      • We do this once the restrictions and limitations have been found and goals are identified. This assessment will find where client is in terms of their health and fitness in an easily observable way personally for the trainer.
    • Assessment Results and Action Plan
      • This is the giving of result to the client and the presentation of the plan of action that you suggest. This enables discussion of goals and agreements of the training between the two.
  • Recommending Appropriate Personal Training Packages
    • Based on the findings that you get during the assessment and goals; the action plan is comprised of our recommended training package and the presentation of that. 
    • A problem that often happens is that the client purchases too few sessions and does not show as great of progress early on. The client may become disappointed with their training and think it doesn’t work for them, but it’s just because they’re not getting enough time early on to learn movements and such.
  • Obtaining Client Commitment
    • Once you have developed rapport with your initial client contact, along with also having an educational, thoughtful, and caring approach for the initial consult, the training package purchase by the client is a natural step in the process of obtaining exercise and fitness training.
    • It can be helpful to review the training packages and also mention what your other clients often purchase along with any other regular things people do that your train.
  • Leading into the Next Client Appointment
    • When ending these other sessions, it is important that you express gratitude to your client and thank them for their time along with displaying eagerness for your next session with them. 

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