5 Ways to Break the Ice With Clients

Spending 30 minutes or an hour 1-on-1 with a person is intense.

Doing this multiple times a week and you must like the person.

Doing this multiple times a week talking about your insecurities and doing stuff you’re bad at is a lot of peoples personal hell–but it’s what our clients do.

We’re trainers and this is what we deal with. You must break the ice with clients as quickly as possible in order to start on the road to a strong relationship.

Incorporating these 5 habits and making them unconscious behaviors in your training business will help you with your sales consultations, get better results with your clients, and create stronger bonds with current clients to get more referrals.

1 – Listen, Pause, and Respond.

It’s hard to slow down sometimes as hectic as a personal trainers day can be. You sometimes need to go from being an intense motivator to compassionate listener to salesperson. Seconds before greeting any new client repeat to yourself these words, “listen, pause, respond” until it becomes second nature.

Count to 2 steamboats anytime a client has presumably finished their sentence. Follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Take stock of their thoughts
  2. Paraphrase them back
  3. Decide on your response

You should not be planning out your response while they’re talking. Try concentrating on your breathing right now and I bet it makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. No matter how hard we try, human beings are terrible multi-taskers.

2 – Oh, You Went to Mexico too. How Was it?

Whenever a client comes into the gym new or old you should say two things before describing your workout for the day, starting the warm up, or beginning the sales consultation:

  1. Give them a sincere compliment. Take a second to look at them, smile, and identify something that you feel they may care about. If they dress nicely and seem to be peacocking with a particular piece of clothing or handbag, compliment them on it. Maybe she just got her nails done or he’s got a sweet pair of sunglasses. Try to find something; it could be material or physical.
  2. Connect with the client on a level outside of the fitness realm. If he’s got on a Hard Rock Cancun shirt, start the meeting talking about his recent trip to Mexico. If there’s nothing discernible on the client to comment on you can choose to omit this part.

Bonus tip: When I trained clients I got a newspaper delivered to my apartment each morning.

At 5am I didn’t read it, but I skimmed the headlines. This way whenever there was a break in silence or I wanted to talk about something outside of fitness, I’d merely have to mention the big news that day even if I didn’t know the details.

My clients would inevitably take over the conversation about the current event after I brought up the topic. I recommend you keep up to date with current events even if you’re not personally interested as it ensures you always have something to talk about.

3. The Day I Fell on My Butt

3 of my best friends and I have birthdays within 4 days of each other. Every year we do a big bash together. When I turned 25, we decided to rent out a curling arena and mixed too much alcohol with a game nobody had played that involves brooms and sliding on ice.

I fell on butt.

Ironically I recognized how important it was to share this story with clients as I was icing my bruised butt. While exercise comes naturally to most trainers, it’s foreign to new clients. Telling them a story about a time when you screwed up trying something new allows you to both have a laugh and connect on a different level. If it’s an athletic endeavor, even better.


4. Practice Isopraxism

Mimic your clients behavior. On an unconscious level, it creates a strong bond. Consider a walk with a close friend or a loved one. Without thinking, you both tend to walk in stride with one another and the pace and volume of your speech will be the same.

Isopraxism helps establish rapport and empathy. Follow your clients lead: If he or she speaks softly, so do you. If he laughs, you laugh. Lastly, if they sit, you should kneel down or sit to speak to them on their level and if they stand, you stand. Be on their level and never talk down to a client even if he’s taken a knee in between sets to catch his breath. Kneel down beside him to explain the next set.

I’ll also add to this section that it’s important to speak to them on their level technically. A medical doctor may appreciate the use of jargon but a 35 year old mother of 3 may be turned off when you talk about the importance of accentuating the eccentric phase of a medium grip seated row to focus on control of the middle trapezius.

5. How Approachable Are You Really?

I know that you’re super nice, passionate, and deeply want to help. But if you’re in great shape and/or good looking, you may come off as intimidating to an un-seasoned exerciser. Lack of information isn’t what’s keeping unconditioned people out of our gyms, it’s largely because the environment is so intimidating and getting into shape is daunting for a lot of people.

Put yourself in your clients shoes and imagine that you’ve never stepped foot into a gym before or have failed multiple times:

You can’t seem to lose the weight and it’s left you with a lack of confidence. After another year trying to motivate yourself to try to get in shape again you finally take the plunge. Sweating from your armpits hoping nobody else notices, you dapple the beads of sweat off of your forehead and open the door to the gym.

You see the pretty girl at the desk that looks like she could eat chips every day and immediately decide that this is a best idea. But you forge on and walk forward.

To your surprise, she greets you with a big smile, says hello, asks how you are, compliments you on your bag asking you where you got it, and invites you to have a seat telling you that Tim will be right with you to show you around.

Tim shows up and looks to be in great shape but isn’t wearing a skin tight shirt. As you stand to greet him, he smiles, compliments you on your shoes, and asks you if you just went away on vacation because you have a sea shell necklace on.

Another trainer walks by, Tim introduces her as Jessica and she gives you a big smile saying hello and asks you how you are before walking out of the door. Tim then walks you to his office, takes your coat and offers you a seat before he takes his. Smiling, he asks you about your day and seems actively interested.

Smiling, taking an avid interest in others, and being approachable is important all the time; in a gym it’s imperative. The second somebody new walks into your gym, everything from the person at the front desk to the sales tour and all other employees need to understand that their appearance alone can be intimidating enough to ensure a new member never comes back.

We’re in this together. The obesity epidemic is real and is not being caused by lack of information. Adherence to exercise and nutrition programs is embarrassingly low. Let’s work to make people comfortable and look forward to our gyms first before even thinking about what program may be right for them.

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