Personal training is a rewarding profession; it helps you to make a good income and it also gives you the chance to transform lives.
Stepping into the field as a personal trainer can be a daunting test of confidence and self-assuredness.
Your very first personal training session has to be perfect and it is a must for you to impress your first client.
Now that you have the health and wellbeing of another person in your hands, the stakes immediately get real.
Client conversion hinges on how well you approach and service your clients, and when it comes to your very first client, you want to make sure you get things right so you have a good career starting point.
At this point, I’m assuming you’re certified and have all the relevant credentials from an accredited agency.
If not, stop right there and check out this quiz.
My special quiz will help you determine which certification is right for you based on your career preferences and another important factor.
Getting certified is an unavoidable stage in your personal training journey if you really want to do it with any form of serious integrity.
Not only does it provide you with the required learning experience and knowledge resources.
It’s also what most clients and gyms will look at before even letting yours through the door.
Having the right credentials is both necessary training and a display of value.
You can check out my top fitness trainer certification recommendations in this comparison article.
Having said that, if you are indeed certified, and about to go in for your first client, you need to know the art of approach.
First impressions count as they say, and nailing your first impression when it comes to working as a PT can massively influence your career trajectory and set the tone for how successfully your start.
That’s why in this article, I’m going to guide you through some pointers and pro tips on how to maneuver your way into your first client’s good books, and take that lesson going forward with future clients.
So without further ado, let’s check out some strategies on nailing your very first training session.
5 Steps For A Successful First Client
When it comes to securing and retaining a client, there are a few key steps in the process that are essential.
If you nail these five steps I’m about to give you, 9 times out of 10, you’ll get and keet your first client.
You’ll also probably be able to use this success as a means to generate more.
Step 1: Act Like a Pro
As I already stated, having the right, professional credentials are essential to get yourself started and taken seriously as a personal trainer in the industry.
However, a piece of paper won’t do all the talking, you need to present yourself as a professional with the right stuff to get the job done.
One of the best initial ways of doing this is by building a rapport with your client.
While being friends with your client isn’t the ultimate goal, having the confidence and communication skills to create a good personal vibe between you and a paying customer will tremendously soften the degree of challenge.
There are three ways of displaying your value as a knowledgeable expert.
You will naturally experience an initial disconnect when leading a client into your world of fitness. Creating a connection not only makes things easier, but it also shows that you are so confident and prepared with your service you can implement it with casual elegance.
This improves your client’s confidence in you, while also limiting any potential for intimidation, which is a natural reaction unfit people have towards those they deem reasonably fit.
Another great thing about building rapport is the doors it opens for you in terms of word of mouth marketing and referrals, two of the best ways to grow your business.
Next on the agenda is demonstrating your knowledge and adeptness with relevant principles and concepts.
You should show an understanding of training principles, exercise science and fundamentals of physiology with a range in complexity.
Consider it exposition to your story as a trainer.
You can explicitly describe what you can do and what you do know, you can pepper your dialogue with some advanced concepts while taking care to break down any jargon, finally, you can simply put effective knowledge into practice and let the effects speak for themselves.
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Proving you know what you’re doing is also about showing how it has worked for you.
As the saying goes, “you can’t trust a skinny chef”.
The same applies to fitness. If you’re out of shape and in poor health, good luck convincing anyone, let alone a prospective client, that you know your craft.
Practice what you preach and walk the talk.
The last consideration when it comes to playing your pro card is showing you act with the right sensibilities and enthusiasm.
Having integrity and an ethical compass is essential in getting and keeping clients and maintaining a bankable reputation.
Nobody wants to train with the sleazeball who hits on his clients or has a track record of injured clients.
To this end, you also want to show that you have passion and enthusiasm for your job as a trainer.
At the end of the day, you are a professional motivator. It’s useless trying to motivate a whole other person when you can’t even be bothered yourself.
Step 2: Do Your Homework
Doing your homework means gathering all the relevant bits and pieces of data from your client that you will need to structure their program and lead to intended outcomes.
The obvious bits of information such as vital stats, body measurements, and medical history are no brainers, but gathering peripheral information such as work and home situation is essential too.
Understanding who your client is as a person and getting to retrieve information on a deeper level is also a form of data gathering and will contribute to your coaching style and methods.
Gathering data is not just something you do once and then it’s covered.
