How to Grow Your Personal Training Business When You Suck at Sales
Chances are you didn’t get into the field of personal training because of the potential to sell things. No, you journeyed down the training rabbit hole in hopes of working with elite athletes and turning skinny, underdeveloped guys and gals to cover models. But like every other trainer, you quickly discovered the necessity (love it or hate it) for personal training sales.
At least that was the case for me. It took quite some time for me to warm up to sales, and it wasn’t until I learned a great qualifying process that it started to click for me. A qualifying process, in case you’re wondering, is a necessary part of any sales process that uncovers a prospect’s wants, needs, desires, and potential objections. Basically, it’s the difference between great closers and struggling salesman.
Qualifying processes come in all shapes and sizes and there really is no one size fits all. What I’m going to present to you in this article is a qualifying process that has increased our personal training sales by 200% year over year, but I want to stress the importance of not using it as a script. Instead, I’d encourage you to learn the steps, understand the why behind the process, master your questioning and intention, and believe in the power of using a process.
The best part about this, for any trainer, is that learning this qualifying process will improve your new client consultations. So even if you have someone else doing the selling for you, using the process will ensure that you know exactly what your clients want to achieve and why they want to achieve it.
Without further ado, enter the GROW process.
Goals – Where do you want to be/go?
In goals, we are after the obvious aesthetic/performance goals as well as other health markers someone may want to improve. This is the most obvious step of the consultation process considering every coach, no matter how skilled, nails the goals section of a consultation. It’s fairly easy to sit across from a person and ask them what they’d like to achieve in any area of their life. What’s more difficult, and where you can separate yourself from the pack, is digging into the why behind a person’s goal(s).
A goal of “losing 25 pounds” or “improving blood pressure” aren’t considered goals in our book. We’re after the driving force behind the desire to lose weight or improve health markers or whatever goal it may be. A recent diagnosis or threatening news from a doctor’s visit, for instance, is the powerful, emotional information we’re looking for. More often than not, vanity will be the “why” for most people with weight loss goals and that’s okay. They may not have an upcoming event, recent divorce, confidence issues, etc., that’s behind their desired goal. We can still dig in and create powerful sales levers. In cases like this, we still want to take our questioning a bit further to help the prospect visualize successfully reaching their goal. Here are a few examples:
- How would your life be different if you reached this goal?
- When were you the happiest with your fitness level or physical appearance?
- How long do you think it will take us to reach this goal? Where do you see yourself 1 year from now if we work towards this goal?
- Can you imagine yourself at “x” weight, level of performance, desirability to opposite sex, etc.?
- How does your physique look after losing 50 pounds? Have you been at that weight/fitness level before? How did it feel?
- I understand you’re wanting to get in the best shape of your life, better than ever before. Is there a particular body type of person that has a physique you’d like to shoot for? (The better the visualization – the more powerful the goal becomes)
- On a scale of 1-10, how important is achieving this look or improving this area of your health and fitness?
- Why? – Ask this early and often.
People become more comfortable in situations the more they talk. Asking open-ended questions that create a need for someone to continue talking will create trust and comfortability, two important factors in making a sale, fast. As a person opens up, continue to dig in for more details. The better your questioning is in this section, and the more you can get the prospect talking about the details behind their goals, the easier the rest of your consultation will be. Here are a few example questions to keep a prospect talking about a potentially important topic:
- Can you tell me more about that?
- What does that look like to you?
- Would you care to explain your answer in a bit more detail?
- How does that make you feel?
It’s imperative that you separate each section of the GROW process. Don’t leave Goals until you’ve gotten as much information as possible and created some excitement within the prospect about reaching their newly discovered goals.
Reality – Why aren’t you where you want to be right now?
This is where shit gets real, obviously. If the Goals section of GROW is climbing the proverbial emotional excitement mountain, Reality is shoving them off the cliff at the top of said mountain.
Reality is where sales are made – or lost – depending on your level of commitment and tolerance for slightly uncomfortable conversation. With great questioning, we should be able to take away every possible objection a prospect could throw out during our price presentation and closing. As a prospect explains their struggles with eating out and sedentary habits like binge-watching Netflix, we’re learning about more than their barriers to achieving goals. We’re also learning about their spending habits and hierarchy of what’s most important to them. If during your price presentation, for example, a prospect objects to price after telling you this goal is a 10 (on a scale of 1-10) of importance to them, you could easily conquer the objection with everything else they’re spending money on that’s less important in their life right now.
Always keep in mind, we’re looking for obstacles in Reality. Here are a few example questions to discover a prospect’s current/potential obstacles:
- Have you tried to reach this goal in the past? Were you successful?
