I’ve known three categories of fitness professionals:

  1. Trainers, coaches and instructors who love to train, coach and teach, but hate to sell (the majority)
  2. Those who love to sell and are “fine” with training, coaching, and teaching
  3. Fitness professionals who love and are good at both (the smallest group)

Those in the second group…well…if you love selling but you’re not hugely passionate about health and fitness, I don’t have a good answer for you. You’re probably not reading this anyway.

And those who are already in the third group…I hope you can use this to help bring more of the first group along with you. You already know how amazing this profession can be, both in terms of fulfillment, as well as financial freedom.

Here’s a reality that every true fitness professional must understand:

It doesn’t matter how good you are if nobody knows who you are.

If the topic of sales freaks you out, no worries. It just means you have more opportunity to grow.

If you’re as coachable as you’d like your clients to be, I’ll give you the tools and knowledge you need to become as awesome at building your business, as you are in training your clients.

How I Learned by Example

My personal training career started in 2001, at the Woodbury Life Time Fitness. I saw myself as a reasonably good-looking, young man in decent shape. I had a pre-Med biology degree (although most of my coursework was exercise physiology) and a couple of personal training certifications.

The Woodbury club was one of the busiest in the company, so thousands of members walked through each day.

To my surprise, when I started working there, the members didn’t swarm around me, begging me to help them. Actually, there wasn’t “a” member that did that.

They all went about their workouts as though I wasn’t there. Shocking, right?! Uh, no.

How would they have known what was in my head and in my heart? How would they know how much I wanted to help them? They didn’t know me!

Fortunately, I had an incredible Personal Training Department Head. Dan Kelly was like the governor of the club. He knew almost everyone. So I watched and learned.

How did he know everyone? Because he made himself known to everyone.

He eagerly, passionately, excitedly went out of his way to meet and greet people. That’s just who Dan is. With his sincerity, he easily gained their trust. And I observed one member after another who, just as excitedly, signed up for personal training through Dan.

That observation became one of my greatest lessons…not just for personal training, but for life in general.

The following are five principles Dan’s example taught me. My hope is that they’ll shift your mindset around the opportunity, and responsibility you have. And set you on a path toward greater success. In future posts, we’ll talk about skills. These principles are about mindset.

Principle 1: Sales Comes Before Training or You Have No One to Train

Kind of obvious, right? Yet, far more trainers I’ve known over the years have “hated sales,” than those who have embraced sales and the skills that surround it.

The reality is, if you don’t go out of your way to get clients, you won’t have many to train. Dan was awesome at sales, and because he was (actually, he still is) awesome, people never felt like they were being “sold.”

That’s the funny thing about sales.

When someone sucks at sales, they come across as a salespeople. Their fear, worry, and lack of confidence are transferred to the other person who’s considering a purchase. And that fear about the purchase makes the person presenting it, seem just like the salesperson they don’t want to be.

On the other hand, those who are skilled in sales rarely cause others to feel sold. And they’re a LOT more successful.

As you develop the skills of sales, you develop the skill of influence (and yes, it’s a skill, not just a character trait).

Principle 2: An Influencer Rarely has to “Sell”

I hate to use an almost cliche example, but when you think of someone who can say, “I recommend…” and a large part of the world buys it, who comes to mind? You probably thought of Oprah. She has built such a high level of trust, that people eagerly follow her recommendations. She has influence.

You have to create influence as well. There’s a difference between selling something to someone, and helping them to buy it. When you’re great at sales, you rarely, if ever, actually sell.

In fact, sales skills aren’t about selling at all, but are about influencing others to make a decision about something they want or need.

Influence comes with practice, requires trust, and takes time.

My first day on the Woodbury Life Time Fitness floor, I had zero influence. By watching and modeling Dan, within a couple months, I did.

Principle 3: You Influence Others by Adding Value to Them

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Almost too obvious? Yet, as I’ve observed fitness professionals in gyms all over the United States, I see a very common theme.

When they’re not working with paying clients, they usually sit behind a desk, in a break room, or in a cafe, and waste one of the most valuable opportunities they have, to add value to others.

They way I saw it was, writing programs, emailing clients, or reading an educational article was not “income producing time.” It was something I could do on off-hours, or even outside of my work schedule.

I knew that if I wanted to fill my schedule with clients, I needed to do something valuable every hour. My income-producing options came down to the following activities:

  • Training clients
  • Doing a consultation
  • Meeting members
  • Teaching a seminar
  • Doing a supplement sampling event
  • Giving away a free session
  • Calling members who weren’t coming into the gym, or who hadn’t yet done a consultation

That’s it! Each of those activities either helped me earn an income, or helped me connect with members who might eventually pay me for services or products. Or know someone who would.

If I did something else during that time, like program design, it actually cost me money. Don’t get me wrong, though…I did my program design. Just not during hours where I could be building my business.

Principle 4: To Add Value to a Lot of People, You Have to Connect with a Lot of People

Another no-brainer here, right? If you want to add value to a lot of people, you have to connect with a lot of people.

My goal was five new contacts everyday. I even continued that goal once I became a personal training department head, and then once I was a regional manager, I dropped it down to a couple per day.

The fitness professional who knows the most people, usually has the biggest business.

If you’re not meeting new people everyday, your business will eventually plateau. That’s just the way businesses work. It doesn’t matter if you’re Apple, Target, BMW, or Tom Nikkola Personal Training. If you don’t connect with new people and prospects, your business plateaus, and might even eventually die.

Principle 5: You are Surrounded by People Who Need You

When you wait for people to come to you, your opportunity feels extremely small.

When you decide to make yourself known to those who need you, your opportunity becomes limitless.

Two-thirds of the population needs you to improve their health. The other third might not be overweight or obese, but there are many who would love to be healthier, more fit, and happier.

Open your eyes, look around, and notice that you’re surrounded by people who desperately need what you have. But they don’t know that you have what they need. You have to help them see what you see, so they can have what you have.

I’m sure you realize by now that you have a lot more potential clients around you than you are taking advantage of.

You’re not expected to change the world. You’re just expected to change the part of the world around you.