It’s a constant, ongoing activity.
As you and your client grow through the process, new things will be experienced and adaptations will occur.
It is necessary to maintain this data gathering procedure throughout your client-trainer relationship.
The best way to gather data is through surveys and questionnaires.
By allowing your client to provide answers to a list of guided questions, you allow them the freedom and time to answer with a clear and honest introspection into whatever is being asked.
While gathering data through a verbal discussion is great in some ways, in others it places too much pressure or urgency on the client to give info.
Having them fill out a form will allow them to think carefully and even reference information such as facts and figures they would otherwise not have on the ready.
You can also get your client to create a journal in which they enter their relevant daily habits such as food and activity events.
You can use this to build a map of how your client is progressing in their real-life as opposed to limiting your understanding of their progress to your sessions.
Using a good personal training software will also make your job easier to sieve the data collected.
Food journals also serve as one of the most effective ways to get a good image of what your client is up to, where they are coming from and what it will take to get them where they want to be.
Step 3: Client Orientation
Now that you and your client are quite familiar with each other, it’s the perfect time for your client to get familiar with the training itself.
The first thing you will want to do is introduce the client to the different training concepts as they will apply to their intended goals.
Your communication skills are very important here, especially if you’re dealing with clients who are stepping into exercise and fitness for the very first time.
What I mean by this is to try to keep things as simple as possible and try to temper your ego and exercise patients.
If a client spouts out a common false myth or displays a profound lack of understanding of something you deem a simple concept, take a deep breath and explain in a way that relates to their understanding.
The last thing you want to do is come off as snarky or condescending. You want to be the gentle hand that guides.
Another important aspect of orientation is introducing your client to the format and set-up of where they will be training and what they will be using to train.
Help your client build a solid mental map of the facility you’ll be training them in by giving them a full guided tour on the first visit.
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Important considerations are going to be the changing and restrooms as well as where and how to keep personal belongings safe and secure. The last thing you want on your hands is a client missing valuables on your watch.
The next part of this physical orientation is a quick equipment tutorial.
You want to identify the equipment you will be predominantly using early on and describe the mechanics behind how it is used, what it is used for and how to remain safe while using it.
For example, you can explain the functional differences between a barbell, dumbbell, and kettlebell as well as how to set the cardio machines and what those colorful big rummer bands are for.
Next, orientation will include introducing your new client to other frequent users or personnel of the facility in question.
Make them familiar with staff and management. This will help them feel welcome and also find assistance should you for any reason be unable or unavailable.
The goal here is to make your client feel at home and welcome with or without your presence.
Lastly, orientating your client is also about setting necessary boundaries. The dos and don t’s of the facility.
Guide them through the general rules and regulations as well as any code of conduct and terms or conditions.
Your client must feel welcome, safe and at home, but they must also know enough to respect rules and have a mature and ethical approach to their training with you.
Again, you want to be gentle and inclusive in laying out any rules.
Having a draconian approach like a grumpy school principal won’t win you any favor in the long run.
Step 4: Do a Dry Run
Before going full steam ahead with your client, you want to slowly ease them into the training and program you’re going to be implementing.
You can achieve this by doing a dry run of sorts.
Giving them a teaser of what’s to come once the intensity ramps up to normal levels.
You can do this by giving a session with a decreased intensity and/or volume of the program they will be doing.
A short introductory session or a normal length one with lighter resistance are examples of dry run strategies you can implement to draw in your client and get their toes wet so-to-speak.
Your dry run doesn’t just encapsulate the exercise and workout events you will experience with your client.
It’s also an opportunity to explore the full spectrum of lifestyle options that will become the best possible fit for your client’s goals.
That includes nutrition as well as daily habits, routines and rituals.
With regards to nutrition, you’ll obviously want to encourage the elimination or at least very strict limit of junk food, especially in weight loss hopefuls who probably have disordered habits leaning towards food addiction.
But getting rid of junk food is not enough, you need to effectively replace it. This is where the dry-run principle comes into play with regards to food.
That’s because just eliminating junk food doesn’t eliminate the desire for it, especially if there are cravings and addictions involved.
Rather explore various options with your client so you can effectively navigate good food alternatives that will provide palatably nutritious substitutes.
For example, you can substitute the use of sugar in recipes and as a sweetener with artificial or alternative sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, erythritol, and stevia.
