Pretty much every person in the fitness industry has run into a wall when it comes to getting new clients. You have Facebook and Instagram, but posting every single day doesn’t work. You can’t afford ads and you don’t know how to make them yourself. None of your in-person clients switched over to remote coaching. What are you to do?
The hardest part about the fitness industry is that in order to get enough reps in to become a great coach, you have to get enough reps in order to learn from your mistakes. The downfall is, most coaches can’t get enough reps in to really refine their coaching so they aren’t able to improve as much as they’d like to. That doesn’t mean you’re not ready for more online clients, though. It just means you have to do the best with what you have—and learn all the tricks on how to get more clients.
Some valid questions: Where do you start? How do you get new cold traffic? What if they don’t have the money? Let’s dig in.
First of all, always remember that price is only a factor of value. So stop projecting by putting your wallet into other people’s pants and acting like people don’t like spending money. Not everyone is struggling financially and even if they were, everyone is always looking for a way to solve their problems. Again, they don’t want to buy a product—they want to buy a solution to their problems. And for many people, a lack of health and fitness is a major problem. They want to buy the type of services you offer, they are just waiting for the right person to come around.
Here are five steps to help you get new clients:
Identify a clear reason as to why people should train with you. No, this is not about how many certifications you have under your belt, how much you can deadlift, or how restrictive your diet is. This is about YOU—how you do what you do, how you can help people reach their personal goals.
If you are young in your career and don’t have a ton of reps, own it. You’re selling fun, excitement, and entertainment. You already have authority in the situation, there is already a transactional acknowledgment that you know more than them, and they are there to listen and learn (ideally).
There is beauty in being a beginner. You’re more open minded. You’re not as dogmatic or set in your ways. You’re full of excitement and enthusiasm. And if you don’t know the answer, you likely know where to go to find it.
It’s not just about how much you know or what you know, it’s how well you communicate what you know to the people you are targeting and how well they receive, adopt, and use that knowledge. That’s coaching. You should have extensive knowledge in the field you are coaching, that’s a given. But it doesn’t matter how much you know if nobody does it or nobody is there to listen. You can preach how smart you are all day, but the proof is in the pudding.
Make it clear what it is you offer as a coach, and don’t waver from it.
Lay out every step of the experience you want every client to go through. You should do this for both your in-person sessions and your online sessions. How do you want the experience to look, where are you going to emphasize the value, how are you going to differentiate yourself from the other available services? You should be able to seamlessly paint a picture of what it will be like to work with you.
Listen closely to your client’s goals, insert them into your system, and then walk them through the process. Believe it or not, not everybody is as into fitness as we are, so likely, this person you are talking to hasn’t had personal training before or individualized remote coaching ever so they have zero ideas what to even expect. Helping them understand what it will look and feel like to work with you will calm the nerves and excite them to spend their time and effort with you.
What are the expectations? It’s better to talk about the hard shit upfront when everyone is excited to work together as opposed to waiting until shit hits the fan and you’re struggling to save the relationship.
You should establish the following with your clients:
- What is their preferred way of being communicated with?
- How fast should they expect replies from you?
- What do they do if they have a question? Can they text you or call you?
- What if you need to change times or adjust a meeting?
- How much feedback should they be expecting?
- How often will you be providing feedback?
- What do they do if they have a real-time question?
- What if they do not have a piece of equipment?
- What if they can’t go to the gym because they are at home with a sick child?
- During digital meetings, why is it so important to be accountable to your time per client?
You may have a list of your own boundaries, expectations or systems to go over, what’s most important is you don’t make it sound like you are talking down to them like a child but also framing that it will ensure a better experience for both of you. Remember, this is just out of the gate and social relationships will change as you go. I promise you, if you spend 2-3 years training the same person you will have a very different relationship with them as opposed to someone you have trained for a month.
Assessment, correction, and coaching is the name of the game. One of the biggest challenges you will go through with clients is their inherent fear of doing something wrong. Not everyone comes from having a good relationship with criticism, coaching, and feedback, so not doing the rep exactly how you want may be something that is causing your client a lot of anxiety. A lot of times it’s that tension they are holding onto that will prevent them from learning. If we don’t empower our clients with actual information they can take, retain, and use without us, we are never able to progress them forward.
As for assessment, you should have some sort of movement assessment that gives you a baseline starting point. There are a number of great education systems that give you tools for an assessment. Use it until you know it like the back of your hand, and then adjust it to fit your needs.
Correction: How you correct your clients and the way you communicate with them for those corrections is the mixture of coaching and sales. If you are correcting a client either on a mindset, movement, or skill, you have to get buy-in. In order to have buy-in you need trust. In order to build trust you have to position yourself as someone who earned it.
The art of coaching is really the ability to adapt. How often do you or one of your clients get through a program you wrote on day one, with zero adjustments, modifications or changes? If this is happening often, you aren’t coaching. You are writing exercises down and hoping people do them. For some people that works and they get exactly what they want at the price they are willing to pay. For everyone else, you need the ability to adjust and modify. In order to do that you have to have a starting point.
The final step is simple: rinse, repeat, change if necessary, constantly evaluate.
It’s really frustrating to talk to a coach about business strategies they could be using to help support their business and they say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I am doing all that stuff already”. And it shocks and amazes me that you’re sitting here and telling me you’re executing the exact same thing I am telling you about but you haven’t even considered the thought or idea that the product experience needs to be worked on.
I have a friend who committed to starting an email list to help get her nutrition coaching business up and going and she has been super consistent. Now that she has found a rhythm with consistency, she is now reworking her message and emails. In turn, her content has also just gotten better, both out of sheer practice but also in recognizing trends and shifts and making small shifts in that direction. She recently had an email that was really good—strategic but empathetic—and it had a great call to action for services.
I sent her a reply complimenting her on the great email. I also shared with her: now that she is in a spot where she is figuring out her voice and message in her writing that she now needs to start looking at what is working and what is not working.
She uses social media (a small following) to drive to her email list. Her email list is where she offers consistent free value to people who may not be ready to purchase 1:1 nutrition coaching but they do like learning and listening to her message consistently. So now as she starts looking at her emails she sends out daily, she can start evaluating which ones are getting the most consultation. Additionally, she had a very passive call to action at the end of the email. I also asked her to start tracking how those statements were doing. Just like we learned in our interview with Jill Coleman we measure through conversations, if my friend does 1:1 nutrition coaching then she needs to look at the message she puts on social media to see how many people are signing up for her email list. Then she wants to evaluate her email list and figure out what emails generate the most consults as well as what CTA (calls to action) that get the most consults.
There isn’t a right answer—there are only principles. It is up to you to keep massaging your product and message. It will not happen overnight. Ask any successful fitness professional who has been doing it for a decade or longer and the good ones will tell you that they don’t have it figured out. They are constantly learning, changing, and adjusting to meet the market and its consumers where they’re at.
The dream business in your head is a possibility, but it won’t be a dream to build.