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How to Tackle the Cold Approach To Get New Clients

Hi Dr. Bell, my gym manager wants me to use the “cold approach” to talk to members at the gym. It’s not that I’m afraid to talk to anyone. I’m not shy. I would just hate for someone to interrupt my workout with a sales pitch. Do you have any tips to approach gym members?

You are correct that interrupting someone’s workout is never a good idea. “Back-in-the-day” I remember watching a young woman doing Heel Raises and it looking like she was practicing to make a video on “How Not To Do Heel Raises!” Her form and technique were the worst I have ever seen! Since I was the Director of Personal Training and Assistant Manager at the time, I felt a strong responsibility to advise this woman to prevent her from hurting herself. She was just finishing her set and I reached out to her. I said, “do you mind if I share a technique with you to make the exercise safer and more effective?”

Just as the words left my mouth, my brain registered that her skin showed a “lobster red” look of someone who just shot-up with steroids and sure enough, she turned to me and launched into a “roid rage!” She started screaming, cursing and frothing at the mouth tirade, about how she has been doing this since before I was born and continued with a series of equally foolish insults. I could not help but laugh at her, which was not the most professional way to handle the situation. In my defense, she looked to be 18 years old 4’11 and weighed about 95 pounds. At the time, I could curl double was she weighed and was 35 years old.

So, I stood there and smiled and laughed at her most ridiculous comments until she calmed down. I then stated, “I am a Manager here and I am informing you, to stop by my office before you leave here today and sign a letter that I will prepare. It will state, you were advised that your exercise techniques can lead to serious injuries and you refused free professional guidance from the Gym Director of Personal Training. Any injuries you sustain on this premises is solely your fault, as a result of your refusal to heed proper advice.”

She stood silently and I turned, walked to the front desk, pointed at her in front of her, my staff and all the members in the gym…of course everyone in the gym watched the entire episode…and went to my office to prepare the letter.

I prepared two letters, the letter for her and an incident report about her language and conduct that I got signed by a witness to the event. When she came to my office she got 3 lectures: (1) If she ever conducted herself like that again, her membership would be revoked and she would be banned from the gym (2) I told her everything she did wrong with her heel raise. (3) She got my lecture on steroids, performance enhancing drugs and drug abuse to include it was illegal and a sufficient reason to be banned from my gym. To conclude, I suggested she hire one of my trainers to show her how to exercise safely and effectively. Imagine my surprise when she asked if I could be the one to train with her! After that episode, we achieved a far better way at communicating and she became a very good client.

I have used what your manager calls the “Cold Approach,” but I encourage you to warm-it-up. You can achieve this by hanging out at the Front Desk, greeting members as they come in, THANKING THEM, for coming in and finding out their name, shake their hands, make a comment about what their wearing, the weather…whatever to get to know them and develop a relationship. Make sure they know you are a Personal Trainer in the gym and available if they need help or an answer to a question.

When the gym gets busy, you will walk around the gym. You will smile, say hello, be friendly, be approachable and look for people who are doing something wrong and need your advice…which is just about everyone.

You should never, interrupt, but when you see someone that needs correcting, walk up to them, wait until they finish their set and offer some friendly advice. If you have spoken to them before and know their name (you should get to know everyone’s name), use their name! If you have spent more than 20 seconds talking to them, you should have a good idea of their personality type or phase. Use what you learned in the IFPA Personal Training Certification Course about personality types and modify what you say and how you say it to enhance your communication and motivation with every client and prospect.

If you are still having difficulty approaching, talking to, communicating with, motivating and/or “closing” prospects, please consider taking the IFPA Lifestyle Fitness Coach Level I and the IFPA Lifestyle Fitness Coach Level II. The IFPA works hard to make sure all our IFPA Certified Personal Trainers and Fitness Professionals are provided the tools they need to know on how to build a very successful personal training business. We want you all to have the opportunities to learn how to become an extremely successful personal trainer.

Good Luck and Best Regards,

Dr. Jim Bell

CEO of the IFPA