- If so, why did you not maintain your results?
- If not, what stopped you from reaching your goal?
- How did we get to where we are now?
- What types of methods have you tried in the past?
- Have they worked with a trainer/coach before?
- Are they spending money/time on supplements or weight loss gimmicks?
- What worked for them and what do they enjoy vs what do they hate?
- What are the two biggest obstacles currently standing in your way?
- Nutrition is a gimme on this question. Nutrition also unlocks the floodgates for you to learn more about their spending and unhealthy habits. This gives you a better understanding of a person’s reality and a dollar amount they’re spending weekly/monthly on hindrances. Related to nutrition are – fast food and restaurants, sodas or coffee creations, alcohol, tobacco, supplements, medications, etc.
- Other potential answers will be (in their own words) motivation, knowledge, accountability, support system, time, prioritization, etc..
- Do you understand the consequences of continuing down this path? OR Where do you think we’ll be 1 year from now if we don’t make any changes?
Taking the bullets out of a prospect’s objection gun is all good and well, but it’s hard to do. It requires walking a fine line between offending someone and asking just the right question to learn about the things keeping someone from their dream body or level of health.
Options – How are you going to get where you want to be?
“A plan without action is just a dream.”
In this step, we should be aiming to aid the prospect in creating their own solutions to their obstacles in reality. Notice I said to aid, not create their entire plan of action for them. If you can get a prospect to tell you they need help with accountability, knowledge, someone to push them, and feedback/evaluation – it’s going to be 10x more effective than you telling them they need those things. It’s better to assume the role of “not the expert” or a fitness newbie who is simply asking questions about how they plan to conquer the obstacles from Reality. (Easier said than done for well-trained fitness coaches.) Here are a few example questions:
- Thanks for sharing these obstacles with me. Let’s shift gears and talk about how we’re going to overcome them. What’s your plan of action to reach your goal(s)?
- What’s your first step going to be?
- I think that’s a great idea. Improving your “x” (insert support system, knowledge, technique, etc.) will definitely put you on track to reach your goal. Just out of curiosity, why do you think this will be helpful?
- What about having some type of feedback in the form of assessments or performance tests, would that be helpful? Why or why not?
- When a prospect struggles to come up with solutions for their obstacles, it’s okay to suggest something that a coach could help with. As long as you’re not “telling” them that’s what they need, it can still be a win for you.
- Again, the more detail a prospect can give you on why they need help achieving their goals, the easier your job becomes.
We – Are you cool with me/us holding you accountable to your goals and ambitions?
Of course they will be. Why would they dare say no after you’ve amped them up about reaching their elusive goals? This is a key point because if for some reason you do not close the sale and gain a new client, you now have their permission to follow up relentlessly. No matter how great a salesperson you become, you’re not going to close an ungodly amount of people on your first interaction. Follow ups, in our business, are everything. The better you become at following up with prospects, the more sales you will make and the bigger your client list will grow.
One thing to notice throughout this guide is the repetitive use of “we” and “our” and “us” vs the use of “I” or “me” or “you” because we want it to be a team effort. Using this wordage sets you up to be a part of the prospect’s plan, even if they don’t realize it yet.
After you’ve received the thumbs up, it’s time to wrap up the consultation. If your prospect is ready to go – and they should be if you’ve done a great job qualifying – all that’s left to do is price present and close. The price presentation is another story for another day but remember, the one who talks first loses.
- GROW can be summarized as figuring out where a prospect wants to be and what they’d like to achieve, what’s currently standing in their way, how they’re going to overcome any obstacles, and if they’re okay with you helping to hold them accountable to making the changes they need to make.
- The more you can dig in during the Goals and Reality sections, the easier conquering objections will be in your price presentation.
- Remember to get specific details about a goal(s). This includes expected timelines, mental pictures or visual reference points, level of importance, and most importantly WHY they want to achieve said goal.
- Keep each section separate. Remember the emotional rollercoaster we want to mimic. Emotion drives capitalism.
- Talk less, listen more.
- The quality of your consultation depends on the quality of your questions.
- Create a repeatable process but don’t go off a script. Take notes on which questions work best for you and your prospects.
Mason is a strength and nutrition coach based out of little rock, Arkansas. With roots in the sports performance and powerlifting worlds, he has taken the principles of training for maximum strength and molded them into a more moderation-based, sustainable way of living. His mission is to simplify the science and research on training, nutrition, and healthy living so everyone can easily optimise their life.
Mason is a certified strength & conditioning specialist (CSCS) as well as a precision nutrition level 1 coach, and he also holds a BSC in nutrition. He runs the website mason fit, his personal website for writing, coaching, and consulting.