Monday, 8 February 2016

How to ensure your PTs enhance member retention

This is a guest post by Lee Cain of HFE (Health and Fitness Education), the UK's leading provider of personal trainer qualifications and fitness instructor courses.

How important are Personal Trainers (PTs) in determining member experience and retention?

Most new members will have some interaction with a personal trainer and that experience will play a critical role in defining their early impression of the gym. This is why inductions are so important for new gym goers.

Furthermore, if a new member then decides to pay for a PT session or two they are more likely to use the gym on a regular basis, more likely to get results and therefore more likely to continue their membership. If they have had a great PT experience and the sessions have been effective, they’ll develop a solid foundation - both physiologically and in terms of their self confidence and efficacy. This can only positively impact on programme adherence and membership retention.

What are the main challenges gyms face in getting their PTs to have this interaction with new members?

The first is the way that they hire. Many tend to think that a great trainer is someone young and athletic who will make members think “Wow, I want to look like them”, but in reality these young trainers often lack the confidence and life experience needed to build the necessary rapport.

The other problem gyms face is the training these PTs have undergone in achieving their qualifications. Soft skills, particularly sales and marketing, are consistently undervalued during the training process. As an industry we include business skills like cash flow forecasting and business planning in some of our more advanced qualifications, but that’s not much use if you can’t generate any clients in the first place!

How should trainers maximise the chance of attracting customers?

First and foremost they must understand that a large part of their role is concerned with selling. Some PT’s are okay at the initial conversation, but the wheels fall off when the subject of money arises.

That said, whilst sales is critical, the way to sell in the fitness industry is not to take an overly direct approach. In all the clubs I've trained, the most successful PTs are those that know everyone and take a ‘genuine interest’ in the lives and experience of the members. They’re not thinking about the short term return on their time, but instead they’re naturally building their profile among the member base so that the moment a member decides they want personal training, there’s only one PT they’re going to think of. On the other hand, the trainers that sit behind reception playing on their phone and then do an hourly circuit of the gym will always struggle to build their network and sell their services.

How important are qualifications?

Qualifications are important because they are a passport into the industry. Similarly, CPD is also essential in order to stay relevant and current. However, most members aren't interested in how many qualifications you have, they’re interested in how you can help them!

My advice would be to identify an area where either there are always going to be lots of customers, such as weight loss, diabetes, back pain, etc, or in an area that’s currently neglected, such as pre and post natal training. Childbirth is something that will affect 80-90% of women at some point in their life, so it’s a brilliant lead generator and you can then continue to work with these women in other areas of their ongoing fitness.

Once they have a client, what’s the best way a PT can develop this into long-term business?

For a start, they need to accept that no client is going to use them 3 times a week, month after month. There is a seasonal element to it and no client wants to feel like they’re your cash cow. They need to believe that you’re primary motivator is seeing them improve, and if that requires just one session a month or perhaps a burst of sessions every few months, then that’s all you’ll sell them.

The other issue is honesty. PTs often believe that they need to set big goals for their clients so that they feel excited and motivated, but when that goal is inevitably missed the client will feel more deflated than ever.

And then of course there’s your pricing structure, which really comes down to your target audience. If you operate in a budget gym then your pricing needs to reflect that of the budget gym experience - low cost and flexible. However, if you’re in a higher end gym, then people expect to pay more and won’t trust you if you’re perceived as cheap.

Lee Cain is the founder of HFE, one of the UK’s foremost fitness industry training providers. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and has a First Class Honours Degree in Sport and Exercise Science. For over 15 years Lee has designed, developed and delivered a wide-range of fitness industry qualifications, helping thousands of aspiring professionals launch their career in the fitness industry.

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