The Most Important Lesson for any Personal Trainer
By FFF Founder, Jared Beaumont Williams
For others, it take a bit of time.
Some, however, simply don’t understand that there is really only one thing that makes them unique. More than anything else, this one thing will determine how successful that PT is in terms of acquiring clients, getting results, generating income and building a compelling brand.
If you are a personal trainer reading this, that one thing is you.
Let me paraphrase a recent conversation I had with a PT as an illustration (I have known the guy in question for a few years, which is why I felt comfortable challenging him a little):
- Me: So how’s business?
- PT: Great. I am just trying to build up my client base at the moment.
- Me: What do you find is the best way to do that?
- PT: I speak to people on the gym floor and on social media and let them know my USP.
- Me: Cool. So what is your USP?
- PT: I specialise in transformations.
Woah there, cowboy! Let’s step back and pause for a moment. Doesn’t every PT focus on transformations, whether in terms of body composition, performance, confidence or some other aspect of health and well-being? Even if a client simply wants to, say, maintain their current weight, you could safely assume that they are looking for help transforming from someone who cannot maintain their current weight into someone who can.
I put it a little more diplomatically:
- Me: I know a few PTs focus on transformations. What is unique about your business?
- PT: I work with busy city workers.
- Me: Great idea! Do other trainers not offer transformation packages to city workers?
- PT: Yeah, but I focus on …
Are you really offering something that is unique?
As the conversation continued, more and more things were listed – free initial consultations, price point, length of package, skype check-ins etc. But here is the thing …
Absolutely. None. Of. These. Things. Are. Unique.
Let me say at this point that the guy in question is not lacking in the qualities that you would expect a great trainer to possess; he is smart, experienced and, from what I can tell, technically proficient. But for all of these qualities, he was missing the point.
And the more we talked – the deeper we dived into his business – the more I could see that his brand and his income was suffering.
Why is this even a problem?
There are a lot of reasons why, but two jumped out at me immediately:
- He was trying to market a USP that was not a USP. As a result, his messaging was generic and lacked focus, meaning that any prospective client is going to struggle to differentiate between his offering and that of countless other trainers.This is also more likely to result in a prospective client feeling as though he or she is being sold to (“oh no, this whole pitch again”). In the world of sales techniques, it is far more powerful to pursue a collaborative approach, whereby the buyer feels as though he is making his own decisions. In other words, people prefer to buy than be sold to.
- He was failing to get over the trust hurdle.Building trust is often cited as the foundation of the sales process. In order to earn someone’s trust, you need to engage with that person on an emotional level – you need to demonstrate your reliability, your ability and the truth of what you are selling.Many businesses try to be everything to everybody (i.e. “I specialise in transformations”). However, by trying to speak to everyone, no one is left thinking “wow, this person is speaking to me”.By trying to sell a transformation service, therefore, he was failing to elicit the type of emotional connection that is typically necessary to close a sale or form a strong, lasting relationship.
What is the solution?
The solution to these problems is a shift in mindset and focus – he needs to remember that he is his brand and that his personality should be injected into the process of selling and delivering his service.
This is not to say that he shouldn’t convey what his service offers, but by injecting his personality into his brand he will automatically be offering something unique. The guy is question is personable, he has a dry, witty sense of humour and is passionate about why he chose a career in personal training.
That. All of that. That is his USP.
Talk to me about transformations and I will probably forget you by tomorrow. On the other hand, make me laugh and excite me with your passion, and I will remember you a year from now.
The same character traits also help overcome the trust hurdle. If I see you are genuine and passionate, and that you sincerely believe in what you are offering, then I am far more likely to feel at ease, listen to what you have to say, believe what you say and, ultimately, decide that I am ready to buy whatever it is you have to sell.
So why wasn’t he selling himself? And, more broadly, why do some personal trainers not sell themselves?
One possibility is that they simply haven’t learnt the lesson yet. The only reason I was able to clearly and quickly see how this trainer was falling short was because I have learnt the lesson. I have delivered thousands of sales pitches and a huge number have been complete failures. But (thankfully) there have also been lots of successes and I have reflected at length on on exactly what made the difference. I have also read into good sales technique, spoken with people more experienced than I am and refined my approach.
So maybe it is just a lack of (i) experience and/or (ii) self-awareness and a willingness to change direction.
Another possibility is that people who fail to sell themselves lack confidence. When selling yourself you are opening yourself up to failure on a personal level. If you don’t buy me, then you have decided that I am not good enough. On the other hand, if you don’t buy my product then (phew!) my product sucks but at least I don’t.
So maybe it is a mechanism for avoiding the possibility of failure.
Personal trainers need to realise that they are what makes their brand unique, and it is their personality, passion and ability to emotionally engage with clients that will determine how successful they are.
To any trainers that feel they are not doing this as effectively as they should be, make sure you critically reflect on your failures and successes, learn from others wherever possible and have the confidence to be yourself.