Are you a trainer that hates the sales part of the job? Are you wondering how to grow your business without seeming like a polyester-suit-wearing, used car salesperson? If you don’t want to come off as painfully salesy, then I suggest you better learn how to tell your personal story.
Humans are attracted to narrative by nature. We use storytelling in nearly every aspect of our communication and it’s been a part of our culture for thousands and thousands of years. That’s why it’s so important to develop the skill of storytelling. Not because you want to stand on a stage and brag about yourself for the world to see—but rather because your story can help clients and potential clients connect to you and what you represent. Your story will convince them that you are the person that can guide them to achieving the healthy lifestyle they fantasize about. Because even though they might be impressed by how much you can deadlift and how chiseled your abs are, if you’re a boring, robot-like trainer, they’ll have no interest in hiring you. People are more attracted to who you are, not what you can do.
Initially, people will buy your product because they can recognize that you offer them something entirely unique. But they’ll stay with you because you two develop a relationship that is worth their time and money. `So what’s in a story? What makes your story stand out from the rest? And how do you tell it in an authentic, non-salesy way? Let’s get to work. Here are some tips to help you beef up your personal story.
Start With a Writing Exercise
I recommend doing this handwritten. It makes you slow down and focus in this digital age. Set a timer for 10 minutes and answer the following questions. Don’t worry about grammar, word count, etc. Just write.
- How did you get to this spot, right here, right now?
- Why do you love fitness?
- How did fitness change your life for the better?
- What makes you different from the millions of other trainers?
- Why should someone trust you?
OK, now read it silently to yourself. What do you think? Was it compelling? Would you spend $150 an hour to work with that person? If not, rework it or rewrite it. Now this time, read it out loud. Then record yourself reading it in front of a mirror. I know this may feel awkward and make you feel like you’re back in middle school, but I promise it will help you develop your story and your storytelling abilities.
Have you ever talked to someone who is so passionate and on fire about their field of expertise that you simply feel drawn to them? And you want to be around them and learn from them? Be that person. When you start telling your story, you should be on fire. Because if your story doesn’t fire you up and reinvigorate you, then why in the hell is another person listening to you going to feel compelled to spend a premium amount of money with you?
Simplify Your Story So Others Can Understand It
Remember, the average consumer doesn’t know the difference between the group fitness instructor and the sports scientist. They just know you work in fitness and you can help them get fit. So when you tell someone you’re a trainer and they give you an almost guaranteed answer—like “I’ve been meaning to start working out again!”—the way you respond is going to set the tone. How you respond will sell you as a person and a coach.
Distill your story down to the point where people can understand. Don’t overcomplicate what you do. For example, if you’re a trainer who specializes in sports performance, you don’t need to tell them about the ins and outs of rehabilitative exercises that are specifically designed for baseball pitchers’ shoulders. Speak in a language people can understand so they feel like you’re someone they could easily work with. The trick is becoming such a good listener that you can identify what a potential client is going through when they respond to you.
Are they talking about how hard it’s been to keep an exercise schedule? Tell them about that period in your life when you had the world resting on your shoulders and you managed to learn some training tips to help you stay fit. Are they talking about how they’ve never been able to do a pull-up before? Tell them about your long term client who came to you with no pulling strength whatsoever—and over the next year you finally got them to do 3 strict pull-ups in a row. Listen well so you can respond to them and their needs.
Listen to Other People’s Stories
There are so many titans of the fitness industry who you can be inspired by. And the best of the best are the ones who have the most head-turning stories. Not necessarily because they experienced rare or traumatic events, but because they tell their story with passion and heart. And that’s impossible to look away from.
If there’s anything you want to get good at, you’re not going to improve at all if you don’t learn from those folks who are ahead of you in the game. We have a list of people for you to look into, all of whom I recorded a podcast episode with so you can listen to their story firsthand.
For starters, we recommend listening to two people who both spent a ton of time in the academic and research arena of fitness and have great personal stories to go along with their PhD degrees: Dr. Andy Galpin, human performance researcher and educator, and Dr. Mike T. Nelson, metabolic flexibility researcher and educator. There’s also Mike Fitch, creator of Animal Flow, who was a model before he entered the fitness world. Yes, a model. Fitness experts have a wide variety of backgrounds. You can also listen to Mark Fisher, co-founder of Mark Fisher Fitness and Business For Unicorns. Mark was in the acting world before he came to fitness.
The skills all of these people learned in their education and their past have been huge assets to their fitness business today. And all the experiences they had contributed to their unique personal story and the passion they have for fitness today.
Work on Your Public Speaking Skills
Now that you have an idea of what your story looks like, you can start practicing and rehearsing it until it flows and sounds natural. Learn how to tell your story in a captivating, inspiring, motivating, and empathic way. Most of all, make it enjoyable to listen to.
But to make a story sound good, you have to be comfortable with public speaking. This might take a little work, but it’s worth every minute. Not only will public speaking skills help you tell your story in a more lively way, but you’ll also be able to speak more eloquently to potential clients, on podcasts, and in front of a small crowd if the time comes.
For starters, check out Procabulary, a program that helps you build practical tools so you can use your words wisely and effectively. I also recommend taking a comedy improvisation class, singing or voice lessons, or trying a program like Toastmasters. You can also just do it the old fashioned way and practice in front of a mirror or camera.
Whatever you do, put in a few hours a week to get better at public speaking. You’ll be surprised to learn how much more confident you are in front of people.
The Final Word
This is going to sound cliche, but it’s true: there will never be two of the same personal stories. Everyone has lived different lives and had different experiences, so there will never be anyone out there who will be telling the same story as you are. Know who you are and know how you got to where you are today. You have a lot to offer all your clients; all you have to do is harness your story and present it to others in an effective and enjoyable way. You’ve got nothing to lose!