Encourage your clients to try out different recipes and see what works for them.
With all this, keep in mind potential food sensitivities and allergies such as FODMAP sensitivity and gluten or celiac sensitivity.
Step 5: Establishing the Endgame
Ultimately, the relationship between you and your client is about goals!
Their goals to be specific. In this step, you and your client will establish what outcomes are both desirable and realistic.
All the steps prior to this should have fed you a decent amount of background data to work off. You now have a realistic picture of what your client needs
But in order to truly gauge what your client wants as a service, you’ll need to hear it directly.
One of the best ways to reach this point effectively is through a visualized flow of the entire process.
A flow chart is a great example of getting a good visual representation of the sort of outcomes your client can realistically look at achieving.
Questions you can ask are “what are your goals?” “how do you feel?” “what are you concerned about?” “what are your expectations?”.
The key here is to get a solid idea of not only what the client wants, but who they are in terms of traits and abilities that will factor into the challenge level of the process.
You also need to be able to separate goals for reasons.
What I mean by that is very often, clients will have solid reasons as to why they want your services, but these reasons are mere catalysts. The actual goals, while related, are somewhat different.
For example, losing x amount of weight may be presented as a goal, but depending on how necessary it is, this weight loss is a reason.
The actual goal is the resultant health and body composition benefits.
Improving strength is a reason. The goal is to be more functional, productive and independent.
Most of your clients in this day and age will have weight-loss reasons, but the actual goals are diverse, ranging from management or treatment of metabolic disease, losing weight in order to fit a wedding dress or weight dropping prior to competition for weight classed athletes.
Another crucial consideration in establishing the endgame is sustainability.
A good trainer aims to impact the lifestyle of their clients in a positive way by providing the tools for long term sustainable solutions.
While client retention is your business M.O, you must act with the skill and integrity that drives your client to a point of learning and habit where they will no longer need you.
Think of a physician. Their goal is to treat and hopefully cure patients so that their services will no longer be required regarding that aspect of health.
As a trainer, you also want to be able to give your clients their wings so-to-speak.
They should gain an adeptness with their training and routine that allows them to continue without your direct guidance.
That’s why establishing the endgame should focus on the formation of habits instead of single, isolated outcomes.
Instead of a crash diet and hyperintense exercise protocol that leads to easy come, easy go results, you want to condition your client over time and with repetition, the habits that will optimize their lifestyle in small, progressive increments.
Achieving a successful endgame is more than just a question and answer session. You need active, dedicated goal orientation.
What I mean by that is there needs to be a clearly defined framework in which your client not only knows their goals and intended outcomes, but knows how to get there.
For this, you need to be able to categorize and lock in on goals based on the following principles:
A Goal Must Be Well Defined
That means the goal needs to have a specific structure and quantity as opposed to a vague wish.
A Goal Must Be Stated in Writing
In order to set something in stone, put it in writing. In this case, health and fitness goals are best realized when you first write them down.
A Goal Must Be Stated in the Positive
Positive motivation is a greater driving force than negative. Having something to look forward to like gaining a healthier fitter body is more inspiring and has better long term value than having something to fear or escape like getting fat or ugly.
A Goal Must Have a Deadline For Its Completion
In order to stay on track and hold your client accountable, the challenge of a time frame is a necessary factor in goal orientation. It gives direction and urgency.
A Goal Must Have Sincere Emotional Appeal
Just as with time constraints, a sincere emotional appeal is necessary to add weight and urgency to the attainment of a goal. When you really, passionately want something, chances are you will get it.
A Goal Must Be Challenging, Yet Realistic.
Challenge is a necessary barometer for measuring potential success. Things that come easy are hardly ever worth it, and psychologically speaking, an easy challenge doesn’t trigger the same rewarding response as a more difficult one.
However, you do want to strike a balance between reasonable and unrealistic challenge. As a trainer, you must strike the sweet spot between what is realistic and what is not.
As a certified PT, clients are relying on your expertise and know-how in order to help them achieve their goals and improve their lives.
Having said that, one big tip I can give you, especially with your first clients is that your job isn’t to show how much you know, more than it is to show how much you care.
You are ultimately a caregiver in your role as a fitness professional.
Clients want the satisfaction of reaching their goals, but they need to feel safe and secure that they have found the right person to do that.
Be that person.