Personal Training tends to have around a 4-6% membership penetration rate within leisure facilities. This figure is significantly lower compared to the private sector, especially in specialised facilities that focus on delivering one-on-one or small group sessions. Therefore, it is worth carefully selecting how much time, energy and resources we spend on developing this area of the business when we have limited resources available to us. Secondary spend is a useful revenue stream as long as it does not detract from your membership revenue stream. It could be suggested that if the resources used on developing this particular secondary spend product were redirected to the sales and retention of members it could result in a better return on investment (ROI).

However, if we select the secondary spend products (and there are many more options available than personal training by the way) with a well thought-through strategy then the ROI could be beneficial. If you have, or intend to, select personal training as a secondary spend product then here are some tips to maximise personal training success in your facility:

  1. Employ or contract the right people
    During the selection and recruitment process ensure you assess their people skills, because it is the candidates people skills that will make or break their success. Try this idea next time you are recruiting; send the candidate into the gym, ask them to talk to members for 30 minutes, watch how they interact with members, listen to what the candidate is saying to the member and then see what feedback the candidate gives you about the members response. You could even ask the members how they felt when the candidate approached them. How about being really brave and recruit people based on their people skills and then develop them to gain the technical knowledge? Qualifications are important, but people skills are essential!
  2. Provide your Personal Trainers with the tools to achieve success
    Ensure the basics are covered by providing them with printed materials such as flyers and business cards and add some bio on your website and in the centre. However, we need to think beyond the basics reminding ourselves that relationship building is the key. Therefore, you should think about pathways and programs that lead to building relationships, trust and a sense of community. Retention expert Paul Bedford and a Sales expert Casey Conrad both agree that it takes around 6 months after the initial membership sale to have built a strong enough relationship with the member to engage them in Personal Training. Having said that, we know that PT starter packs sell well at the point of membership sale because the member is in ‘buying mode’, but these starter packs rarely convert to long term PT clients. Choose your strategy in advance before selling any packages that you think are ‘quick-wins’.
  3. Successful Personal Trainers focus on retaining clients
    We know how much hard work goes into building a client base, so once your trainers have one why would they want to start again every 12 weeks? Successful trainers provide clients with smaller goals that the client can achieve along the way to their bigger goal.  If the client FEELS good on a regular basis because they are achieving small milestones along the way, then why would they want to give that up? Shift your business focus from SELLING personal training to RETAINING clients and making them FEEL good. Business savvy Personal Trainers will select a target audience; for example, research shows that males over 45 are likely to continue with Personal Training for the long-term, so trainers may decide to focus their efforts on attracting this group as they know they will retain them as clients for longer.
  4. Provide pricing and packages that make the pathway to on-boarding clients simple
    As research has shown that it can take up to 6 months of relationship building before a member may be ready to consider personal training it is essential that the pricing, packages and pathways are in place ready for the member to access with EASE. Personal Training is considered a luxury product. I heard a phrase the other day that summed it up quite well, “why take the limousine when you can take the bus?”. With so many other products and programs on the market now, traditional one:one Personal Training is no longer the only personalised option out there, pair this with the number of Personal Trainers that are now in the industry and you can see how different the Personal Training landscape is now. So, bearing in mind we still need to pay our trainers their hourly or contracted fee, we must get creative with how we can bolt on so much value that the product is too good to miss! Here’s some ideas for you:
    – 12-week programs are all the rage right now, so can you work something around one of those? (bear in mind 12-week programs may not lead to good client retention, so select your strategy carefully).
    – Instead of offering personal training in packs how about shifting them to a Direct Debit Personal Training Membership?
    – How about removing single sessions and offering personal training as a ‘fitness commitment contract’ that is spread over a defined length of time?
    – How about offering online personal training programs?
  5. Provide the personal trainers with systems to build relationships Many facilities combine gym instructor and personal trainer roles to allow trainers to build relationships and ultimately a client base, however, my opinion on this is that the role of the gym instructor and the personal trainer are different, and a potential danger is that this approach could negatively impact on member retention. Remember that memberships are the lifeline of the fitness facility, so select your strategy carefully; you don’t want your lifeline to suffer for the sake of an increase in a secondary spend product. Having said that, opportunities do need to be provided if you are going to commit to the Personal Training product. With the knowledge that it can take up to 6 months of relationship building before many members will feel confident and trusting enough to engage with personal training, think about how you, as the program manager, can provide those opportunities. An idea we have used before and I have seen used since, is offering an initial ‘getting to know you’ session that starts the conversation and gives the Personal Trainer the opportunity to meet members on a no-obligation 1:1 level. The question is whether the facility pays for the Personal Trainers time or whether the Personal Trainer provides it as part of their agreement. I’ll leave that one to the budget holders! From this session there must be a follow-up process, preferably automated, but must be separate from the membership retention process. The PERSONAL approach must be considered when we are talking about PERSONAL training.
  6. Be honest with your Personal Trainers right from the start
    Explaining right at the start that the trainer will need to invest their time in building trusting relationships with members before they are likely to result in clients will pay off in the long-run. Preparing candidates right from the start that you expect relationship building to occur prior to payment will enable the trainer to have a better understanding of what it takes to build a solid client base. You could even employ them initially on a lower rate of pay for the first few months while they build the platform for trusting relationships and then increase their pay once you can see their client base is becoming established; like a sliding scale.
  7. The Personal Trainer needs to be accountable and own their tasks
    In the past I’ve seen trainers pass their phone calls to member service officers. This is a no-no! Personal trainers need to own all aspects of their client’s support. If you are finding that you, as the program manager, are receiving complaints from clients because they’ve had no follow-up or contact from the trainer then you need to deal with this issue quickly. A process should be in place for trainers to follow, but it’s ultimately their responsibility to own their tasks. Remember, it’s PERSONAL training.
  8. Remind Personal Trainers they have access to thousands of potential clients!
    A leisure facility has a few huge advantages over the private sector.
    1) leisure facilities have thousands of visitors annually; learn to swim parents, sports spectators, members etc
    2) leisure is either state or local government meaning potential local corporate and resident opportunities
    3) access to large events planned by the city/council/state
    4) They have access to parks, beaches and community facilities (subject to any insurance restrictions) Remind your personal trainers that they have the potential to tap into a wide range of people, but they need to come to you with ideas and commit to them!
  9. Invest in your Personal Trainers
    Those leisure facilities that are seeing levels of success have invested in developing their trainers. Whether it’s formally or informally; sales training, customer service training, systems, processes, CPD courses, marketing etc. Don’t leave your personal trainers off your teams annual training and development planner.
  10. Involve your Personal Trainers
    Even if your personal trainers are contracted they need to be aware of what’s going on. Remember to include them in communications and team meetings. Ensure they have the opportunity to have their say and contribute their ideas. There are some very knowledgeable, talented and dedicated trainers out there, pull on their expertise to help keep your team motivated and positive even when the going gets tough!
  11. Successful Personal trainers hold their clients accountable to their goals
    If a personal trainer has made the time and effort to develop a program and arrive prepared for the session but the client doesn’t attend or doesn’t follow-up with the exercises prescribed outside of the facility then the trainer should be addressing this with the client. The client wants to see results and they expect them. So it is reasonable for the trainer to give a little bit of ‘tough love’ at the start of the clients journey; perhaps by developing a PT:Client commitment agreement (not a legal one of course), just to remind them of their goals when they begin to show signs of wavering from the plan. This agreement should be placed alongside the long-term training plan the trainer has set for them. Remember, clients are paying for results and expect them; but it’s a joint effort between trainer and client. Some of the most successful personal trainers have even refused to train clients based on their initial session because they could tell the client wasn’t going to commit to their own goals
  12. Get your Personal Trainers involved in Group Fitness
    I have found that a good synergy is personal trainer/group fitness instructor. An obvious connection is to utilise your trainers for class cover of selected classes, however, they also have a great opportunity to showcase their knowledge by supporting group fitness instructors during a class by offering technique correction and demonstrations!

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